Twenty years after groundbreaking series The Cosby Show ended in 1992, Tempestt Bledsoe has returned to NBC in the Jimmy Fallon-produced sitcom Guys with Kids to play Marny, the working mother of four kids and wife of stay-at-home dad Gary, played by Anthony Anderson.
Has being a part of The Cosby Show set such a high bar for you that the roles you have gone out for or subsequently been offered in your adult life just don’t compare?
Yeah. I think that happened for all of us. We were brought up on a set that is just incomparable as far as what kind of set you would want kids to be on. It was the best set in the world. We were very protected and sheltered. The Cosby Show changed America’s opinion on so many different topics and opened so many people’s eyes and, so, you really learned immediately the power of what you were doing, that there was a power in portraying a role and you were made aware of the effect that it could have on people so it does raise the bar. But, if you are not concerned about your image and portrayals, you can always work, but I certainly have been concerned about that.
Other child stars, regardless of color, have had great trouble transitioning into adulthood. Generally, though, we don’t just hear crazy stories about the kids from The Cosby Show. Why?
It started with our parents. We all had very strong family units and our parents were determined to see us through this experience whole and healthy. We were just brought up with incredible examples, especially with Phylicia Rashad and Dr. Cosby, as far as seeing as how they carried themselves and how they lived their lives. Just blessed and lucky.
It’s been reported that Debbie Allen wants to bring A Different World back. Do you thinkA Different World works now?
I do. Just as Cosby opened up so many people’s vision to something that they had never seen before, or really contemplated before, and exposed them to things that were going on that were completely below their radar, I think that A Different World did the same thing. There are so many people who come up to me and say that watching Cosby or A Different World is the reason I went to college. That’s the reason why. Some people weren’t even aware that there were Historically Black Colleges and Universities to go to because, if you didn’t grow up in the South or around them, that’s just nothing that you thought of and saw for yourself.
Could any show have that kind of impact today?
I don’t know that you could do it again. The combination of having such a tremendous audience watching television and the fact that there were fewer channels back then doesn’t exist now. These days to get five, six million people watching one show is out of the box numbers and we had 40, 50 million people watching one show. The audience is so fractured now. The timing was just so incredible.
You can read the Q&A in full over at theGrio.
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