Family Matters was a staple of 90’s television. The show, which starred Jaleel White as Steve Urkle, was a runaway success cementing the young star as a mainstay on tv screens during the decade. The show was one of several shows at the time depicting black families as middle class. It followed in the foot steps of the Cosby Show which also did a great job at showcasing Black families in a new light.
Understandably, cast members from both shows build relationships over the years. Specifically Jaleel White and Cosby star Bill Cosby. Jaleel recently opened up about that relationship and how he worked to distance himself from it in the years since Cosby’s allegations.
Bill Cosby was born William Henry Cosby Jr. on July 12, 1937 and is an American actor, stand-up comedian, producer and author who was a Hollywood legend for over six decades before being convicted of a number of sex offenses in 2018. Cosby’s greatest contribution to the world was by far The Cosby Show. Debuting in September of 1984, Cosby was involved in every aspect of the series, even pulling inspiration from his own life to inform the characters and plot lines. The leads Cliff and Clair Huxtable were inspired by Cosby and his wife Camille who, like the characters, were also college-educated and financially successful with five children.
Despite going off the air in 1992, Cosby Show paved the way for several follow-up shows showcase modern black family. In entered Family Matters, about a middle class family in Chicago. Unlike Cosby Show however, Family Matters was not solely centered on the family, but instead shifted focus almost exclusively to neighbor Urkle played by White, who stole the show after what should have been a one off cameo in season 1. Jaleel White has spoken candidly about the character and how the role shaped his life in the years prior.
During his recent episode of TV One’s Uncensored, White talked about his relationship with Cosby whom he considered a mentor. White auditioned to play Cosby’s youngest son at one point and the two have gotten close. “I fostered a relationship with Mr. Cosby, separate and apart,” he revealed. “Many dinners at his house, breakfasts, I even ran into a rough patch…and he’s directly responsible for why I ended up at William Morris Agency, which became an education unto itself.”
He went on “I actually had a bit of a falling out with Mr. Cosby…I kept that to myself,” he added. “Knocking off these monuments who are still human beings, it’s tough! And you go back in time, and you realize how close you were to something, and you put yourself in rooms where you realize his wife wasn’t there, that woman was probably there for that purpose. You know, it’s a hell of a hindsight thing to look at, and you don’t want anyone to feel like you’re trying to use them for clout. You know what I’m saying? A revered man did terrible things, and he’s paying the price. I think that’s where we leave it: A revered man did a terrible thing, and he is paying the appropriate price.”