TV & Movies

These A Different World Cast Then Vs. Now Photos Will Take You All The Way Back

The legendary series heads to HBO Max on Aug. 8.

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

A Different World burst onto TV in 1987 and ended in 1993. Yet, its influence on fans and the starring actors remains. The pivotal series is headed to HBO Max on Aug. 8, so let’s take a look at the entertainers — then and now.

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A Different World saw Lisa Bonet reprise her Cosby Show character, the rebellious free-spirit Denise Huxtable. Set at the fictional HBCU Hillman College, the Cosby Show spinoff painted a fresh picture of college life.

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In 1988, Bonet welcomed her and Lenny Kravitz’s first child, Zoë Kravitz, and was subsequently fired from the show. "Lisa Bonet is pregnant, but Denise Huxtable is not," Cosby is rumored to have said. Bonet later appeared on The Cosby Show, New Girl, and in the X-rated Angel Heart.

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Jasmine Guy played southern belle Whitley Gilbert and became the breakout star of the show. With her on-trend style, feminine charm, and brazen confidence, Whitley turned many heads, especially Dwayne Wayne’s, at Hillman College.

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After six years as Whitley, Guy maintained a successful acting career. She’s starred in beloved TV shows, like Grey’s Anatomy and The Vampire Diaries, and in film and theater projects. Guy will appear in the comedy series Harlem and Liam White: The Forgettable Life of Liam White.

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Kadeem Hardison’s portrayal of math genius Dwayne Wayne was wholeheartedly embraced by fans of A Different World. Before taking on the part of Dwayne, Hardison’s on-screen credits included roles on The Cosby Show (as Philip Washington), School Daze, and White Men Can’t Jump.

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The son of activist and model Bethann Hardison continued acting, with appearances on TV series such as Girlfriends, Supernatural, and Netflix’s Teenage Bounty Hunters. Hardison also made a memorable turn as Zendaya’s dad Craig Cooper on the Disney series K.C. Undercover.

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Cree Summer played the compassionate Winifred “Freddie” Brooks, who had an unrequited love for Dwayne Wayne. The activist’s relationship with roommate and biology major Kimberly Reese (Charnele Brown) made for an odd yet entertaining pairing.

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While Brown’s life has been incredibly private in recent years, Summer remains unstoppable in the world of voiceover acting, with a tireless list of credits in projects such as Curious George, Robot Chicken, and BoJack Horseman. The gifted star is a mom and also family friends with Lisa Bonet’s daughter.

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Sinbad played Coach Walter Oakes, who seemed to know everything and everyone. His comedic timing solidified him as a fan favorite. Fans may also remember Sinbad from movies like Coneheads, Jingle All the Way, and Good Burger. He suffered a stroke in 2020 and is on the mend.

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Dawnn Lewis’ character Jaleesa Vinson was a mature freshman at 25. Jaleesa shared rooms with Denise and Freddie and was romantically involved with Walter Oakes. Ultimately, she later married Colonel Bradford Taylor (Glynn Turman). Lewis’ most recent role was on Rick and Morty.

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Darryl M. Bell’s first television role was as student and musician Ron Johnson in A Different World in 1987. Ron’s escapades were a focal point in the sitcom, and his relationships with Freddie and Kimberly were no exception.

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Bell later starred in some episodes of Cosby and alongside real-life partner Tempestt Bledsoe (remember Vanessa Huxtable?) on the Househusbands of Hollywood in 2009. The reality show lasted a season, but Bell and Bledsoe’s relationship has endured since 1993.

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The cast reunited in 2006 (pictured here) and again in 2021, with the exception of Bonet and Reese for E!’s Reunion Road Trip. While doing press for the show, Guy reflected on the show’s influence. “I think for some people that grew up with us, we were their friends,” she said.