‘Family Matters’: Jaleel White Could Have Starred in Another Sitcom Instead

Family Matters is remembered as one of the most iconic TV shows of the 1990s.

Some of the series’ fans and followers might be surprised to learn that the show’s conception stemmed from ABC’s Perfect Strangers. Family Matters aired for a whopping nine seasons, and many people were sad to see the Winslow family and their stories come to an end in 1998.

Take a look back at the legendary show and how Jaleel White almost landed a role in another sitcom. 

A look back at the cast and characters of ‘Family Matters’

Jaleel White
Jaleel White | Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

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ABC first began airing Family Matter in 1989. The series revolved around the Winslows, a family that lived in Chicago. Reginald VelJohnson played the quintessential family father, Carl Winslow, and his wife, Harriet Winslow, was played by Jo Marie Payton. However, due to personal reasons, Payton oddly left the series and was recast for the series’ final nine episodes. 

Kellie Shanygne Williams and Darius McCrary were two of the talented individuals cast to play Carl and Harriet’s children. However, it would end up being Jaleel White’s character that would quite literally steal the spotlight. 

Steve Urkel on ‘Family Matters’ 

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White was cast on Family Matters to play the part of Steve Urkel. Urkel lived next door to the Winslows and was notorious for popping over to bother and annoy his neighbors. His trademark striped shirt and suspenders were just a few things viewers loved about him. Urkel’s nerdy and goofy nature quickly led him to be a fan-favorite, and by season two, White’s character became a recurring one. 

In retrospect, it is hard to believe that his legendary character was only supposed to be in one episode. In many ways, people considered Family Matters to be the unofficial show of Steve Urkel. Lunch boxes, mugs, and t-shirts were just a few of the products and paraphernalia that White began finding himself on.

With that being said, it is crazy to think White was almost cast in a completely different role before landing the infamous role of Steve Urkel.

Jaleel White Could have starred in another sitcom instead

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Mental Floss is one of the platforms that has shared the ironic story behind White’s early days acting. In an interview with Vanity Fair, White spoke about how close he was to appearing on The Cosby Show

In Vanity Fair‘s “Q&A: Jaleel White on His 31-Year Career” White shared, “We were all packed up and ready to go to New York and my agent had told my parents that they needed to start looking for places to live out there. Next thing you know, there was one more audition and that was supposed to be a formality at the network.”

The audition, however, did not go the way he’d expected.

“And a little girl comes walking in, and I’m like—even at eight years old—’Who’s she?’ And they’re like, ‘She’s auditioning for Rudy, too.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s not as much of a formality as I thought.’ That was my first time walking into a room of 30 people staring at you going, ‘OK, make me laugh.’ They were in such a hurry to get to New York and start filming that they came out and picked the kids one by one right in front of all of us. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempest Bledsoe … The rest of us all went home crying. It was amazing. Obviously I’m grateful that things worked out the way they did.”

Fans and viewers of The Cosby Show would probably have a hard time imagining anyone but Keshia Knight Pulliam playing the role of Rudy, and the same can be said for White and Steve Urkel’s character.

It is interesting to think back on how everything panned out, and, luckily, it doesn’t seem like White has any regrets or remorse over the situation.  Many people believe everything happens for a reason, and for White, his auditioning fate seems like one of them.