Episode 235: “A Different World | Showrunner, Writer Susan Fales-Hill”

“You can be anything you want in this world, darling. But if you become an actress or a nun, I’ll kill myself.” -- legendary actress Josephine Premice to her daughter, Susan Fales-Hill. Content Warning: Sexual Assault/Child Sexual Abuse. At approx. 53:00 - 58:00 short discussion of date rape and child sexual assault.
Read Transcript

The Conversation

  • Being Whitley Gilbert’s alter ego: “She said a lot of the things I wanted to say -- but was too polite!"
  • FINDING YOUR VOICE: Susan reflects on learning how to speak up in a writer’s room even though she was the youngest, newest writer -- and a woman.
  • GO WEST YOUNG WOMAN: The “Big Move” from The Cosby Show in New York to A Different World in Los Angeles.
  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A NEW POT: Sometimes you have to "re-plant" yourself to grow.
  • HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MARISA? The challenge of featuring a white character attending an HBCU.
  • JUST A TIME SLOT SUCCESS? Some people grumbled that ADW only succeeded because it followed the massive hit The Cosby Show.
  • How Debbie Allen insisted the show be topical -- and the surprise when Bill Cosby agreed.
  • The story of how Susan personally got Diahann Carroll to be on the show.
  • Being told by her agents after running a Top Ten show: “We can’t get you on a white show.”
  • On the joy of casting your own mom -- singer, dancer, actress Josephine Premice.
  • Susan reflects on which “issue” episodes worked -- and which ones maybe missed the mark (looking at you, Los Angeles Uprising…)
  • The network was adamantly opposed to the “Los Angeles Uprising” episodes -- and some believe it signed the shows death warrant.

So, join Susan, Sharon -- and Susan -- as they talk pig noses, possible spin-offs, Billy Dee Williams, The Amistad, “Benevolent Karens”, Jennifer Lewis… and the danger of saying “shut up” to your mom!

Our Audio-ography

Watch A Different World -- streaming on MAX.

Watch the classic 2-part Thanksgiving Episode “Faith, Hope & Charity” (S6; EP 9 & 10) -- with Diahann Carroll AND Patti LaBelle! on HBO Max.

Get Susan Fales-Hill’s books and find out about all her projects at SusanFales-Hill.com.

Watch Susan Fales-Hill “In Praise of Complexity” at the Met Museum "Met Speaks".


Sign up for the 80s TV Ladies mailing list.

Check out Instagram/80sTVLadies.

Get ad-free episodes and exclusive videos on PATREON.

Help us make more episodes and get ad-free episodes and exclusive content on PATREON.


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.



Credits: 80s TV Ladies™ Episode 235: “A Different World | Showrunner, Writer Susan Fales-Hill”


Produced by 134 West and Susan Lambert Hatem. Hosted by Susan Lambert Hatem and Sharon Johnson. Guest: Susan Fales-Hill. Sound Engineer and Editor: Kevin Ducey. Producer: Melissa Roth. Associate Producer: Sergio Perez. Music by Amy Engelhardt. Copyright 2024 134 West, LLC and Susan Lambert. All Rights Reserved.