Kadeem Hardison spent six season in the late 1980s and early 1990s playing Dwayne Wayne on the family network comedy “A Different World.” Since then, he’s worked on a variety of television shows and films, but nothing he’s done has reminded him of qualities “A Different World” had until he was cast in “K.C. Undercover.”
“This was one of those shows that spoke to the kind of void in television for family comedies,” Hardison. “It’s the kind of show I’m proud I did with ‘A Different World’ and like doing now.”
In the Disney Channel series, Hardison plays Craig Cooper, the father of a family full of spies, including his teenage daughter K.C. Cooper (Zendaya). A three-part special airs this weekend where K.C. is assigned a new partner —Junior Spy of the Year, Brett Willis — to go undercover as boyfriend and girlfriend. K.C. winds up having real feelings for him.
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Meanwhile, Craig and his wife, Kira (Tammy Townsend), receive news their arch rival has resurfaced and is determined to destroy them and The Organization.
The fact the series has a strong family element is nothing new for Hardison. “A Different World” was one of the comedies during the late ‘80s that helped revive family comedies on the networks.
And “K.C. Undercover” allows Hardison to be part of family entertainment while also being in a comedy with loads of spy action. The combination is another example of Hardison being part of a groundbreaking program
“Last time I was on a long-running show, you had never seen a comedy about a bunch of black kids in college,” Hardison says. “Now it is fun to be in front of the curve a little bit with this show about a black family of spies. I find the action part of the job to be an exclamation point to the comedy we’re doing.
“ ‘A Different World’ inspired a lot of young kids to go to school. This is a show that you can watch — whether you’re black or Asian or whatever — with your family and everyone will find something to relate to.”
Until “K.C. Undercover,” Hardsion had been content to go from job to job. His only hesitation about signing on to be the spy dad was committing to another series that could run for years. He appeared in 135 episodes of “A Different World.”
“I enjoy being able to do different things. I remember from my ‘A Different World’ days that after about four seasons I was antsy to do something else. I wanted to make movies but there’s only a small window between seasons to do a movie.”
He decided to sign on for what could be a long haul because of Zendaya. His young co-star is one of the most popular and busiest actors working. She not only stars in the series, but she has hosted major awards shows, has a clothing line and is a recording star.
Hardison just finds her to be a “great kid” and he knew working with her and the rest of the cast would make even a long run a lot of fun. Plus, Hardison has done some directing and the series opens up the possibilities for him to be in front of and behind the cameras.
Back when Hardison started on “A Different World” he wasn’t much older than Zendaya and the rest of the youngsters on “K.C. Undercover.” He’s seen how it’s a different world for young actors these days.
“I felt immortal when ‘A Different World’ started and was convinced that it would never stop,” Hardison says. “I see them on their ascent and its a joy to be around them. We often have good talks — sometimes they ask and other times I’m just parenting.”
- 8 p.m. Friday, May 29, Disney Channel