TV of the ’90s was undeniably dope, especially the black comedies. There was a little bit of everything available for everyone, no matter your age or status in life, and they definitely showed our people in a more positive light. A Different World was one of those shows. And if you’re nosey like me, you probably want to know what the people who were on the show are up to, and what they’re looking like. We’ve got you covered…
Can I first say that I love that some of the characters had middle names. For instance: Dwayne Cleophus Wayne. Kadeem Hardison’s character was clearly a fan favorite with his flip-up sunglasses/glasses that everyone was wearing back in the day and his kind heart. He was the nice guy everyone was rooting for (remember the wedding episode?). After doing a lot of movies like A Vampire in Brooklyn with Eddie Murphy and shows like Between Brothers, nowadays, you can catch him doing a lot of TV guest work. He was a recurring guest on Everybody Hates Chris for a while as sadity and crazy Judge Watkins (I miss that show!), was Lynn’s pastor boyfriend on Girlfriends, played Fantasia’s dad in the TV movie, Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story, and was most recently on the NBC show Parenthood. At 46, he’s still looking pretty good.
50-year-old actress Jasmine Guy was the pretty, spoiled, but lovable Whitley Gilbert (later Whitley Gilbert Wayne) on the show. While her voice was anything but awesome, her fashion sense sure was! We all know that once she took over for Lisa Bonet, who bolted after season one, she blew up all over TV screens (I’ll never forget her guest appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Nowadays, she does a few movies and TV shows here and there. She had a role on the CW show Vampire Diaries, and was also on a very underrated show that I loved called Dead Like Me. Catch her in the film, October Baby, which was released in 2011.
Darryl M. Bell
Not going to lie, I low-key had a crush on Ron Johnson Jr. back in the day (don’t judge me!). I could just see how cute he was behind those glasses when nobody else was paying attention. The wannabe smooth best friend of Dwayne Wayne, Darryl’s character of Ron was pretty hilarious on the show. The Alpha Phi Alpha member has done a majority of TV work since then, a lot of it a hot mess. That includes Homeboys in Outer Space and of course, Househusbands of Hollywood, a reality show where he played alongside longtime girlfriend and Cosby Show veteran Tempestt Bledsoe. He was most recently in a film called The Dark Party, which was released this year. If you care…check it out.
I know you remember hardworking Kim Reese! She was Ron’s girlfriend on the show for a while, as well as Whitley’s best friend and a busy med school student. But after A Different World, Charnele Brown stayed off of TV and in movies for the most part. She made guest appearances on other funny black TV shows, including Martin (the crazy aerobic instructor that made Martin want to become a fitness freak), Living Single, and on Girlfriends. Most recently, she has been writing for film, including a movie called Coffee Klatch. I’m thinking we’ll be seeing that joint as a straight-to-DVD one…
Though she came later, Cree Summer’s Freddie Brooks was by far one of the most interesting and drama-filled characters on the show. From losing her virginity to Ron, to dating fine a** Shazza Zulu, she had the most compelling relationship drama, and she was just very funny. And that great personality also reaches Cree Summer in real life as her personality comes through all the characters she has been a voice actor (actress?) for, both before and after A Different World. She’s been on everything from Inspector Gadget, and Garbage Pail Kids, to Tiny Toon Adventures. Since A Different World went off the air, she showed up in many shows, and a few movies (she just finished a film called, Strange Frame: Love & Sax), but has mostly stuck with voice work. And she sings if you were wondering. As much as she’ll always be Freddie, Cree Summer will equally be known as Susie Carmichael on Rugrats.
Bonet’s Denise Huxtable is widely known for her role as fashionista and a Cosby Show kid. She tried to do the spin-off thing with A Different World, however, we all know that when she was the central figure on the show…it was a bit of a bore. She was done with the show after season one because of her pregnancy with daughter Zoe (though she came back later as a guest), and since then, her career has been on chill mode. She was in the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack, Biker Boyz, and even on the show, Life on Mars. Even if her acting career isn’t all that, she’s still lucky because she gets to snuggle up with actor Jason Momoa…*drool*
I just saw Dawnn Lewis on CSI: Miami last night! But Dawnn’s Jaleesa was an older student at Hillman who surprisingly married Colonel Taylor (Glynn Turman) and had a baby with him. After the show ended, I saw this actress on a little bit of everything, including One Tree Hill, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and as William’s lesbian sister trying to have a baby on Girlfriends. Surprisingly, she’s in the same film as Cree Summer this year (Strange Frame: Love & Sax), and you can find her also in a film released this year called To Hell and Back.
OMG, Sinbad used to be so hilarious to me back in the day, and he was still pretty funny as graduate student Walter. He was Jaleesa’s man for a while, until they dropped each other at the altar. He had a lot of movie roles after his time on the show, including The First Kid, and Jingle All the Way. He also had The Sinbad Show, but was most recently seen on the show, Are We There Yet?
Jada Pinkett Smith
Loved Jada as the very spunky Lena James. She was in a relationship with the very fine Dorian (Bumper Robinson), who had to battle with her ex, Piccolo (Tupac) when he came back around trying to win her back. When the show ended, we know she married Will Smith some years later, but she also starred in some really dope, and also really random movies: Low Down Dirty Shame, Menace II Society, Jason’s Lyric, Woo, Set it Off, and a lot more. She’s also a singer on the side in a metal band called, Wicked Wisdom. They’re…interesting, I guess.
As Shazza Zulu with his head full of locs, Gary Dourdan knew he was too fine on that show. His character Shazzu was pretty militant. He wasn’t a fan of interracial relationships and was a community activist to the fullest. He was, of course, also the boo of Freddie Brooks. When his time on the show ended, Dourdan was Janet Jackson’s lover in the video “Again,” and did a few movies, most recently, Jumping the Broom. But he was best known for his role as Warwick Davis on the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He left the show in 2008 after a contract dispute. He’s also had his share of legal trouble, but were hoping he’s finally back on track.
Bumper Robinson played the oh-so adorable Dorian–the boyfriend of Lena and the born-again Christian. When A Different World ended, he went on to Living Single and pined over Khadijah James as Ivan, the messenger and writer. I loved him more on that series. Since all that time passed though, he’s done a few roles here and there. This includes the show Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Guys Like Us and most recently, on the CW version of The Game. Otherwise, you can find him doing a lot of voice work. He’s not as delicious as he used to be though…but we’ll always have A Different World!
Ya’ll remember Aretha Franklin’s ex on this show (she coincidentally sung the intro) as Colonel Taylor. He was a Vietnam vet, a professor and Dwayne’s mentor, but on top of all that, he was Jaleesa’s husband. You probably remember Turman also from the classic film, Cooley High, but after the show, he went on to do a lot of TV work, including being Mayor Royce on The Wire and most recently, on the show, House of Lies.
She only starred on the first season as Denise and Jalessa’s roommate, but her character of Maggie Lauten was pretty important as one of the few non-blacks at Hillman. In the end, she probably blew up the biggest of the cast of the show, winning an Oscar for her work in My Cousin Vinny, In the Bedroom, and most recently, in The Ides of March.
Awww, Mr. Gaines. Manager of The Pit. Often grumpy but awesome father figure. He did it all with his white apron and bald head. And though it’s been a while since you might have seen Mr. Myers, he’s still working. You probably forgot that he showed up in not only How Stella Got Her Groove Back, but The Fighting Temptations too.
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