‘Family Matters’: Where Are They Now?

A look back at characters from the second-longest-running black sitcom 15 years after it went off the air.

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    Michelle Johnson(Miller Boyett Productions); Jaleel White (Miller Boyett Productions); Telma Hopkins (Miller Boyett Productions)
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    Reginald VelJohnson, Then

    Carl Otis Winslow, the head of the Winslow household, was often the victim of pesky neighbor Steve Urkel’s nerdy inventions. He even had to adopt a mantra for when he felt Steve was raising his blood pressure.

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    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    Reginald VelJohnson, Now

    VelJohnson has appeared in several TV series over the past few years, including Hart of Dixie, in which he played Dash DeWitt, and Mike & Molly, as Brother Heywood. Last year he starred in the YouTube clip “Kill Urkel,” as a psych patient who is haunted by memories of Steve Urkel.

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    Boyett Productions

    JoMarie Payton, Then

    Harriette Winslow always spoke her mind when it came to issues within her family. Harriette first appeared as an elevator operator on an episode of Perfect Strangers and was such a popular character that the producers created Family Matters to showcase her family. Payton, who was replaced in the final season of the show by Judyann Elder, said in an interview with TV Series Finale that she left because she wanted to work on other projects, including a music career.

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    Aaron Davidson/WireImage/Getty Images

    JoMarie Payton, Now

    Since leaving Family Matters, Payton has worked sporadically in Hollywood, with one-off appearances on several TV series (Meet the Browns, Desperate Housewives and Reba). In July 2013 she appeared on The Doctors to share her favorite smoothie recipe. She was the voice behind Suga Mama on Disney’s The Proud Family in the early 2000s and played Hakeem’s mom on Moesha in the late ’90s.

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    Boyett Productions

    Jaleel White, Then

    Steve Urkel was the Winslows’ nerdy and annoying next-door neighbor. He’d come over to bug the love of his life, Laura, and was always asking for cheese. White played multiple characters on the show, including his alter ego, Stefan Urquelle, and his country cousin Myrtle Urkel. One of our favorite early episodes? When he proved to be the life of the party by “doing the Urkel.” (Peep Larenz Tate as an extra.)

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    Mike Coppola/Getty Images

    Jaleel White, Now

    White has been busy over the past few years, with several movies and TV series in the works. It is rumored that he has been tapped to play James Baldwin in a Lorraine Hansberry biopic. In 2012 he was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars (making it to the seventh week) and the host of Syfy’s Total Blackout.

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    Boyett Productions

    Darius McCrary, Then

    Eddie was Harriette and Carl’s oldest child and fancied himself God’s gift to women. He had a short love affair with Tracie Spencer and often had to duck advances from Steve’s cousin Myrtle. But his longest relationship was with Greta (Tammy Townsend), who even came to blows with Myrtle a few times. He also considered Steve to be one of his best friends. At the end of the series, he took after his father and became a Chicago police officer.

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    Davis/Getty Images

    Darius McCrary, Now

    McCrary had a recurring role last year in the TV series Anger Management. From 2009 to 2011 he played Malcolm Winters (formerly played by Shemar Moore) on The Young and the Restless. And he’s appeared in several independent films in the 2000s, including He’s Mine Not Yours, The Perfect Gift, 35 and Ticking and Steppin: The Movie, with former co-star Kellie Shanygne Williams. He has also been in the news for his former marriage to video vixen-turned-New York Times best-selling author Karrine Steffans.

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    Kellie Shanygne Williams, Then

    Laura was smart and popular — and, of course, the apple of Steve Urkel’s eye. She couldn’t stand Steve, but he was anxiously awaiting the day when that would change. (“I’m wearing you dooooowwwn, baby. I’m wearin’ you doooown,” he would say.) And eventually he did. Laura and Steve were engaged in the final season.

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    Kellie Shanygne Williams, Now

    In 2009 Williams was the host of Clean House and appeared in Steppin: The Movie. Williams is also a strong advocate for the arts in the Washington, D.C., area. In 2001 she had a recurring role on What About Joan

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    Boyett Productions

    Rosetta LeNoire, Then

    Mother Winslow provided guidance for all the family members and was a great friend to Steve Urkel, who referred to her as “Estelle my belle.” Late in the series, she got her groove back and married Fletcher Thomas, much to Carl’s initial disapproval.

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    John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

    Rosetta LeNoire, Now

    After Family Matters, Mother Winslow appeared on an episode of Cosby. In 1999 President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts for her early work in expanding opportunities for minorities in theater. Fact: LeNoire’s godfather was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. LeNoire died in 2002 in Teaneck, N.J., at the age of 90.

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    Telma Hopkins, center (Boyett Productions)

    Telma Hopkins, Then

    Rachel was Harriette’s free-spirited younger sister (although Hopkins is actually two years older than JoMarie Payton). For a short time she managed Rachel’s Place, a local hangout where Laura was an employee. Rachel was regularly on the show for the first four seasons and had occasional appearances after a yearlong hiatus.

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    Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

    Telma Hopkins, Now

    Most recently, Hopkins appeared in the TV series Are We There Yet? In 2008 she appeared in J.D. Lawrence’s play The Clean Up Woman. In the early 2000s she played Phyllis Thorne on the CW’s Half & Half.

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    Boyett Productions

    Bryton James, Then

    Little Richie, Rachel’s son, provided a bit of youthful comic relief in the early seasons of Family Matters. His father died before he was born, which prompted him and his mom to move in with the Winslows. Richie, Jheri curl and all, really admired Steve Urkel and looked up to him as an older brother. (Remember when Glee’s Naya Rivera played his little girlfriend, Gwendolyn?)

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    Bryton James, Now

    If you’re a fan of The Young and the Restless, you’ll know that James has grown into a handsome young man. He plays Devon Hamilton, the adopted son of Neil and Drucilla Winters. He has also appeared in several TV series, including Young Justice, Hero Factory and The Vampire Diaries.

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    Boyett Productions

    Shawn Harrison, Then

    Waldo Geraldo Faldo really wasn’t all that smart, but he was one of Eddie’s best friends. Waldo had a couple of talents, though, that were revealed in later seasons: He was a great tap dancer and an excellent cook.

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    Shawn Harrison, Now

    Perhaps Harrison’s most memorable role since Family Matters was as Peaches, Joan’s assistant in Girlfriends. He also voiced the character of Timber Wolf in the TV series Legion of Super Heroes.

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    Miller-Boyett Productions

    Jaimee Foxworth, Then

    Judy was the youngest Winslow child and must have been in time-out after the show’s fourth season. (She literally went up to her room and never came back.) “The official name is denial, hoping the audience won’t notice,” producer William Bickley told People magazine, adding that it was “a budget consideration.”

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    Jaimee Foxworth, Now

    Since Family Matters, Foxworth’s acting chops have pretty much been limited to the world of porn. These, um, performances even include a porn parody of The Jeffersons. She has also appeared in several reality and talk shows in the 2000s, including Life After, Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew and Oprah.

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    Boyett Productions

    Cherie Johnson, Then

    Maxine was Laura’s best friend — and Waldo’s girlfriend. Maxine and Laura were both cheerleaders, and Max was often trying to get Laura to break out of her goody-two-shoes mold.

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    Cherie Johnson, Now

    In 2012 she published her first book, Peaches and Cream, about a young girl from a small town in Pennsylvania who dreams of making it big. Johnson has appeared in a few independent films this year, including Crush and A Place Called Hollywood.

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    Boyett Productions

    Michelle Thomas, Then

    Myra Monkhouse was Steve Urkel’s peppy and quirky girlfriend. (She even had Steve Urkel wallpaper.) She and Laura had several tit-for-tat confrontations, especially after Laura realized that she loved Steve.

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    Michelle Thomas, Now

    After Family Matters, Thomas appeared in The Young and the Restless, and she was the love interest in the Dru Hill music video for “Never Make a Promise.” Thomas’ father is Dennis Thomas, saxophonist and musical director for Kool & the Gang. Thomas died in 1998 in New York City after a battle with cancer. She was 30.

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    Orlando Brown, Then

    One sure sign that a sitcom is about to jump the shark? It adds a cute little kid to the cast. Enter 3J (“Jerry Jamal Jameson”): He was a troubled child whom the Winslows adopted in the eighth season.

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    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Orlando Brown, Now

    Brown had several recurring roles in ’90s sitcoms, including The Jamie Foxx Show, Malcolm and Eddie and Moesha. His most popular role as an adult was as Raven-Symoné’s best friend, Eddie, on Disney’s That’s So Raven. Brown has had several legal issues in the last few years, including an arrest for DUI in 2011 and subsequent arrests pertaining to violations of his probation.

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    Shavar Ross, left (YouTube)

    Shavar Ross, Then

    Ross played Eddie’s friend Weasel. Weasel wasn’t as dim-witted as Waldo, but he was always up to a new scheme, including mooning meter maids.

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    David Livingston/Getty Images

    Shavar Ross, Now

    Ross has worked off and on since playing Weasel. This year he will appear in a documentary about the history of the Friday the 13th franchise. (He appeared in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning in 1985.) Ross has his own entertainment company, which includes a host of websites that he created. In 2008 he appeared in an episode of David Alan Grier’s short-lived TV series Chocolate News.

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    Judyann Elder, Then

    If you tapped out on watching Family Matters after it left ABC’s TGIF lineup, you might have missed Harriette Winslow part deux. Elder played Harriette for just nine episodes of Family Matters.

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    Judyann Elder, Now

    Elder has had a few one-off appearances in TV series in the last few years, including Love That Girl, Cold Case and Desperate Housewives. She is married to another veteran actor, John Cothran Jr. (a well-known character who memorably played the University of Southern California recruiter in Boyz N the Hood).

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