Sabrina Le Beauf (Sondra) and Geoffrey Owens (Elvin)
On television. they were a combustible, hopelessly-in-love married couple. Separately, Le Beauf and Owens have had modest success after The Cosby Show. In addition to excelling at regional theater, Le Beauf handled voice duties as Norma Bindlebeep on Nick at Nite’s animated Fatherhood, based on Bill Cosby’s 1987 book of the same name. Owens has had a myriad of small guest appearances on Las Vegas (NBC), Medium (CBS) and Without a Trace (CBS).
Erika Alexander (Pam)
Alexander’s 1990 inclusion in The Cosby Show as cousin Pam signaled the series proverbial jump-the-shark moment for some critics. Yet she got the last laugh as the scene-stealing, acid-tongued lawyer Maxine on the classic Fox sitcom Living Single (1993-1998). Since then, she’s been spotted in a variety of guest appearances on NBC’s ER, Law & Order and CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami.
As former child stars go, Symoné is the ultimate antithesis to the usual tales of cocaine-addled burnout. Her Disney-backed Cheetah Girls franchise (2003, 2006) has grossed more than $400 million from merchandising, DVD and record sales, as the kid’s favorite has earned between a reported $40-45 million per year. Just cut this girl the check. That’s so Raven.
Joseph C. Phillips (Lt. Martin Kendall)
An outspoken, staunch Republican, Phillips has kept his television chops up securing guest parts in such shows as The Ghost Whisperer (CBS) and Bones (Fox). But come on! Surely, those gigs can’t compare to his four-year run as dashing attorney Justus Ward on General Hospital (ABC). Well, on second thought.
Phylicia Rashad (Clair)
Rashad’s stellar performance as Lena Younger in the 2008 television adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic A Raisin in the Sun was no surprise. The veteran had already won a Tony in 2004 for its stage revival, becoming the first African American to win the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. Four years later, she again starred on Broadway as Big Mama in the all-African-American production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The only thing left for the fabulous Rashad to conquer is to become a national spokesperson for the Jenny Craig weight loss campaign. Hey, wait a minute …
Bill Cosby (Cliff)
You could easily forgive one of the highest paid stars in television history, if he decided to just purchase a Caribbean island and lay low. (He is rumored to have a net worth of $315 million.) But, instead, there was an uninspired revival of the Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life (1992-93), the oddly tepid 1994 Cosby Mysteries and a role in the God-awful The Meteor Man. Yet, he bounced back, finding moderate success with the CBS comedy Cosby (CBS). The show, which centered on Cosby as a senior citizen whose troublemaking ways create comedic hijinks with his wife—once again played by Phylicia Rashad—had a more than respectable four-year run (1996-2000).
These days, though, the Cos is making more noise as a controversial author/social critic. In 2005, he created a firestorm when he charged that low-income blacks were not “holding up their end of the deal,” blasting parents who spend more money on athletic shoes than education, and who blame whites for their current state. Cosby’s book Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors (2007) gave further ammunition to detractors who claimed that the lovable sitcom dad had lost touch with the plight of black America.
Winner: Bill may have more money than some third-world country’s gross national product. And Ms. Rashad may have all the post-Cosby accolades. But Raven-Symoné’s multi-million dollar Cheetah Girl come-up (she has since left the franchise) is all the more the impressive when you factor in that she’s still holding down her spot as a certifiable ‘tween queen at the age of 23. Game? Olivia.
Keith “Murph” Murphy is a veteran music journalist and pop-culture critic.