Throughout the history of TV, there have been a number of shows that have managed to strike a chord with audiences and become a timeless piece of Americana in the process. The Cosby Show, which aired on NBC for eight seasons from 1984 to 1992, is such a series. However, the classic sitcom’s legacy has been a topic of debate over the past several years, amid the legal complications of its co-creator and lead star – Bill Cosby. Amid the drama, some of his former co-stars have spoken out on whether the show’s legacy should be tarnished as a result. Series alum Keshia Knight Pulliam is now getting candid about that subject.
The 44-year-old actress gained worldwide fame when she was cast as the diminutive and adorable Rudy Huxtable back in the 1980s. Though she’s done more in the years since her stint on the family comedy ended, she still occasionally discusses the show and her experiences. The show is set to turn 40 in 2024 and, ahead of that, the star was asked about how the show’s legacy should be weighed in light of the controversies surrounding the lead. The House of Payne star stated that the acclaimed sitcom “was bigger than one person.” She gave the following sentiment as well:
You can't take away the work that we all collectively did.
It’s true that The Cosby Show was conceived as a vehicle for Bill Cosby, though it did prove to be an ensemble piece, featuring skilled actors like Phylicia Rashad, Lisa Bonet and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Keshia Knight Pulliam herself was also lauded for her performance as the youngest Huxtable sibling, even earning an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Comedy Series at the age of six. Pulliam went on to tell People that she’s thankful for the position she was in during that time in her career:
A lot of actors wait their entire lifetime for an opportunity like that. I'm grateful I have been a part of a piece of work that has really transcended generations and that's still teaching lessons that are relevant today.
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The show’s presence on TV and within the public consciousness has changed in recent years, though, as Bill Cosby has faced various sexual assault allegations dating back to the ‘70s. He was found guilty on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault against accuser Andrea Constand. A judge sentenced Cosby to three to ten years in prison, though he was released after two years in 2021 due to his case being voided as a result of a past deal the star made with a prosecutor.
Amid his sea of legal troubles, the now-86-year-old comic received support from a handful of his former co-stars. Keshia Knight Pulliam showed up to support him at his trial in 2018 and, years earlier, in 2015, Pulliam defended him while also saying at the time that she hadn’t been in contact with him. Clair Huxtable actress Phylicia Rashad also shared a celebratory post after the Ghost Dad star was released from prison early and later apologized for it.
The Cosby Show reruns were pulled from various networks years ago as a result of the scandals. Despite that, the show is still available to watch in some places, and fans still seek it out. Keshia Knight Pulliam makes a fair assessment about the series, as it did contribute a lot to pop culture and served as a precursor to some of the great Black sitcoms of the past few decades. Still, it’s likely that the discussion revolving around its connection to the titular star will continue for the foreseeable future.