Days go by. The feel-good sitcom Family Matters premiered on September 22, 1989, and is perhaps best remembered for the family patriarch Carl Winslow’s (Reginald VelJohnson) feud with his nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White).
Although White was initially supposed to appear in just one episode of the ABC series, he was an instant hit with audiences and ended up joining the main cast. Despite the warm welcome from viewers at home, the Big Show Show alum didn’t always feel the love from his castmates.
“It’s very important that I say this: I was not very well welcomed to the cast at all, okay?” the California native said during a March 2021 appearance on TV One’s Uncensored. “And I don’t need to rehash that with the adults over and over again. They know what it is.”
The voice actor went on to claim that VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton, who played Harriette Winslow, didn’t approve of him donning a dress to play Steve’s cousin Myrtle Urkel.
“They let me know I was not doing our race a service by putting on that yellow dress. 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,” he said.
VelJohnson, for his part, told Entertainment Tonight in June 2022 that “overall” he had “nothing but good memories” of working with the child star. He added that “there were some moments where he was a little difficult,” but expressed that working with younger actors, in general, was a challenge.
“I think, you know, a lot of the kids grew up on the set and we had to deal with children … and that was an interesting experience,” he told the outlet. “I went to my dressing room and locked the door when I [rehearsed] my scenes because that was the only way. Because kids have a lot of energy … [and] you couldn’t deal with it.”
The Die Hard actor’s TV wife, Payton, recalled an incident where White wanted to “physically fight” her during a season 9 episode.
“I said we can’t do that, standards and practices will not let that pass, it’s not gonna happen. He wanted to do it anyway. … He was so mad, he started kicking and screaming and stuff,” she told ET in May 2022.
Drama amid the cast aside, the Perfect Strangers spinoff ran for nine seasons, becoming the longest running sitcom with a predominantly Black cast, behind only The Jeffersons.
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