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Articles about Jaleel White (Steve Urkel)

- Jaleel White biography (1999)
Jaleel White: Steve Urkel on Family Matters (1992)
Fast Facts on Jaleel (1992)
- Show's last season doesn't irk 'Urkel' (1998)
Jaleel White, long article about him (Scrapbook 1992)
INTRODUCING: URKSOME Steve Erkel lends his name

Jaleel White biography, UPN9 Website, 1999

Jaleel White stars as J. Calvin Frazier, a.k.a. "J.", a 24-year-old college graduate struggling with his new role in life – as an adult – in the clever half-hour comedy "Grown Ups" on UPN. White also serves as producer of the series.

For nearly a decade, multi-talented actor Jaleel White delighted audiences as America’s favorite nerd, Steve Urkel, on the hit sitcom "Family Matters." He took what was originally a one-time guest appearance on the freshman series and created such a stir that he not only became a permanent cast member, but went on to perform other unforgettable characters such as Myrtle Urkel, Steve’s southern belle cousin, and Stefan Urquelle, Steve’s suave alter-ego. White’s contribution to "Family Matters" was evident behind the scenes as well, as he wrote several episodes of the series and supplied story ideas for many others.

With 215 episodes of "Family Matters" under his belt, White has put that chapter of his life behind him. He is presently finishing film school, where he continues to pursue his other passions in life: writing, producing and directing.

Some of White’s other acting credits include a regular role in the sitcom "Charlie & Company" with Gladys Knight and Flip Wilson and several television movies including "Leftovers" with John Denver and "Silence of the Heart" with Mariette Hartley and Charlie Sheen. He also starred in his own eponymous special for ABC in 1992 and performed a rousing dance number with Bea Arthur ("Golden Girls") on "The 5th Annual American Comedy Awards."

Another memorable experience for White was his participation in the televised special, "President Clinton: Answering Children’s Questions Live From the White House," during which time he met the president and other important political figures.

In spite of his incredible success, White remains committed to giving back to his community and enriching the lives of others. In recognition of his commitment, the NAACP has presented him with three Image Awards.

In his spare time, White enjoys watching movies, especially old classics, and spending time with his family and friends. He is also an avid basketball player, skier and snowboarder.


The first thing you notice are the suspenders: Steve Urkel isn't wearing any! A season-opener dream sequence perchance? Nope, the teen nerd from hell with the falsetto voice and lamentable whine ("Did I do thaaaat?!") on CBS's Friday night sitcom Family Matters is finally growing up. And Jaleel White, the 20-year-old, 5' 11" actor who has played Urkel since the show's first season (1989-90 on ABC), seems almost wistful. "Yeah, the suspenders are gone, but his saddle shoes will remain," he says. "Urkel will become as normal as we can make him."

One big leap: Urkel's long-unrequited love for neighbor Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) will at last blossom. "Like, we'll be kissing, and I'm enjoying it instead of being repulsed," says Williams, 21. Off the set, she says, White is "so cool and normal."

For White, who lives in an L.A. apartment, normalcy means afternoon rehearsals at the Family Matters set in Burbank—where his dad, a dentist, and mom, a homemaker, still attend Friday night tapings--preceded by morning classes at UCLA, where he's just another undergrad studying film and television. "I'll blend in as much as you'll let me," he says. He has had less luck elsewhere. "Oh, man, kids love me," he groans. "When I go to a mall, it's over." --PAULA YOO


St. Louis Post-Dispatch Janet Weeks

GEORGE CLOONEY stares at the asphalt, rhythmically bouncing a basketball and contemplating his next move.

It's a balmy afternoon outside the "ER" soundstage on the Warner Bros. lot, and Clooney, passing time with a pickup game, begins a furious drive, dribbling and turning and jumping on the bumper of a van parked nearby. He misses.
The ball bounces to his opponent, a young man who, unprepared for the game, is dressed in neat pressed khakis and brown street shoes. He tries a simple, less flashy move, a strategy that has placed him ahead of Clooney.
He moves to the right of the basket and fires. Swish. Clooney loses. To Jaleel White. To Urkel.
The game - a chance occurrence between stars of shows filmed in neighboring soundstages - points up two interesting truths about 20- year-old Jaleel White.
One, he is not the pratfalling geek Steve Urkel he has played so adeptly for eight successful seasons of "Family Matters." In fact, he is a basketball fanatic capable of beating Batman, even in "ol' fuddy duddy" shoes.
Two, like his basketball style, White is deliberate and steady and cool, traits that have helped him keep a level head in the heady world of Hollywood while alter-ego Urkel has slowly climbed into our collective psyche.
"I feel like nobody knows Jaleel White," he says, without a trace of disappointment.
Indeed, he's happy to take a back seat to Urkel, a pop-culture icon so well known that the World Wide Web sports 572 sites that mention him.
The Urkel wave began to crest eight years ago, when Steve Urkel, suspenders-wearing nerd and neighbor of the Winslow family, made a guest appearance on a midseason episode and captured the show. He quickly became part of the cast.
Two-hundred-plus episodes later, "Family Matters," and Urkel, are still going strong. The sitcom currently ranks as the second-longest- running show on in prime time, behind "Murphy Brown." It is one of only 20 comedies to last past 200 episodes.
"Family Matters" has not only outlasted other shows, but it also became the focus of an intense bidding war this spring between ABC, where it previously aired, and CBS, its new home.
"We feel `Family Matters' is one of the great television shows in history," says CBS Entertainment president Leslie Moonves. "One of our priorities is to get a younger audience and no better show represents that demographic."
Yet despite its longevity and its popularity among kids and young adults, "Family Matters" has never quite earned the respect of other sitcoms that have also hit the 200th episode mark - shows like "M*A*S*H*" or "Cheers." It has never been nominated for an Emmy, and few would argue that the television academy has overlooked it.
But without critical acclaim and a closetful of trophies, the show has chugged along, winning its time period eight years in a row. Weekly, it is watched by 20 million viewers. Most importantly, it is watched by the young, which makes the show a hit with advertisers.
"It may not have snob appeal, but it's a show you can watch with your family," says Moonves, who nurtured the show in its early days when he was president of Warner Bros. television. "And it's just plain funny."
"Family Matters" is such a favorite of Moonves that he was moved to take a good-natured potshot at rival ABC during the recent celebration of the 200-episode landmark.
"When ABC was stupid enough to not jump when they had the opportunity, and we grabbed the show, it turned out out to the single best thing I've done at CBS."
"Family Matters" premiered in 1989 as a sort of alternative to the hit sitcom "The Cosby Show," which focused on an affluent upper- class clan of urban professionals.
The Winslow family - father Ward (Reginald VelJohnson), wife Harriette (JoMarie Payton-Noble), son Eddie (Darius McCrary) and daughter Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) - are decidedly middle-class, which is more reflective of TV's audience.
"We believed there was a great opportunity to do a black show that was blue-collar," says executive producer Bob Boyett of the show's impetus. "But we had no idea we would have such a following this many years later."

Jaleel White: Steve Urkel on Family Matters (1992 Sydney Cooper, Kidsbooks)

"Did I do that?`"

If Jaleel White were the one asking that question, instead of his TV character, Steve Urkel, the answer would have to be a resounding, "Yes!" For what Jaleel did, in creating his loveable nerd-next-door, is become just about the hottest kid on TV. Urkel is an unlikely hero not only to youngsters all over, but to the show Family Matters itself, which he pretty much single-handedly saved from going off the air.

A comedy about a middle-class family, Family Matters starred Reginald VelJohnson and JoMarie Payton as Carl and Harriette Winslow. They lived with their three children, Eddie, Laura and Judy, played by Darius McCrary, Kellie Shanygne Williams, and Jamimee Foxworth, plus Grandma Winslow (Rosetta LeNoire), sister-in-law Rachel (Telma Hopkins), and her little boy, Richie (Bryton McClure).

With that many people in the "family," it hardly seemed as if the cast needed an addition. But around the twelfth episode a particular character came on as a guest – and ended up not only staying for dinner, but staying for the rest of the season and then some!

Steve Urkel, the jerky neighbor with the hiked-up pants and oversized specs, was supposed to be on just one time, but he was such a hit with the viewers that he was invited to become a regular cast member. As soon as he did, the show took off.

Jaleel White, the fifteen-year-old who plays Urkel is a very talented actor. In real life, he’s about as far from a nerd as you can get. Jaleel is a California native, born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles. Jaleel’s dad Michael is a dentist, his mom Gail, a housewife. Neither one had any connections to showbiz, but a mere three year after Jaleel’s birth on November 27, 1976, their only child was headed to stardom. It was at the suggestion of a preschool school teacher who found Jaleel unusually bright and funny that Gail took him to an open call audition. There, he was spotted by an agent and signed up immediately.

The adorable toddler began appearing in commercials – altogether, he’s been in over 40. By third grade, Jaleel had started to play roles in TV movies, musical specials, and aferschool dramas. In 1985, he won his first regular role in a series. It was called Charlie And Company and starred Gladys Knight and Flip Wilson. Jaleel played their young son. He was very excited to have landed a TV series. Unfortunately, that excitement turned to disappointment when it was soon cancelled.

When Jaleel went to try out for the part of Urkel, he brought along the crazy classes, ill-fitting pants, and even made up the whiny voice and shuffling walk. He has no clue how he even thought of those things. "I was just possessed!" he explains. Never did he expect the character to become such a hit. "It still amazes me," he admits.

But clearly, Urkel the outcast who’s so uncool he doesn’t even know he’s an outcast, has struck a chord with children all over. School kids do Urkel impressions. Soon they’ll be able to have an Urkel doll, put together the Urkel puzzle, or get together with friends and play the Urkel board game as Urkelmania hits the marketplace.

The fame that Urkel has brought him has enabled Jaleel to make at least one of his dreams come true. A "basketball-loving-maniac," as he describes himself, he’s not only gotten to meet his idol, Magic Johnson, but he has actually played on the same team with Magic, Michael Jordan, and Spud Webb at an MTV-sponsored basketball game to benefit the Pediatric Aids Foundation. Jaleel was as thrilled to help raise money for that charity as he was to dribble the ball alongside his heroes.

There’s little danger of his ego becoming too big – mom and dad see to that. Jaleel’s parents are quite strict and make sure he keeps to his curfew, does his chores, and most importantly, does his schoolwork. In fact, they won’t allow him to start dating until he turns 16.

Jaleel is an honor student at his local high school and keeps up with his assignments via a tutor when he’s on the Family Matters‘ set. He’s a high school sophomore who definitely plans on college one day.

Jaleel knows that he’s a role model to kids and takes that responsibility very seriously. Whenever he has the chance, he talks to kids and reminds them that school should always come first. "The most important thing is to get your education. It may not be what you want to do, but it’s the most important thing, because without that, you don’t have much."

When he thinks about the future, Jaleel hopes it also includes a career as a director. He’s learning as much as he can now about the craft, just from being on Family Matters‘ set. He’s always asking questions about camera angles, staging and lightning. By the time the show’s run ends, Jaleel will have gained quite a bit of knowledge. He also rents videos of classic movies, to see what else he can learn about directing.

Whatever he does and whenever he does it, there’s little doubt that Jaleel White will be successful. Thanks to his family, he’s got his priorities right on target. Thanks to his talent, his horizons are boundless.

Fast Facts on Jaleel (1992 Sydney Cooper, Kidsbooks)

Name: Jaleel White
Birthdate: November 27, 1976
Height: 5‘4" (and growing)
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Black
Weight: 115 lbs
Lives: In the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
Mom and Dad: Gail and Michael
Sisters and Brothers: None, he’s an only child
School: He’s a high school sophomore and honor student.
Favorite Sports: "Basketball, basketball, and basketball."
Favorite Actor: Denzel Washington
Favorite Directors: Spike Lee and Robert Townsend
Favorite TV Show: The Oprah Winfrey Show
How He Spends His Money: Baseball caps, basketball cards, and school clothes.
Quiet Time Activities: Cooking and reading
Quote: "Nerds rule the world!"

Show's last season doesn't irk 'Urkel' (1998/06/29 Times)
After nine seasons, "Family Matters" is through, which doesn't bother Jaleel White, the 21-year-old actor who made the show a hit by playing the whiny over-the-top nerd Steve Urkel.
White, who is attending the University of California, Los Angeles, wouldn't even mind not acting anymore, saying he'd rather direct and produce entertainment projects.
Still, he's proud of the kooky character in saddle shoes, high-water pants and suspenders that made him a TV star.
"I never tired of playing him. He defied stereotypes. He was an African-American who listens to Wayne Newton albums, enjoys wearing plaid and loves polkas," White said. "And he made people laugh just by walking into the room. How many African-American performers have a character like that who crossed racial lines?"

Jaleel White (Scrapbook 1992)

When Jaleel White was just a precocious little toddler of three years, struggling to fit in with his preschool class in Los Angeles, California, his teacher noticed something different about him. Ms. Eva Lew noticed that Jaleel had something special ... a spark of charisma that separated him from the rest. Eva was convinced that Jaleel was destined for stardom and called his parents in to school for a meeting.

When Gail and Michael White arrived at the school for their chat with Jaleel's teacher they didn't know what to expect. They were pleasantly surprised to hear what she had to say, but hesitant as well. Jaleel's parents weren't sure they wanted their young son to get involved in the entertainment industry.

After thinking about it long and hard, they decided to give it a shot. So it was off to an open casting call, where the Whites were lucky enough to meet up with one of Hollywood's top agents for child actors, Iris Burton. Iris, who currently represents superstars like Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years"), Kirk Cameron ("Growing Pains") and River Phoenix, was convinced that Jaleel had what it takes to make it big and agreed to take a chance on him.

The work started coming immediately, in the form of commercials. In just a few short years Jaleel appeared in over two dozen national TV ads! The most famous one was a spot he did with actor Bill Cosby for Jell-O Pudding Pops.

Doing commercials was a lot of fun for Jaleel, who quickly decided he loved to be in front of the camera. But he wanted more. And so did his agent! Everyone was very patient and one day Jaleel landed a guest-starring role on the hit TV show "The Jeffersons." Jaleel would then appear on "Mr. Belvedere," "The Jay Leno Family Special," "Full House" and "The 5th Annual American Comedy Awards" (on the last two he appeared as Urkel). Jaleel's first regular television role was on the show "Charlie & Co.," as a character named Robert. On that series Jaleel had the honor of working with Flip Wilson and Gladys Knight, two people he admires very much. And it all led to Jaleel's role as the lovable nerd, Steve Urkel.

In addition to his numerous sitcom and TV show appearances, Jaleel has also starred in several made-for-television movies. Did you catch Jaleel in "Silence Of The Heart," with Mariette Hartley and Charlie Sheen, "Leftovers" with John Denver, "Kids Don't Tell," "Camp Cucamonga" and "Lights Out"? He was great in all of them! Jaleel hopes to continue his career, possibly working his way onto the big screen in the near future.

Although acting does take up most of Jaleel White's time (he averages nine hours a day on the "Family Matters" set), he does manage to find some time - even if it's just a small amount - for himself! Jaleel packs tons of his favorite hobbies and activities into any spare minutes. You see, Jaleel has lots of interests and he's not about to give any of them up. So on a day that

Jaleel doesn't have to work, you might find him doing ten or twelve different things!

While you might find Steve Urkel hard.at work on some science project, hunting for an interesting new kind of beetle to add to his bug collection, or munching on a hunk of cheese, you won't find Jaleel doing any of those things. Jaleel's interests are quite different from his TV counterpart's. Near the top of Jaleel's list of faves, is sports! Jaleel has always been an avid sports fan, and he enjoys watching and playing them, too. Basketball has always been his favorite (Michael Jordan is his idol!), but baseball, tennis and ping-pong are also enjoyed by the brown-eyed actor.

In addition to his love of athletic activities, Jaleel, being the well-rounded guy that he is, also enjoys hobbies that exercise the mind. One of his very favorites is writing! Did you know that Jaleel really loves to write short stories, and to create new characters and storylines? It's true! He loves to draw, as well. Jaleel likes to doodle and create little cartoon characters... in fact, at one point Jaleel dreamed of pursuing a career in that very field. For now, however, he'll just continue doing it as a hobby. But don't be surprised if you see some of his stories or drawings published some day.

Since Jaleel enjoys doing things that stimulate his mind, such as writing and reading, it should come as no surprise that he absolutely loves school! Jaleel is tutored on the "Family Matters" set, where he is the only student in his class. At.least four hours of every work day are spent with his tutors, and an additional few hours are set aside for him to study and do some homework. How's that for a busy schedule?

Jaleel has nothing but good things to say about education. "I enjoy school, personally," he happily admits. "Why? Because knowledge is the key to success... the more you know, the more options you have in life."

Jaleel works hard at maintaining his straight-A average because he knows how important it is for him to continue with his education despite his mega-successful acting career. "I'd really like to go to film school at USC," he reveals with a gleam in his eye. And if he continues his honor-student status, he should have no trouble at all getting accepted to the college of his choice.

Jaleel knows what he wants out of life and he sometimes gets frustrated when he sees that not all teens feel the way he does about their futures. "I'm not just preaching when I say this," he says, "but stay in school ... education is so important, and learning is one of the greatest things in this world. So don't let these years go by without taking advantage of the fact that you are in school!"

There you go, great advice from a great guy!

So Jaleel loves school, and even considers learning a "hobby." That doesn't mean he doesn't have some other really cool interests. Not that doing homework isn't cool, but there are other ways to have fun! To Jaleel, one of these ways is by making homemade ice cream. Since Jaleel was a baby he's been a fan of the frozen treat, and one day he decided to try and make some of his own! Jaleel got so good at concocting new flavors and making tasty desserts that he started doing it on a regular basis. Now he can be found in the kitchen almost every weekend. What separates this from some of Jaleel's other hobbies is that he might actually want to start his own ice cream company some day! Jaleel thinks about the future like any other kid.

Most people think that because someone is famous or on television, they're always treated in a special way. This isn't the case as far as Jaleel is concerned. He has to do chores around the house, like taking out the garbage, and writing thank-you notes to his relatives. Jaleel considers himself a regular guy.

"I'd just like to say this for the record," he laughs. "A lot of people think that kids on TV lead glamorous lives with limousines and all, and that's not the case! . . When I go back to my regular school when my show is on hiatus, I'm treated like a lowly sophomore just like the rest of the kids. I mean, I didn't eat lunch the other day because all the seniors kept cutting in line ... there was no special line for Steve Urkel!" It took a little adjusting, but Jaleel is handling his success just fine, and lucky for us, he's promised to remain in show biz for a long, long time!

INTRODUCING: URKSOME Steve Erkel lends his name
People, 05-04-1992

THERE IS STEVE URKEL, TV SITCOM character. Then there is Steve Erkel, TV scriptwriter and director of educational films and real-life person.
Steve Urkel, as played by 15-year-old Jaleel White on ABC's Family Matters, is America's best-known nerd, famous for his high-hitched pants, high-pitched voice and pig-snort laugh.
Steve Erkel, as played by 42-year-old Steve Erkel of Los Angeles, is a regular-looking guy whose life has been complicated by Urkel's success.
In fact, their homonymous relationship -- no problem between consenting adults (or fictitious teenagers) -- is no coincidence either. Steve Urkel is named after Steve Erkel, thanks to Michael Warren, the show's executive producer. Back in 1989, he borrowed his old friend's name -- without telling him. At the time, Steve Urkel was supposed to be a one-episode character on a blind date with Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams). ''I had never known anyone named Erkel until I met Steve,'' says Warren. ''It's an odd name, but it sure clicked.'' So did Jaleel White's performance, and Steve Urkel became a show- stealing regular.
Then as the voice of the Urkel was heard in the land, Erkel began getting strange reactions. ''People started looking at me twice,'' he says. ''Over the phone, there would be these unusual delays during
transactions. Finally, in early 1990, a friend of mine called and said, 'There's this guy on TV with your name.' I watched and saw Michael's name on the credits, and I said, 'Ah- hah!' ''
Erkel gets late-night phone calls from pajama-partying teenagers who scream, ''Steve, I love you!''; his girlfriend, Susan Cook, a psychologist, sometimes introduces him as ''the other Steve Erkel''; and even his parents, Lorraine and Roy Erkel, who live in Sacramento, find themselves having to explain the whole thing. And, says Erkel, ''I have a second cousin in Wisconsin named Steve Erkel; I hear that he's going through the same stuff.''
As for Warren, he says he would never use a friend's name for a character again. ''Steve's experience has put an end to that,'' says Warren. ''From now on I will get my names out of the phone book.''
Warren has invited Erkel to the set on several occasions and has introduced him to White. Steve Erkel says the first words out of Steve Urkel's mouth were: ''I'm sorry.''

more articles about Jaleel White

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