There truly wasn’t a better time to be alive as a kid than in the 90s. Thanks to our friends at ABC, we were gifted the amazing TGIF lineup, with shows like Step by Step, Boy Meets World, Sister, Sister, and Dinosaurs there for us every week. One series you cannot give enough credit to for helping raise us was the family sitcom Family Matters.
All because of a pair of borrowed glasses from his dad and a guest spot, actor Jaleel White gave us Steve Urkel, and woah, mama, was an iconic character born. Let’s see what Jaleel has been up to since putting Steve’s suspenders away.
Jaleel Ahmad White was born in Pasadena, California, on November 27, 1976, to parents Gail, a homemaker, and Michael, a dentist. An only child, Jaleel went to Henry E. Huntington Middle School, then John Marshall Fundamental High School and South Pasadena High School before graduating from UCLA Film School.
Believe it or not, Jaleel’s preschool teacher first encouraged him to get into acting. White’s first gigs were commercials when he was just three years old, like those famous Jell-O pudding pops ones with Bill Cosby.
Jaleel almost had his talents showcased on another huge hit at the time. He was cast as Rudy Huxtable (the role was originally a boy) on The Cosby Show, but was later recast when they went in a different direction. Guess that Jello-O commercial meant nothing to Cosby.
Jaleel first appeared on television in an episode of The Jeffersons in 1984. In an attempt to copy the success of The Cosby Show, CBS released Charlie & Co., where Jaleel played Robert for 18 episodes before the show was canceled. White also appeared on Mr. Belvedere and the Little Clowns of Happytown in 1987.
In 1989, ABC dropped a show about a middle-class Chicago family as a spin-off to the hit series Perfect Strangers. Family Matters followed the Winslow family, made up of father Carl, mother Harriette, their children, Eddie, Laura, Judy, and Mother Winslow.
About halfway through the first season, they had a smart but strange neighbor Steve Urkel appear who had a crush on Laura, and the Winslow crew tried everything they could to get Steve out of the house without breaking something, falling and not being able to get back up, or eating all of their cheese. That nerdy, quirky, clumsy neighbor Steve made a guest appearance that was only supposed to be one episode, but thankfully we all fell in love with Steve, and we’ve never been able to drop something without saying, “Did I do that?” ever since.
While it was a comedy series with plenty of physical laughs from Jaleel’s character, there were so many tender moments between Steve and the Winslow parents, Steve and Mother Winslow, and Steve and Laura.
The show also gave us a glimpse into what it would be like to create our alter ego, as Steve invented a way to turn himself into the handsome and stylish Stefan Urquelle, in an attempt to win over Laura. Jaleel also portrayed Steve’s female cousin Myrtle, to the dismay of the Winslow family for there being another Urkel to bother them, as well as other various Urkel family members.
For 208 (out of 215) episodes across the nine seasons, Jaleel’s Steve was obsessed with Laura, turning himself into the cool Stefan, and trying not to have an invention blow up until the show wrapped in 1998. The series was nominated for dozens of awards, with Jaleel winning a few for himself for his role as Steve. As was the norm back then, Steve crossed over to a few other shows in the TGIF world. Jaleel portrayed Urkel in episodes of Step by Step and Full House.
What did he do after Family Matters?
Once Family Matters ended, Jaleel had already added plenty of credits to his name. Another famous role for White was as the voice of Sonic for the shows Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog from 1993 to 1994, Sonic’s Christmas Blast in 1996, and Sonic Underground in 1999.
But after his time as Steve was when Jaleel started to act in movies. His film debut was the voice of Bladebeak in the 1998 animated fantasy film Quest for Camelot. Some of White’s earlier movie roles were Puff, Puff, Pass and Dreamgirls in 2006, Call of the Wild in 2009, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer in 2011, and The Wrong Woman in 2013.
On television, you’ve seen Jaleel on random episodes of shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Game, Boston Legal, Psych, Are We There Yet?, House, NCIS, CSI: Crime Scene Investigator, Hawaii Five-0, and Castle.
In 1999, Jaleel produced and starred in the series Grown Ups, which was created off of a story he wrote. White had written two episodes of Family Matters, so this was a logical next step for him. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after the first season.
In 2010 White tried his luck again, starring, writing, and executive producing Fake It Till You Make It, which once more lasted only one season. But at least he was getting the experience in.
What is Jaleel White doing now?
Jaleel is still acting, with no signs of stopping. He had a 13-episode run on the show Me, Myself, & I from 2017 to 2018, was in a few episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, and even brought Steve back for an episode of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? in 2019.
White had a role in the 2018 drama The 15: 17 to Paris and in the 2022 Adam Sandler sports dramedy movie Hustle.
Jaleel has a few upcoming projects, starting with a series that will reunite White with other 90s fan favorites. He and greats Will Wheaten, Jerry O’Connell, Jodie Sweetin, and Jason Marsden will lend their voices to the animated show Grubbs, based on the comic.
But what is most exciting for Jaleel is his role in the live-action series Star Wars: Skeleton Crew, which will drop on Disney+ in 2023. The show has Jude Law as the lead Jedi, and White will be playing some sort of pirate character.
He gives fans a glimpse into his private life, posting plenty of throwbacks and other content on his Instagram account. You could also get a personalized Cameo from him if you really want that memorable experience. If you are the ultimate fan, follow his convention schedule and dress up like Steve for Jaleel. Maybe bring him some cheese and see what happens.
For a cute throwback fact, White dated fellow TGIFer Christine Larkin (Step by Step) in the 90s. But Jaleel is currently single, though he has one child with his ex-girlfriend, actress Bridget Hardy. The pair share a daughter, Samaya White, born in 2009.
While Jaleel continues to have a thriving career, we’ll never see him as anything other than Steve Urkel. Or maybe Stefan Urquelle. Either way, Family Matters will always have a special spot in our hearts, and we’ll forever love that Steve was one of the originals who made being nerdy so cool.