After enjoying doing the Saved by the Bell… where are they now? post, I decided to do the same thing for another one of my favorite childhood TV shows, “Family Matters”.
While writing this article, I found out something I had never known. Family Matters was a spin-off of the television hit, “Perfect Strangers”.
Family Matters centered on the Winslow family and their annoying next door neighbor, Steve Urkel. Urkel eventually became the star of the show, even though it began with him as a small side character. He was incredibly annoying, but as a young kid, I always found him hilarious. I liked the rest of the family as well, especially the dad, Carl.
The show lasted nearly ten years (running from 1989-1998), which is almost unheard of for a sitcom.
Reginald Vel Johnson (Carl Winslow)
Carl Winslow was the head of the family, and I always enjoyed his character. He absolutely could not stand Urkel, and of course Urkel wanted to be around him as much as possible. Carl was a former police officer and tried to be strict and tough, but was always put into ridiculous situations.
Most former TV stars, especially those that play older characters, don’t usually do a whole lot once their show ends. The same goes for Reginald Vel Johnson, as he continued along the usual path by having one-episode roles in various TV shows. He appeared in The Hughleys, The Fugitive, C.S.I., Crossing Jordan, Will & Grace, Ghost Whisperer and Monk.
A year into his role as Carl Winslow, Johnson had a role as a police officer in Bruce Willis’ Die Hard 2. He also appeared in a few movies after finishing up with Family Matters, but the only one I have ever heard of is the Lil’ Bow Wow film, Like Mike. He is currently working on a film called “Steppin: The Movie”, which stars Anthony Anderson and Mo’Nique.
Jaleel White (Steve Urkel)
Far and above the most popular and memorable character of the show. He was the nerdy neighbor that was constantly over at the Winslow home. He adored Carl like a Father, and was in love with the Winslow daughter, Laura.
He also played seven other characters on Family Matters, all of them some sort of take on Urkel himself. Whether it be one of the Urkel cousins, a historical person such as Albert Einstein or of course his infamous alter ego, Stephan Urquelle.
Jaleel White was very successful as Urkel, but hasn’t managed to turn that success into much of an acting career.
Before working on Family Matters, White actually appeared in the early version of Saved by the Bell, called Good Morning Miss Bliss. He made an appearance in 1991 on Full House, playing the Steve Urkel character.
White voiced the character of Sonic on the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon in the early 90’s. He also appeared on episodes of The Fresh Price of Bel-Air, Step-by-Step and Boston Legal.
He has landed roles in a few straight-to-video releases, and his most high-profile role was a talent booker in the hit film Dreamgirls, starring Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy.
JoMarie Payton (Harriette Winslow)
JoMarie Payton played Carl’s wife, Harriette. She was always giving poor Carl a hard time. She was a strong-willed character, and was never afraid to be blunt and up-front with people.
After Family Matters, she had one-episode roles on The Jamie Foxx Show, 7th Heaven, The Hughleys, Reba and Judging Amy. She also landed a re-occurring role on Will & Grace, playing “Mrs. Freeman”.
More recently, she appeared in an episode of Desperate Housewives.
She is currently working on a film called “Let’s Ride” which lists such superstars as Ray J and the former Mrs. Federline, Shar Jackson as cast members. Family Matters was easily the highlight of her career, and I doubt that will change anytime soon.
Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura Winslow)
The only real role of Laura Winslow, as far as I remember, was to play the love interest of Steve Urkel. I don’t remember a single moment of her character that didn’t somehow involve being pursued by the nerdy Urkel.
Her career has been basically non-existent since Family Matters came to an end. She has appeared in two episodes of Moesha, one episode of The Parkers, and three episodes of Eve. She was also a part of the “I Love the 90’s” TV special.
She is currently working with her former TV Dad, Reginald Vel Johnson, in the film Steppin: The Movie.
Darius McCrary (Eddie Winslow)
Eddie was the rebellious youngster of the Winslow clan. It seemed that he was getting grounded nearly every episode. He was good buddies with Urkel, which is not something you usually see of the “sports jock” type character.
It seems I could write the same thing for each one of the former cast members, as it seems they have all worked on the same shows after Family Matters ended. McCrary also appeared in an episode of Moesha and in two episodes of Eve.
He has had a little more success in films, with small roles in Park Day, 15 Minutes and Hostage. One of his bigger roles was playing “Muhammed Ali” in the TV movie, Don King: Only in America.
McCrary was a part of the TV specials, 101 Craziest TV Moments and 101 Even Bigger Celebrity Oops.
Along with several other former Family Matters co-stars, he is appearing in, as well as co-producing, the film Steppin: The Movie.
Rosetta LeNoire (Estelle “Mother” Winslow)
Estelle was Carl’s Mother, and moved into the family’s home in the first episode. This of course did not please Carl, and neither did her frequent dates and her love for men. She enjoyed the company of Steve Urkel, and during the show married part-time character Fletcher Thomas.
Most of LeNoire’s career happened prior to Family Matters, having only one role after Family Matters completed. She appeared as a nurse in one episode of “Cosby”.
One neat fact about her, is that she used to babysit James Earl Jones (the voice of Star Wars’ Darth Vader) when he was an infant.
Rosetta LeNoire died on March 17, 2002 at the age of 91.
Telma Hopkins (Rachel Crawford)
Rachel Crawford was Harriette’s sister, and along with her son Richie, moved into the Winslow home after her husband passed away. She was a budding singer, and also opened up a restaurant called “Rachel’s Place”, which was the local teenager hang-out. She appeared in various episodes throughout the shows span, missing only a few episodes here and there.
Telma Hopkins went on to appear in TV shows ER, Suddenly Susan, The Hughleys, and had a full-time role on Half & Half.
The Other Characters…
Jaimee Foxworth (Judy Winslow)
Judy was the youngest daughter of the Winslow’s. She started out as a regular character when the show began, but soon became nothing more than a background character, and by the fourth season, she was written out of the show entirely. As an inside joke later on in the show, someone asked where she was, and Harriette replied, “she is upstairs cleaning her room”. This is in reference to the fact she was last seen heading upstairs, and it’s joked that she’s never come back downstairs since. Jaimee Foxworth has gone on to appear in highly acclaimed films “Hot Girlz”, “More Black Dirty Debutantes 30” and “My Baby Got Back 29”. They sound like porn movies? Well, that’s exactly what they are.
Bryton McClure (Richie Crawford)
Richie Crawford was the Winslow’s nephew, and Rachel’s son. He appeared in 54 episodes between 1990 and 1997. I could not stand this character, as he annoyed me to no end. McClure has gone on to star in The Young & The Restless as “Devon Hamilton”.
Shawn Harrison (Waldo Faldo)
Waldo Faldo was Eddie Winslow’s dim-witted best friend, and he was seen in 53 episodes from 1990-1996. Shawn Harrison had one-episode roles in Moesha and Eve, and has a leading role in the television show, Legion of Super-Heroes. He also has a re-occurring role in Girlfriends.
Cherie Johnson (Maxine)
Maxine was Laura Winslow’s best friend. She dated Eddie’s friend Waldo Faldo throughout the show’s run. Cherie Johnson’s uncle was David Duclon, a famous producer of many TV shows of the 70’s and 80’s. He created “Punky Brewster”, and in honor of his niece, created a character using her name. She insisted she wanted the role, and after several auditions, got it. She played “herself” for 86 episodes over four years. After Family Matters, she has appeared on a few TV shows and a few small films, none of which are worth mentioning.
So, after all that, we’ve found out where the cast of Family Matters are now. For all of the cast members, Family Matters has easily been the highlight of their respective careers. I’m not sure who has achieved the most success following the shows end, but you’d have to make the argument for Jaleel “Steve Urkel” White. Although the show lasted for nine seasons, he is probably the only character anyone remembers.
> Read “Saved by the Bell… where are they now?”