A Different World is truly an underrated classic. The ‘90s comedy does not get enough credit for how influential and ahead of its time it was. There are countless successful Black people fighting to change the status quo because A Different World inspired them to go to college or because they identified with Dwayne, Freddie, Kim or Whitley. Cast member Jada Pinkett Smith is using Red Table Talk to celebrate the show that launched her career, hosting a reunion with series stars Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Dawnn Lewis, Darryl M. Bell, Charnele Brown, Cree Summer, Glynn Turman, Ajai Sanders, Karen Malina White and director Debbie Allen.
In an exclusive clip provided to The Root, Jada and the cast discuss the immense impact Allen had on how the set was run and how the actors were suddenly given agency in their dialogue and performances.
“This was a time where there was a separation between the writers and the actors. If they said, ooh, instead of ahh, they had to stop the cameras and do it again,” Allen says. “I worked really hard to break down that barrier between writers and actors.”
Hardison described how they had a very focused, detached mentality on set while leading lady Guy explained the difficulties the lack of communication caused.
“You just get your lines, do your best and hope they don’t make you do it too many times,” Hardison says. Guy then explains that the long hours added to the actors’ stress during filming, saying, “And we were filming until one in the morning. I was like, ‘Why are we doing this again? I don’t even know what I’m doing wrong.’ Why are we just doing things over and over until if it was funny at any point, it was gone?”
Jada explains that it was Debbie who truly gave everyone a voice on set. She also states that once she joined the cast in Season 5, the tone had already been changed, but the unique feel of A Different World led to unrealistic expectations for other jobs.
“By the time I got there, it was already a groove happening, because we go to Debbie ‘This is not working, no Debbie, can we do this?’ I felt like I had a voice,” Jada adds. “So going any place else and not having a voice is like ‘Wait a minute, hold it.’”
Guy also had problems adjusting to other sets, as the collaboration she had with Hardison wasn’t the same on other jobs.
“I learned the hard way on other sets. I was like, ‘Oh, actors don’t like to get notes from other actors,’” Guy says. “Because Kadeem and I talked about everything…But when I did that with other actors, there I learned the hard way on other sets. I was like, ‘Oh, actors don’t like to get notes from other actors.’ Kadeem and I talked about everything, right…but when I did that with other actors there was a brace, and I said ‘Oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that.’”
For more stories from the set of the classic series, you can check out the Red Table Talk A Different World reunion, which premieres Monday, Dec. 19 at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT on Facebook Watch.