He Played Ron on "A Different World." See Darryl M. Bell Now at 58.
The actor originally auditioned to play Dwayne Wayne.
Shortly after Darryl M. Bell made his debut in Spike Lee's 1988 film School Daze, he auditioned for the role of Dwayne Wayne in A Different World. Although that part ultimately went to friend and School Daze co-star Kadeem Hardison, producers found a role for Bell in Ron Johnson Jr., Dwayne's entrepreneurial roommate and best friend.
Playing that role from 1987 to 1993 would have a profound effect on Bell's future career, as well as his love life. Read on to see where Darryl M. Bell is now and the important role A Different World continues to play for him.
He was sued by his own family.
Bell's father, Travers Bell Jr., was the founder of the first Black-owned investment bank on the New York Stock Exchange, Daniels & Bell, as well as a major shareholder in the chocolate company Cocoline Chocolate Co. Travers passed away unexpectedly in January of 1988, when his son was just 24, leaving the young actor the executor of an estate worth approximately $14 million. He began living a bicoastal life attempting to manage the two businesses while also acting on A Different World.
Bell immediately faced a number of problems, including difficulty transitioning loyalties and a financial crisis, as he explained in a 2017 interview. In 1992, he was sued by his stepmother and two aunts over claims that he violated fiduciary trust as executor of the estate, which he and his grandfather sought to have declared insolvent. The case was ultimately dismissed, and Bell has long since put the experience behind him, stating that he's considering writing a book about what happened, the business lessons others can learn from it, and how it prepared him for his future.
"It was a great—one could say costly—experience, but it's part of the fabric of who I am," he reflected in the same interview.
He's been happily unmarried to Tempestt Bledsoe since 1993.
In 1989 Vanessa Huxtable took a trip to Hillman College and Cosby Show actor Tempestt Bledsoe made a guest appearance on A Different World. This would mark the first meeting between Bell and Bledsoe before the two would begin dating years later. The couple, who do not have children, have now been together almost three decades—including a 2009 stint documenting their lives on the Fox Reality show Househusbands of Hollywood—but have never walked down the aisle.
"I wouldn't say never," Bledsoe told People of marriage in 2011, "but we feel great about the way things are."
He's worked behind the scenes.
In addition to occasionally acting (including a 2018 appearance as Percy in the HBO series Insecure's '90s-inspired show-within-a-show, Kev'yn), Bell runs an independent production company, and in 2013, served as executive producer on the Comedy Central stand-up comedy show Bill Cosby: Far from Finished. In 2017, he described projects in the works, including an animated project with the Jim Henson Company, a feature film, and a national college tour with other cast members of A Different World.
Bell said his upbringing with his father was essential to his success in his role as a producer.
"From a very young age, I had been exposed to captains of industry at a very high level," he told Great Black Speakers. "[That] has helped me in terms of being able to talk with leaders in the industry, studio executives, and just be comfortable in that environment and know, one: that you belong, and two: how to get things done."
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He volunteers on the green.
When he isn't working or with his family, Bell is a self-proclaimed "above average golfer" who can often be found on the putting green. He also coaches young golfers and volunteers with the First Tee Greater Pasadena program, a youth development program that aims to build character through golf.
He's still in touch with the Hillman College crew.
Bell, a regular speaker at colleges and universities, has joined former cast-mates including Jasmine Guy and Cree Summer to tour a number of colleges and universities, including Norfolk State and Wayne County Community College, to discuss the importance of higher education and to encourage enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 2021, the cast also reunited on screen for a trip down memory lane with E! in A Different World: Reunion Road Trip.
"There are rumblings about a possible reboot," Bell told Great Black Speakers. Although he noted the difficulties (including the many accusations against disgraced creator Bill Cosby) getting the project off the ground, he confirmed that he'd "love to make it happen."