'Family Matters' Star JoMarie Payton Says Jaleel White Once Threatened to Fight Her on Set (Exclusive)
By Meredith B. Kile
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On Family Matters, the Winslows were a tight-knit bunch. But, as it turns out, there was some drama going on behind the scenes of the beloved '90s sitcom!
ET's Rachel Smith recently sat down with JoMarie Payton, the iconic actress who starred as matriarch Harriette Winslow for almost all of the series' nine-season run -- as part of our Mother's Day celebration of Iconic TV Moms -- and she shared some surprising memories from her time on the show.
The breakout star of Family Matters was, of course, Steve Urkel, played by Jaleel White, and Payton was candid about how the young star's rise to fame may have affected his attitude on set.
"There was one time he actually wanted to physically fight me," Payton noted, recalling the season 9 episode, "Original Gangsta Dawg," in which White also played Steve's "gangster" cousin, OGD. "[There was a scene where] I said we can't do that, standards and practices will not let that pass, it's not gonna happen. He wanted to do it anyway... He was so mad, he started kicking and screaming and stuff."
"He said something about, 'She must want to melee.' I said, 'What's a melee?' He said, 'a fight.' I turned around -- if he wanna fight, I would," she continued. "Darius [McCrary] grabbed me. I was gonna whip his behind."
With years of perspective, Payton said, she recognizes that White was "just a kid" at the time and doesn't give him "all the credit" for his behavior.
"I give some of those adults credit too," she added. "Letting him run wild and do whatever he wanted to do, thinking he can say what he wants to say, you know, and hurt people's feelings and all that."
Her encounters with White weren't the only time Payton's mama bear hackles were raised on set -- as she joked, "I'm a Leo, I'm a fighter."
The actress also recalled being put off when the show's producers decided to unceremoniously fire Jaimee Foxworth, who played the youngest Winslow sibling, Judy, for the show's first four seasons.
"For me, it was a bad decision," Payton remembered. "When I asked what happened to her, as she wasn't at rehearsal, I was told that it didn't matter. Nobody's gonna notice."
"They took my baby," she continued, explaining how maternal she felt to the child stars in the cast. "If they had taken the oldest child the way they did with The Cosby Show and they put her off in another show, you could make excuses that she's out with her friends. She could reoccur, you could do whatever you want to. But when you take the baby?"
For her part, Payton said she's tried her best to leave the hard feelings in the past and reflect on the enduring love for the show.
"I did love all of my Family Matters crew," she noted. "I've kept in touch with a lot of them, I see them on other shows... I love them all. We had incredible writers, I love them, and they know who my issue was with. It wasn't with the entirety of them."
That said, would she be willing to get back together with the cast and crew for a Family Matters reboot or reunion? "You know what I tell people? I never say never."