Jaleel “Steve Urkel” White
With his hiked-up pants, nerdy glasses, bent-out-of shape posture and nasally voice that echoed the famous words “Did I do that?” television character Steve Urkel weekly harassed an anxiety-ridden Carl Winslow and his daughter Laura. And now, new generations of TV viewers are being introduced to the once nine year smash hit “Family Matters” and to Steven Q. Urkel all over again a travel down memory lane,
I’m sure, for actor Jaleel White. Born Jaleel Ahmad White on November 27, 1976, in Pasadena, California to Michael White, a dentist, and Gail White, a manager, White started his career in a Jack in the Box commercial at the tender age of three after his preschool teacher urged his parents to have him audition. Other commercials were soon to follow. White’s first shot in television occurred in 1985 with a role in “The Jefferson’s,” followed by a role on CBS’s “Charlie and Company,” starring Gladys Knight and Flip Wilson.
Three television movies ensued with “Silence of the Heart” (1984), “Kids Don’t Tell” (1985), and White portraying a character named Jake in “Leftovers” (1986). At one point, White was up for the main part in “Saved by the Bell” (1989), and as Rudy in “The Cosby Show,” but these were not meant to be. Next, White auditioned and nabbed the role of a lifetime as the character of Steve Urkel in “Family Matters” in 1989, with all of Urkel’s physical characteristics being White’s own creation.
After just one guest spot on the show, Steve Urkel was an immediate hit and was added in the series as one of the regular cast members, sometimes breaking away from the series to appear on others hits such as “Full House” and “Step By Step.” Outside of the character of Urkel, White also appeared on the TV movie: “Camp Cucamonga” (1990), “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” (1993 & 1996), “The Arsenio Hall Show” and participation in the Magic Johnson AIDS Awareness video (1991).
“Family Matters” fame triggered many perks for White in the form of a Steve Urkel talking doll (1991), Urkel O’s cereal (1992), and his character’s name popping up on many other television shows. To this day, White’s show also has the honor of being only one of twenty-one sitcoms to have had two- hundred episodes produced. White was also granted his own TV special entitled: “Urkel’s Other Side: Jaleel White Special” (ABC, 1992), which allowed White not only to act but to write and direct as well. It starred Tatyanna Ali and Bumper Robinson, just to name a few.
White also went on to contribute his vocal talents to three animated versions of “Sonic the Hedgehog” in 1993, all the while continuing his full schedule on “Family Matters,” not only as Steven Q., but as Urkel’s annoying relatives Myrtle Urkel, Stefan Urquelle and Bruce Lee Urkel. White’s hard work did not go unnoticed, earning him the thirty-seventh spot in VH1’s “100 Greatest Kid Stars” and the number one spot in Q-ratings in 1991. All production of the show wrapped up in 1998, with White receiving one hundred eighty thousand an episode within the last season. Trying to break free from the Urkel image was tricky for White, and it was tough to obtain roles after the show wrapped up.
Despite his hectic acting life, White was never allowed to shrug off his academics. After completion of Huntington Middle School in San Marino, California, White attended John Marshall Fundamental Secondary School in Pasadena, only to attend half his senior year at South Pasadena High School and then graduating at Middlesex School in Massachusetts (1994). White then headed back to California to pursue a bachelor’s degree in film from UCLA, which he earned in 2001.
White continues to act when the role is right. Some of his most recent roles include: “Big Fat Liar” (2002), “Dream Girls” (2006), “Boston Legal” (2007) and “The Call of the Wild” (2008). These days, White, who has always believed in an alcohol/drug-free life, lives in a condo in California where he keeps up with his writing and basketball playing.
Jaleel White, actor/writer, you haven’t seen the last of him!