Debbie Allen is the woman who turned A Different World into the cultural phenomenon it became in the ’90s. She recently spoke to Netflix’s Strong Black Lead podcast, Strong Black Legends, about how she got brought on to the show.

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My coming into this show was certainly somewhere between my sister [Phylicia Rashad] who was, you know Denise’s [Lisa Bonet] mother and had visited on the campus of Hillman on the show and seeing what was happening behind the scenes,” she said. “It was not a happy place at A Different World behind the scenes. They didn’t quite have the right producing director there.”

Allen said Rashad talked to Bill Cosby about the working atmosphere at A Different World. He then called Allen to tell her to take over.

The next thing I know, I was getting a phone call from him saying, ‘We need you to get out your broom and dust it off over there. Go and clean house.’ I said ‘All right.’ So then I met with Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach, and I said ‘Okay, give me every episode.” The said, ‘You wanna watch every episode?’ I said ‘Absolutely, so I know how I’m gonna fix this and what we’re going to do.'”

Allen said that the show tripled the enrollment of Historically Black Colleges because Black and white audiences saw something in the show the identified with and wanted to be a part of.

“Having come from Howard University. I knew what to do with the show. I had lived it and breathed it. So I knew the stories that they needed to be telling,” she said.

Watch the full clip below.


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Photo: Getty

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