Debbie Allen Reveals Behind the Scenes Tensions Over Race at ‘A Different World’

Debbie Allen (Courtesy of TV One)

It was a different world indeed.

Debbie Allen, director and producer of the hit sitcom A Different World, sat down with TV One’s autobiographical series Uncensored to tell the story of how the Los Angeles riots caused behind the scenes tension at the series.

The popular sitcom about life at a fictional HBCU ran for six seasons between 1987 and 1993 on NBC, and touched on issue affecting Black America. One issue was the 1992 riots, which Allen revealed turned out to be a big point of contention for the series.

“The L.A. riot episode was amazing,” Allen recalled in a preview clip. “It was unsettling what was going on in the L.A. riots and what we had to go through to get that show on the air. We got through it and we showed people rioting.”

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Allen shared her reaction to a surprising note she received from the network before the episode aired.

“The big note we got from the network was about the white looters,” Allen recalled in shock. “I had people coming out of the liquor store and I gave them a line, I said say it: ‘Free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last.’ I thought I was going to hear about that. They complained about the white looters. I’m like are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?”

The Hollywood veteran said she enlisted a very famous comedy star and the actress’ then-husband to help push the episode through.

“So what did we do? We got Roseanne [Barr] and Tom Arnold,” she explained.  “We reshot it with them because that was a ratings victory to get them on A Different World. That was very interesting. I mean the show was about so many other things. But that’s a little nugget on the inside of what we have to go through. I was always going into the principal’s office.”

Watch Allen’s interview below.