Family Matters was first aired by ABC back in September 1989, as a sitcom with a predominately African-American cast. While it wasn’t the first sitcom with an African-American lineup, it certainly proved to be one of the most popular and long-running – just behind The Jeffersons. The show initially focused on Carl Winslow, a cop in Chicago, along with his wife and three kids. Not forgetting his street-wise mom, Estelle ‘Mother’ Winslow.
However, when the nerdy next door neighbor, Steve Urkel entered the scene, the show quickly switched. Bosses saw how much people fell in love with the character played by Jaleel White, and so Family Matters quickly promoted him to one of the main characters. His undying love for Carl’s daughter Laura, along with his hilarious catchphrases and side characters, catapulted Urkel and the Family Matters cast into stardom.
Read on to hear more about the Family Matters cast and what they’ve been up to all this time!
Jo Marie Payton as Harriette Winslow
Family Matters was a spin-off of the sitcom Perfect Strangers, and that is where we are first introduced to the character of Harriette Winslow, played by Jo Marie Payton. The wife of Carl Winslow and the mother of Eddie, Laura and Judy, Harriette Winslow is the boss of the house.
She wanted to become a cop, just like her husband, but having children meant she had to put her own dreams on hold. She is the kind of person who is kind to everyone she meets and is the perfect mother figure for her three children. As you’d expect, she’s in most episodes of Family Matters – a total of 200 out of 215. But, did this boost her career?
Jo Marie Payton today
Family Matters has undoubtedly been Jo Marie Payton’s most significant role to date, but that doesn’t mean she has faded into the background. Keen to continue with her comedy career, this actress has been in several big-name sitcoms since Family Matters ended.
She played Mrs. Freeman in five episodes of the popular sitcom Will & Grace, as well as voicing Suga Mama in the kid’s cartoon comedy, The Proud Family. Back in 2015, she worked alongside her on-screen husband once again for the rom-com TV movie, The Flight Before Christmas. Most recently, she starred as Lorraine Mann in the sitcom Mann and Wife and has three projects in production currently.
Reginald VelJohnson as Carl Winslow
While Harriette Winslow may have been the one keeping the house running, Carl was the real boss of the family. His position in the police force ensured that his family were very proud of him, but he did sometimes bring home his strict side – leading to arguments between the family and sometimes even neighbors.
Carl Winslow, played by Reginald Veljohnson, appears in all 215 episodes of Family Matters and is one of only two characters to hold that record.
Reginald VelJohnson today
With over 100 acting credits to his name, Reginald VelJohnson is kind of a big deal. In fact, the star had appeared in several big-name films before his big break in Family Matters, including the action franchise ‘Die Hard.’ After starring in all nine seasons as Carl Winslow in the sitcom Family Matters, VelJohnson had no shortage of acting job offers.
He has starred as small parts in dozens of sitcoms, drama TV shows, and several movies. His most recent part was in the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine where he guest stars as himself!
Darius McCrary as Eddie Winslow
Eddie, played by Darius McCrary, was the only son of Carl and Harriette Winslow and lived up to the teenage boy stereotype. While his sister, Laura, may have been interested in furthering her education, Eddie was much more interested in girls, cars, and pulling pranks.
His lack of common sense also led to him getting into trouble with the law on more than one occasion – not great when your dad is so high up in the police force!
Darius McCrary today
While he may have had a couple of small roles before playing Eddie Winslow, Family Matters was the first big break for Darius McCrary. However, his acting career certainly didn’t stop there. In fact, he is now probably most famous for his role on the soap opera, The Young and The Restless.
McCrary has also starred in movies such as the horror The Summoning and the action flick, Transformers where he voiced the character of Jazz.
Telma Hopkins as Rachel Crawford
Rachel Crawford, played by Telma Hopkins, is the sister of Harriette Winslow and therefore the sister to Eddie, Laura and Judy. After becoming a widow, she decides to move in with her sister and their family, expanding the Winslow household by some.
Rachel Crawford was a real entrepreneur at heart and opened up her own burger restaurant in Chicago after Steve Urkel accidentally (obviously) burned down Leroy’s. She was also known for her eclectic collection of hats and her beautiful singing voice.
Telma Hopkins today
There was a reason Rachel Crawford was a beautiful vocalist in Family Matters, and that’s because Telma Hopkins had already made a name for herself as a singer! She was part of the pop group Tony Orlando and Dawn before deciding to turn her hand to acting.
After playing Rachel Crawford in Family Matters, Hopkins managed to land herself recurring roles in plenty of other comedies, including Lab Rats and Are We There Yet?.
Bryton McClure as Richie Crawford
Richie is the son of Rachel Crawford, who first enters in his mother’s arms as a baby. Over the years we get to watch him grow up in his own little world. He seems totally oblivious to some of the comings and goings in the Winslow household, including how clumsy and annoying Steve Urkel can be.
Ah, childhood innocence. His adorable little face and ways make him a super cute addition to the cast list, which would explain why he’s in 142 episodes of the show!
Bryton McClure today
Not only has Bryton McClure grown up, but he has actually changed his name! After his time on the Family Matters sitcom, the child actor changed his name to Bryton James and continued to make a name for himself in some pretty big TV shows.
You may recognize him as Luka in drama, The Vampire Diaries, or perhaps as the voice of Cyborg in the superhero animated series, DC Super Friends. His biggest role, however, is in the soap opera The Young and The Restless which he has starred in for 14 years and 832 episodes!
Rosetta LeNoire as Mother Winslow
The Winslow family weren’t the kind of people to turn anyone away – so it makes sense that the mother of Carl, and grandmother of Eddie, Laura, and Judy, would move in when her husband passed away. We’re glad she did though, as Estelle Winslow – known as Mother Winslow – is one of the stars of the show.
She’s super street-wise and is filled with great advice for her grandkids and even Steve Urkel. Eventually, she falls in love with someone else and moves out of her son’s home.
Rosetta LeNoire today – Deceased
Before her part on Family Matters, Rosetta LeNoire had starred in various TV shows, including the sitcoms Amen and Give Me a Break! She left the acting world for good back in 1998, after a small part as a nurse on one episode of the comedy Cosby.
Several years later, complications with her diabetes put Rosetta LeNoire’s health at risk. She eventually passed away in 2002, at the age of 90.
Michelle Thomas as Myra Monkhouse
Laura’s boyfriend, Ted, was fed up with Steve Urkel continually trying to muscle in on his woman – and so decides to introduce him to his cousin, Myra Monkhouse. While Urkel wasn’t too keen on meeting her to start with, the pair hit it off right away.
She’s precisely the kind of girl that the loveable nerd is looking for, but there was one problem… Mrya was obsessed with him, and it becomes a bit too much for the goofball.
Michelle Thomas today – Deceased
Like many other former Family Matters stars, Michelle Thomas went on to star in the soap opera The Young and The Restless. She played Callie for 38 episodes but had to take medical leave from acting back in 1998.
It turns out, Michelle Thomas had been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer back in 1997 and had to have surgery several times. Unfortunately, in December 1998, when she was just 30, Michelle passed away.
Shawn Harrison as Waldo Faldo
Waldo Geraldo Faldo, to give him his full name, was Eddie Winslow’s best friend and known for saying things like, “No prob, Bob!” Played by Shawn Harrison, Waldo was known to be a bit ‘dim-witted’ and would even annoy Steve Urkel with some of the silly things he said and did!
Underneath it all, however, Waldo was a talented chef. He also, like Eddie, wanted to find the girl of his dreams, which he eventually does in Maxine.
Shawn Harrison today
Family Matters was this actor’s big break, and he has continued to act over the decades. Like his co-star, Kellie Shanygne, he went on to have small roles in the comedies Eve and Moesha, before voicing several characters in the animated series, Legion of Superheroes.
He currently has a movie called Uncle Ed’s Bucket List in production, due to be released in 2018. While he has never had a part as big as his role in Family Matters, he’s still working the circuit like a pro.
Tammy Townsend as Greta McClure
As one of Laura’s friends, Greta McClure features in 14 episodes of Family Matters… But not just as Laura’s buddy! In fact, she breaks ultimate girl code by going out with Eddie, Laura’s brother.
Greta’s father, the owner of Mighty Weenie, isn’t happy about the relationship in the beginning and refuses to accept it. However, he finally gives in, and she becomes Eddie’s last proper girlfriend in the series.
Tammy Townsend today
Tammy Townsend had already made quite a name for herself before starring in Family Matters. She had appeared in sitcoms such as Charles in Charge and Different Strokes in the 1980s, before landing her role on Family Matters.
Since her role as Greta McClure, she has gone on to star in the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, as well as playing the lead role in the Disney show, K.C. Undercover. It doesn’t look like Tammy is going away anytime soon, with several movies due for release in 2018.
Jaimee Foxworth as Judy Winslow
Judy Winslow, who was played by Jaimee Foxworth, had a very strange time on Family Matters, to say the least. She is the youngest daughter of Carl and Harriette Winslow and featured throughout the first four seasons. We watch her grow up and turn into a cheeky little kid, but then something utterly bizarre happens.
During the fourth season, Judy walks up the stairs and never returns. She’s not even mentioned by the family again! According to reports, the youngest Winslow child was removed due to budget cuts.
Jaimee Foxworth today
After starring in 96 episodes of Family Matters, and then being suddenly cut out, Jaimee Foxworth had a very different childhood to most. Perhaps it was this less than conventional upbringing that led the actress down a problematic path as she grew up.
Struggling with mental health issues and narcotics addiction, Foxworth eventually decided to leave Hollywood and pursue an adult acting career instead. Back in 2009, a documentary was aired showing her path from child star through to the mother of her son, but she hasn’t been since.
Cherie Johnson as Maxine Johnson
We have met Waldo, so let’s meet his girlfriend – Maxine Johnson! She is the best friend of Laura Winslow but is seen as a bit of a bad influence on the oldest Winslow daughter. This could be due to her own neglectful parents, who rarely pay her any attention.
Maxine is always trying to convince Laura to do things she shouldn’t be doing, including wearing inappropriate outfits. She finally calms down when she starts dating Waldo, however.
Cherie Johnson today
Before landing her role in Family Matters, Cherie Johnson was best known for playing the best friend of Punky in the comedy show, Punky Brewster. However, after Family Matters, the actress had various small parts in a handful of movies and TV shows.
Alongside acting, Cherie Johnson also writes and produces. She starred in the indie movie that she penned and produced, I Do… I Did! and has also written four books to boot. One busy lady!
Barry Jenner as Lt. Murtaugh
Barry Jenner plays Lt. Murtaugh, the pretty useless boss of Carl Winslow at the Chicago Police Department. We see more of Murtaugh when he falls for Harriette’s sister, Rachel, and asks her out on a date.
She finally agrees but ends up having an awful time due to the lieutenant being obnoxious. Rachel never wants to see him again, but that’s not the last we see of Carl’s boss! He features in 18 episodes of the sitcom.
Barry Jenner today – Deceased
Family Matters wasn’t the only big role for this prolific actor, who had once worked for the Los Angeles Police Department. Barry Jenner landed himself parts in huge shows, including the drama Dallas and the sci-fi series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
He had nearly 50 acting credits to his name, with his last being in the 2016 thriller, The Caretaker. Unfortunately, that year, Barry Jenner passed away from leukemia.
Shavar Ross as Weasel
Shavar Ross plays Alex Park – AKA Weasel – another one of Eddie’s friends. Unfortunately for Eddie, he isn’t the best influence to have around. He is caught out spreading rumors about Laura and her boyfriend Ted, which leads to the pair breaking up.
He also makes Eddie break up with a girl he doesn’t think is pretty enough. You can see how he earned the nickname Weasel… Luckily, Eddie does stand up for his sister up against his friend, proving that family really does matter for the Winslows.
Shavar Ross today
This actor had already had a taste of fame before his part on Family Matters, acting alongside some of his co-stars in comedies such as Punky Brewster and Different Strokes. In fact, he is probably most known for playing Dudley in Different Strokes, who is assaulted on the show – something which he admitted to E! had actually happened to him in real life.
Alongside his acting work, Shavar Ross runs several businesses, including an online school that teaches people how to start their own retail company.
Ron Orbach as Nick Neidermeyer
When Harriette Winslow works at Fergusons Department Stores, she has to put up with Nick Niedermeyer as her boss. While she may not like him one bit, she asks her husband to let him join his poker game at home, in the hope that they might get along.
Things don’t go to plan, and she dares him to fire her… Eventually throwing a pie in his face. Unfortunately for the Winslows, he then moves to their street as a neighbor.
Ron Orbach today
Ron Orbach has been acting since 1986, but his first big breaks were in Family Matters and a comedy called Platypus Man.
He has since gone on to star in small roles in various TV shows, as well as lending his voice to games such as Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Avatar: The Game. His most recent role was in a low-budget comedy movie called Chicanery, back in 2017.
Donna Summer as Aunt Oona
You may double take when looking at Aunt Oona, the shy and quiet aunt of Steve Urkel… Yes, that really is the Donna Summer, the legendary singer, and songwriter. In Family Matters, she is a far cry from her superstar self, and the Winslows want to help her gain more confidence.
One of the ways they try to help is by entering her into a karaoke competition – where she blows everyone away. Of course, it’s Donna Summer!
Donna Summer today – Deceased
Donna Summer doesn’t really need much of an introduction, as she was one of the biggest icons of the 1970s. With her unique blend of R&B, soul, and disco, she blew the musical world away and was constantly topping the charts.
Winning five Grammy awards and being nicknamed the Queen of Disco wasn’t enough for Donna, as she also had a handful of acting credits to her name too. Unfortunately, the superstar passed away back in 2012 after losing her battle with lung cancer.
Susan Krebs as Ms. Steuben
You may remember Susan Krebs as the teacher at Vanderbilt High School, who finds herself with a splitting headache whenever Steve Urkel is around – it seems as though he has that effect on everyone!
She is Laura’s teacher at the school, and she makes Steve promise he won’t apply to any of her classes. However, he applies for her economics class to get closer to Laura, and Ms. Steuben is less than impressed.
Susan Krebs today
With nearly 90 acting credits to her name, Susan Krebs has certainly had her fair share of fame. Before starring in Family Matters, Krebs had a few small roles in sitcoms such as M*A*S*H, The Jeffersons, and Growing Pains.
Over the last few decades, Krebs has continued to build up her acting portfolio and starred in Hollywood flicks such as the dramas 28 Days and Million Dollar Baby.
Naya Rivera as Gwendolyn
If you’re a mega-fan of Family Matters, then you might remember the tiny role that Naya Rivera had in the sitcom. In the Just One Date episode, we meet Gwendolyn who is a little girl, recently moved into the neighborhood, with a big crush on Richie Crawford, the son of Rachel Crawford.
Unfortunately for her, Richie is not interested, and we never see or hear anything from Gwendolyn after her initial three episodes. If only he knew who she would become…
Naya Rivera today
Of course, Naya Rivera is probably most famous for playing Santana Lopez in the musical comedy, Glee. However, it turns out that this superstar had a whole host of acting credits to her name before she was even a teenager.
Along with being a child model, Naya Rivera had starred in the comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and drama Baywatch. Eventually, she landed her Glee role and catapulted to fame. She has been starring in the dance drama series, Step Up: High Water, since 2017.
Kellie Shanygne as Laura Winslow
The object of Steve Urkel’s desires, Laura is the eldest daughter in the Winslow family. As the super smart one, she is often praised by her parents, and this causes some tension between her and the rest of her siblings. With her straight A grades, Laura is keen to study at Harvard, although it doesn’t entirely go to plan for the student.
Instead, she has to settle for a more local school and the unwanted attention of her next-door neighbor, Steve. Laura Winslow, played by Kellie Shanygne is the only other character to feature in all 215 episodes.
Kellie Shanygne today
Kellie Shanygne’s first big acting break came in Family Matters, but it wasn’t to be her only acting job. Over the next few years, the actress featured in sitcoms such as Eve, Moesha and What About Joan.
Shanygne decided to quit acting for good back in 2011, however, when she set up the Kellie Williams Program. This initiative, based in Washington D.C. helps 14-20 year olds the chance to try out creating and producing their own TV shows.
Jaleel White as Steve Urkel
If you’re a fan of Family Matters, then it is unlikely that Steve Urkel needs any introduction! Jaleel White was only supposed to be playing the character for one episode, but he became the most popular star on the whole show!
Producers quickly promoted him to one of the main characters, as the audience fell in love with this stereotypical nerdy character, his catchphrases, his clumsiness, and his infatuation with Laura Winslow. Jaleel White went on to star in 208 episodes of the sitcom – after he was only supposed to appear in one!
Jaleel White today
Jaleel White had the ultimate child acting career, starring in TV shows and TV movies from the age of three. Throughout the ‘90s, White also had the important job of voicing everyone’s favorite video game hedgehog, Sonic.
Over the decades, White has continued to act in sitcoms and several comedy movies but has turned his hand to something more serious for his latest project. He recently starred in the biographical drama, The 15:17 to Paris.
Danielle Nicolet as Vonda Mahoney
Vonda is another one of Eddie’s girlfriends, although the reason he starts dating her isn’t exactly a pleasant one. He thinks that she’s not that hard to get and that she will do anything to become popular.
Steve Urkel gives Vonda some advice and assures her that her kindness will shine through, making people like her anyway. Eddie is annoyed with Steve but then realizes he does actually like Vonda for the way she is, so the pair continues to date.
Danielle Nicolet today
Family Matters was evidently quite the springboard for Danielle Nicolet, as she is quite a recognizable face today. You may know her for playing Maggie in the comedy movie Central Intelligence, or perhaps as Storm in the superhero TV series, X-Men.
Sticking with the superhero theme, Nicolet is now best known for playing Cecile Horton in The Flash TV show from 2015 until today. In fact, since her three episodes of Family Matters, Danielle Nicolet has racked up over 70 acting credits in the last two decades!