Steve Urkel is something of the anti-Fonzi or a cool Screech, depending on your interpretation. The annoying next-door neighbor of the Winslow family for 215 episodes of Family Matters, Jaleel White’s Urkel ruined parties, Christmases, family gatherings, an episode of American Gladiators, a trip to outer space, and his school’s chemistry lab (allegedly). He was also the show’s breakout star, inspiring toys, lunchboxes, and catchphrases like “Did I do that? and “Got any cheese?” (That last one made him the bane of parents of six-year-olds everywhere). But apparently, the Winslows weren’t only sick of Steve on the show; they were tired of him in real life, too.
In a revealing interview with TVOne’s Uncensored, which aired Sunday, Jaleel White says that the adult cast members of Family Matters weren’t too keen on the rise of Urkel. Basically, according to White, Jo Marie Payton, Reginald VelJohnson, and Telma Hopkins, who played Harriet, Carl, and Rachel, respectively, all thought they were the show’s stars. Payton, who appeared as the character Harriet on Perfect Strangers, the show Family Matters spun-off from, understandingly assumed that she was the star, considering, again, her character was the basis for everything. As did, VelJohnson, hot off his role in Die Hard. Meanwhile, White theorizes that the studio told Hopkins that she was “technically the biggest star” in the cast because of her long and successful career. So when White came in with his flashy glasses, nasally tones, and just an ungodly amount of swagger, they weren’t happy.
“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.”
“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.’”
That’s the difference between the characters on television and the actors who play them. The Winslows hate Steve because he’s annoying. White’s castmates didn’t like him because he was just too damn good.