Kadeem Hardison talks ‘A Different World’ legacy and shares off-screen moments

TheGrio talked to Hardison, who played the character Dwayne Wayne, about getting his flowers and his favorite moments filming the iconic sitcom.

When you think of hit ’80s and ’90s sitcoms, very few fans — Black or white — would leave out “A Different World.” During its run, it was the No. 2 television show on cable and has proven to be still relevant today. Thanks partly to social media, reruns on TV One and streaming platforms, the show’s fanbase stretches across multiple generations.

This year, the show celebrates its 35th anniversary. TheGrio caught up with the star Kadeem Hardison, who played the beloved character Dwayne Wayne. Hardison talks about getting his flowers, some of his favorite moments while filming the show as well as iconic moments off-screen. 

Hardison speaks candidly about the vast difference between what happened when the show ended and the support he now receives.

Kadeem Hardison, at SiriusXM Studios in New York last month. He said “A Different World” is a show “that should have gone on forever.” (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

“It’s great because when we were doing it and when we were just finished doing it, there was none. It seemed kind of unceremoniously dismissed. Like, to me, this is a show that should have gone on forever,” noted Hardison.

Fans are still discussing the decades-old storylines. A huge part of that support comes from TV One and streaming platforms that allow older fans and new fans to catch up on all six seasons.

“I couldn’t be happier that it’s still on. That it’s really still on for the younger generation. The time to watch this show is like 15 years old. That’s when you kind of want to start it because you are looking at kids a little bit older than you,” Hardison said. “So there’s a little bit of big brother envy and then you kind of want to follow and hopefully, they will lead you into school and higher learning and a whole bunch of good stuff.”

The show dived into a variety of topics, including date rape, racism, the HIV epidemic, domestic violence and more. The domestic violence episode, “Love Taps,” was actually written and directed by Hardison, a clause that executive producer and showrunner Debbie Allen had written into his and co-star Jasmine Guy’s contracts. Allen made sure that each of the main actors was given the opportunity to write and direct so they could be in those rooms.

“I wrote and directed ‘Love Taps,’ which we kind of based on a semi-scandal about this rapper hitting this girl. Then it [the scandal] kind of disappeared and I wanted to address it. So we did a show called ‘Love Taps’ where, you know, it was a guy who was kind of abusive to his girlfriend,” said Hardison.

He told theGrio how he worked with show veterans to bring the story to life.

“I wrote it with Reggie Bythewood and Ron Mosley,” Hardison continued. “We came up with the idea; we had a writer assigned to help us, flesh it all out. And I think Reggie probably did most of the heavy lifting writing-wise. But the story was more me and Ron Mosley. And then I directed the episode.” 

Another episode Hardison directed featured the guest appearance of the late Tupac Shakur and Monica Calhoun. He reflected on one of its most memorable moments.

“’Ain’t nothing wrong with a city job.’ That’s one of my favorite lines. You know, you done came up, and now you up here and looking down on us. Shout-out to Monica Calhoun; she killed that.”

Many other iconic moments happened on screen, the sitcom alum recalled, but there were equally iconic moments off-screen. For example, there were set visits from heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.

“He would come every now and then and visit and, you know, stand around and watch because he was Mike,” Hardison said. “And one day he came in a red Lamborghini … and I was like, ‘Yo, Mike, that’s a new car.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. You know. You want to go drive it? Here take the keys.’”

Hardison said that although he jumped in, he wasn’t familiar with driving a stick shift since he drove a motorcycle, but he didn’t turn down the opportunity to drive Tyson’s car down Ventura Boulevard.

“I couldn’t get it out of first gear. And we were just screaming up and down Ventura Boulevard, probably doing 55 miles an hour with the engine revving at a billion. … Needless to say, the car didn’t explode,” Hardison laughed.

Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington was another famous guest on the set of “A Different World.”

“Debbie is the queen of pranks and she knows everybody. And Denzel was the object of her [Whitley, Guy’s character] desire. He was her favorite actor. Everything. This was her dream man.” Hardison shared the details of how the prank went down, a moment that has since resurfaced on Twitter.

Everyone on set was in on the prank except Guy, and they purposely stayed on set to catch the moment that the movie star surprised her.

“That was pretty dope!” Hardison said of the prank.

Each of these moments played out live in front of a studio audience and the cult sitcom alum said that was one of the best parts of filming. “Our studio audience was great, too. They got to see plenty of mess-ups and plenty of surprises.”

From the storylines, iconic one-liners and even moments off-set, the legacy of this show lives on. And, 35 years later, it’s clear why “A Different World” remains an important part of TV history. Hardison and Guy recently got together to host a reunion on TV One, where they reflected on some of their favorite moments.

You can watch Hardison go completely unfiltered on his episode of TV One’s “Uncensored.” Reruns of “A Different World” are available on multiple streaming platforms as well as TV One and BET.

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