The Tense Relationship Between Lisa Bonet and Bill Cosby During ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘A Different World’ and How She Feels About Him Today

Lisa Bonet has always been one of America’s favorite beauties. Her luxurious locks and free-spirited style set apart from other Hollywood starlets of her day and she remains an icon in her own right. Bonet is most known for her role as a Cosby kid during Bill Cosby’s reign as “America’s favorite dad.”

Bill Cosby and Lisa Bonet
Bill Cosby and Lisa Bonet | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

But insiders have always maintained that Cosby had a contentious relationship with his TV daughter as Bonet was viewed as a rebel of the bunch, one he could not control. Despite her being a favorite on the show, it’s been widely reported that her experience on The Cosby Show and its subsequent spinoff was less than pleasant thanks to Cosby’s need for power. 

Lisa Bonet starred on both ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘A Different World’ on-and-off 

Bonet played Denise Huxtable, the second child of the Cosby family. Much like her real-life persona, she’s a free-spirit. She has a difficult time with her studies, often finding it hard to focus and cannot settle on one thing as her interests are constantly changing.

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During Denise’s time on A Different World, her transition to college proves to be hard. She struggles with finances, her grades and feels like she doesn’t fit in. She eventually drops out of college and travels to Africa where she meets her future husband before she returns to The Cosby Show. 

The tense relationship between Bill Cosby and Lisa Bonet

Bonet got along with her co-stars but according to old reports and the E! True Hollywood Story of the series, Cosby often became agitated with Bonet as he considered her to be unprofessional and rebellious. She was allegedly late to set many times and ill-prepared, leaving Cosby at a disadvantage due to being a stickler for excellence. 

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A Different World originally centered on Denise Huxtable and the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional historically black college in Virginia. It was inspired by student life at historically black colleges and universities. Denise Huxtable, native of Brooklyn, and daughter of Hillman alumni Cliff and Clair. She enrolled and was roommates with Maggie and Jaleesa during her sophomore year. Denise was a poor student who often procrastinated and struggled to manage her time and money. She disliked Whitley Gilbert and endured Dwayne Wayne's crush on her. She left Hillman at the end of her sophomore year to travel to Africa. She reappeared once in season three to give Dwayne closure on his crush. Maggie Lauten was a “military brat" and journalism major, she is one of the few white students at predominantly African American Hillman. She transferred to Hillman at the start of sophomore year and was roommates with Denise and Jaleesa. Maggie was a sweet-natured, although occasionally ditzy, girl. Left after season one. Jaleesa Vinson, native of Camden, New Jersey, enrolled at Hillman at age 25, a business management major, roommate of Denise and Maggie during sophomore year, worked part-time at the Hillman library, assistant dorm director of Gilbert Hall, vacationed in Greece with Maggie during the summer of 1988. Disappeared after season five. #adifferentworld #lisabonet #marisatomei #dawnnlewis #denisehuxtable #maggielauten #jaleesavinson #differentworld #cosbyshow #college #beautiful #women #nostalgia #photooftheday #classic #tv #instagood #retro #pop #comedy #tbt #classictv #80s #fashion #style #eighties #flashback #wayback #love #oldschool

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As Bonet aged out of the Cosby household, Cosby felt it was only right that her character attends college as he continued to push the narrative of educated black families. Thus, she was transferred to the A Different World cast to follow her collegiate experience and her coming of age. Bonet, however, did not appear excited about the role. 

In a 1986 interview with David Letterman in the promotion of the series and her first film role, Bonet was not enthusiastic. When asked why she took the role, she responded, “They told me to?” She then spoke about the premise of the show, explaining, “Well, it’s called Hillman and it’s not very original. It’s about kids in college.”

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Lisa Bonet (1988)

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In the same interview, Letterman asked her about her role in Angel Heart, in which Bonet filmed a nude scene. Cosby apparently did not approve of the role, though he later admitted he advised her to take it to show his support. Despite his support, he allegedly declined to view the film

In a 1987 interview for Newsweek, Cosby did not hold back about feeling the film was distasteful, saying, “It’s a movie made by white America that cast a black girl, gave her voodoo things to do and have sex.” 

Bonet, on the other hand, felt the role was a good pivot, revealing in her topless cover story for Interview the same year, “My obligation wasn’t to Denise. I felt obligated to myself and my career.”

Cosby did reveal concerns that Bonet’s career moves could have a negative influence on young viewers of The Cosby Show.

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Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet in NYC, 1987.

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Things grew increasingly strained when Bonet married Lenny Kravitz and became pregnant with their daughter while she filmed A Different World. The producer of the show suggested that they include Denise’s pregnancy in the storyline as others could relate but Cosby refused, allegedly saying “Lisa Bonet is pregnant not Denise.” Bonet was fired from the series.

Bonet was re-hired for The Cosby Show as Cosby understood fans love for the character and that he could not just do away with his daughter in the script. She returned to the series as a married stepmother but her role became more minimal as time went on. Her final appearance on the show was in 1991. Cosby later claimed Bonet was fired for outgrowing the material. 

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How does Lisa Bonet feel about Bill Cosby today?

Bonet kept her distance from her Cosby family, revealing that though she loved her television siblings in a 1992 interview with Arsenio Hall, that it had been some time since she had any contact with the cast. 

Flash forward to the days of Cosby’s sex crime scandal and Bonet said little but it was enough for fans to interpret as her potential dislike for the disgraced star.

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“There was just energy. And that type of sinister, shadow energy cannot be concealed,” she said in an interview with PORTEREdit. “If I had anything more to reveal [about witnessing any of Cosby’s alleged sexual misconduct] then it would have happened a long time ago. That’s my nature. The truth will set you free.”

Bonet enjoys her time now as a mother of three and wife to Aquaman star Jason Momoa.