'Family Matters' Star Reginald VelJohnson Talks Challenging Co-Stars and Being an Iconic TV Dad (Exclusive)
By Zach Seemayer
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As one of TV's most iconic dads, Family Matters star Reginald VelJohnson will forever be remembered for his role as the caring and compassionate Carl Winslow. Now, the veteran actor is looking back with ET at his memories of the show.
One of the most enduring pop-culture touchstones that Family Matters sparked is the character of the Winslow family's nerdy, comically obnoxious next-door neighbor Steve Urkel -- played by Jaleel White.
"He was a wonderful kid, [but] I think working with him was a challenge," VelJohnson recalled while speaking with ET's Nischelle Turner. "Working with everybody was a challenge, and there were some moments where he was a little difficult. But overall, I have nothing but good memories from him."
"I think, you know, a lot of the kids grew up on the set and we had to deal with children... and that was an interesting experience, dealing with children as they grew up," he recalled. "I went to my dressing room and locked the door when I [rehearsed] my scenes because that was the only way. Because kids have a lot of energy... [and] you couldn't deal with it."
"I remember one incident, he [and] the kids were playing basketball on the set, and I just couldn’t take it. I said, 'Please, please stop the basketball!' And they wouldn’t stop," he recalled. "I said, 'Listen, you either stop the basketball playing or I’m gonna leave.' And I left. But there was no more basketball after that."
Meanwhile, VelJohnson had nothing but fun with his on-screen wife, JoMarie Payton, who played Harriette Winslow for nearly the show's entire nine-season run.
"I just fell in love with her the first time I saw her, I really did. And she's really wonderful to work with," VelJohnson marveled. "I think that she’s a special lady, you know, and that’s how I approached the role. Because she was the best to work with."
"We never had arguments or anything on the set. Never. Not once, not ever," he added. "I really appreciate that because I made sure that our relationship on the set and off the set was gonna be a good one."
"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."