A Different World Alum Kadeem Hardison explains why he and his co-stars had no idea the show would become so iconic

A different world is still considered one of the best black sitcoms of the 1990s, which is fitting given its effect on pop culture. Watching a group of friends navigate mixed life at famed Hillman College served as a weekly reminder that young adulthood can be fun and emotional. In the same breath, he inspired millions of students to enroll in college. Unfortunately, the A different world The actors were unaware of the show’s influence when the show originally aired, according to Kadeem Hardison. Hardison explained why he and his co-stars had no idea the sitcom would become so iconic.

For several generations, the KC undercover Dad will always be nerdy engineering student Dwayne Wayne. Her fashion alone has had an impact on mainstream culture. While viewers loved the character and the series, Hardison didn’t necessarily hear about his influence during the heyday of the NBC sitcom. The actor told The Bakari Sellers podcast that the cast was informed more about ratings rather than viewer responses, saying:

You know, there was no direct contact with fans or anyone, you know, who liked the show. So we pretty much had to rely on the ratings, which were always kind of mythical. “Oh, you have a 21 point something or a 32 point thing which translates to blah, blah, blah.” But we didn’t feel that directly.

The network was more concerned with numbers than viewer feedback. But that was expected given that a show’s ratings can mean the difference between a season renewal and cancellation, especially in the era of pre-airing. Compared to the current state of television, shows from the 1980s and 1990s did not garner real-time reaction from fans via social media. While the comedy was a hit, the A different world the cast did not feel its impact in real time. Working on the show made them completely unaware of how iconic it would become, according to Hardison. He said:

I don’t think any of us really knew what we were doing was going to be so important or so iconic.

The cast saw small glimpses of the impact of college comedy at its peak. Hardison revealed that coeducational black college life translates to increased enrollment in higher education, especially for HBCUs. Several institutions saw enrollment of black students as the number doubled (or tripled) during the sitcom’s run.

Other clues to the sitcom’s brand were more direct, as the actor recalled being told by grandparents and parents that Dwayne inspired their child in college to become an engineer. In some cases, the student wanted to enroll in an HBCU, specifically Hillman (although this is a fake school).

A different world was a spin-off from the highly successful The Cosby Show, and initially a vehicle for second-eldest daughter Denise Huxtable (played by Lisa Bonet) while attending her parents Cliff and Claire’s Hillman College alma mater. Bonet left the show after the first season, causing a shift towards the relationship between Dwayne and Whitley Gilbert, played by Hardison and Jasmine Guy respectively, before ending in 1993.

Over its six seasons, the NBC comedy went through several cast changes and departures, which could have included The prince of Bel-Air former Alfonso Ribeiro. The series was Jada Pinkett Smith’s acting breakthrough before she branched out into movies.

Get into all the hijinks and the big drama of A different world by subscribing to HBO Max to watch all six seasons. Once you’re done gorging on the classic show, you can check out CinemaBlend’s 2022 TV schedule to see which comedies will premiere this year.