Biography

Jaleel White ascended to cult stardom during his early teenage years with a now-iconic portrayal of über-nerd Steve Urkel on the Friday-night ABC sitcom Family Matters (1989-1998). A veteran of television commercials and guest spots on various prime-time series from early childhood, White appeared as a regular on the short-lived CBS sitcom Charlie & Co. (1985-1986), starring Flip Wilson and Gladys Knight. The Urkel role, however, brought about his greatest popularity, and he landed it not long after the series first bowed in late September 1989 (appearing as early as the 12th episode). Though originally intended as a one-episode guest star, White generated massive popularity among audience members -- encouraging producers Tom Miller and Robert Boyett to rethink their strategy for the show. Urkel quickly became not only a fixture, but the program's lucky charm -- the wild card that turned it into a number one hit, much as the same producers had done with The Fonz, years prior, on Happy Days. Over the course of the program's run, White ascended to prominent billing (also mirroring the Fonzie situation). Unfortunately, as time passed, the Urkel characterization became increasingly difficult to sustain, thanks in no small part to White's accelerating age and height -- which dealt the series writers an incredibly difficult hand and forced them to figure out bizarre ways to work around this handicap (strategies included giving Urkel a "cool" alter-ego, Stefan, and affording that persona a great deal of screen time). The program wrapped in 1998, but in the meantime, White graduated from UCLA Film School, then moved into his heart's true calling -- that of screenwriting. He authored occasional teleplays for such venues as The Disney Channel and PBS, moved into big-screen work (with projects including a feature rewrite for director Joel Zwick), and continued to act on the side. Roles included lead billing in Damon Daniels' independent feature Who Made the Potatoe Salad? (2005) and a supporting contribution to the inspirational volleyball drama Green Flash (2008). He was in the low-budget Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, and in 2011 he played a teacher in Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. In 2012 the artist formerly known as Urkel competed on the 14th season of the popular ABC reality series Dancing With the Stars. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi