Kadeem Hardison, the actor who played Dwayne Wayne on the popular 1980s TV show “A Different World,” learned a valuable lesson in Hollywood: the importance of not only knowing your worth but demanding your pay reflect your worth.
Sandwiched between “The Cosby Show” and “Cheers,” “A Different World” was a ratings success for NBC. But the actors on the show weren’t being paid high-show salaries, Hardison and his co-star Jasmine Guy revealed in a recent “The Breakfast Club” interview. Guy said she was getting paid $6,000 an episode.
While filming a separate project, the film “White Men Can’t Jump,” he learned he was making less money than one of his white peers from “Cheers,” Woody Harrelson.
“I went out into the field and found out that ‘Cheers’ … I was like ‘how?’” Hardison said on “The Breakfast Club.” “He had an assistant. He had all kinds of s*** going on. I was like, ‘Where are you getting treated?’ ”
The Power of ‘No’
Hardison and his mom-manager, Bethann Hardison, firmly took a stance against the low salary and held out for more money. Hardison decided to stage a “sick out,” an idea his mother was not in agreement with at first. But Hardison said he passed on a lesson to his mother.
“A that point, she was my manager… I taught her, she says, the power of ‘no.’ ” Hardison said he told her he was not going back into work until his salary was increased.
“She’ll say that right there, ‘I learned about the power of no,’ ” Hardison said, adding that she was impressed by him realizing his worth.
He said he mother said to him, “And you knew your worth and wouldn’t go in and take less than this.”
But the “sick out” ploy didn’t work, in part because the other actors like Guy didn’t follow his lead. Guy even admitted during “The Breakfast Club” interview they should have “done it together.”
“I was home playing sick,” recalled Hardison, who called out and informed the studio that Jasmine Guy was also sick and was not coming in. Then he was told, “Jasmine’s here on the set,” Hardison remembered with a laugh. He wound up going into work, but he did later re-negotiate his contract.
“I ended up getting more money . ..I got what Woody was making,” revealed Hardison, although he did not disclose how much money he demanded.
Bethann Hardison has always supported her son as his manager since the start of the actor’s professional acting career in 1981.
Her son’s determination to get paid his worth later inspired Bethann, who was also a well-respected fashionista.
In 1992, Bethann, through an organization she founded called the Black Girl’s Coalition, addressed the gross underrepresentation of people of color in commercial advertising, runway shows and the editorial pages of consumer magazines, according to her website. Through her efforts, she was successful in getting more Black models on the runway for major shows during global fashion weeks.