“Family Matters” signed off 15 years ago today — the series finale aired on July 17, 1998 after nine seasons, most of which were spent as a staple on ABC’s T.G.I.F. lineup.
The show, a spinoff of Jo Marie Payton’s “Perfect Strangers” character Harriette Winslow, has left us with fond memories of The Urkel, the sweet sounds of the accordion and the epitome of tortoise shell hipster glasses. But many “Family Matters” have not stayed on the small screen and others have sadly passed on.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of the “Family Matters” finale, click through the slideshow below to find out what happened to the people behind the Winslows and their extended family and friends.
Reginald VelJohnson (Carl Winslow)
THEN: VelJohnson didn’t have many major TV or movie roles before “Family Matters,” but he did make appearances as a jail guard in “Ghostbusters” (1984), a limo driver in “Crocodile Dundee” (1986) and a police officer alongside Tom Hanks in “Turner & Hooch” (1989). VelJohnson’s biggest claim to fame was playing Sgt. Al Powell in the 1988 hit “Die Hard,” a character he later reprised in the 1990 sequel. And all that police officer role playing was put to good use when the actor earned the role of easily-angered Chicago police officer Carl Winslow on “Perfect Strangers,” which then, of course, led to “Family Matters” in 1989.
NOW: After “Family Matters” came to an end, VelJohnson made one-episode guest appearances on a multitude of TV shows, including “Diagnosis: Murder,” “The Hughleys” “CSI,” “Will & Grace,” “That’s So Raven,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Monk,” “Bones” and “Chuck,” in which he reprised his “Die Hard” role of Sgt. Al Powell. In 2004, he took the title role in the off-Broadway show “She all Dat!” (as she) and has done a lot of theater work. VelJohnson also wrote a critically-acclaimed series of short stories called “Division Street.” Currently, he recurs on The CW’s “Hart of Dixie” as Dash DeWitt, the head reporter of the local newspaper.
Jo Marie Payton (Harriette Winslow)
THEN: Throughout the ’80s, Payton had bit parts in “The New Odd Couple,” “Small Wonder,” “227” and in the teen flick “Troop Beverly Hills.” But the role that wound up defining her career was that of elevator operator Harriette Winslow on the ABC sitcom “Perfect Strangers” in 1987. Her character was so well-received that she was given her own sitcom and thus “Family Matters” was born in 1989.
NOW: Payton left “Family Matters” half-way through its final season and Judyann Elder won the role of Harriette in the series’ remaining seven episodes. Payton later explained that she “felt stifled” on the show and was unable to do other projects. Her contract was up before “Family Matters'” final season, but CBS (where the show had moved) convinced her to return for half of the final season with the option to leave. After her departure, Payton went on to guest star on series like “Moesha, “7th Heaven,” “Will & Grace,” “Judging Amy,” “Reba,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns.” She also voiced Sugar Mama on the Disney hit “The Proud Family.” Payton has been married multiple times, and has a daughter with first husband Marc France. She recently spoke about the legacy of “Family Matters” on “The Doctors.” (Check out her interview here.)
Darius McCrary (Eddie Winslow)
THEN: McCrary began his career as a child actor, making his film debut at just 11 years old in the 1987 comedy “Big Shots.” He had one-episode stints on a few TV sitcoms and a role in the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning” before he landed the role of eldest Winslow child Eddie on “Family Matters” the following year, even though he was actually slightly younger than Kellie Shanygne Williams.
NOW: After the end of “Family Matters,” McCrary co-starred in the short-lived UPN series “Freedom” and in 2001, he appeared in “15 Minutes” opposite Robert De Niro and “Kingdom Come” with Whoopi Goldberg. McCrary was the voice of Optimus Prime’s Autobot partner Jazz in the 2007 movie “Transformers” and he also had a minor role in 2009’s “Saw VI.” From December 2009 to October 2011, McCrary portrayed photographer Malcolm Winters on the CBS daytime drama “The Young and the Restless,” alongside his former “Family Matters” co-star Bryton McClure. In 2012, he joined FX’s “Anger Management” as Donovan, a gay member of Charlie’s (Charlie Sheen) prison anger therapy group. He has been divorced twice and in 2011, he was reportedly involved in a custody battle with an ex over his then-three-year-old son.
Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura Winslow)
THEN: Young Williams only had two credits to her name before “Family Matters” — an episode of MTV variety show “Oddville, MTV” and a part in the 1988 movie “Ride.” Williams was just 13 years old when she won the role of middle Winslow child — and the object of Steve Urkel’s affection — Laura.
NOW: Williams won a role on the short-lived ABC comedy “What About Joan?,” which also starred Kyle Chandler and Joan Cusack, after “Family Matters” ended. In the years following, Williams made appearances on “Girlfriends,” “The Parkers” and “Eve.” In 2006, she created the Kellie Williams Program to provide students in the Washington D.C. area an opportunity to produce a television show for Comcast. In 2009, she married Hannibal Jackson, with whom she now has two children, a three-year-old daughter named Hannah Belle and a one-year-old son named John Ervin. She’s largely stopped acting since.
Jaimee Foxworth (Judy Winslow)
THEN: After she began her career as a child model at the age of five, Foxworth soon appeared in national TV ads and a few small-screen guest-starring roles, including one on “Amen,” like her TV brother Darius McCrary. She was only 10 when she landed the role of Judy Winslow, the youngest of the family’s three children.
NOW: At the end of “Family Matters'” fourth season, Judy walked upstairs to her room … and was never seen again. Foxworth’s character proved to have little purpose on the show and thus, she was written out. The young actress struggled to find work and she decided to form a short-lived musical group (named S.H.E.) with her two sisters. In later years, Foxworth battled substance abuse and depression, eventually ending up on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Foxworth later transitioned to pornographic films using the name Crave. Her last film was 2009’s “The Jeffersons: A XXX Parody” before she welcomed a son, Michael Douglas Shaw Jr., with her longtime boyfriend.
Jaleel White (Steve Urkel)
THEN: Before taking on the role of Steve Urkel, Jaleel White had an extensive resume of Jell-O commercials and guest stints on shows like “The Jeffersons” and “Mr. Belvedere.” On “Family Matters,” Urkel became the breakout star, spawning tons of merchandise, catchphrases and lasting fame for White.
NOW: White went on to star in the short-lived “Grown Ups” sitcom. He also provided the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in “Sonic Underground,” appeared in “Dreamgirls,” made guest appearances on “The Game” and “Boston Legal” and starred in the 2010 series “Fake It Til You Make It.” In the following year, he starred in Cee Lo Green’s “Cry Baby” music video. His impressive moves earned White a spot on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2012. Shortly thereafter, the actor, who has one daughter, became the host of “Total Blackout,” a reality series on Syfy.
Rosetta LeNoire (Estelle Winslow)
THEN: Rosetta LeNoire was known for her stage work before breaking into TV. She founded AMAS Repertory Theatre Company, a nonprofit theater group, in an effort to promote interracial casting. Before playing the sweet, but sassy grandmother on “Family Matters” — who was simply referred to as “Mama Winslow” — LeNoire appeared on “Gimme a Break!”
1999: Following the end of “Family Matters,” LeNoire appeared in an episode of “Cosby.” In 1999, President Clinton lauded LeNoire’s long fight against discrimination and presented her with the National Medal of the Arts (pictured). “Rosetta did more than dream of a theater with no color bar — she actually built one,” he said at the time. The actress passed away in 2002 from complications from diabetes at 90 years old.
Telma Hopkins (Rachel Crawford)
THEN: Before taking on the role of Aunt Rachel, Harriette’s sister, on “Family Matters,” Telma Hopkins was a member the 1970s pop group Tony Orlando and Dawn. She had roles on “Bosom Buddies” and “Gimme a Break!” before winning the gig on “Family Matters.” Hopkins was a series regular at the start of the show, but then became recurring in later seasons.
NOW: Following “Family Matters,” Hopkins did some voice work and had guest roles on “ER,” “The Hughleys,” and “Any Day Now.” She starred in “Half and Half” from 2002 to 2006 and was last seen in the TBS series “Are We There Yet?”
Bryton McClure (Richie Crawford)
THEN: “Family Matters” was Bryton McClure’s first acting role. He played Rachel’s son Richie from 1990 to 1997 and rocked a pretty impressive jheri curl mullet.
NOW: Now known as Bryton James, the actor went on to do voice work on shows such as “Young Justice,” “The Kids from Room 402” and “Zevo-3.” He played witch Luka Martin on The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” from 2010 to 2011 and has played Devon Hamilton on “The Young and the Restless” since 2004. The part has earned James a Daytime Emmy Award and a NAACP Image Award.
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Article Courtesy of The Huffington Post
Pictures Courtesy of ABC, Getty Images and The Huffington Post