The '90s were essentially all about family-oriented shows that make you feel like home, and Family Matters was one of those endearing shows. The middle-class, Cosby-esque sitcom celebrated the African American family, and reinforced the modern-day issues they often face. Family Matters tackled hard issues like racism, peer pressure, gang violence, and even politics – while promoting the importance of unity among Black families and of course, family values.
Whenever things got too serious, we’d see the inevitable interruption and arrival of their uber-nerd neighbor, Steve Urkell. Once audiences got past seeing Steve as the annoying neighbor, they truly enjoyed his humor and began to look forward to seeing him on the show. Family Matters, for all intents and purposes, essentially became the Urkel show. His comedic timing was always center-stage and often the other actors (though talented in their own right) would find themselves reacting and playing off his lines rather than holding any scenes of their own.
The show ran from 1989-1998, and the family evolved over the years, with cast members leaving the show or passing untimely. Family Matters will always be well-known for the wonderful chemistry the cast members share, and their ability to bring a close-knit African-American family to the screen.
Let’s take a look at where they are now…
You can't really say the name Jaleel White without thinking about his character, Steve Urkell's catch phrase: "Did I do that??" It was often the question he'd ask when he knew he did something wrong, and didn't want to get in trouble. The family members reactions to his daily annoyances are what really kept the show going.
Surprisingly, the character of Steve Urkel was only slated to be a one-time quest. But fans loved his character so much, they begged for him to be a regular. Before Jaleel brought his famous alter-personality (Steve Urkel) to the Family Matters set, the show was slated to be a realistic portrayal of a African-American family, but as time went on, it became HIS show.
Jaleel turned it into a successful and fun-loving comedy series. He even played multiple characters. There was of course, Steve Urkel, but there was also Myrtle Urkel (his female cousin), and then there was his alter-ego character, Stefan Urquelle.
White even went on to write for the show -- creating one of the most successful episodes the show ever had. When the show ended in 1989, Jaleel initially struggled to get other roles because everyone remembered him as Urkel. He was quoted as being frustrated by the limitations he experienced as a result of the memorable role.
Image: Instagram / @jaleelwhite
After the Family Matters show, Jaleel continued to be successful as a actor on numerous TV series including: House, NCIS, CSI, Hawaii 5-0, and Atlanta. He also voiced the cartoon character, Sonic The Hedgehog during the 90's, and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2012. He dated and married Bridget Hardy but the pair had a tumultuous relationship that ended in divorce in 2009. They have a beautiful daughter, Samaya White, who is also interested in acting and directing someday.
White will reprise his role as Urkel in the upcoming "Scooby Doo and Guess Who?" White is 43 now... seeing him in suspenders and hiked-up pants is not something we'd ever thought we'd see again. Thankfully, it will be an animated series.
Carl was a lovable but sometimes over-bearing typical sitcom father-figure. He was a police officer who did his best to provide for his family and steer them morally. When it came to his daughters, Laura and Judy Winslow ,Carl was often overprotective, and would often give boy visitors a hard time. Especially Steve. When Steve (Jaleel White) would stop by -- which was all the time -- to check up on Laura, he would always end up breaking something on his way out. He was ridiculously clumsy, and his interaction with Carl, made for some hilarious interactions.
Reginald went on to many other small roles on TV series like That's So Raven, Bones, Monk, Mike and Molly, Hart of Dixie, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
She's the girl next door that stole Steve Urkel's heart. Smart, witty, funny and boosy, Laura Winslow was a tough cookie with a good head on her shoulders. She didn't take any mess, and not impressed by Urkel's corny advances. She did appreciate his sincerity though and valued their friendship. Fans knew she secretly loved him, when Laura fell for his alter-ego, Stefan. But after much persistence, Urkel finally convinced her to give him a chance, and the two characters were engaged before the show ended.
Image: Instagram / @kellieswilliams
When the show came to a close, Williams ventured on to small roles in TV shows like Girlfriends, In the Mix, and The Parkers. According to her biography on her website, Williams did some behind-the-scenes things in the entertainment industry like producing, and now does a lot of public speaking. But after she got married in 2009, she ultimately decided to say goodbye to acting and dedicate her time to her family. Taking a look through her Instagram feed, she has the cutest family and even stays in contact with her former cast mate, and show-brother, Darius.
No one would ever believe that it was JoMarie Payton that inspired the producers to create the show Family Matters. Payton's role of Harriette Winslow during the third and fourth seasons of the Perfect Strangers show (from 1987 - 1989) as an elevator operator at the Chicago Tribune won viewers over. She played a spunky personality with a no-nonsense attitude and heart of gold, and ABC obviously thought a spin-off would be work. Boy, were they right.
As the matriarch on Family Matters, Payton played Harriette as a strong female role model who was always there for her kids, and always brutally honest. She shared the parental duties with her husband, Carl, and wasn't a pushover to his requests or parenting style. She was basically the quintessential idea of the perfect African-American mom. The kind of mom who'd baked cookies with her kids, but be able to help take a burglar down if she had to...
Payton ended up leaving before the final season of the show, but had no trouble finding work. She's been in multiple episodes on Will & Grace and she and Reginald also starred in a Hallmark movie together -- The Flight Before Christmas. According to Wikipedia, Payton played on The Weakest Link show a few years ago, was the voice of Suga Mama in The Proud Family Movie. Her personal life has been full and happy.
Before Family Matters, Darius McCrary was a child actor on the 1987 comedy hit, Big Shots. During his time on FM, he played the cool older brother of Laura Winslow -- very popular, athletic, but not always the smartest member of the family. He started out bullying Steve, but the two quickly became best friends as soon as Eddie realized Steve could do things like help him with his homework. Eddie also had a very active dating life. Most of the actresses on the show took on the role as "Eddie's girlfriend."
He was however fiercely protective of his siblings, and he was always there to stand up for those he loved -- even Steve Urkel when was facing bullying.
Image: Instagram / dariusmccrary
When the show wrapped, McCary did short stints on Anger Management, Star, HBO's The Leftovers, and the soap opera drama, The Young and the Restless. Wikipedia states the actor is also involved in some non-profit work, too. "McCrary is the founder of FathersCare, a non-profit organization, committed to empowering fathers with resources, providing education, and practical assistance, as well as legal networks to better improve their relationship with their child (ren). FathersCare advocates the right of every child to have a meaningful relationship with their father, regardless of family structure status; as well as countering negative stereotypes of men and fathers. FathersCare is an organization under the McCrary Foundation umbrella, started by his father, aunts and uncles The McCrarys."
It's pretty shady how Jaimee Foxworth's character, Judy was written off the show. As Steve Urkel became more popular on the show, and writers focused less on developing other characters, and Jaimee's Judy was a one that suffered the most. After 70 episodes, Judy went up the stairs one episode, and was never seen or heard from again -- like the character had never existed. Fans never got an explanation as to why she was taken off the show, and the show never mentioned her name after her departure. That had to have been very hard on the Jaimee, who at the time was a child actress.
Image: Instagram / @jaimeethefoxx
She also had a very hard time coping in the years following her departure. She ended up getting addicted to drugs, and becoming an adult film star known as Crave. Thankfully, after appearing on shows: Oprah, 20/20 and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, she was able to advocate for herself and get help with the depression and substance abuse. Now, she is married with a son, and is often recognized for her role on Family Matters.
Rosetta LeNoire was the loveable fiercely protective Grandma with the sweet smile. She was always the level-headed one that helped to center the family during times of conflict. Before LeNoire landed the role of Estelle, she was very active in theater -- she even started her own theatre company to help desegregate blacks and other minorities from the mainstream theatre community. In 1999, President Clinton recognized her for her accomplishment in race relations and awarded her the National Medal of Arts. Sadly, Estelle passed away due to complications with diabetes in 2002.
Family Matters was definitely not short on the comedy relief... Telma Hopkins brought her own sense of funny to the show as Aunt Rachel -- the younger sister of Harriette Winslow who was also a single, working mom. She moved into the Winslow house with her son after her husband died. Her son, Richie Crawford, was played by Bryce James. Rachel often thought she was better than Harriette -- more attractive and fun -- which caused a lot of rifts in the family often leaving the rest of the family to mediate her childish disputes.
Rachel's character was around for the first four seasons and then came back around season six and nine. At one point, Rachel opens a restaurant called Rachel's Place. It's a great hangout for the kids, until Steve ends up accidentally burning it down! Her restaurant is replaced with the Might Weenie. Rachel was also a budding writer and singer who loved to wear different hats to show off her personality.
When she left Family Matters, Hopkins did many small roles, before landing a recurring role (Terry Crew's mom) in the TV series, Are We There Yet?
Everyone loved Waldo Geraldo Faldo! He was kinda the dumber of the Eddie Winslow and Waldo Faldo friendship. Like Eddie, he was also a jock and the two of them were best friends. What Waldo didn't have in brains, he made up for in his loyalty to Eddie and the hilarious antics he'd go through trying to do the most basic of tasks. He'd always have you scratching your head wondering what he'd say or do next, but it was fun watching him figuring it out. Harrison did a great job of making this character funny and loveable.
He later went on to act in the following TV series: Moesha, Girlfriends, and Legions of the Super Heroes.
How could anyone ever forget Myra Monkhouse? She was the beautiful, but annoying girlfriend of Steve Urkel -- obsessed with keeping Urkel's attention and devotion. The endearing parts of the character made the audience feel bad for her, and secretly wish Steve would pick her instead of Laura.
Myra, Steve, and Laura had so many hilarious scenes thanks to the chemistry between Michelle Thomas and Jaleel White. They knew how to get the audience to laugh and cringe. Michelle Thomas' portrayal of Myra was funny, annoying, and even scary at times. Her stalker personality was just too real. She never understood that Steve was only in love with one woman -- Laura Winslow.
After appearing on the show she always played Theo's girlfriend on the Cosby Show and went on to star in The Young and The Restless. Tragically, Michelle Thomas, after multiple surgeries, died of stomach cancer at the age of 29. Recently, actor Jaleel White posted a tribute in her memory.
Cherie Johnson had a great acting career long before Family Matters. She starred as the best friend of Punky (Penelope Brewster) on the Emmy-nominated show, Punky Brewster. The series ran from 1984-1988. When Cherie got the role of Maxine on Family Matters, she also played a best friend. Maxine was Laura's superficial, but loyal friend. When she was in a scene, you just never knew what she would say next. She definitely didn't hold back on her opinions. An unlikely pair -- Maxine ended up dating Waldo for a little bit.
A woman of many talents, Cherie went on to write children's books, produce and direct. She has also consistently held small acting gigs throughout her career. She has two daughters who she tries to keep out of the limelight in order to protect their privacy.
You may recognize him from The Young and The Restless as star Devon Hamilton. Something about Y & R, everyone gets a good job there... Bryton James has been on the soap show since 2004. He began his role as Rachel's son, Richie Crawford at the age of 4! He starred on the show from 1990-1997 and also had reoccurring roles on the CW's Vampire Diaries.