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DAR TV: Ranking The 8 Greatest Characters From A Different World

By @TrueGodImmortal




One of the greatest black sitcoms of all time is A Different World. With the fictitious Hillman College being the focal point of the show, we were treated to the black college experience through the small screen. For 6 seasons, we watched the stories of these intriguing characters and how their lives interwined through the landmark moments and episodes. Today, I wanted to provide a different perspective. With a large amount of characters on the show that made an impact, whether big or small, I wanted to rank the very best characters on the show. You might be surprised by some of the names left off of the list, and the reason I chose to do 8 instead of 10 or 5 is so that it narrows the list down below the standard 10, but goes above and beyond the other standard 5. Who makes this list? Which characters are the best? Let's get into it.

8. Lena James
(Played By Jada Pinkett)





-You might be a bit shocked. I could have selected Kinu, Dwayne's former love interest, or even Jalessa, or Colonel Taylor, but instead, I went with the interesting Lena James character. Throughout her time on the show, Lena became a memorable character and her narratives were intriguing. I found her to be more entertaining than Charmaine and Gina, not to mention there were two pivotal moments on the show that came as a result of her story. The first came during the guest appearance of 2Pac on the show as her old boyfriend Piccolo, which is one of the best moments in the history of the show. The second comes when Lena fabricates an entire story for her class and has to keep the lie up. That entire saga is hilarious to watch. Truth be told, Lena James is a pivotal character to A Different World.

7. Mr. Gaines
(Played By Lou Myers)




-There aren't many characters on the show that provided me with sensibilities of the older generation while still being hilarious, but Mr. Gaines was exactly that. In a way, he served as a father figure for the majority of the students on campus, including the characters that make this list. He served as the slightly grumpy older wise man who wanted to see the kids do well at the school, and while running The Pit, the hang out food spot for the students on campus, he provides opportunities for those that he can. He gives Whitley her first job, assists Dwayne and Ron with wisdom when they need it, but the person he helped the most was Kimberly. After helping with Kim's tuition, it was solidified that Mr. Gaines was not only a vital part of the show, but he was essential to the development of the other pivotal characters and their stories. That's why he's ranked on this list.

6. Kimberly Reese
(Played By Charnele Brown)




-I always though Kim was an interesting character. She was truly what your typical perfect student should embody: she was intelligent, strong, wise, and hard working. She was willing to go out and make things happen for herself at all costs, and she always remained focused on her studies and doing what needed to be done. She was the quintessential straight A student in Hillman, but her character had moments where life was less than perfect. From tuition struggles to pregnancy scares to even a personal issue that centered around colorism and the perception around it, Kimberly had many dimensions to herself and that's what made her one of the most engaging characters on the show. She could possibly be ranked higher, but to me, this is pretty accurate, as I think there was more to the other characters ranked above her. Still, Kim is an integral part of the show and that's undeniable.

5. Freddie Brooks
(Played By Cree Summer)





-I remember watching the show years ago and I wasn't the biggest fan of Freddie at first. I didn't quite understand the character or the eccentricity of her, but years later, I get it. Freddie was the equivalent of a hippie free spirit on campus and though she was misguided plenty of times on the show, one would have to respect her honest will and desire to become her best self. That's really the journey of Freddie on this entire show. Finding herself. There is a great progression through her affinity with Ron or her relationship with Shazza Zulu, Freddie went through so many changes that her character was the most intriguing really on the show. She could start off as the bright eyed slightly annoying freshman and grow to the hippie free spirit to eventually becoming a mix of all those things in a way. Freddie is the most genuine and real character on the show and probably relatable for many.

4. Walter Oakes
(Played By Sinbad)





-You may be a bit shocked to see Walter ranked so high, but this is strictly for his comedic value. There was no character on the show funnier than Walter Oakes and it's not even close really. While the characters were funny in situations and the things they got into, Walter was just hilarious from the outset of the show. In many ways, he played a big brother or smart uncle role for many of the characters and helped them. He was the sports coach, the co-director when the dorm turned co-ed, and he was a huge piece of the puzzle for the show. Whether he was looking for the female students against the aggressive star player of the baseball team, or just indulging Ron and Dwayne with hilarity, Walter was extremely vital to the show.

3. Ron Johnson
(Played By Darryl M. Bell)





-In this day and age of sensitive wannabe social justice warriors and the easily offended, Ron Johnson probably would be hated if the show existed right now. However, back then, he was one of the other comedic spots of the show besides Walter. Sure, he could be slightly chauvinistic, but most of those scenarios showcased Ron failing with women or just falling short in many aspects. Still, aside from that, Ron was willing to stand up for himself and was unrelenting in his pursuit of women, which was essentially the main focus of his character, for better or worse. Ron wasn't the best student, and sometimes he wasn't even the best friend he could be, but he was always entertaining and that's what earns him such a high spot on this list over characters that may have had more progression like Kim and Freddie, both women he dated at different times. Ron is a huge piece of why A Different World was so successful.

2. Whitley Gilbert
(Played By Jasmine Guy)






-The most important woman on this show is undoubtedly Whitley. She wasn't the initial focus of the show at all, as both Denise and Maggie seemed to be the top focus of the first season, but eventually Whitley became the most vital character at Hillman due to her personality and her relationship (off and on) with Dwayne. The show was eventually built around their relationship and everything around it, and with that, Whitley Gilbert came an icon for the bourgeois in black sitcoms. Her progression as a character was interesting, as she went from being the rich snobby girl on campus who wasn't well liked to being a married woman with her own success and close friends. Through the southern accent, the slightly loud personality, and her ability to adapt to changes, Whitley became one of the most engaging characters in TV history. She was responsible for one of the most important moments on the show, as the saga of her marrying Byron led to the most iconic TV wedding interruption by Dwayne. Whitley and Dwayne are one in the same, and you can't mention one without the other. Which brings me to no. 1.....

1. Dwayne Wayne
(Played By Kadeem Hardison)







-This was a no brainer. Easily. While there is no way you can mention Dwayne without Whitley, there is one thing that takes Dwayne slightly above her on the list in terms of importance as a character: the glasses. Dwayne is the quintessential smart student with fashion sense who would end up becoming the man on campus. After chasing Denise the first season, Dwayne eventually began the usual black sitcom love story with Whitley and they danced around the issue with each other for the first few seasons. Still, that aside, Dwayne was Ron's best friend, a premier student at Hillman, and iconic on this show. There are a few characters in black sitcom history that I think transcend in their own way, and those are Martin Payne, Cliff Huxtable, Will Smith (Fresh Prince), and Dwayne Wayne. Those four characters are pivotal with reshaping the image of black TV comedy characters from the ridiculousness of J.J. on Good Times or even George Jefferson into something different and more relatable. Dwayne Wayne is one of the most important characters in black sitcom history and therefore, he is undoubtedly the no. 1 choice here. There are so many great moments on the show from Dwayne Wayne, and the fact remains, without him, the show would not be the same. Period.


-True 

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