Jaleel White

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Jaleel White
Jaleel White in December 2010
Born Jaleel Ahmad White
(1976-11-27) November 27, 1976 (age 40)
Pasadena, California, United States
Nationality American
Alma mater UCLA (B.A.)
Occupation Actor, voice actor, screenwriter, producer
Years active 1984–present
Known for Steve Urkel in Family Matters
Sonic the Hedgehog in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) and Sonic Underground
Partner(s) Bridget Hardy (2006-2009)
Children 1
Website www.jaleelwhite.com

Jaleel Ahmad White (born November 27, 1976)[1] is an American actor, voice actor, producer, and screenwriter. In 1989, he was cast in the role of Steve Urkel on the sitcom Family Matters.[2] The character, which was originally intended to be a one-time guest appearance, was an instant hit with audiences and White became a regular cast member. The series aired for a total of nine seasons, from 1989 to 1997 on ABC, and from 1997 to 1998 on CBS. Aside from this character, White is also known as the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in the animated series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic (SatAM) and Sonic Underground. He reprised the voice of Sonic in the 2013 fan film, Sonic.

After Family Matters ended, White starred in the UPN series Grown Ups from 1999 to 2000. He later attended UCLA where he graduated with a degree in film and television in 2001. He has continued his acting career with roles in Dreamgirls (2006), and guest stints on Boston Legal, House, and Psych. In March 2012, White appeared as a contestant in season 14 of Dancing with the Stars and was voted off in May 2012. In April 2012, White hosted the game show Total Blackout, which aired on the Syfy channel.

Early life[edit]

White was born in Culver City, California, the only child of Michael White, a dentist, and Gail, a homemaker who later became his manager. White attended John Marshall Fundamental High School and South Pasadena High School before graduating from UCLA in 2001.[3] On the advice of his preschool teacher, White began acting as a child. He got his start on TV commercials at age 3. One of White's notable commercial appearances was for Jell-O pudding pops alongside Bill Cosby.[1][4][5]


After starting his career at the age of three, White's first television role was a guest stint on The Jeffersons, in 1984. He later auditioned for the role of Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. According to White, he was cast in the role (the character was originally intended to be male) but was replaced by Keshia Knight Pulliam when Bill Cosby decided to mirror his television family after his real life family.[6] The following year, he was cast as the son of Flip Wilson and Gladys Knight on the CBS sitcom Charlie and Company. The series was intended to be CBS' answer to the highly rated Cosby Show which debuted on NBC in 1984.[7] Unlike The Cosby Show, Charlie and Company did not catch on with audiences and was canceled in May 1986.[8] In 1987, he appeared in the pilot episode for Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and had a guest role on Mr. Belvedere. In 1988, White had a supporting role in Cadets, a sitcom starring Soleil Moon Frye. The pilot episode aired during a preview special on September 25, 1988 on ABC. The series, however, was not picked up by the network.[9] Also during the 1980s, he appeared in a few segments of NBC's One to Grow On.

In September 1990, White had a role in the NBC television movie Camp Cucamonga. The film features an ensemble cast including Sherman Hemsley, Jennifer Aniston, and Brian Robbins. Several other child actors of the era including Chad Allen, Candace Cameron, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Countess Vaughn, and Breckin Meyer also appear.

Family Matters[edit]

At the age of 12, White originated his most famous role, Steve Urkel, on Family Matters. The role was initially conceived as a one-time guest appearance, but the character proved to be popular and White was given a full-time starring role. He also played several other members of the Urkel family, including his alter ego Stefan Urquelle and Myrtle Urkel. During the height of Family Matters' popularity, the character of Urkel was marketed with breakfast cereal (Urkel-Os) and an Urkel doll.[10] In addition to starring in the series, White also wrote several episodes, including one, at age 19, that was the series' highest rated for that year.[11] The series was a staple of ABC's TGIF lineup and would go to become one of the longest-running sitcoms with a predominately African American cast in television history.[12]

In 1992 he was featured in The Jaleel White Special, where he played a fictionalized version of himself making a movie, while also playing Steve Urkel.[13]

By the time the series ended in 1998, White, who was then 22 years old, had grown tired of the role. Shortly after the series' cancellation, he stated in a 1999 interview, "If you ever see me do that character again, take me out and put a bullet in my head and put me out of my misery."[14] Due to the character's popularity, White was so tightly defined by his Urkel character that he encountered difficulty finding other roles.[14]

In later years, White came to terms with the character. In a 2011 interview with Vanity Fair, he addressed the 1999 "bullet" quote stating, "It’s one of those things that it’s very unfortunate how quotes are taken out of context. I remember that interview very vividly. I loved playing those characters [...] But the fact is that I was maturing. [...] To be honest, I was retarding my own growth as a man in order to maintain the authenticity to what I thought that character should be." When asked if he would ever reprise the Steve Urkel role, White said, "I’ll always say never say never; I’m a pretty creative person. I can’t envision how I could do it in a way that would be irreverent and fun for both me and the viewing audience..."[6]

Post-Family Matters career[edit]

In 1999, White returned to television in the UPN sitcom Grown Ups. The series was based around White as a young man striking out into adulthood. He also co-produced and wrote some episodes for the show, in which he starred as "J", a college graduate struggling to establish his role in life as an adult. The pilot episode featured another former child actor, Soleil Moon Frye, known for her role as Punky Brewster, as the girl whom he chose as a roommate.[15] The show received poor reviews from critics but debuted in second place in the ratings upon its premiere.[16] However, ratings soon dropped and UPN canceled the series after one season.[17]

White's acting roles have not been restricted to sitcoms. He has done voice work for several animated projects including Warner Bros.' 1998 film Quest for Camelot.[18] In 1999, he provided the voice for a teenaged Martin Luther King, Jr., in Our Friend, Martin.

He was also the voice of the famed video game character Sonic the Hedgehog in all of the American produced animated series: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog,[18] Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic Underground and the Christmas special. In Sonic Underground, White also voiced Sonic's brother and sister, Manic and Sonia.[19]

In 2001, White graduated from UCLA with a degree in film and television.[20] He has continued acting and has had small parts in the films Big Fat Liar (in a cameo role) and Dreamgirls, and was featured as the lead role in the direct-to-DVD comedy Who Made the Potatoe Salad? in 2006.[21] In 2007, he guest-starred on the CW series The Game, followed by a role as a law school graduate interviewing for a job at Crane, Poole and Schmidt in the ABC legal drama Boston Legal.[21]

In June 2009, White began appearing in the web series Road to the Altar.[22] In the series, White stars as Simon, a 30-something black man marrying a young Jewish girl named Rochelle. In September 2009, White guest starred on the USA Network series Psych, as an estranged college singing buddy of the character Gus.

In June 2010, White starred in the web series Fake It Till You Make It. He also serves as writer and producer of the series. The series, which premiered on Hulu, follows the exploits of former child star Reggie Cullen (White) turned image consultant and his three protégés as they hustle to navigate Hollywood.[23] In March 2011, White guest starred on the TBS sitcom Are We There Yet?, which reunited him with fellow Family Matters cast member Telma Hopkins. Later that same year, White appeared as the star in Cee-Lo Green's music video for his song "Cry Baby".[24]

In October 2011, White appeared in the season 8 premiere of House, titled "Twenty Vicodin", where he appears as a well-connected inmate, occasionally helping Hugh Laurie's character Gregory House to sneak contraband into the prison.[25] In April 2012, White began hosting the Syfy game show Total Blackout.[26]

In 2015, White appeared in a Scion commercial.[27]

Dancing with the Stars[edit]

In March 2012, White began competing on the season 14 of Dancing with the Stars. He was partnered with 2-time dance champion Kym Johnson.[28] In the opening night's performance, White and Johnson danced the Foxtrot to "The Way You Look Tonight". They earned a total of 26 points out of 30.[29] White was voted off the series in May 2012.[30]

Personal life[edit]

White has one daughter, Samaya (born in 2009), from a previous relationship.[31][32]


Year Title Role Notes
1998 Quest for Camelot Bladebeak Voice role
1999 Our Friend, Martin Martin at age 15 Direct-to-video release
2002 Big Fat Liar Himself Uncredited
2006 Miracle Dogs Too Leo Direct-to-video release
Puff, Puff, Pass Tenant #2
Who Made the Potatoe Salad? Michael
Dreamgirls Talent Booker Cameo
2008 Kissing Cousins Antwone
Green Flash Jason Bootie Direct-to-DVD release
Alternative title: Beach Kings
2009 Call of the Wild Dr. Spencer
Road to the Altar Simon Fox
2010 Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus Dr. McCormick Direct-to-DVD release
2011 Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer Mr. Todd
2012 Rhymes with Banana J
2013 Sonic Sonic the Hedgehog Voice role, Fan film
The Wrong Woman Detective Hamer
2014 Dumbbells The Leader
Santa Con Paul Greenberg
2016 Mommy I Didn't Do It Detective Hamer
Year Title Role Notes
1984 The Jeffersons Van Van Morris Episode: "Ebony and Ivory"
Silence of the Heart Hanry Television movie
1985 Kids Don't Tell Christofer Television movie
Charlie & Co. Robert Richmond 18 episodes
1986 The Disney Sunday Movie Jake Episode: "The Leftovers"
1987 Mr. Belvedere Ernie Masters Episode: "Jobless"
Good Morning, Miss Bliss Bobby Wilson Episode: Pilot
Jay Leno's Comedy Hour Kid Eating Cake #5 Television special
1988 Cadets Cadet Nicholls Unsold pilot episode
1989–98 Family Matters Steve Urkel, Stefan Urquelle, various Urkel family members 204 episodes
1990 Camp Cucamonga Dennis Brooks Television movie
1991 Full House Steve Urkel Episode: "Stephanie Gets Framed"
Step by Step Episode: "The Dance"
1992 The Jaleel White Special[33] Himself / Steve Urkel Television special
1993 Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog Sonic the Hedgehog, Masonic Voice role; 65 episodes; Masonic – Episode: "Robotnik's Pyramid Scheme"
1993–94 Sonic the Hedgehog Sonic the Hedgehog
Super Sonic (originally)
Voice role; all 26 episodes
1995 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Derek Episode: "Not with My Cousin You Don't"
1996 Sonic Christmas Blast! Sonic the Hedgehog Voice role; television special
1997 Step by Step Crew Member/Steve Urkel Episode: "A Star is Born"; uncredited
Meego Steve Urkel 2 episodes
1999–2000 Grown Ups J. Calvin Frazier
1999 Sonic Underground Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonia the Hedgehog, Manic the Hedgehog, Aman-Rapi Voice role; Triplets – 40 episodes; Aman-Rapi – Episode: "Mummy Dearest"
2003 111 Gramercy Park BJ Brown Unsold pilot episode
2005 Half & Half Hershel Episode: "The Big State of the Reunion Episode"
2007 The Game Chris Episode: "The Big Chill"
Boston Legal Kevin Givens Episode: "Guise 'n Dolls"
2009, 2012 Psych Tony 2 episodes
2010 Fake It Till You Make It Reggie Culkin 8 episodes; executive producer
2011 The Problem Solverz K-999 Voice; 2 episodes
Are We There Yet? Ray Savage Episode: "The Nick Gets Jealous Episode"
House Portland Episode: "Twenty Vicodin"
Love That Girl! Director Episode: "Director's Cut"
2012 NCIS Martin Episode: "A Desperate Man"
SuperF*ckers Percy / Omnizod Voice; web series
2012–13 Total Blackout Host 24 episodes
2013 Regular Show Cool Shade / Darryl[34] Voice role; episode: "TGI Tuesday"
2014 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Kenny / Passenger Episode: "Keep Calm & Carry On"
Celebrities Undercover Himself Episode: "Joey Fatone & Jaleel White"
2014, 2015 Drunk History Grandmaster Caz/Bass Reeves 2 episodes
2015 Hell's Kitchen Himself Episode: "11 Chefs Compete"
Hawaii Five-0 Nolan Fremont Episode: "Ho'amoano"
Castle Mickey Franks Episode: "Dead in New York"
2016 The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness Himself Episode: "The 90's"
Survivor's Remorse Derek Episode: "The Photoshoot"
Celebrity Family Feud Himself Season 2, Episode 7
2016 Atlanta Himself Episode: "Nobody Beats the Biebs"
Video games
Year Title Voice role Notes
2011 Sonic Generations Classic Sonic Originally before or while in development

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title of work Result
1985 Young Artist Award Best Young Actor - Guest in a Television Series The Jeffersons Nominated
1986 Best Young Supporting Actor in a New Television Series Charlie & Co.
1991 Outstanding Young Comedian in a Television Series Family Matters Won
1994 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress
1996 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Television Actor Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
1997 Won


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  34. ^ Regular Show Season 4 Episode 10 closing credits

External links[edit]