Matt Carmichael
Kadeem Hardison
He's not Dwayne Wayne anymore.

Nope, that's over. Time to move on. Kadeem Hardison is looking to get beyond the highly successful, "A Different World," character and find other roles.

For now he's staring in "Panther," a historical film directed by Mario Van Peebles about the Black Panther revolutionary group from the late sixties. The Panthers set up community centers in black neighbor hoods, and fought for increased rights for blacks in the United States. However, their occasional violent acts eventually led FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover to name them "Public Enemy #1."

The film, which will be released this spring, focuses more on the positive aspects of the group. "Personally, I think they got a raw deal," says Hardison, "I think they were perceived one way, but in reality they were a whole nother way. They were written off as the guys with guns - the bad guys." Hardison plays Judge, a Vietnam veteran who hesitantly joins the Panthers but eventually is pressured to become an informant for the FBI because of his involvement.

Hardison's career has been taking off on the silver screen since "A Different World" ended its seven-year run. He was in "White Men Can't Jump" talking trash with Wesley Snipes, "Renaissance Man," with Danny DeVito, and "Gunmen" with Van Peebles.

He doesn't see himself turning down any type of project that interests him, acting or directing (as he did for an episode of "A Different World).

"I want to do more of anything," he says.

Would he consider a theater role?

"Yeah, that's part of everything, you know?"

Soon he will be appearing in "Vampire in Brooklyn," with Eddie Murphy and a TV pilot jumping on the "ER" bandwagon called "Mother Country" about two doctors working in an emergency room.

On a personal note, 29-year-old Hardison enjoys spending time with his four dogs on his ranch in Topanga Canyon. Apparently, when Hardison, who is single, feels a paternal twinge, he gets a new dog.

This suits his mother just fine. Bethann Hardison, who is also Kadeem's manager has played a large role in shaping his career, and his outlook.

Hardison was raised by his mother, aunt and his grandmother, whom he lived with in Brooklyn until he was 10. His mother traveled extensively as part of her business running a modeling agency so he grew up surrounded by strong females.

He tries hard to keep his personal life personal, but he admits that privacy is a difficult thing to hold onto when you achieve celebrity status. "I guess you give that up when you sign the contract," he says, which is rough; but, he adds, "It could be worse, [the press] could be calling me a dope dealer."

But for a person as genuine and down-to-Earth as Hardison, there isn't much chance of that.

c1996 Thompson Target Media