I think any ’80s and ’90s babies (male and female alike) squealed in excitement last night when the cast of “A Different World” sat down with Oprah for a chat on the past, present and future of TV, social issues and where African-Americans fit into it all.
Debbie Allen, who directed and produced the show, along with Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Darryl M. Bell, Dawnn Lewis, Sinbad and Cree Summer reminisced with the media maven about how the show impacted society — especially young African-Americans coming of age. In fact, Cree said that to this day, fans thank her for inspiring them to go to college. Meanwhile, Jasmine acknowledged that while doing the show was fun, she had “no idea” how influential it would be, but she thanks show creator Bill Cosby for being wise enough to see the power such a show could have. “He understood the power of the medium, and so he chose a setting that would influence people as well as make them laugh,” she said.
And he did it well. For me, while the show didn’t make college a viable option for me (my Jamaican parents made sure that I knew that there was never any option but to attend college), “A Different World” showed me just that: A different world. A world that was full of interesting, dynamic people doing interesting and dynamic things. Real-life issues plaguing the times as well as all the fun that comes along with college life. Protests and AIDS and domestic violence and overprotective parents and death and religion and Greek life and… You know what? You name an issue and it was probably covered. And I loved every single minute of it.
It’s crazy to see these characters all grown up and moving beyond the characters created for them on “A Different World” — a feat that many a child star (cough, cough Urkel — I mean, Jaleel White) have not been able to do. Jasmine Guy is now working on Tyler Perry’s new show “If Loving You is Wrong” and mentions how attractive her TV son is — a bit gag-worthy in my opinion (I mean, he is fine, but you’re his TV mama, so stoppit.), but we’ll let it slide. Darryl M. Bell is still working with Cosby — “He and I are producing partners.” — and as far as we know he’s still happily married to “Cosby” alum Tempestt Bledsoe. (They appeared on the reality show “Househusbands of Hollywood” together a few years back and survived that, so yaaaas to Black love!)
Sinbad is still on his grind, doing standup and performing with his band. “I’ve been doing stand-up since 1983. I ain’t never stopped,” he said. “I think my best stuff is ahead of me.” Kadeem Hardison (That salt-and-pepper? We can dig it!) is on the Disney Channel, starring in “K.C. Undercover” alongside singer Zendaya. Cree Summer bragged on her two beautiful babies for a sec and then spoke on her continued work in cartoons (I had no idea she’d been in that lane since the age of 12!) with Disney and Nickelodeon. “I’m on about six different shows right now,” she revealed. Speaking of revealing, did you know she was the Green M&M? For the past 20 years, though?! Mind. Blown.
Dawnn Lewis is still heavily into music, in the studio singing, composing and working on various film projects. And the fabulously timeless Debbie Allen (“prolific” is what Darryl called her, and I happen to agree) is still producing and acting. You can see her in a feisty reoccurring role on “Grey’s Anatomy” and she’s behind the scenes directing for shows such as “Scandal” and the new CW comedy “Jane the Virgin.” And she also has The Debbie Allen Dance Academy to keep her busy, which she called her “big heart and soul.”
So in essence all cast members are still doing the damn thing; all seem to still have lucrative careers that haven’t stalled in the shadow of “A Different World” infamy.
And that’s all well and good, but I’m feenin’ for a remake, which Debbie said she would definitely be down for. “I’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of hits saying, ‘Debbie is it happening? We want to see it again,” she said. “We don’t have a show that gives the voice of young people who are about what’s happening in the country. … In a country where the young people are silent, that country is on its way down.”
The problem isn’t that the young people are silent, in my opinion. It’s that we have the wrong young people representing our generation. When folks like Young Berg, Ray J and the numerous other ratchet reality TV stars are glorified as “celebrities,” you know it’s time for some real reality in the form of shows such as this one. If not…Lawd help us all.
Would you be down for a modern-day reboot of this classic? Do you think it’d be the same?