Primetime television in the 90s was all about block programming, and no programming block was more memorable than ABC’s TGIF. An acronym for “Thank Goodness It’s Friday,” TGIF mainly featured sitcoms geared toward a family audience, such as Full House, Step-By-Step and Boy Meets World. One of the most unforgettable of those comedies, however, was Family Matters, a spin-off of Perfect Strangers that revolved around the Winslow family, a middle-class African-American family living in Chicago, Illinois. Midway through the show’s first season, the writer’s introduced the Winslow’s nerdy neighbor, Steve Urkel, who quickly became a fan favorite and eventually the show’s main, and most iconic, character. With its witty writing, endearing characters and talented cast, it’s no wonder that the series continued for nine seasons, crossing over with several other TGIF shows and even surviving a network transfer to CBS. However, what became of the show’s gifted roster of actors and actresses? Keep reading to find out what happened to the people behind the Winslows and their extended family and friends!
Reginald VelJohnson (Carl Winslow)
Before Family Matters, Reginald VelJohnson, who played the patriarch of the Winslow family, didn’t have any major television or movie roles. He appeared as a jail guard in Ghostbusters (1984), a limo driver in Crocodile Dundee (1986) and a police officer in Turner & Hooch (1989). His most prevalent role before Family Matters was that of Sgt. Al Powell in the action-packed blockbuster Die Hard, a role which he reprised in the 1990 sequel. It was scoring the role of Carl Winslow in the hit sitcom Perfect Strangers that really put VelJohnson on the acting map—and when his character and his family became so popular that they spawned a spin-off, it was clear that he would have a long and prosperous career.
That is exactly what happened for VelJohnsom post-Family Matters. He’s guest-starred on a plethora of shows, including Diagnosis: Murder, The Hughleys, CSI, Will & Grace, That’s So Raven, Ghost Whisperer, Monk, Bones and Chuck. In 2004, he landed the title role in the off-Broadway show She All Dat! and has since then been involved in a lot of theater work. Additionally, he wrote a critically acclaimed anthology of short stories called Division Street. He is currently a recurring character on the CW show Hart of Dixie as the head reporter of the local newspaper.
Jo Marie Payton (Harriette Winslow)
Like Reginald VelJohnson, Jo Marie Payton’s roles before Family Matters were minor. Her role as Harriette Winslow in first Perfect Strangers and then Family Matters is what defined her acting career. After leaving Family Matters halfway through its final season, Payton went on to guest star on a multitude of shows, such as The Jaime Foxx Show, Moesha, 7th Heaven, Will & Grace, The Hughleys, Judging Amy, Girlfriends, Desperate Housewives, Meet the Browns, The Rev and Mann & Wife. In 2001, she landed the role as the voice actress for Suga Mama in the cartoon The Proud Family. Fans can expect to see her in the upcoming movies Heart of a Champion, A Student’s Obsession, 54:17 and Jerico.
Darius McCrary (Eddie Winslow)
Darius McCrary, who portrayed the eldest Winslow child, Eddie, started his career when he was just eleven years old by landing a role in the 1987 comedy Big Shots. After that, he scored one-episode appearances on a few sitcoms as well as a role in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning. That next year, he got the role of Eddie Winslow on Family Matters. After the show ended, McCrary went on to enjoy a very lucrative acting career. He co-starred in the short-lived UPN series Freedom, playing the character James Bennett; he played Truck Thomas in the TV miniseries Kingpin; he had several-episode stints on the shows Committed and Eve; he guest-starred on the shows Girlfriends, Cold Case, Rizolli & Isles, The Soul Man, and most recently The Leftovers and Minority Report; and, he had recurring roles on The Young and the Restless and Anger Management. Fans can anticipate seeing him in the upcoming TV movie Snowfall.
Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura Winslow)
Kellie Shanygne Williams was only thirteen years old when she landed the role of Laura Winslow, the middle child of the Winslow family and Steve Urkel’s crush. Before that, she had only had a few minor acting roles. After the show ended, she enjoyed a successful career as an actress. She landed a role on the short-lived ABC sitcom What About Joan?,” co-starring Kyle Chandler and Joan Cusack. Following that, she had guest spots on the shows Girlfriends, The Parkers, In the Mix and Eve. In 2009, she married Hannibal Jackson, with whom she has two children. Since then, she’s stepped back from acting, appearing in a few short films. She has no current projects on the horizon.
Jaime Foxworth (Judy Winslow)
Jaime Foxworth launched her career when she was five years old, starting as a child model and then doing national commercials for television. When she was ten, she landed the role of Judy Winslow, the youngest of the Winslow children. One of the show’s most eye-raising parts, however, is how they chose to write Judy out of the show, because the writer’s saw her as serving no purpose on the show. At the end of the fourth season, she simply went up to her room and was never seen again. Afterwards, Foxworth formed a musical group called S.H.E. with her two sisters, which didn’t last long.
It was in her later years that she began to suffer from depression and substance abuse, finally ending up on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. After that, she shifted her attention to making pornographic films under the pseudonym Crave.
Jaleel White (Steve Urkel)
At this point in popular culture, it’s impossible to mention Family Matters without immediately thinking of Steve Urkel. Jaleel White joined the cast midway through the show’s first season as the lovable nerd Steve Urkel. He quickly became the show’s standout star, inspiring tons of merchandise and catchphrases and ultimately securing lasting fame for White. In fact, his character became so popular that the show eventually made him the main character. After Family Matters ended, White scored roles on several other projects, including that of J. Calvin Frazier in the TV show Grown Ups, voicing Sonic in the cartoon Sonic Underground and Reggie Culkin on Fake It Til You Make It. He also guest-starred on Are We There Yet?, House M.D., NCIS, Psyche, Children’s Hospital, Drop Dead Diva, CSI, Hawaii Five-O, Castle, The Soul Man and Drunk History. In 2012, he appeared on Dancing with the Stars, and shortly thereafter, he became the host of Syfy’s show Total Blackout. Fans can expect to see him in the upcoming movies The Choir Director and The Preacher’s Son.
Rosetta LaNoire (Estelle Winslow)
Before playing the sweet yet sassy grandmother on Family Matters, Rosetta LaNoire was very involved in theater, founding AMAS Repertory Theater Company, a nonprofit theater group intended to promote more diversity in casting. Her first television role was on Guiding Light in 1952, and some of her other television credits before Family Matters are: Ryan’s Hope, Fantasy Island, Tales from the Darkside, Gimme a Break! and Amen. After Family Matters ended in 1998, LaNoire appeared in one episode of Cosby. In 1999, she received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton for her efforts to combat discrimination. Sadly, in 2002, LaNoire passed away due to diabetes. She was 90 years old.
Telma Hopkins (Rachel Crawford)
Before landing the role of Aunt Rachel on Family Matters, Telma Hopkins was a member of the 1970s pop group Tony Orlando & Dawn. She had also already had roles on Bosom Buddies and Gimme a Break! before becoming a series regular on Family Matters. Although her character started as a series regular, she became recurring in the later seasons. After Family Matters was over, she continued working in television, guest-starring on the shows ER, Good vs. Evil, Suddenly Susan, For Your Love and The Hughleys. In 2002, she scored her second major role as Phylis Thorne on the TV show Half & Half, and she continued playing that role for the entirety of the show’s four seasons. Afterwards, she joined the cast of Are We There Yet? as Marilyn Persons, staying on that show until 2012. Her most recent roles include Ruth Jackson on the TV show Partners, Grandma Rose on the TV show Lab Rats, Miss Holley on K.C. Undercover and Deborah in the TV movie Welcome to the Family.
Bryton McClure (Richie Crawford)
Family Matters was Bryton McClure’s (now Bryton James) first acting role, and he did a stellar job of portraying Rachel’s son Richie for the entirety of the show’s run. After the show ended, McClure changed his name to Bryton James and continued acting. He voiced the character Jason/Z-Strap on the TV show Zevo-3, played the witch Luka Martin on The CW’s hit show The Vampire Diaries, played Mark Surge on the TV show Hero Factory, and did more voice-acting for the shows Young Justice, Winx Club and Star Wars: Rebels. In addition, he has played the character Devon Hamilton on The Young and the Restless since 2004, earning him a Daytime Emmy Award and an NAACP Image Award.
Cherie Johnson (Max Johnson)
Cherie Johnson began acting when she was only six years old; the first character that she portrayed was that of “Cherie” on Punky Brewster. After four years of playing Cherie, she landed the role of Max on Family Matters, the role that she would become most well-known for. Nevertheless, she stayed active in acting after the series ended, even adding producing and writing to her resume. Some of her notable film credits include: Dead Tone, The Intruderrs, Raven, Fanaddict, Guardians of Eden, One Blood and Plum. She’s also appeared on the shows The Parkers, Eve, The Bay and The Therapist. Additionally, she has a shoe line called Cherie Bombs, a magazine called Dimez, a line of hair oil products called Wild Cheri and is the author of two books, Peaches and Cream and Stupid Guy Diaries.
Shawn Harrison (Waldo Geraldo Faldo)
Before scoring the role of Eddie Winslow’s dim-witted best friend, Waldo Geraldo Faldo, Shawn Harrison was doing small roles on many shows, such as L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues and Punky Brewster. Post Family Matters, Harrison continued working in television. In 2002, he joined the cast of Girlfriends as the character Peaches, and in 2006, he landed a voice acting role as Timber Wolf on Legion of Superheroes. His most recent role was that of Tyrone in the movie Silent but Deadly in 2012.
Michelle Thomas (Myra Monkhouse)
Before Michelle Thomas joined the cast of Family Matters as Myra Monkhouse, the on-again-off-again object of Steve Urkel’s affections, she played Justine Philips, Theo Huxtable’s girlfriend on The Cosby Show. After wrapping up her role on Family Matters, Thomas played Callie Rogers on The Young and the Restless for three months before dying from stomach cancer. She was 30 years old.
Last but not least, we have Naya Riveria Dorsey, who played Gwendolyn, Richie’s admirer. Although she only appeared in three episodes of the series, she certainly left an impression. After Family Matters, Dorsey scored roles on Baywatch, Smart Guy, The Bernie Mac Show and 8 Simple Rules before landing her most well-known role: that of Santana Lopez on the hit FOX show Glee. After six seasons on that show, she joined the cast of Devious Maids as the character Blanca Alvarez. In addition to acting, Dorsey has also ventured into music; on September 17, 2013, she released her first solo single “Sorry” with rapper Big Sean.