It’s impossible to talk about classic 90s sitcoms without mentioning Family Matters. And while Jaleel White wasn’t part of the original cast, his turn as the clumsy yet lovable geek Steve Urkel made him an overnight star.
More than 20 years have passed since Family Matters aired its final episode, but people around the world still enjoy watching the misadventures of Steve as he meddles in the otherwise ordinary lives of The Winslows. For White, who never could have predicted he’d help create a cultural phenomenon, memories of his time on the show aren’t always pleasant.
In a clip from the TV One series Uncensored, the actor recalls a day on set that proved to be especially difficult.
The memorable episode introduced the world to Steve Urkel’s cousin, Myrtle Mae Urkel.
Like Steve, Myrtle was played by White – meaning not only would he be playing a girl – he’d been asked to wear a dress.
White says that idea did not sit well with Reginald VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton, who played Carl and Harriette Winslow, respectively.
“Jo Marie and Reggie, at that time, were very sensitive to putting black men in dresses.” White said. “They heaped that on me, and they let me know that I was not doing our race a service.”
White says he held it together while taping, but fell apart once cameras were off. He credits his father for helping him push through, and for being there to ensure cast mates wouldn’t bully his son.
“I cried like a baby at the end of that take, I just broke.” He said. “My dad just rolls up like a lion and was like ‘I’ve watched my son deal with this s–t all week … He shouldn’t have to carry the burden of some adults making a child feel bad for playing a girl just in fun.'”
You can watch the full episode of Uncensored featuring Jaleel White when it airs Sunday, May 16th at 10/9C on TV One.
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