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December 06, 2021

Kevin Hart to star as Arnold Jackson in live remake of 'Diff'rent Strokes'

The actor will appear alongside John Lithgow, Damon Wayans and Ann Dowd in the television special

Kevin Hart will play the role of a well-known child character when he takes the stage this week as part of a live television event.

The actor will star as Arnold Jackson in a one-night reenactment of the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" that will air Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ABC. The special also will be available Wednesday to stream on Hulu.

Hart will star in the remake alongside John Lithgow as Phillip Drummond, Damon Wayans as Willis Jackson and Ann Dowd as Edna Garrett.

"Diff'rent Strokes" aired for eight seasons from 1978-1986 on NBC and ABC. The series told the story of two African-American boys from New York City, Arnold and Willis Jackson, who were adopted by a wealthy white man named Phillip Drummond after the boys' parents died. 

Hart's character originally was played by the late child actor Gary Coleman, who made Arnold Jackson famous for his "What you talkin' about Willis?" catch phrase. There's a pretty good chance viewers may get to see Hart try his hand at the popular quote.

The special also will include a reenactment of an episode from the sitcom "Facts of Life," which aired from 1979-1988 on NBC as a spinoff from "Diff'rent Strokes."

"The Facts of Life" reboot will have a star-studded cast that includes Jon Stewart, Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Hahn, Gabrielle Union and Allison Tolman. Ann Dowd will appear in "The Facts of Life" remake too, given that her character from "Diff'rent Strokes" served as the premise for the spinoff.

The one-episode remakes of "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Facts of Life" will air as part of Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear's "Live in Front of a Studio Audience" series. The two-time Emmy Award-winning program recreates episodes from famous sitcoms in front of a live audience.

The two previous iterations of "Live in Front of a Studio Audience" in 2019 reenacted episodes from sitcoms like "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times." Philadelphia's Kevin Bacon starred in one of the "All in the Family" remakes, and Adam McKay served as an executive producer on the series.

Hart's appearance in the "Diff'rent Strokes" remake will come on the heels of the North Philly native's new limited series, "True Story," which premiered on Netflix last month. Hart, 42, stars opposite Wesley Snipes as a fictional comedian from Philly.

Set in Philadelphia, the show tells the story of how a comedy tour stop in the city becomes "a matter of life and death."

Following the "Live in Front of a Studio Audience" special will be the series premiere of "Abbott Elementary" starring West Philly native Quinta Brunson as a second grade teacher in a fictional Philadelphia public school.

The workplace comedy tells the story of teachers and staff at Willard R. Abbott School who are seeking to educate their students while navigating the everyday challenges of working in an underfunded district.

Created and written by Brunson, the show is based loosely upon the experiences of her mom, who worked in the School District of Philadelphia for 40 years.

"Abbott Elementary" will premiere at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on ABC. The show will be available to stream the following day on Hulu. The remainder of the 13-episode first season will air regularly at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays starting Jan. 4.

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