‘Family Matters’: Why Did Aunt Rachel Leave the Series?

The hit ABC TV show Family Matters might be as famous for its revolving door of cast members as it is for Steve Urkel’s scientific hijinks. Most notably, the Winslow family’s youngest daughter, Jamie Foxworth’s Judy, vanished without a trace early on

In the case of the beloved Aunt Rachel, however, Telma Hopkins’ departure was less about creative decisions and more about an exciting opportunity.

What was ‘Family Matters’?

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According to IMDb, Family Matters was a spinoff of the popular ABC series Perfect Strangers. However, Jo Marie-Peyton’s Harriett Winslow was the driving force behind the series at its start. Everything changed when a new neighbor moved next door and quickly stole the spotlight away from the Winslows. The show that started about Carl and Harriett’s family quickly became a science-fiction comedy about their nerdy neighbor. 

Regardless of the tonal shifts and increasingly far-out plot turns, the series was a massive hit. While Urkel became the series’ focal point, the Winslow family was also beloved. Part of the Friday night juggernaut, TGIF, Family Matters was one of the most popular Black sitcoms in American history, and Urkel’s popularity made it a hit in toy stores, too. 

While the series is maligned for going too far into science fiction, the family dynamic still drove the series until its final season at CBS. The Winslows were not just a family with a husband, wife, and kids. They had a live-in grandmother and an Aunt who lived with them as she raised her young son. Hopkins’ Rachel helped normalize single mothers on the television screen for the series’ first four seasons. 

Who was Aunt Rachel?

Telma Hopkins
Telma Hopkins | Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

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Aunt Rachel and her son Richie were staples of the series for its first three seasons. Rachel often said what the other characters were afraid to. According to her Fandom page, she was an ambitious waitress who wants to do more with her life, she opens up a diner where Chicago teenagers could go to unwind after school and on weekends. 

The diner had its fair share of hiccups, such as when Urkel accidentally set the whole place on fire. However, while many might argue that the nerdy kid next door was the breakout star, Rachel was the first to be coaxed away from the series.

Why did Telma Hopkins leave the series? 

Herself a single mother in the early 1990s, Hopkins took what she brought to Family Matters for three years and expanded on it greatly when she left the series to star in Getting By. According to its IMDb synopsis, the short-lived sitcom focused on a pair of single mothers who moved in together as they guided a world that was often unforgiving for women such as them. The series lasted just one season. 

Rachel eventually came back to Family Matters, albeit part-time. However, her early run on the series remains Hopkins’s most iconic on-screen roles. Hopkins remains active both in music and in acting, however. From other on-screen parts in film-and-television to a steady line of voice-acting roles such as the hit children’s series, Loud House, Hopkins has been in show business for over 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down. 

Family Matters was iconic for many reasons. From its mostly Black cast during one of the biggest blocks in television to the cultural phenomenon that came soon after, it changed family television forever. Aunt Rachel was an understated force of its initial run, however. While single parenthood was still taboo, it helped to normalize a situation that millions of women face each day. 

While Hopkins’ career is too long to be defined by a single role, Rachel remains her most popular role to date. Despite leaving early on, her fingerprint could be seen on the series from its first season to the laugh, and while others needed robots, clones, and space expeditions, Rachel just needed her wits and her drive to do what’s better for her family.