It’s A Different World: Where Are They Now?

Where are they now, how have our favorite school yard characters grown over time?

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In a world where we are not exactly sure what the hell is going on anymore, it's always refreshing to revisit the late, great classics of the earlier times. Whether throwing on a pair of sneakers for a double dutch match, sitting down to watch—and recite—all the words to Coming to America, or explaining pagers and floppy disks to Gen Z, there's something about each of them that never get old. And honestly, sometimes we just need them to center us back to good times (no pun intended).

But ultimately, we likely love to revisit some of our favorite shows that we grew up on the most. And although black sitcoms are somewhat-kind-of-not-really making a comeback, they just don't give off those cult classic vibes like they used to. I mean c'mon, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In the House, The Parkers, Girlfriends, and more...damn, they all just make you feel a way, right?

Well, we needed some nostalgic comfort around the xoNecole offices, so we decided to do a bit of digging into one of our ultimate favorites: A Different World. More specifically, the entire A Different World cast.

Where are they now, how have our favorite school yard characters grown over time?

Here's what A Different World's cast up to today.

The Cast Of A Different World, Where Are They Now?

Lisa Bonet | Denise Huxtable

Denise Huxtable:

Lisa Bonet played the character of Denise Huxtable, second oldest to Cliff and Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show. After graduating from high school, Denise packed her bags and headed to Hillman College to join A Different World's cast as a naive but spacey freshman for one season, which she spent most of her time navigating new situations and freedoms such as making new friends, grades, and dating. Denise's character departed the show after Lisa Bonet became pregnant with her now-famous daughter, Zoe Kravitz, with ex-husband, Lenny Kravitz.

Lisa Bonet:

Bonet briefly returned to The Cosby Show, but eventually departed for good after differences. Since, she has taken roles on shows such as Ray Donovan, and movies, like High Fidelity. Her personal life took more of a front seat to the career as she eventually divorced Kravitz in 1993, and married hunky Game of Thrones and Aquaman star, Jason Momoa in 2017. Together, they have two children: a daughter in 2007 and a son in 2008.

As for her daughter, Zoe, in a twist of fate, she plays the lead role in the adaption of High Fidelity series on Hulu.

Jasmine Guy | Whitley Marion Gilbert-Wayne

Whitley Gilbert:

When it comes to show characters, no one was as breakthough, or memorable as Whitley Gilbert. She originally appeared on the show in Season 1 as a character to contrast Denise Huxtable's down-to-earth persona. But she soon proved popular and once Bonet exited the show, Guy was moved to a lead character. She remained on the show as an art buyer turned teacher, even upon graduating from Hillman, and married her off-and-on boyfriend, Dwayne Wayne.

Jasmine Guy:

Guy won multiple awards for her portrayal of Gilbert, which ultimately led to her career's longevity. She went on to have roles in shows like Melrose Place, NYPD Blue, The Vampire Diaries, and most recently, a recurring role as Gemma on Grey's Anatomy.

Kadeem Hardison | Dwayne Wayne

Dwayne Wayne:

With his trademark flip up glasses, geeky-fly persona, and charisma, Dwayne Wayne was destined to become a pop culture icon. Originally a supportive A Different World cast member, after Season 1, he was bumped to a supreme spot. Once Season 2 arrived, he began an ongoing romance with Gilbert, later moved to Japan, became a teacher, and notoriously fought for his love for Gilbert through grand gesture in television's most beloved confession scenes.

Kadeem Hardison:

Kadeem Hardison went on to be a breakout star from the show, and has gone on to have a successful career in television. He's been in multiple movies and television shows and even had a primetime reunion with Guy on KC Undercover. Today, he stars opposite of two Teenage Bounty Hunters, which airs on Netflix, as well as Special Delivery with Sideshow Collectibles on Instagram.

Dawnn Lewis | Jaleesa Vinson-Taylor

Jaleesa Vinson-Taylor:

Jaleesa joined A Different World cast in Season 1 as a late arrival, enrolling in college at age 25. She brought a maturity to the cast, to balance the chaos of the likes of Wayne and Johnson. Her largest storyline was her relationship with Coach Oakes (Sinbad), but calling of the wedding at the alter. She went on to marry Colonel Bradley Taylor.

Dawnn Lewis:

Dawnn Lewis was more than an actress, she was also an accomplished singer who co-wrote the theme song to the show, as well as the theme song to her next gig, Hanging With Mr. Cooper. Her resume is filled with various roles and movies, such as Dream Girls, and voiceover work with Futurama, Boondocks, Rick and Morty, and The Simpsons.

Today, she has taken on reboots of shows like Veronica Mars, and Netflix's Carmen San Diego.

Darryl M. Bell | Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson:

Ron Jonhson, the comedic addition to the A Different World cast, stepped in to act as support to Dwayne Wayne's antics. He was an ROTC student, and Wayne's best friend who was always down for the ladies and a get-rich-quick scheme. He eventually opens his own nightclub, deals with a few dating and racism themes, and begins dating another prominent character on the show (Cree Summer).

Darryl M. Bell:

After A Different World, Bell went on to act in a few other shows, including Cosby, but eventually stepped away from acting altogether. He went on to marry Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) of The Cosby Show and appeared on faux-reality show, House Husbands of Hollywood.

Outside of a few other appearances, he generally maintains a lowkey profile.

Cree Summer | Winifred "Freddie" Brooks

Freddie Brooks:

Possibly the most accomplished from A Different World cast member is Cree Summer. She portrayed Freddie Brooks, a social conscious and political activist who arrived on campus as Jaleesa's roommate. She spent her earlier time at Hillman crushing on Dwayne Wayne, but ended up developing a relationship with Shazza (Gary Dourdan) and then Ron. She went on to attend law school.

Cree Summer:

Cree didn't appear in many movies or shows in the physical form, but her voiceover resume is mind-blowing. Sis has worked on Inspector Gadget, Captain Planet, Kim Possible, and most famously, Rugrats. I could list her resume all day, but in the interest of saving time, if you've watched cartoons at all in the past 20 years, you've heard her voice.

Sinbad | Walter Oakes

Coach Oakes:

Originally appearing as a recurring character, Coach Oakes' colorful and larger than life personality landed him a part of the main cast. He was a graduate student and mentor to the younger students, but gravitated toward the older Jaleesa for a storyline that would follow throughout the show. He eventually left Hillman to manage a community center in Philadelphia.


At the time of casting, David Adkins, a.k.a Sinbad was an unknown stand-up comedian. Over time, he began crushing the comedy scene with successful specials, and hosting It's Showtime at the Apollo. Sinbad has gone on to appear in many shows and movies, most recently Rel and voiceover work on Steven Universe.

Charnele Brown | Kimberly Reese

A Different World/Still

Kimberely Reese:

Upon Bonet's departure of the show, another character was added as Gilbert's roommate—and eventual best friends—to balance out the dynamic. She worked at the campus food hall, The Pit, and also performed in a few shows while being managed by Johnson. Her themes were a bit heavier at times, with references to the apartheid and difficulties of getting pregnant.

Charnele Brown:

Charnele Brown went on to guest appear in numerous other classics such as Martin and Living Single.

Today, Brown has ventured into the world of film production and have appeared in a variety of other shows.

Glynn Turman | Colonel Bradford Taylor

Colonel Bradford Taylor:

Starting as a recurring character, but eventually being bumped up to join a full-time cast, member Colonel Taylor was Vietnam War vet and nicknamed Dr. War. He was over the ROTC unit at Hillman and became a math professor. He ended up marrying and a having children with Jaleesa.

Glynn Turman:

Glynn Turman on the other hand, had been a industry vet for 25 years before ever joining A Different World cast. And like Cree, his resume is nothing to play with. If you've watch a movie or TV show within the last 30 years, you've seen Turman—from Black-ish, to How to Get Away With Murder, to Queen Sugar.

Also, Turman was briefly married to Aretha Franklin in the 80's, before divorcing in 1984.

Feature image by A Different World/Still

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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