Jaleel White Says He 'Was Not Very Well Welcomed' By The Family Matters Cast


Jaleel White, who became famous for his Steve Urkel character on the hit '90s ABC sitcom Family Matters, says in a new interview that he wasn't welcomed by the cast of the show.

"I didn't see how I was stepping on anybody's toes, I was taking anybody's shine. It's very important that I say this: I was not very well welcomed to the cast at all, okay?"

White said in a wide-ranging installment of TVOne's Uncensored on Sunday.

"And I don't need to rehash that with the adults over and over again. They know what it is."

White, 44, looked back on joining Family Matters as a child star and how his adult costars reacted. He was initially cast for a guest role, but he said the reception to him during his first table read was so good that he was hired for the full season soon after. He would then continue to appear on the show until it ended in 1997.


White added that Family Matters had "these three adults" — referencing Jo Marie Payton, Reginald VelJohnson, and Telma Hopkins — "who all entered this show with the idea that this is my vehicle to break out."


Payton's character Harriette Winslow was spun off from the show Perfect Strangers, VelJohnson had portrayed a police officer in the movie Die Hard before playing cop Carl Winslow on Family Matters, and Hopkins had previously starred on the hit show Gimme a Break!

In a separate moment from the Uncensored interview, White recalled when he first portrayed Steve's cousin Myrtle Urkel and how Payton and VelJohnson "were very sensitive to putting Black men in dresses."

"And they heaped that on me, and they let me know I was not doing our race a service by putting on that yellow dress," he said. "But everybody has a default. Do you crumble? Do you wilt under pressure? Do you rise? Do you surprise yourself? My default tends to be to take it up a notch. That evening I felt like a girl... playing Myrtle Urkel. But I cried like a baby at the end of that take. I just broke."

White remembered his father, Michael, stepping in after that moment to say, as White paraphrased, "He shouldn't have to carry the burden of some adults making a child feel bad for playing a girl just in fun."


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