A Different World began as a spinoff about The Cosby Show character Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet. But once it went through some Season 2 changes, Whitley Gilbert became the breakout character and the heart of the show. It could have gone differently if star Jasmine Guy had had her way. As reported by People, during an appearance on Red Table Talk along with many of her A Different World co-stars, the actor explained why she wanted to leave during the first season, going so far as to attempt to put in her two-weeks notice. Read on to find out why Guy was angry enough to leave and what convinced her to stay.
Guy tried to quit during Season 1.
Guy appeared on Red Table Talk with former co-stars Kadeem Hardison, Dawnn Lewis, Darryl M. Bell, Charnele Brown, Cree Summer, Glynn Turman, Ajai Sanders, and Karen Malina White. They were also joined by director and producer Debbie Allen. Jada Pinkett Smith, who hosts Red Table Talk, also appeared on the show in later seasons, playing Lena James.
Guy said that she tried to quit the show early on. "I gave my two-week notice during the first season," she said. "I was like, I don't want to be in this anymore, and I didn't like the way they were treating the cast. So, I went in there, and I said, 'Thank you so much for this opportunity, and I've learned so much.'"
Producers didn't understand why she was upset.
Guy explained that when she tried to quit, higher-ups asked if something had happened to her, personally.
"They were probably like, 'Okay, well did something happen to you? I said, 'Well, you know, I feel like Lisa Bonet is disrespected in front of the audience.' "Well, has it ever happened to you?' I said, 'If it happens to her, it happens to me. You are disrespecting the cast. You are disrespecting Sinbad. It doesn't have to happen to me.' I felt like it was happening to me."
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Her contract meant she couldn't just quit.
Guy didn't realize that it wasn't an option for her to simply leave the show.
"I thought we could leave," she said. Hardison, who played her love interest Dwayne Wayne, laughed and added, "You didn't read the fine print that said six years?"
The show underwent major changes early on.
A Different World was overhauled before Season 2. Bonet and Marisa Tomei, who were the lead characters in the first season, both left the show. Sinbad, one of the actors Guy felt was mistreated, was promoted to be a main cast member. Allen joined the show as a producer to help the show be a more accurate representation of student life at a historically Black college. Guy also took on a bigger role, as Whitley and Dwayne's relationship became a major focus of the show.
"The first season we were there, I was there to be the snotty [expletive] and he was there to be the goofy dude," Guy said during a September interview on The Breakfast Club with Hardison. "What Debbie did was she made our characters deeper and more realistic."
There were questions as to why Bonet really left the show.
Hardison explained in their Breakfast Club interview that the main cast had to sign for six years in case the show was picked up for that many seasons. (It did end up lasting that long, airing from 1987 to 1993.) "I know, but I went into the producers and tried to give my two-week notice," Guy said. "That first season, I'm telling you, it was wack, and I didn't like the way they were treating Lisa Bonet … You disrespect her in front of an audience, in front of me, you disrespecting me, too."
Guy and Hardison both claim that Bonet was talked down to, including during tapings. "I didn't interfere on set, but I was like, 'Oh no. You not treating her like that.' She had to hire security," Guy said.
The actors clarified that Bonet didn't leave the show over those issues, but because she became pregnant with daughter Zoë Kravitz.
"They didn't want to show a Black girl pregnant in college," Hardison said. "I thought it would've been a great tool and something that could inspire, because it was all inspiring, so why not? 'Cause that's a real thing."