One woman’s journey after she learned The Cosby Show was based on her family in the 1980s.
By Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D. | @annmarieadams
What if I told you that The Cosby Show was partly based on me and my family during the 1980s? You would probably not believe it. But it is true.
That’s the conclusion after a seven-year investigation by private investigators and government officials. Providence guided us during this lengthy investigation when I lived in Avon, and political operatives prepared me in 2014 to run for Congress against former Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty–an academic exercise worth noting. It was during this “prep” time that I learned about this connection with The Cosby Show.
This fortuitous story of the connection began when former President Ronald Reagan visited Jamaica on April 7, 1982. During that one-day visit, Reagan’s security detail reportedly made contact with me and my family. My father was an electrical engineer while working at the Government Printing Office. He owned a home in a suburb of Kingston. And my mother worked with a transportation company. If former President Barack Obama did not visit Jamaica on April 9, 2015, while I was covering the White House, I wouldn’t have believed this story. That’s because it was Obama’s first visit as president, and he was only the second sitting president to visit the Caribbean nation since its independence in 1962, according to MSNBC.
Also at play were these facts: In Jamaica, we were a middle-class family Reagan’s cabinet allegedly felt they should watch. After Reagan’s visit, several individuals made plans to put a family sitcom together. And it was called The Cosby Show, according to sources close to the U.S. federal, state, and local governments. The show aired on NBC from April 30, 1984, to September 20, 1992.
The Cosby Show’s character, Denise Huxtable, was based on me, I’m told. The character’s persona and likeness were exploited without our consent.
And the revelation about the origins of the show can also be found in Bill Cosby’s interview about how he came up with this idea.
Cosby first pitched the show about a working-class Honduran family. My father’s ancestors are from Honduras and Nicaragua. We had a wonderful life that included Sunday dinners and picnics in the park, but we weren’t exempt from obstacles. Although The Cosby Show was mainly focused on Cosby’s observations of family life, some of those observations were of my family. Moreover, the basic concept of the middle-class family depicted on the show is evident in my family: My older sibling wanted to be a doctor. Also, I wanted to be a lawyer. Those plans of ours were interrupted by government officials, according to sources close to the investigation.
In previous interviews, Cosby also stated the original conceptualization of the show: a working-class family that raised a successful child. (side note: Cosby’s wife suggested the show be based on a well-to-do family). The original premise and casting choices for the sitcom, however, reaffirmed the initial concept in the pitch that was identical to my family and me.
So I’m telling my story.
Several scenes were points of recognition of my family’s life in Jamaica and the U.S., especially my time at Brooklyn College. I also learned during the investigation that the casting directors and writers had our family in mind when they selected the actors. There are frighteningly similar personas in my family and the characters on the show. And a picture of The Cosby Show family and my family bears a striking resemblance. For example, Denise Huxtable is my doppelganger–and the investigators discovered the character’s traits are similar to mine. Theo is my brother’s doppelganger and a few scenes reflect the relationship with him and my father. Vanessa is my sister Andrea’s doppelganger and several scenes reflect her relationship between us. Rudy’s character is based on my brother. Articles about the casting claimed that the casting directors tried to find a boy at first but they couldn’t; so they used a girl for the role. Rudy is my niece Janel’s doppelganger. And the character Olivia is my other niece Franchista’s doppelganger. The optics resonate well to claim theft of services and copyright infringement.
Other similarities include Sondra, who shares traits with my cousin Carleen. Elvin is based on my brother Lloyd. Also, Aunt Vi is based on my cousin, Doreen, Lt. Martin Kindall, Denise’s husband is based on my cousin, Raymond. And of course, Claire Huxtable was based on my mother and older sister, Marcia. The patriarch of the television family, Cliff Huxtable portrays similar traits as my handsome father. Huxtable is my father’s doppelganger–not twin. Cosby’s conviction as a sex offender was not echoed in my family. In fact, my father has never been arrested for any crimes. This information, I believe, will allow people to differentiate between the actor and the individual the show was based on when talking about the circumstances around this NBC hit comedy in the 1980s and 1990s.
In addition to those facts, several scenes were premised on the interpersonal dynamics of the relationships between me and my sisters, brothers, and cousins. This was too much of a coincidence to those who were investigating us during the recent investigation and prep for Congress. The public must know that The Cosby Show itself is a creation by several actors, comedians, writers, and producers who may be unfamiliar with our family. However, a few undisclosed individuals close to the recent investigation of Bill Cosby and the creation of the show gave me this information. So the very idea that it was based on our family was plausible to investigate further, officials said. I also learned that the 1990s spin-off, A Different World, was based on me and my years at college. And the show, That’s So Raven, was based on my niece, Franchista.
Why we were picked for this social experiment will perhaps remain a secret to Reagan, his staff, and others close to the show. The Caribbean’s strategic location to the Panama Canal gave us a clue as to why our family was at the center of a Cold War project. We requested other documents to uncover this mystery and are still waiting. Also, the United States Secret Service has disallowed open documentation of Reagan’s visit to Jamaica in 1982. But one thing was clear. After this revelation to me, while I was covering the Obama White House, my family and I were the victims of a hate crime and cover-up–because of the revelation of our connection to The Cosby Show.
Cosby and his associates are suspects in this crime, using unorthodox methods by Lansana Koroma of Philadelphia. So I reached out to Andrew Wyatt, his publicist. According to Wyatt, Cosby doesn’t want to talk about this affair right now.
Looking through old photographs, it was clear that the casting director used our family’s faces and likeness as a guide to casting those on the show. They were, indeed, our doppelgangers. The old pictures confirmed that much. After discovering we looked like the actors, who were selected for the pilot season that debut on September 20, 1984, we all were the victims of a hate crime to assault our faces and distort our images on television, print, and with online photos.
This insidious plot to strip us of our individual identities and image as a middle-class and Christian family the show was based on also included an incredible effort to secretly strip us of our financial resources, including houses, cars, and jobs. All this orchestrated crime during the long investigation was to hide our true identities and our impact on the show. Therefore, this sinister approach to the secret investigation must be addressed with force.
Perhaps the Bill Cosby trial in Philadelphia was divine justice when he was indicted on a day close to my father’s birthday. Also, Cosby failed to acknowledge our contributions to the show and as a result, his new family comedy slated for 2015 was canceled. But the United States State Department, state, city officials, and other individuals used to invade our privacy owe us more than an apology.
We are asking for the perpetrators of this crime to be held accountable with prison time–just like Bill Cosby–for the evil and covert attacks on our family to cover up this truth in the country. More importantly, we ask for reparation for our family because of years of disruptions and adverse experiences to discredit our claim to The Cosby Show.
Enough is enough. We want restorative justice–reparations.
Dr. Ann-Marie Adams is an award-winning journalist and U.S. History Professor. She is also the founder of The Hartford Guardian, the first nonprofit, hyper-local publication in Connecticut. Previously, she was a journalist at The Hartford Courant, People Magazine, NBC 4 New York, the Washington Post, other regional publications, and television newscasts.