‘A Different World’ cast reunites at SU for discussion panel

SU hosts 'A Different World' reunion

Stars of former NBC hit "A Different World" came together at SU to discuss the show's evergreen issues and reminisce for old time's sake.
Published: September 12, 2021 | Updated: September 13th, 2021 at 5:26 pm
"A Different World" cast discusses past experiences and current issues at SU's Goldstein Auditorium.

From 1987-1993, “A Different World” aired on NBC to millions all around the United States. The show follows a group of students and their experiences at Hillman College, a historically Black college. Today, Goldstein Auditorium housed a crowd buzzing to see their favorite people discuss one of their favorite shows.

“I am so geeked right now. I am fangirling out y’all,” said Tamekia Flowers, the CEO of Epiphany, the company sponsoring the event.

She then introduced Darryl Bell, who graduated from Syracuse in 1985 and played Ron Johnson on the show. He discussed how deep his Syracuse connection runs and how those experiences influenced the role he played in “A Different World.”

Bell went on to introduce his three costars: Jasmine Guy, who played Whitley Gilbert, Kadeem Hardison, who played Dwayne Wayne, and Cree Summer, who played Freddie Brooks. Hardison and Summer joined the conversation over Zoom.

The panel discussed topics from the show that continue to remain relevant on college campuses today, like racism and sexual assault. They also talked about the importance of diversity in the entertainment industry.

“That’s one reason ‘A Different World’ has stayed evergreen is because the problems are the same,” Bell said.

Summer said her favorite episode had to do with date rape because it wasn’t a mainstream issue.

“It had been identified and we were going to talk about it on ‘A Different World’ and I thought it was incredible,” Summer said.

The show stayed in the top five TV shows throughout the duration of its run. When they aired an episode about a cadet who was drafted and about to be sent to Iraq, the show hit the number one spot. This episode aired at the beginning of the tension between the United States and Iraq. It was written by Guy.

Everyone on the panel spoke to the inclusivity and openness on the set along with the willingness to take on hard topics.

“It speaks to the environment and why I believe ‘A Different World’ resonates with everybody,” Bell said.

Throughout the panel, the cast shared behind-the-scenes stories as well as audition stories. Bell, Hardison, and Guy met previously on a Spike Lee film called “School Daze.” They joked about how they all had to audition differently.

They also discussed their audition stories for the show. Bell recalled not getting a role in season one but remaining roommates and friends with Hardison, who was on the show. Bell said since Hardison was a “true New Yorker” he didn’t have his driver’s license, so he had to drive him to work every day. Bell was later cast in the show and the three were reunited.

These stories and commentaries captivated the audience for the entirety of the event. They reminisced about a certain scene, laughed at jokes, sympathized with the cast, and gave them a standing ovation at the end.

“The greatest reward that for all of us is that after all this time y’all still want to come out and talk about ‘A Different World,’” Bell said.

Avatar for Riley Utley

is an arts journalism and communications graduate student and the Social Media Director for The NewsHouse.