Whatever Happened To The Cast Of Family Matters?

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Friday nights in the '90s were ruled by one block of programming: TGIF. TGIF, which stands for "Thank Goodness It's Friday," aired on ABC and included TV shows like "Full House," "Dinosaurs," and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." One of the programming block's best offerings was "Family Matters," a sitcom about the Winslows, a tight-knit family living in Chicago. The show was a major success, running for over 200 episodes and earning an Emmy nomination along the way. With Hollywood stars like Reginald VelJohnson of "Die Hard" fame and comedy veteran Telma Hopkins, as well as one of the most memorable characters in TV history on the cast, the show was bound to be a hit. 

It's been over 20 years since "Family Matters" ended, and fans love the show just the same. Although it no longer airs on ABC on Friday nights, the sitcom is still watched by some thanks to streaming platforms, and Steve Urkel is still just as beloved — or annoying — now as he was when the show was in its prime. Because "Family Matters" ran for so long, viewers spent many years of their lives becoming familiar with these characters, and naturally, many wonder what the cast is up to today. If you're one such viewer, you're in luck. We've got the scoop on what happened to all your favorite "Family Matters" actors. 

Reginald VelJohnson starred in Progressive commercials

Reginald VelJohnson played Carl Winslow on "Family Matters," a loving and protective father who eventually became known as one of America's dads thanks to the role. After "Family Matters" ended, VelJohnson kept acting, popping up in a few sitcoms like "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" where he played himself, and taking on some recurring roles, like on the CW show "Hart of Dixie." 

In early 2023, VelJohnson starred in a slew of "TV Dad" Progressive commercials, heavily leaning into his old status of a beloved father. "It really was warm and I had a good time and they had a good time with me, I hope," VelJohnson told Forbes of his time shooting the Progressive commercials.

VelJohnson also spoke of the legacy of "Family Matters," and why it was so popular at the time it aired. "I think having a Black family on Miller-Boyett's [production] roster was kind of a unique thing, and we got used to being around each other. It just felt good and people seem to like what we were doing and that's why it lasted so long," VelJohnson said. The former TV dad added that he's been prioritizing his health and that, as long as he's healthy and capable, he'll continue acting.

Darius McCrary continued working in entertainment

Darius McCrary became known in the entertainment industry for his role as Eddie Winslow on "Family Matters." Eddie was the only boy in the Winslow family, and while he often found himself getting into teenage trouble, he grew up to be a responsible, protective, brave man. In real life, McCrary continued acting after the end of "Family Matters," finding roles in both film and television shows. McCrary also expanded his work to include producing and rapping, and he still remains involved in the entertainment industry today. "It's just a blessing to be here all these years and to continue working, continue learning, and to have people still interested in what you're doing," McCrary said on Daily Blast LIVE of his continued success in a difficult business.

McCrary also started a podcast called "I'M NOT LAUGHIN'." "I want to give a voice to celebrities because we get such a bad rap a lot of times, and times have changed. It's different now. If you don't say something now when you find yourself on the other end of injustice, then it's just as bad," McCrary told HipHollywood about his show. McCrary co-hosted the podcast with his former co-star Kellie Shanygne Williams.

Kellie Shanygne Williams executive produced A Family Matters Christmas

Kellie Shanygne Williams played Laura Winslow on "Family Matters," the middle child in the Winslow family who was known for her brains. Williams was just a teenager when she began filming "Family Matters," so she became an adult while filming a hit television show. "Growing up in front of the camera was, for me, kind of strange. At the most awkward time in your life, you're in front of the whole world to see. A lot of times I would just watch the show and just be totally, like, embarrassed," Williams said in an interview about the realities of being a child actor.

Williams kept acting after the end of "Family Matters," finding work on TV shows like "What About Jan" and "Eve" in the early and mid-2000s. However, after 2009, Williams took a break from acting, a hiatus that coincided with the birth of her two children. 

The "Family Matters" star returned to her acting career in 2020, and in 2022 she acted in and executive produced "A Family Matters Christmas." The film gave Williams the opportunity to work with a former "Family Matters" castmate, Jo Marie Payton. "Working with JoMarie again is such a pleasure, and I could not wait to rekindle the spark and warmth that millions have come to love," Williams told Vibe.

Jaleel White appeared in lots of TV shows

Jaleel White became such an important fiber of the fabric of "Family Matters" that it's hard to believe there were episodes without him. About halfway through the first season, America was introduced to White via his character Steve Urkel, an irritating yet loveable nerd who was a neighbor of the Winslows. 

Post-"Family Matters," White kept acting. He had roles in several TV shows and movies in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2023, White was credited for roles in "The Ms. Pat Show," "American Dad," and "The Afterparty."

White has had a complicated relationship with the famous character he portrayed. The actor famously said, "If you ever see me playing this character again, put a bullet in my head" in the late '90s. He's since explained why he made that statement, sharing in an interview that, while he was proud of the role when he was in high school, the role had begun to impact his social life in a negative way by the time he was in college. "I was just a 20-year-old kid wanting to be freed of this," White said. "As soon as the show was done, I wanted to do anything that was anti-Urkel," he added. 

White has since come to terms with his character's legacy. "I guard this character with my life," White said of Urkel to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jo Marie Payton made up with a former castmate

Jo Marie Payton was a big part of many a millennial's childhood. She played beloved mother Harriette Winslow on "Family Matters," and she voiced Suga Mama in "The Proud Family," an animated series that aired on the Disney Channel in the early 2000s. Payton had a successful acting career prior to and after "Family Matters," steadily being cast in TV shows and movies throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Payton even reprised her role of Suga Mama in the 2022 "Proud Family" reboot "The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder."

While "Family Matters" was airing, Payton had issues with one of her castmates, Jaleel White. "There was one time he actually wanted to physically fight me," Payton said of White in a 2022 interview with Entertainment Tonight. "[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."

Fans of the show have proven to be curious about the status of Payton and White's relationship, and Payton addressed her past issues again in 2023. "I know you guys see all kinds of things, and yes, sometimes we bump heads and things, but I'll always love him. He was always a child to me, and I don't care how old he gets, he's still a child to me," Payton said at "90s Con," as reported by The Messenger.

Rosetta LeNoire died in 2002

Rosetta LeNoire played Estelle Winslow in "Family Matters." Estelle, the mother to Carl and grandmother to Eddie, Laura, and Judy, was known for wisdom and being the only character to always treat Steve Urkel with kindness. LeNoire was an accomplished actor outside of "Family Matters." In fact, the sitcom was one of her final credits. LeNoire was known for her roles in films like "Moscow on the Hudson" and "Brewster's Millions," and she capped her acting career by receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1999. After a life in entertainment, LeNoire died in 2002.

LeNoire was known for much more than just her film and television career, though. She was also a prominent theater actor and civil rights activist. In 1968, LeNoire started Amas Musical Theater, a performing arts center in New York City founded to provide all people a stage to perform. "I produce musicals. Music is one avenue where no one seems to have discriminatory attitudes. Theatre techniques are a marvelous implement to bring people of all races colors and creeds together. You don't worry what color is; all you care about is the end product," LeNoire said of Amas, as shared by the theater's website. The theater is still running today, providing a place for young artists to flourish and perform.

Bryton James joined a soap opera

Bryton James played Richie Crawford on "Family Matters," a cousin to the Winslows and one of Steve Urkel's few friends. The sitcom was James's first major acting gig, and he's had a steady career ever since. In 1996, James joined the cast of "The Young and the Restless" as Devon Hamilton Winters, and he's played the character ever since, appearing in over 1,500 episodes so far. James even won a Daytime Emmy for his portrayal of the character in 2020.

James made "Family Matters" fans everywhere smile in 2021 when he had a reunion with one of his former co-stars, Telma Hopkins, on "The Young and the Restless." Hopkins played Rachel Crawford, Richie's mother, on "Family Matters," and she joined the soap opera for six episodes, sharing some scenes with James. "When the scene started we had to act like we didn't know each other but it has reminded me and made me feel really grateful about how long I have been able to do this because Telma is one of the reasons that I have enjoyed it for 30 years," James said to Entertainment Weekly about shooting scenes again with Hopkins. "​​To step on my first stage with her and have Telma be the one to make me feel so comfortable and at home back then, it is very special," he added.

Telma Hopkins kept acting

Telma Hopkins acted as Rachel Crawford on "Family Matters." Rachel was Harriette Winslow's sister who moved into the Winslow house with her son Richie after her husband, Richie's father, died. Hopkins had been acting professionally since the late '70s by the time she joined the cast of "Family Matters," and she continued her career when the show ended. Some of her biggest gigs after the famed sitcom include 2002's "Half & Half," 2010's "Are We There Yet?", and 2019's "The Casagrandes." The sitcom star also flexed her acting muscles for the popular Netflix show "Dead to Me."

Hopkins has kept in touch with several of her "Family Matters" co-stars in one way or another. In 2017, she joined the cast for an Entertainment Weekly reunion photoshoot and interview, and in 2021, she acted alongside Bryton James, who played her son Richie in "Family Matters," on the soap opera James stars in, "The Young and the Restless." 

Hopkins has also worked with her former co-stars Kellie Shanygne Williams and Shawn Harrison in the fight against homelessness. "There's no need to travel across the world to save lives. Let's start in our own backyard. Please join Kellie, Shawn, and myself in being part of the solution," Hopkins said on Instagram in a post encouraging her followers to support a nonprofit organization aimed at supporting those affected by homelessness.

Michelle Thomas tragically died from cancer shortly after Family Matters ended

Michelle Thomas played Myra Monkhouse, the foil to Laura Winslow for many seasons of "Family Matters." Her love for Steve Urkel knew no bounds, even once he gets engaged to Winslow. Thomas' portrayal of lovestruck, and sometimes obsessive, Myra was unforgettable, and Thomas stayed in the role through the series' final episode, even after being diagnosed with cancer — specifically intra-abdominal desmoplastic small round cell tumor — in 1997, according to People.

After "Family Matters" came to a close, Thomas, who had undergone surgery to remove the tumor, landed a role on "The Young and the Restless" as an aspiring singer, but soon afterward had to undergo a second surgery for another cancerous mass. According to an article from Jet magazine at the time, she took a medical leave from the show in October 1998. Thomas died on December 23, 1998, surrounded by family and friends. She was 30.

Jaimee Foxworth hosted a podcast

Jaimee Foxworth played Judy Winslow on "Family Matters," the youngest of Carl and Harriette's three children. Judy was a typical child, but her time on the show was atypical compared to the rest of the main characters. About halfway through the sitcom, Judy's character left the show without any explanation, making it seem almost as if Judy had just disappeared. As it turns out, Foxworth was fired from the show reportedly to give Jaleel White (Steve Urkel) more screen time. After her time on "Family Matters," Foxworth quit acting, and in the 2000s she started a career in the adult film industry.

In 2017, Entertainment Weekly shot a special reunion cover featuring the cast of "Family Matters," but the photo did not include Foxworth. "The people in the picture are more important than the picture itself. It was a slap in the face from Entertainment Weekly," Foxworth said of the exclusion in an interview with The Root. "I'm not that little girl anymore. Judy and Family Matters don't define me ... I am extremely happy in the place that I'm in right now." 

Foxworth and her sisters hosted "The S.H.E. Show" podcast for a couple of years, but they haven't posted a new episode since late 2022.

Shawn Harrison produced and wrote a sitcom

Shawn Harrison was best known in the '90s for his role as Waldo Geraldo Faldo on "Family Matters." Waldo was a friend of the Winslow family, as well as Steve Urkel. Harrison had roles on other sitcoms during the '90s, and in the '00s, Harrison appeared in shows like "Eve," "Girlfriends," and "Legion of Super Heroes." Harrison always kept his spark for sitcoms alive, and in 2021, he executive produced and wrote for the show "A Sitcom for Gio." 

Harrison has always pursued various creative outlets, including dance, and he's always learning more about himself as an artist. "I'm still exploring [my creative voice] and still trying to find it," Harrison said in an interview.

Another area Harrison is passionate about is meditation. The actor has a YouTube channel called "MINDFLOW with Shawn" and an Instagram page where he posts short videos for followers to listen to while meditating. Harrison also maintains relationships with some of his former "Family Matters" co-stars, including Cherie Johnson, Telma Hopkins, and Kellie Shanygne Williams.

Cherie Johnson acted in the Punky Brewster reboot

Cherie Johnson played Maxine Johnson in "Family Matters," Laura Winslow's best friend. Although Johnson was well known for her role in "Family Matters," she was better known for her role in another famous TV series: "Punky Brewster." Johnson shared her name with her character in "Punky Brewster" and acted as Punky's best friend. "I fell in love with this industry through playing the character Cherie," Johnson said in an interview of her time on "Punky Brewster."

After the end of "Family Matters," Johnson kept acting, finding work in movies and television shows throughout the 2000s and the 2010s. In 2021, Johnson got the opportunity to reprise her role of Cherie for the "Punky Brewster" reboot, a 10-episode series that aired on Peacock. "How many people can say you have this job 30 years ago, and then you get to go back to the job that you loved so much? It's a blessing that I never even realized that I wanted," Johnson said of the reboot. 

In addition to acting, Johnson is still producing on-screen projects, and she hosts "Cherie's World Podcast," a weekly show in which Johnson discusses topical issues and interviews people in the industry.