For six years, A Different World aired on small screens across millions of homes every Thursday evening on NBC. As The Cosby Show spin-off sitcom, fans found themselves glued to their television sets as they wondered what fate was in store for Dwayne and Whitley; what scheme Ron was going to conjure up next; and how a story they’ve followed for years would see an end.
Like any show that becomes an additional family member, it’s hard to say goodbye, but on July 9, 1993 more than 10 million viewers bid farewell to the once-ranked No. 3 sitcom on television. Dwayne and Whitley walked down the aisle, and friends like Ron Johnson and Freddie Brooks went their separate ways and the grumpy restaurant owner turned off his lights, but as the cast waved goodbye to their NBC set, their shenanigans and smiles would never disappear.
As one of A Different World’s staples, Lou Meyers passed away just days ago, Black Enterprise is taking a look into America’s 19-year-old sitcom and the actors that made it a television legend. In the words of Whitley Gilbert, “Relax, relate, release,” and see where A Different World has taken you.
Lou Meyers aka Vernon Gaines
Lou Meyers passed away last Tuesday (February 19) at Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia, but while his cause of death hasn’t been determined, the 77-year–old actor didn’t move on to his next journey without leaving fans with a little something special behind.
As Meyers said goodbye to his NBC set in 1993, the West Virginia native didn’t say goodbye to show biz as he continued to appear on televisions shows over the next 15 years including series such as Living Single (1995), The Jamie Foxx Show (1996), JAG (1998), The Famous Jett Jackson (1999) and NYPD Blue (2004 – 2005). And while known for television, the man readily known as Vernon Gaines made a name for himself in Hollywood in movies like How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), The Wedding Planner (2001), The Fighting Temptations (2003), Lackawanna Blues (2005) and his most recent film, Dreams, which released February 1.
Meyers’ love for acting was strong. In addition to his film and television roles, Lou made his way to Broadway where he acquired roles in Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple, Maurice Hines’ Hot Feet and received an NAACP Image award for his performance in August Wilson’s, King Hedley II. The West Virginia actor was a mainstay to his community and the entertainment industry as he also founded Global Business Incubation Inc., an organization focused on helping small urban businesses.
From Broadway to Hollywood, it really will be a different world without Lou Meyers in it.
Jasmine Guy aka Whitley Gilbert
Jasmine Guy is a face no one can forget, and Whitley is a name that will always be retained by hearts around the world. Remembered for her no-man-can-afford-me bourgeois persona on the set of A Different World, Guy made quite a name for herself in the entertainment world for the next 20 years.
While filming A Different World, the now 50-year-old actress released her self-titled debut album, Jasmine Guy, in 1990 under Warner Bros. Although no songs hit the top 10 on the charts, two singles—“Another Like My Lover” and “Just Want To Hold You”—lived in the top 75 and top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, respectively. Guy only released one album in her music career. But just because she wasn’t producing music didn’t mean her ties were cut off to the music world. The Boston, Massachusetts Renaissance woman became a good friend of rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur through co-star Jada Pinkett; she also became close to Pac’s family, including his mother Afeni Shakur. Some years after the California-raised rapper’s death, Guy began to collaborate with Afeni on her biography and together they released the story of the Black Panther member’s in 2004: Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary.
Like her co-star, Lou Meyers, Jasmine too continuously found herself on various film and televisions sets. From Warner Bros. Pictures Cats Don’t Dance (1997) to Disney’s That’s So Raven (2006) and Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva (2010), Guy’s found herself acting in a range of roles across the board. Most recently, the multifaceted actress has found herself a new home on the CW’s Vampire Diaries as Shelia Bennet, and is in post-production for Scary Movie 5, set to release later this year.
Kadeem Hardison aka Dwayne Cleophus Wayne
Long before Kadeem Hardison stepped on the set of A Different World in 1987 he was tellin’ it on the mountain and helping White men jump. Even while filming the NBC sitcom, Hardison was telling people I’m Gonna Git You Sucka while staying Out All Night, so it’s only fitting that the Brooklyn-bred actor expand his filmography after wrapping his Cosby spin-off series.
While starring as Dwayne Wayne on A Different World, Kadeem acted in a combination of 13 film and television roles. One year after the mainstay series ended, he shared the big screen with the beautiful Stacey Dash along with Danny DeVito, Gregory Hines, Khalil Kain and Mark Wahlberg as Private Jamaal Montgomery in Renaissance Man (1994). Hardison returned to theaters across the country the following year as Julius Jones in Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn (1995). Two years later, the face everybody knew as Dwayne, landed a role in The Sixth Man, acting alongside Marlon Wayans. Since then, Kadeem has acquired 48 roles in film and television including Between Brothers (1997 – 1999), Just Shoot Me (2000), Biker Boyz (2003), Abby (2003), Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story (2006), House M.D. (2006 – 2007) and Family Guy (2012).
In 1996, Hardison had a child with R&B singer, Chantè Moore, and quietly married the soulstress the following year. Unfortunately, the marriage was short lived as the couple divorced three years later.
Darryl M. Bell aka Ronald “Ron” Johnson
Unlike his NBC co-stars, Darryl Bell didn’t have an extensive acting career prior to filming A Different World, but he did star in one unforgettable film—Spike Lee’s School Daze (1988). After Bell bid farewell to his NBC studio, he followed in the footsteps of many of his co-stars and made an appearance on Living Single in 1996. Soon after, the Chicago native found a new home on UPN (now the CW), on the science fiction/fantasy series Homeboys in Outerspace (1996 – 1997). Although the sitcom only lasted one season, Bell’s love for Hollywood wasn’t discouraged.
In 1997, Darryl landed a recurring role on Cosby, the sequel to its original series, The Cosby Show, as Julius. Since then he’s made several cameos on shows like For Your Love (1999) and Beverly Hills S.U.V. (2004). Then, in 2009, Bell and his long-time wife, Tempestt Bledsoe—best known as Vanessa Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and currently starring on NBC’s Guys With Kids—appeared on the Fox reality show, Househusbands of Hollywood, not to be confused with BET’s current series, Real Husbands of Hollywood.
Ed Note: Darryl Bell and Tempestt Bledsoe are married under common law as they have lived together for 19 years, but never actually walked down the aisle.
Cree Summer aka Winifred “Freddie” Brooks
Like Kadeem Hardison, Cree Summer had quite the show biz catalog before stepping on the set of A Different World in 1987. But different from Hardison, Summer was best known in entertainment for voice acting in children’s films and TV series’ like the Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty and Inspector Gadget. Her work in kid’s Hollywood continued while she began her crossover work on NBC in movies and shows like The California Raisin Show (1989), Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990) and New Kids on the Block (1990). And though the woman known as Freddie in TV land never truly left Hollywood’s children’s and teen scene, she attempted to expand her roles after leaving the set of A Different World, but she just couldn’t find the heart to leave behind what she knew she loved best.
The Los Angeles-born actress appeared on ’90s hit shows including Living Single (1994) and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994), but her name in voiceover work increased far beyond her sitcom cameos. Summer became a staple in the Tiny Toons series and TV movies that had kids flocking to stores for the cartoon figurines. Over the years she’s picked up more than 75 roles on America’s favorite cartoon series. From Rugrats to Gargoyles, The Wild Thornberrys to Pepper Ann, there’s been no shortage of work when it comes to Cree Summer. If anyone sat back and reminisced on his or her favorite animated series—past or present—chances are Summer was in the mix.
Cree’s most recent voiceover talents have appeared in Pound Puppies (2012), Thundercats (2012) and Beware the Batman (2013). She’s also noted for her work in numerous video games. So while you may not see the bubbly, freckled-face actress on the big or small screen, you’re guaranteed to hear her voice for the years to come.
Dawnn Lewis aka Jalessa Vinson Taylor
While A Different World ended in 1993, Dawnn Lewis said goodbye to the NBC sitcom one year early, in 1992, to join the cast of Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. The show lasted five years, but Lewis walked away from the series in 1993, but not before making sure fans would remember her for the show’s season 1 theme song, which she sang alongside Holly Robinson Pete and En Vogue.
After Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, Lewis’s next recurring role was on Spider Man the animated TV series as Detective Terri Lee, where she remained until 1997. Two years later, the New York native made a brief appearance in MTV’s The Wood (1999). The following year, Dawnn landed a role on Lifetime’s Any Day Now (2000 – 2002). Since then, the Brooklyn star has appeared in a plethora of titles, most recently known for her work on Futurama as a number of on-and-off characters, and NBC’s daytime television show, Days of Our Lives.
Outside of film and television, Lewis released her debut album, Worth Waiting For, in the mid 2000s, which housed the titled song to Disney’s TV movie, The Poof Point (2001).
Charlene Brown aka Kimberly “Kim” Reese
Like her co-stars, Charlene Brown made appearances on several popular ‘90s shows after saying goodbye to A Different World. The year the NBC series came to an end, Brown made a one-time appearance on Martin, followed by an appearance on Living Single in 1994.
With a few one-time cameos in between, the East Hampton actress made her way to the set of UPN’s (now the CW) Girlfriends in 2004 in the episode, “Winners and Losers.” Brown has continued to make appearances on television in addition to hitting the Broadway scene.