For decades The Cosby Show was heralded as a groundbreaking sitcom depicting an upper middle class Black American family rich in love, integrity and laughter.
Throughout its eight seasons and years in syndication, it was lauded as a series that shined in the face of racial stereotypes that pervaded media in the ’80s and early ’90s.
While in recent years its namesake star Bill Cosby, 86, has been embroiled in controversy, stemming from numerous sexual misconduct and assault allegations dating back to the ’70s, actress Keshia Knight Pulliam says the iconic show should still be held in high regard.
“You can’t take away the work that we all collectively did,” Knight Pulliam, 44, tells PEOPLE exclusively, referring to herself and costars like Phylicia Rashad, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Lisa Bonet.
Knight Pulliam — who hosts Married at First Sight After Party and was recently featured in the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s new public service announcement — rose to fame playing Cosby’s youngest daughter Rudy Huxtable. And the show, she says, “was bigger than one person.”
In 2018, after more than 60 women came forward with varying allegations against him, Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault following Andrea Constandtestifying that he had drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, home in 2004.
Sentenced to 3 to 10 years, Cosby served more than two years of that sentence before his conviction was overturned in 2021 due to a judge finding that an agreement he’d made with a previous prosecutor voided his case. Cosby’s defense has denied all allegations made against him.
Knight Pulliam hopes the show can still be celebrated for changing the landscape of television.
“A lot of actors wait their entire lifetime for an opportunity like that,” she says. “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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Knight Pulliam says her daughter Ella Grace, 5, is watching and learning those same lessons today: “Now my daughter is able to enjoy the work that I did, and it’s funny because she looks so much like me.”
As for plans to commemorate the show’s 40th anniversary next year, “I don’t know,” she says. “There’s nothing that we’re working on or discussing at this point, so I guess we’ll have to see.”