Bill Cosby’s roots run deep. Real deep. Cosby’s name and chocolate-pudding face make the man synonymous with the word “Dad.” Face it: There was something about Cliff Huxtable that everybody could relate to, and it transcended both class and race. A bit more curmudgeonly in his old age, Cosby is still pretty much looked at as America’s Dad. And just like a real dad, think about how many actors Poppa Cos has put on. Let’s take a look at how his TV family tree has grown up and branched out.
Lisa Bonet – The pouty lipped café au lait actress was The Cosby Show’s breakout star. Her character Denise Huxtable was spun off into A Different World, which lasted six years (’87-’93). But real-life drama proved bigger than the show: Pregnant Lisa eloped with Lenny Kravitz, thus ending her run on the show. (She’d return only to leave a year later.) Her film debut as Epiphany Proudheart in Angel Heart was more infamous for its steamy voodoo love scene with Mickey Rourke, which had to be edited to get an R rating. Her subsequent roles were pretty much straight to DVD fare except for appearing in the Will Smith vehicle Enemy of the State. These days, she’s known as Lilliquoi Moon and has two young kids from her second marriage to action-hero Hawaiian-hunk Jason Momoa. Her eldest, Zoe Kravitz, is a rising star in her own right.
Malcolm-Jamal Warner – Named after Malcolm X and pianist Ahmad Jamal Warner, Malcolm has been putting in work an actor and musician since leaving the Cosby show. Musically this bass playing brother doubles up, mixing spoken word and funky bass driven grooves. As an actor he starred in Malcolm & Eddie and the short-lived Listen Up! (based on the PTI show hosts Tony Kornheiser & Michael Wilbon) and has had numerous role and cameos since Cosby ended, most recently on Community. (Best repartee ever: Joel McHale: “Nice sweater.” MJK: “Thanks, my dad gave it to me.”) Warner is currently starring – as what else? – a dad in a blended household headed by two professionals on the thinly veiled tribute Cosby Show homage Reed Between The Lines with Tracey Ross Ellis. (Nice try, but no cigar.)
Keisha Knight-Pulliam – No one’s dimples were more famous or more adorable in the late 80s. Making the transition from child star to actor on television is hard but Knight-Pulliam has made the transition nicely. Stepping away from acting after the The Cosby Show’s run, earning her degree from Spellman College resurfacing a few years back in Tyler Perry vehicles Madea Goes to Jail and The House of Payne. She won two Image Awards for her role on … Payne.
Raven Symone – Once Rudy grew up and filled out, the Cosby cute-onium levels needed to be re-upped: Enter Olivia Kendal, the stepdaughter of as Denise Huxtable to deliver the sugar-sass quips, Ironically, the late Cosby recruit ended up being the most successful career of all the Cosby kids. She starred on her own show That’s So Raven on The Disney Channel then in The Cheetah Girls movies (also serving as executive producer). Raven also starred with Eddie Murphy in the Dr. Doolittle franchise and executive produced College Road Trip starring Martin Lawrence. She’s voiced the character Monique on the animated series Kim Possible, has a reoccurring role as Iridessa the Light Fairy in the Tinker Bell movies and has had a modicum of success as a singer. Recently svelte and new mom, she’s guest-hosted on The View, and is being touted as the possibly being the next Oprah with a media empire’s estimated projected future worth of a BILLION dollars. All at the tender age of 26.
Marisa Tomei – One of only two white regular cast members in the Cosby universe (the late Madeline Khan on Cosby is the other), Tomei appeared on the first season of A Different World. She’s crafted a highly successful film career, the best of any Cosby show alumnus, winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in My Cousin Vinny. Regularly nominated for outstanding performances Tomei is one of the best actresses working today. Period.
Sinbad – Making his name as one of the hottest stand-up comedians of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Sinbad gained a couple feature roles on The Cosby Show. Following three years on A Different World, he had a stint as the host of the ill-fated Vibe late night show. His own Fox sitcom didn’t pan out but his stand-up shows and music showcases have all done well ratings and sales-wise. His film career has seen him in a series of supporting comedic roles to varying success (Necessary Roughness, Houseguest, First Kid). Recently his name was in the headlines for tax issues, but he’s making a comeback of sorts with his reality show Sinbad: It’s Just Family and his recent Comedy Central special, Where U Been?
Kadeem Hardison – Debuting as the nerdy, Denise obsessed Dwayne Wayne on A Different World, Hardison has proved to be a mainstay on the urban landscape. He was a regular cast member on the sitcoms Abby and Between Brothers and has a string of both television credits including Living Single, Girlfriends, The Boondocks and Everybody Hates Chris while his film credits include School Daze, Panther, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Sixth Man, The Fantasia Barrino Story White Men Can’t Jump and I’m Gonna Get you Sucka.
Cree Summer – Cree Summer is easily the most adaptable of The Cosby Kids. Starring as the hippie-ish free spirit Winifred “Freddie” Brooks for four seasons, post … World, Cree Summers has been a mainstay on the voiceover/animation front voicing more than 100 characters in tv series and video games ranging from My Little Pony to Thundercats, The Looney Tunes Show, Batman: The Animated Series, Clifford, The X-Men and Drawn Together. Besides utilizing her voice for animation purposes, Cree is also a ridiculous singer having released a certified classic lp, Street Faerie (produced entirely by her friend Lisa Bonet’s ex-husband Lenny Kravitz). Sadly, there’s never been a follow-up to the critically praised but minimal selling CD.
Jasmine Guy – This Alvin Ailey classically trained dancer has been a mainstay on the small screen since debuting as southern belle Whitley Gilbert on A Different World, her best known role. Starring on the sitcom for six years, she’s appeared on the big screen in School Daze and Harlem Knights and on numerous TV programs, most recently Showtime’s Dead Like Me, The Vampire Diaries and as a judge on the second season of Drop Dead Diva. She co-authored Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary with Afeni Shakur (her friend Tupac’s mom) and currently serves as Executive Director of True Colors Theatre Company in her native Atlanta.
Karen Malina White – The squeaky voiced actress starred as Charmaine Brown on both The Cosby Show and A Different World. She then starred opposite of Warner on Malcolm & Eddie and later voiced the character Dijonay Jones on The Disney Channel’s The Proud Family. She’s probably best known for her role as Kaneesha Carter in the Morgan Freeman starrer, Lean On Me.