Posted: Nov 16, 2015 01:00 AM CST
Updated: May 17, 2016 10:08 AM CDT
With Lisa Bonet, better known to many as Denise Huxtable to a generation of TV viewers, celebrating her 48th birthday on Monday, join us for a look at what she and her "Cosby Show" co-stars are up to today. The sitcom premiered on Sept. 20, 1984, and hung around for eight seasons, nearly single-handedly reviving the sitcom genre and topping the ratings along the way before its series finale aired on April 30, 1992.
The star of the show was comedian Bill Cosby, who played Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. The character was an OB/GYN who ran a practice from the office annexed to his home. His playful admonishments of his kids and comical antics provided the driving force for much of the show's humor.
A veteran stand-up performer who previously had starred in the 1960s action show "I Spy" and the sitcom "The Bill Cosby Show" from 1969 to 1971, Cosby also appeared on "The Electric Company" and created the educational cartoon comedy series "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids." After "The Cosby Show" ended in 1992, he starred in the sitcom "Cosby" from 1996 to 2000 and hosted "Kids Say the Darndest Things" for two seasons. He also created the children's TV show "Little Bill," based off his book series of the same name, which ran from 1999 to 2004. Cosby's once sterling reputation has been tarnished recently after being repeatedly accused of sexually assaulting women, in several cases after purportedly drugging them. Despite accusations from dozens of women dating back 50 years, he has yet to be formally charged in any of the alleged incidents. He has also repeatedly declined to discuss any of the claims.
Phylicia Rashad played Dr. Huxtable's wife, Clair Olivia Hanks Huxtable. A successful lawyer and a loving, but no-nonsense, mother, the character was loosely based upon Cosby's real-life wife, Camille Olivia Hanks-Cosby. The role earned Rashad Emmy nominations in 1985 and 1986.
Rashad went on to play Cosby's wife once again in the 1996-2000 sitcom "Cosby." She also teamed up with Cosby to voice the mother in "Little Bill." In 2004, the Houston, Texas, native became the first black actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, for her role in the revival of "A Raisin in the Sun." She's also made cameos in the TV shows "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Psych," appeared in the Tyler Perry films "For Colored Girls" and "Good Deeds," and had a supporting role in the short-lived NBC drama "Do No Harm."
Sabrina Le Beauf played Sondra Huxtable, the eldest of the Huxtable's five children. The character made her first appearance midway through the first season as a sophomore at Princeton University. She appeared sporadically during the show's early seasons and in a total of 55 episodes overall. Sondra married her boyfriend, Elvin Tibideaux, in season four and later gave birth to twins Nelson and Winnie (named after Nelson Mandela and his second wife Winnie).
Le Beauf almost missed out on the role of Sondra because she was a mere 10 years younger than her TV mom. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she later had a two-episode stint on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and voiced a character in the Nick At Nite animated comedy "Fatherhood," based off Cosby's stand-up act. She most recently starred in the 2009 movie "The Stalker Within." She also studied interior design at UCLA and has her own interior design business.
Lisa Bonet played Denise Huxtable, the second-eldest daughter in the family, known for her sense of fashion and oft-changing hairstyles. Her character left home in season 3 to attend Hillman College, a fictional, historically African-American college, that her mother, father and grandfather had all attended. While the show's producers created a spin-off series, "A Different World," to focus on Denise's life at college, the character was written out of the series after its first season. Denise later traveled to Africa, where she met and married Lt. Martin Kendall, a divorced single father. Bonet left the series during its seventh season.
Bonet, the mother of fellow actress Zoë Kravitz from her first husband, singer/actor Lenny Kravitz, has sporadically made appearances in films such as "Enemy of the State," "High Fidelity" and "Biker Boyz" post-"Cosby Show." Some of her most recent work has come alongside her second husband, "Conan the Barbarian" and "Game of Thrones" actor Jason Momoa, first in the 2014 dramatic thriller "Road to Paloma," directed and written by and starring Momoa, and then as his co-star in the Sundance Channel series "The Red Road." She's also had recent cameos in Comedy Central's "Drunk History" and the Fox sitcom "New Girl."
Malcolm-Jamal Warner played Theo Huxtable, the family's middle child and the Huxtables' only son. Theo's academic struggles and troublemaking tendencies provided many storylines early on in the show's run. As the show went on, his character evolved from being an underachiever to a successful student. While a student at NYU, Theo learned he had dyslexia and he eventually became a student teacher, helping other children with dyslexia at a local education center. In the show's final episode, Theo graduated from NYU with a degree in psychology.
Following his role as Theo Huxtable, Warner appeared in several less popular sitcoms such as "Here and Now," "Malcolm & Eddie" and "Listen Up." Most recently, Warner appeared in the big-screen-flop "Fool's Gold" and the Lifetime TV series "Sherri." He starred in the 2011 BET sitcom "Reed Between the Lines" and has had recent recurring roles on the TV series "Community," "Major Crimes," "Sons of Anarchy" and "American Horror Story." He is also a bass player and has released a couple of albums.
Tempestt Bledsoe played the tender-hearted, academic overachiever Vanessa Huxtable, the family's fourth-eldest child. Early on in the show she was portrayed as being nosy and was frequently squabbling with her younger sister, Rudy. At the beginning of the seventh season, Vanessa left for college one year early and the character appeared sporadically in the final two seasons of the series.
Following "The Cosby Show," Bledsoe enjoyed a year-long run as the host of her own daytime talk show, "The Tempestt Bledsoe Show." She's participated in reality TV shows such as "Celebrity Fit Club," "Fear Factor" and "Househusbands of Hollywood," and has had cameos on shows like "The Practice," "Strong Medicine" and "South of Nowhere." In early 2011, she took over as host for the Style Network's "Clean House," replacing long-time host Niecy Nash. She also voiced the character of Sheriff Hooper in the 2012 animated movie "ParaNorman" and starred on the sitcom "Guys with Kids," which lasted 17 episodes before being canceled in February 2013. Bledsoe has reportedly been struggling for decades with a skin condition called vitiligo, which chronically causes de-pigmentation of certain patches of skin.
Keshia Knight Pulliam played Rudy Huxtable, the youngest member of the family. The character became an audience favorite over the years and Pulliam earned an Emmy nomination for her performance in season two, becoming the youngest nominee ever.
The former child star has shown she's all grown up, portraying a prostitute in Tyler Perry's "Madea Goes to Jail" and appearing in lingerie in a video by rapper Chingy in 2004. In 2008, she joined the cast of the TBS sitcom "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," which earned her three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series out of four straight nominations between 2009 and 2012. In 2013, she made a cameo opposite her former "Cosby" co-star Tempestt Bledsoe in the sitcom "Guys with Kids" and also appeared in the TV movie "The Love Letter." In January 2015, she appeared as a contestant on the season premiere of "The Celebrity Apprentice," but was the first fired after refusing to call Cosby to ask for money in a charity challenge.
Geoffrey Owens played Elvin Tibideaux, Sondra's boyfriend, and later, husband. Owens started out as a recurring character in the second and third seasons, but became a regular starting in season four.
Owens has had small parts in the movies "The Paper," "Stonebrook" and "Play the Game" since "The Cosby Show" ended in 1992. He's also had cameos on TV shows, including "That's So Raven," "Law & Order," "Boston Legal," "Las Vegas," "Medium," "FlashForward," "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Most recently he's had small parts in the HBO series "The Leftovers" and the Showtime series "The Affair." He also teaches acting classes in New York City and played Prince Escalus in a 2013 contemporary Broadway revival of "Romeo and Juliet" that starred Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad (the daughter of his "Cosby Show" mother-in-law) in the title roles.
Joseph C. Phillips played Lt. Martin Kendall, a Navy officer and divorced father who Denise Huxtable unexpectedly married in Africa. The character appeared frequently in the sixth season, but showed up in only a few seventh season episodes. His final appearance came in the season eight episode "Olivia Comes Out of the Closet," in which Kendall was posted to Singapore on a long-term assignment.
Phillips went on to portray attorney Justus Ward on the soap opera "General Hospital" from 1994 to 1998 and had a recurring role on the TV series "The District." He's also had guest roles on TV shows such as "The Larry Sanders Show," "The King of Queens," "Las Vegas," "Jack & Bobby," "Bones," "Castle," "The Mentalist" and "The Event." He's also a conservative Christian commentator and writer. In July 2015, he made headlines when he posted an essay on his website titled " Of course Bill Cosby is guilty!, " saying he no longer doubts accusations of inappropriate behavior by his former idol.
Raven-Symoné was introduced during the show's sixth season in 1989 as 3-year-old Olivia Kendall, Martin Kendall's daughter and Denise's stepdaughter. She and her father and stepmother lived with Cliff and Clair and she continued to live with them while her parents were in Singapore during the final season.
One year after "The Cosby Show" ended, Raven-Symoné landed a role on the sitcom "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper." That same year, she released her debut album, "Here's to New Dreams," which charted the single "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of" at No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100. From 2003 to 2007, she starred in the Disney Channel series "That's So Raven" and soon began acting in films, with roles in "Little Rascals," "Dr. Dolittle" and "College Road Trip." She also starred in the 2003 Disney Channel movie "The Cheetah Girls" and its sequel and the short-lived ABC Family sitcom "State of Georgia." She has also lent her voice to the animated series "Kim Possible" and films, such as Disney‘s direct-to-video "Tinker Bell" series of movies. Most recently she's had cameos on the TV series "K.C. Undercover" and "Black-ish" and joined Fox's new hit primetime soap opera "Empire" in the recurring role of Olivia Lyon, the vengeful ex-wife of one of the main characters.
Earle Hyman played Russell Huxtable, Cliff's father, in 40 episodes of "The Cosby Show" despite being only 11 years older than Bill Cosby. In 1986, he earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series for his role in the episode "Happy Anniversary."
Hyman, who made his Broadway debut as a teenager in 1943, is also known for voicing the character of Panthro on the animated show "ThunderCats." After "The Cosby Show," he made a cameo on Cosby's follow-up sitcom "Cosby." His most recent screen credit came in 2001 in the Canadian TV drama "Twice in a Lifetime."
Clarice Taylor played Anna Huxtable, Cliff's mother, in 19 episodes of "The Cosby Show." She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1986 for the role. The stage veteran also appeared on shows like "Ironside," "Sanford and Son," "Nurse," "Spenser: For Hire" and "Due South," and in movies such as "Play Misty For Me," "Sommersby" and 1995's "Smoke," which was her last screen appearance. She died from congestive heart failure at age 93 on May 30, 2011.
Erika Alexander played Pam Tucker, Clair Huxtable's distant cousin, on 21 episodes during the show's last two seasons. The daughter of a single mother, Pam came to live with the Huxtables after her mother moved to California to take care of Pam's grandmother.
Alexander went on to star on the sitcom "Living Single" for five seasons. She's also had roles on the TV series "Judging Amy," "Street Time," "Heist" and "In Plain Sight," and in movies such as "54," "Full Frontal" and "Déjà Vu." She had a supporting role on the 2013 AMC crime drama "Low Winter Sun" and has had recent recurring roles in the sitcoms "Last Man Standing" and "Let's Stay Together."
The show's semi-regular characters also included the friends of the Huxtable children, with one of the most memorable being Rudy's friend Kenny, or, as Rudy called him, "Bud." The character was played by Deon Richmond, who appeared in 32 episodes over the course of the show.
Richmond went on to play the role of Darren Dixon in the sitcom "Getting By" from 1993 to 1994. In 1997, he joined the sitcom "Sister, Sister" during its fifth season and became a regular during its sixth and final season. He's also had roles in movies like "Scream 3," "Not Another Teen Movie," "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" and "Hatchet," and appeared in a 2014 episode of "Psych."
Peter Costa played Rudy's silent friend Peter Chiara, who always responded to trouble by running away, on 13 episodes of the show. In 1987, the role would earn him a nomination for a Young Artist Award.
Costa, who made his film debut with an appearance in the 1984 film "The Flamingo Kid," has had only two on-screen appearances since "The Cosby Show," with small roles in the 1990 film "The Lemon Sisters" and the 2003 film "To Be Legendary." He is currently a drummer for three New Jersey-based bands, Torrential Downpour, the Kreptaka Bar Band and PT Grimm.
Carl Anthony Payne II played Walter Bradley, aka "Cockroach," Theo's best friend in high school over 12 episodes during the shows second through fourth seasons. Theo and Cockroach always seemed to be getting into trouble, whether they were listening to a recording of "Macbeth" for a school assignment instead of actually reading the play or planning to shave their heads to audition for a music video.
Payne's brief but memorable run on "The Cosby Show" came to an end when he was let go over his refusal to cut his hair. He went on to star in the sitcom "Martin" as Cole Brown, one of Martin Lawrence's main character's best friends from 1992 to 1997. More recently, he played Antonio "L.A." Reid in the VH1 biopic "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story," had a role in the Bounce TV series "One Love," and starred in the Up TV (formerly Gospel Music Channel) made-for-TV movie "Marry Me for Christmas" and its 2014 sequel "Marry Us for Christmas." He's seen here with Kym Whitley and Omarosa Manigault at the after party for the 45th NAACP Image Awards in February 2014.
Karen Malina White (left) played Charmaine Brown, Pam's best friend. She appeared on "The Cosby Show" for 14 episodes over its last two seasons and also became a regular on the final season of "A Different World."
White, who also starred alongside Morgan Freeman in 1989's "Lean on Me," had recurring roles on "Roc," "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "My So-Called Life," and also starred alongside her "Cosby Show" castmate Malcolm-Jamal Warner in the sitcom "Malcolm & Eddie" from 1996 to 2000. From 2001 to 2005, she also lent her voice to the character of Dijonay Jones on the Disney Channel animated series "The Proud Family." She's most recently had cameos on the TV series "Southland," "The Mentalist" and "How to Get Away with Murder," and is a regular on the Disney Channel series "I Didn't Do It" (pictured).
Michelle Thomas played Justine Phillips, Theo's longtime girlfriend, making appearances in nine episodes from 1988 to 1990. Thomas went on to play Myra Monkhouse, Steve Urkel's girlfriend, on "Family Matters" and briefly played aspiring singer Callie Rogers Stark on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless." She also had a real-life relationship with Malcolm-Jamal Warner. She died of stomach cancer at age 29 in December 1998 with Warner reportedly at her side.
Dondre T. Whitfield played Robert Foreman, Vanessa's boyfriend, appearing in six episodes of the show between 1985 and 1987. Robert was immortalized when Vanessa uttered his name for Stevie Wonder to sample on his keyboard in a guest appearance.
Whitfield (seen here with his wife, actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield, at the 2015 BET Awards) had a starring role in the short-lived sitcom "Between Brothers" and played Terrence Frye on the soap opera "All My Children" from 1991 to 1994. He has also had minor roles in movies like "White Man's Burden," "The Salon" and "Mr. 3000," and in TV series such as "The Jamie Foxx Show," "Martin," "Girlfriends," "Ghost Whisperer," "CSI: Miami," "Eureka" and "Cold Case." Most recently he has had recurring roles on the ABC Family drama "Make It or Break It" and the primetime soap opera "Mistresses." He also had 2014 cameo on the TV series "Hart of Dixie," playing Lt. Governor Alex Byrd.
Wallace Shawn, best known for movies like "My Dinner with Andre," "The Princess Bride" and "Clueless," played Jeff Engels, the Huxtables' neighbor. He made appearances in four episodes of the series between 1987 and 1991.
Shawn is also known for voicing the character of Rex in the "Toy Story" movies and has had recent roles in movies such as "Admission," "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" and "Furry Vengeance," and in TV shows like "Gossip Girl," "Eureka," "The L Word" and "The Good Wife."
Before becoming a star on "Saturday Night Live," Adam Sandler made his acting debut in 1987-88 by appearing in four episodes during the fourth season of "The Cosby Show" playing Smitty, Theo's high school friend.
Sandler has gone on to star in such box office hits as "Billy Madison," "Happy Gilmore," "The Wedding Singer," "50 First Dates" and "Grown Ups."
Sandler was hardly the only star to make an appearance on "The Cosby Show" before becoming famous. The show also featured a pre-fame appearance by a 5-year-old Alicia Keys, as Maria, a guest at Rudy's sleepover party during a 1985 episode.
Angela Bassett, who would go on to earn an Oscar nomination for portraying Tina Turner in 1993's "What's Love Got to Do With It" and who has also starred in movies like "Boyz n the Hood," "Malcolm X," "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," appeared in single episodes in 1985 and 1988, playing a different character each time.
Just as she was becoming one of the world's most famous supermodels, Naomi Campbell appeared in two episodes of "The Cosby Show" in 1988, playing Julia, a girl Theo yearned to date.
Before going on to star in the sitcom "Head of the Class" in the late 1980s, Robin Givens got her start in acting by playing one of Denise Huxtable's friends in a 1985 episode of "The Cosby Show."
Vanessa A. Williams, who would go on to appear in the TV shows "Melrose Place," "Soul Food" and "Murder One," appeared as two different friends of Theo's, first playing Jade in two episodes during the show's fifth season and then Cheryl in two episodes in the seventh season.
Before finding fame in the late 1980s on "L.A. Law," Blair Underwood was getting his feet wet with small parts in various TV shows, including a two-episode stint on "The Cosby Show" as one of Denise's boyfriends.
Gilbert Gottfried made a memorable appearance in a 1987 episode, blowing Dr. Huxtable's cover while Cliff and Theo are dressed down and posing as poorer customers to get a bargain price on a new car.
The same episode also featured an appearance by comedian Sinbad, who played the car salesman and who would go on to star in "A Different World."
The show also had its fair share of guest appearances by established stars, many of them famous musicians, reflecting Cosby's own passion for music. Among them was Stevie Wonder, who memorably played himself in a 1986 episode in which the entire Huxtable family visited the Motown legend in the studio after Denise had a fender bender with his chauffeured limousine.
Jazz great Lena Horne (far right) also played herself in 1985, singing to Cliff on his birthday in the first season's final episode.
Tito Puente, known as "The King of Latin Music," played a musician in a 1986 episode where Cliff's Dad performed with a band, whose other members also were played by jazz greats Art Blakey, Jimmy Heath and Joe Wilder.
Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie played Mr. Hampton, Vanessa's music teacher, in a 1984 episode.
Sammy Davis Jr. played Ray Palomino, the estranged, illiterate grandfather of a young woman about give birth on her own, in a 1989 episode.
Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo guest starred in a fifth season episode in 1989 as Alberto Santiago, one of Cliff's colleagues who gives Clair a much needed 46th birthday boost by signing "Bessame Mucho" to her.
Blues guitarist B.B. King played Riley Jackson, "The King of the Blues," in a 1990 episode. After seeing Jackson perform at a blues club, Theo and Elvin discover that he's friends with Cliff and Clair. Jackson paid a visit to the Huxtable home later in the episode, at one point even singing the blues with Rudy's friend Kenny.