‘A Different World’ Cast Now: Inside the Lives of the Iconic Show’s Actors

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The mid-1980s sitcom “The Bill Cosby Show” became such a successful hit that it gave birth to an even more impactful spin-off, “A Different World,” in 1987, which centers around a black girl who befriends a white girl in a fictional historically black college.

Whitley is joined by her friend and roommate Dwayne Wayne and Maggie Lauten in Hillman College. The show successfully delves into critical issues among the students, including race and equal rights. After over three decades, the cast continues thriving in the acting and film industry.

The show’s original lead role was Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet; however, the actress had to exit the show after appearing for one season when she got pregnant with her celebrity daughter, Zoe Kravitz. The writers moved the spotlight to the Southern Belle, Whitley Gilbert.

Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable

Lisa Bonet was born to a teacher and an opera singer in San Fransico on November 16, 1967. Bonet landed her role of Denise Huxtable in “The Cosby Show,” which began airing in 1984. Her role was extended into the spin-off “A Different World.”

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Before landing that role, Bonet released “Angel Heart” in 1987, a film that included several adult and nude scenes. She also starred in the 2000 film “High Fidelity.” Moreover, Bonet has appeared in many walk-on roles on TV shows, including a minor one in the “Ray Donovan” series.

However, the actress, who was meant to lead the show, only remained for one season; she got married and had her first child the year it began airing. After Bonet left “A Different World,” she starred alongside famed actor Will smith in the 1988 film “Enemy of the State.”

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Bonet’s IMDb also reported that she dated a yoga instructor the year before her divorce was finalized. However, there are no details as to when that relationship ended. In 2005, she began dating DC Universe’s “Aquaman” star Jason Mamoa.

The Celluloid Actor’s studio alumna was once married to musician and rock singer Lenny Kravitz, with who Bonet shares a daughter Zoe Kravitz. However, due to media scrutiny, Lenny’s alleged infidelities, and a strained companionship, the couple eventually divorced in 1993.

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The couple, who had no children, was rumored to have married two years into their relationship in 2007. Regardless, they never confirmed their marriage until 2017. Sadly, in a joint Instagram statement, the former couple announced they were parting ways earlier this year.

Marisa Tomei as Maggie Lauten

Marisa Tomei was born to Italian descended parents, an English teacher mother, and a lawyer father. She took her first breath on December 4, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York City. Her acting career began in the 1950s CBS show “As the World Turns.”

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Tomei also appeared in one of the lead roles in 2000’s “What Women Want.” The actress recently gained an even larger fandom with her recurring role as Peter Parker’s Aunt May in the MCU Avengers and Spiderman film franchises.

In 1984, she starred in “The Flamingo Kid” before landing her role as one of the few white students, Maggie Lauten, in Hillman College on “A Different World” in 1987. Tomei shot to fame from then onward, starring alongside big names such as Michael Keaton in 1994’s “The Paper.”

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Guy continued working simultaneously in film and theater while adding author and director to her titles. She wrote and published “Afeni Shakur: Evolutionary,” a biography of the late rapper Tupac Shakur’s mother.

Jasmine Guy as Whitley Gilbert

Born on March 10, 1962, in Boston, Massachusetts, Jasmine Guy has led a multifaceted performance career both on screen and on stage. Before leading as Whitley Gilbert in “A Different World,” she started performing in musicals at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

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Guy is also an award-winning actress, snatching six consecutive NAACP awards for her portrayal of Whitley. However, the singer, who also appeared as Grams in “The Vampire Diaries,” is no stranger to rumors.

Per Distractify, Guy was subject to unsubstantiated rumors about her health several years ago. Folks speculated that the actress had lupus disease. However, she cleared them via a Facebook post in 2014.

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Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Wayne

Kadeem Hardison played the loveable nerdy role of Whitley Gilbert’s friend Dwayne Wayne, who later became her love interest. The actor and director took his first breath in Brooklyn, New York, on July 24, 1965.

Jasmine Guy remains in the entertainment scene and sometimes sits down during interviews to talk about how being on “A Different World” changed her career trajectory.

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Sadly, they divorced in 2000. Hardison continued making guest appearances in shows such as “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Parenthood.” A few years ago, he starred alongside Zendaya in Disney’s “KC Undercover.”

A year before the wrapping of “A Different World” in 1993, Hardison became known for 1992’s “White Men Can’t Jump.” In 1997, he appeared in “Drive” and married famous actress and composer Chante Moore.

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Hardison also appeared in “My Name is Earl,” “House,” and “Supernatural.” In more recent acts, he landed guest roles in Black Monday and “Teenage Bounty Hunters.”

Bell also appeared in “Living Single,” “Cosby,” “For Your Love,” and 1996’s “Homeboys in Outer Space.” afterward, he steered clear of the acting scene until he appeared again in “The Househusbands of Hollywood,” in 2009 and the show “Insecure” in 2018.

Darryl M. Bell as Ron Johnson

Syracuse University alumnus Darryl M. Bell was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 10, 1963. He played Dwayne Wayne’s best friend and roommate, Ronald Marlon Johnson, in “A Different World.” The actor had a steady run in the TV and film industry, co-starring in 1988’s “School Daze.”

Charnele Brown as Kimberley Reese

Charnele Brown is an actress, producer, fashion designer, and singer born in East Hampton, New York, on October 30, 1965. After her role as Whitley’s roommate, Kimberley Reese, in “A Different World,” she appeared in other popular shows like “Living Single” and “Girlfriends.”

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According to her IMDb, she is the writer of a feel-good love story titled “Coffee Pot,” about four women going through life’s trials and tribulations who meet weekly to share their happenings over coffee. Under Brown’s belt is also 2007’s City Girls and co-producing 2015’s “Prank.”

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Dawnn Lewis as Jaleesa Vinson-Taylor

Dawnn Lewis played Hillman College’s most mature student, Jaleesa Vinson-Taylor. Lewis co-wrote the show’s theme song and has continued lending her voice to many animated characters in an impressive voice-acting career, such as Sheeva in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.

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Lewis didn’t leave her screen acting career and has even graced the theater stage starring in “Sister Act: The Musical.” She has also appeared in “Days of Our Lives,” “Dreamgirls,” “Hangin With Mr. Cooper,” and several more. She also voiced The Chief in Netflix’s “Carmen Sandiego.”

Cree Summer as Freddie Brooks

Cree Summer played the student activist Freddie Brooks who was head over heels for Whitley’s love interest, Dwayne Wayne. Summer was born in Los Angeles, California, on July 7, 1969.

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What Happened to the Actors Who Played Mr. Gaines, Colonel Taylor, and Coach Oakes?

Mr. Gaines, who owned the restaurant The Pit in Hillman College, was played by the late Lou Myers, who sadly passed on in 2013. Following the end of the series, he continued gracing the film screen, securing minor roles in 2001’s “The Wedding Planner” and 2013’s “Dreams.”

She has led a successful voice-acting and singing career, lending her voice to characters such as Megan and Paula in “The Loud House.” Summer also has an active social media presence on Instagram.

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Coach Walter Oakes was played by actor and comedian David Adkins, who famously goes by Sinbad. He is well-known for his stand-up comedy performances and has his show, “The Sinbad Show.” Adkins also appeared in “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” and “Rel.”

Colonel Bradford Taylor was an old war friend of Mr. Gaines’s and math professor, played by actor Glynn Turman. Turman’s acting career is still going strong with appearances in “How To Get Away With Murder,” “Suits,” “House of Lies,” and “The Wire.”