Spike Lee said that Bill Cosby jacked him. But did he really steal his cast or was it the high-honored jewel of a casting directed named Robbi Reed.
Many children of the 80s looked up to Bill Cosby as he represented the best parts of Black life. From Fat Albert to Picture Pages to The Cosby Show, there was something about his persona the exemplified “Black Excellence.”
The Temple grad made it a point to highlight HBCUs on his hit NBC series, The Cosby Show, by wearing #Spelbound buttons. He also created a fictional Black institution called Hillman College, as the alma mater for both Cliff and Clair Huxtable.
The first mention of Hillman was during the first season. Hillman would be the place where Cliff would meet a young lady named Clair Hanks. It was also where Cliff ran track and his dad, Russell also attended. This backstory was presented in 1984.
However, the fullness of Hillman that was debut on the show A Different World was not created until September 24, 1987. And for some people, this show produced by Bill Cosby was the first time that you ever saw an HBCU on screen and the characters that made you fall in love with the HBCU experience.
Spike Lee says hold up, wait a minute.
What happened was Bill Cosby hired the infamous Robbi Reed to cast the NBC pilot, after Spike tapped her for his movie. A Different World debuted first on television and School Daze came out on February 12, 1988. You know Spike was pissed.
Young actors that made their mark appearing in both projects are Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and Darryl M. Bell. Even talented folk like Art Evans, Dominic Hoffman, and Roger Guenveur Smith shared their gifts on both sets. Reed, as one of the few African American casting directors at that time, kept people working.
Here is Robbi Reed’s account of it: