When it comes to the classic TGIF sitcom, Family Matters, the first character people think of is, of course, Steve Urkel. And that’s exactly what the cast was afraid of the first day Jaleel White showed up on set. In a new interview with TVOne Uncensored, the Urkel actor reveals that he wasn’t welcomed by the adult leads, who were all convinced (and told by the network) that they were the stars of the show. While Urkel clearly became the breakout star of Family Matters, he didn’t appear until late in the first season. But when audiences overwhelmingly loved the obnoxious, cheese-loving nerd from next door, he was hired full-time for the next season.
However, the decision to make White a permanent cast member did not sit well with Reginald DelJohnson (Carl Winslow), Jo Marie Payton (Harriette Winslow), and Telma Hopkins (Aunt Rachel) who believed Family Matters was their star vehicle. Payton’s character originally appeared in Perfect Strangers, so technically she was the source of the spinoff, DelJohnson was riding high from Die Hard, and Tompson was a well-known TV actor going all the way back to the 70s. So when White showed up as Urkel, they knew what was about to happen.
Via The AV Club:
“I didn’t see how I was stepping on anybody’s toes, I was taking anybody’s shine,” White said. “It’s very important that I say this: I was not very well welcomed to the cast at all, okay? And I don’t need to rehash that with the adults over and over again. They know what it is.”
Despite making it clear that his co-stars gave a child actor the cold shoulder, White ultimately puts the blame on ABC for creating the situation. “Networks play games, because networks a lot time always believe in the star power of any one person” he said. “They were like go get the cop from Die Hard to be the cop in our sitcom. We’ll tell the mom, she’s the star ‘technically.'”
(Via TVOne Uncensored)