It’s a Lowkey Different World: Debbie Allen Talks Almost Collabing With Issa Rae for A Different World Reboot

Issa Rae and Debbie Allen pose with the ‘Vanguard Award’ at Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards on February 23, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California.
Issa Rae and Debbie Allen pose with the ‘Vanguard Award’ at Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards on February 23, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Randy Shropshire for Essence (Getty Images)

What happens to a potential TV show reboot that dies down before it can properly fire up?


Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun? Does it fester like a sore and then run?

Or does it get caught up in legalities because the show’s original creator got sent to the big house because he was on some big creeper, nasty shit back in the day and now all hopes for a 2020s version of a late ‘80s/’90s classic will have to just disappear because said creeper doesn’t wanna take his hands off of it?

I doubt Langston Hughes could foresee an answer to that particular question. But luckily for you and me, Debbie Allen is shedding a little light on the situation in her latest interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The director, actor, producer and NAACP Image Award recipient sat down with THR to discuss, among many things, how she’s been able to keep things afloat with her dance academy and directing episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (which is currently in its 17th season) amid the ongoing pandemic. But perhaps the most gasp-worthy part of the interview came when Miss Allen revealed that there were things in the works for a potential reboot of the 1987 show A Different World (which she directed, lest we forget). And by “things in the works” I mean a collaborative effort between her and fellow multi-hyphenate Issa Rae. But the emphasis here, unfortunately, is on the word were.

We’ve been wanting to do it forever. Honestly, it’s strapped behind the whole situation with Mr. [Bill] Cosby — which is unfortunate. But the show was his idea. There’s a studio and network situation where they can’t allow any money to go into his company. I said, ‘Can’t we contribute it to schools or something?’ But you can’t take somebody’s name off of a show. A Different World needs to have a second life, and we know how to do it. I was so close to doing it with Issa Rae.

She continued, “We were going to do it again. Then the question was posed, ‘Will he take his name off of it?’ And that’s not going to happen. It’s sad because we need it right now.”

Deep, heavy Negro spiritual sigh. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be gung ho about a classic show getting a new school spin. But this news coupled with the impending end of Insecure kinda just has me feeling hella lowkey sad AF about what could have been.


You see what I did there? I’m missing you already Insecure. Please don’t go.



Not trying to be a smart alec, but... Why can’t they just call the show something else, make it about black college students at an HBCU, not “Hillman” of course. Just make something brand new. The Cosby connection of A Different World is going to be thorny until he dies, and even then, who knows how his estate will handle things. Make something brand new. If they want to bring in ADW alumni as different characters (heck, what would be the real justification for everybody staying in the campus area 25+ years later?), so be it!