Jaleel White, aka Steve Urkel, Has Grown Into the ‘Stefan’ We Always Wanted
You’ve all done it at least once – hiked up your shorts, shoved the bridge of your invisible glasses against your face, chortled, and then sirened out a big ol’ “Did I do thaaaaaaat?” It never gets old (or does it?).
Steve Urkel was, and still is, the King of Nerds — not Screech from Saved by the Bell, Minkus from Boy Meets World, Paul Pfeiffer of The Wonder Years, or even Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory can compete. He is the protector of pocket protectors, and lord of all things archetypically geeky. And we loved that about him, because it only made his eventual transformation into the suave ‘Stefan’ later in life more impressive. But where’s Jaleel White now?
White who got his start as Urkel on the forever-favorite 90s sitcom Family Matters, a show that revolved around a middle-class African American family living in Chicago making their way through the challenges most families face, quickly became the program’s breakout character, and they eventually wrote him in as the show’s main character. Matters eventually became the longest running show featuring an African American family – just behind The Jeffersons and ahead of The Cosby Show with a whopping 9-season stretch.
Only 12 years old at the time, Jaleel wasn’t even introduced to the show’s plot until halfway through the first season when he was brought in for a one-time guest appearance to go on a date with the daughter of the show’s family, the bodacious Laura Winslow, played by Kellie Shanygne Williams.
After 10 long years working on one character, playing Urkel felt stale to White, and he moved on from the series after its final season in 1998. Jaleel was still only 22 at the time. Shortly after the series’ cancellation, he infamously stated in a 1999 interview, “If you ever see me do that character again, take me out and put a bullet in my head and put me out of my misery.”
After being defined by one character for so long, White found it difficult to break into new roles. His next opportunity came with the UPN sitcom Grown Ups which featured Jaleel alongside Soleil Moon Frye, known for her role as Punkey Brewster — two peas in a pod. Although the show initially performed well, it was given the axe after only one season.
Afterwards White moved on to voice work — an art form in which no one would recognize his face from TV — and became the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in several iterations of the animated series, and in 2001 he graduated from UCLA with a degree in film and television.
The following ten years mostly comprised of guest appearances in everything from Big Fat Liar, to Boston Legal and Cee-Lo Green’s music video for “Cry Baby.” He also competed on the 14th season of Dancing with the Stars (where many celebs go for a momentary spark.)
Jaleel’s latest gig was hosting the Syfy gameshow, Total Blackout, on which competitors were forced to complete tasks in the dark — thus the name — though the show only ran for two seasons.
Now at 38, Jaleel is just as handsome as he ever was — though we’ll never forget his steamy take on the suave “Stefan Urquelle,” Urkel’s sexy alter-ego.
White and his adorable daughter, Samaya, live together in California, and the proud dad filmed recently for the animated feature Guardians of Luna. While his professional website’s timeline ends in 2012, White carries on his public presence through his social media accounts on both Twitter and Instagram.
Some ppl just have an expiration date. Like milk. Or salad dressings in the fridge.
— Jaleel White (@jaleelwhite) June 8, 2015
While it looks like White is feeling less than optimistic about his career resurgence, we’ve got faith in his future. Regardless, this King of Nerds will always be a major part of 90s American pop culture, and if he’s feeling down, all he needs to do is listen to the Family Matters theme song…
“When days go by,
there’s room for you,
room for me,
for gentle hearts an opportunity.”
Jaleel White: “If you ever see me do that character again, take me out and put a bullet in my head and put me out of my misery.”