What The Cast Of Family Matters Is Up To These Days

Mention "Family Matters," and there's a good chance anyone over 30 will get nostalgic about one particular Chicago family and its geeky, often annoying neighbor. (Meanwhile, anyone younger will probably be left wondering what on Earth a TGIF lineup is.) A spin-off from fellow ABC sitcom "Perfect Strangers," this nine-season Friday night staple was a golden child of the '80s and '90s. Much like its fellow TGIF mainstays "Full House," "Step By Step," and "Boy Meets World," it offered a reliable place to watch precocious kids come of age, with their loving families and wacky sidekicks helping them solve all their problems within 30 minutes each week.

"Family Matters" is undisputedly a culturally significant piece of sitcom history, and its cast was naturally catapulted to stardom. With the Winslow family's three children (or were there only two?), unexpected cultural phenomenon Steve Urkel, and standout supporting characters like Myra Monkhouse and Waldo Geraldo Faldo, the show offered a plethora of memorable faces. But what has the cast been doing recently, and what might those born post-1998 know them from?

Reginald VelJohnson (Carl Winslow)

Before "Family Matters," Reginald VelJohnson had already made a name for himself playing police officers in Hollywood movies like "Ghostbusters" and "Turner & Hooch," and most notably as Sgt. Al Powell in "Die Hard." As the LAPD patrolman who believes John McClane's innocence and assists him in thwarting Hans Gruber's terrorist plans, VelJohnson is a huge part of the movie's heart. After "Family Matters," VelJohnson continued to let himself be endearingly typecast, guest starring on several popular TV crime dramas, including "Monk," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Bones," and "Diagnosis: Murder." He even reprised his role as Sgt. Al Powell for a Christmas episode of "Chuck." 

In recent years, VelJohnson has held recurring TV roles on "I'm in the Band," "Tron: Uprising," "Hart of Dixie," "3Below: Tales of Arcadia," and "Lazor Wulf." He's also gotten more opportunities to revisit his iconic characters, reprising the role of Sgt. Al Powell in the video games "Die Hard: Vendetta" and "Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza," as well as the Funny or Die short "A Die Hard Christmas Party with Reginald VelJohnson." In 2021, he returned as David Sutton on the Disney+ "Turner & Hooch" series, the only member of the original cast to make an appearance.

In short, Reginald VelJohnson's career has kept on rolling since the end of "Family Matters," though fans briefly worried it wouldn't — in 2017, he was forced to publicly confirm via Twitter that he was not dead after an internet hoax announced that he had suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

Jo Marie Payton (Harriette Winslow)

Jo Marie Payton continued to find steady TV work in the years following her time as Harriette Winslow. In Season 2 of "Will & Grace," she had a small but recurring role as Mrs. Freeman, the personal assistant to Will's boss, Ben Doucette. Then, from 2001 to 2005, Payton voiced Suga Mama Proud on Disney Channel's animated series "The Proud Family" and its companion TV Movie "The Proud Family Movie," earning NAACP Image Award nominations in 2003, 2005, and 2006 for her performance. She returned to the character in 2022 for the revival series "The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder" on Disney+.

A 2015 TV movie, "The Flight Before Christmas," reunited Payton with her "Family Matters" husband Reginald VelJohnson.  Payton's other credits include a live-action fractured fairy tale adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" (not the Disney one, though), Matthew McConaughey's "The Beach Bum," and a three-season run as family matriarch Lorraine Mann on the sitcom "Mann & Wife."

Strangely enough, Payton left the final season of "Family Matters" halfway through. Many speculated that it was due to tensions and clashes with co-star Jaleel White, but she clarified at Entertainment Weekly's "Family Matters" reunion in 2017 that she simply wanted to embark on other creative pursuits. Harriette Winslow was thus played by Judyann Elder for the remaining eight episodes — the theater veteran has many stage acting and directorial roles to her name and was conferred an NAACP Trailblazer Award in 2005.

Jaleel White (Steve Urkel)

Jaleel White became the unexpected breakout star of "Family Matters" when the Winslows' annoying nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel — initially intended as a minor guest role — turned into a pop culture phenomenon. As White would later tell Entertainment Weekly, the show's shift in focus from the Winslow family to Urkel caused some tensions at the time, but the cast eventually put aside their differences over nine seasons of bonding. 

White found even more popularity being the first actor to voice Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, starring as the beloved hedgehog in DiC's animated series "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog," "Sonic SatAM," "Sonic Underground" and the Christmas special "Sonic Christmas Blast." Other voice roles in the years since include "Quest for Camelot" and "Our Friend, Martin." White was a notable guest star in the Season 8 premiere of "House, M.D.," as one of Dr. Gregory House's eccentric fellow inmates in prison. He also hosted the SyFy game show "Total Blackout," named after its title challenge requiring contestants to navigate from one point to another in complete darkness, and competed in the 14th season of "Dancing with the Stars," partnering with Kym Johnson.

In film, White had a major role in the Netflix Adam Sandler project "Hustle." While he resisted returning to the role of Urkel for many years, he finally reprised the character in an episode of "Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?" in 2019. White also went back to college and graduated from UCLA with a degree in film and television in 2001. Steve Urkel would've definitely approved.

Darius McCrary (Eddie Winslow)

A child actor on "Family Matters," Darius McCrary was only 13 when he first began playing the role of Eddie Winslow, and audiences watched him grow up over the show's nine-season run. He's made a few major appearances since the series ended in 1998. Among his most notable big screen accomplishments: performing the voice of Jazz in Michael Bay's first "Transformers" movie, joining the ensemble cast of "Saw VI" as Dave, playing a detective in the Robert De Niro-led crime drama "15 Minutes," and making a comedic turn in "Kingdom Come." 

Back on the TV side, McCrary's biggest post-"Family Matters" gig came with the role of Malcolm Winters on "The Young and the Restless" from 2009 to 2011, taking over from Shemar Moore ("Criminal Minds"). Though the storyline took place before he joined the cast, his character's love interest had been Callie Rogers, played by his "Family Matters" co-star Michelle Thomas (recast with Siena Goines). He also had multi-episode appearances in "Minority Report," "The Leftovers," and "Anger Management."

McCrary made headlines in his personal life when he was arrested in 2015 for not paying child support. He was released upon paying the full fine of $5,500 a few hours later, as reported by The New York Daily News.

Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura Winslow)

Like her on-screen brother Darius McCrary, fans watched Kellie Shanygne Williams grow up on "Family Matters." As Laura Winslow, she navigated the trials and tribulations of teenage girlhood, often complicated by the (sometimes wanted, sometimes unwanted) affections of Steve Urkel. 

It didn't take long for Williams to join another TV ensemble after the show ended. Led by Joan Cusack ("Toy Story") and Kyle Chandler ("Bloodline"), ABC's two-season sitcom "What About Joan?" welcomed Williams as series regular Alice Adams. She appeared in all 21 episodes of the short-lived series following high school teacher Joan Gallagher (Cusack) as she stumbles through her new relationship with the very romantic Jake Evans (Chandler). Branching out of acting, Williams served as an executive producer on the 2010 drama "Blessed and Cursed" and a substitute host on the home makeover show "Clean House."

Williams remains closely in touch with her "Family Matters" family, and has even found more opportunities to work with them. In 2020, she acted opposite Darius McCrary in feel-good holiday movie "Christmas in Carolina." She returned to the holiday spirit, this time bringing along her on-screen mother (Jo Marie Payton) and her real-life daughter (Hannah Belle Jackson), for 2022's "Merry Little Switchmas," aka "A Family Matters Christmas," with Williams also executive producing. Her behind-the-camera ambitions show no sign of slowing — in 2020, Williams, McCrary, and Payton announced they were launched a new streaming service, Dreamflix TV, for original productions.

Telma Hopkins (Rachel Crawford)

Though she would only appear sporadically in a recurring role later in the series, Telma Hopkins was a memorable presence on "Family Matters" during the first few seasons as Harriet's sister Rachel. After the show, she continued a regular run of sitcom roles. She was a regular on a couple of them, including UPN's "Half & Half," TBS' "Are We There Yet," CBS' "Partners," Netflix's "Family Reunion," and Nickelodeon's "The Loud House" spin-off, "The Casagrandes." In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it big screen role, she briefly appeared in "The Matrix Resurrections" as Freya, the head botanist of Io, seen when an aged Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) shows Neo (Keanu Reeves) around the new human colony.

Hopkins also participated in the first four installments of the sci-fi action franchise "Trancers," playing the role of Ruthie Raines in the 1984 original, the short film "Trancers: City of Lost Angels," and the direct-to-video sequels "Trancers II: The Return of Jack Deth" and "Trancers III: Deth Lives." The low-budget film series introduced a futuristic world where people can travel back in time by taking over the bodies of ancestors through the use of drugs.

Much like several other castmates, Hopkins spent some time as a guest actor on "The Young and the Restless," reuniting with her "Family Matters" son Bryton James for six episodes.

Bryton James (Richie Crawford)

As Rachel's son Richard "Richie" Crawford, Bryton James was the youngest member of the "Family Matters" cast. Having begun his career in commercials in print ads at just 2 years old, he took on the role of Richie at the age of 4. The young actor quickly proved he was just getting started, as he would go on to have possibly the most robust post-"Family Matters" career of the whole cast. 

In the years that followed, he could be heard in a range of voice roles on TV shows like "Zevo-3," "Winx Club," "DC Super Friends," "Glitch Techs," and "Star Wars: Rebels." Particular standouts include the recurring roles like Static on the DC animated series "Young Justice," and Corey on Netflix's animated streaming series "Pacific Rim: The Black."

Since 2004, he has played Devon Hamilton on CBS' 32-year king of daytime drama ratings, "The Young and the Restless." Amidst the revolving door of "Family Matters" alumni on the soap opera, he's the only one to become a series regular. James has gained a slew of awards and nominations for his "Young and the Restless" work — he was up for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series for three consecutive years, 2006 to 2008, winning in 2007. He was also nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series from 2005 through 2008, finally winning in 2009. In 2020, James won the Daytime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series; that gives him 10 Daytime Emmy nominations and two wins for his work on the show.

Orlando Brown (Jerry Jamal 3J Jameson)

Despite the fact that Judy Winslow had been written out after Season 4, the producers of "Family Matters" added another child near the end of the series run, with Carl and Harriett adopting the orphaned Jerry Jamal "3J" Jameson. After playing the role of 3J through the final season, Orlando Brown went on to become a mainstay of Disney Channel, lending his voice to major characters including Sticky Webb on "The Proud Family" and Cornelius Fillmore on "Fillmore!" He was also a prominent supporting cast member on "That's So Raven," appearing in almost a hundred episodes. Since that series' conclusion in 2007, he largely focused on building a music career, his standout singles being "Hi I'm Famous," "Coming to America," and "Empire."

Brown's adult life has seen him dealing with a number of legal troubles. The actor was charged with domestic battery and drug possession with intent to sell after he publicly assaulted his girlfriend and was arrested with methamphetamines by the police. He soon faced additional charges of domestic battery after neighbors complained of a disturbance involving his girlfriend, his girlfriend's mother, and himself. Upon being released from jail, he fled California for Nevada, with missed court dates leading to his arrest by bounty hunters. He has made troubling statements and allegations publicly — such as the time he went on "Dr. Phil" wearing snake contact lenses and claimed to be Michael Jackson's son — and has recently faced being unhoused and allegedly threatening to assault his brother with a knife and hammer.

Following his substance abuse issues, Brown has received support from his "Family Matters" co-stars. Per Atlanta Black Star, Jo Marie Payton told an American Black Film Festival panel that she wanted Brown to reprise his "Proud Family" character in the Disney+ revival series, believing that he deserved a second chance. "It will not only help us, because we're a family and we stick together. It will also help his career; he's not finished," she said. "I don't believe in giving up on anybody. I really don't." Brown was not involved in the "That's So Raven" revival, either.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Jaimee Foxworth (Judy Winslow)

The biggest casualty of the show's increased focus on Urkel was undoubtedly the youngest Winslow child, Judy. Played by child actress Jaimee Foxworth, Eddie and Laura's little sister mysteriously disappeared after the fourth season. No explanation was given, and none of the other characters ever mentioned Judy again. Jo Marie Payton later told fans (via People) that she strongly objected to having her character's youngest child vanish without a trace, but was told by producers, "Nobody would notice."

A stint in the adult film industry and some struggles with addiction followed in the early 2000s, but a 2006 appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," a 2008 appearance on "Celebrity Rehab," and the birth of her first child marked a turning point for her, and she's now living as a full-time mom. Out of the spotlight — aside from some one-off appearances, she hasn't really been in the public eye since "Celebrity Rehab" — she appears to be enjoying her normal life as a mom. That is, a mom who was also a crucial part of millions of fans' lives.

Shawn Harrison (Waldo Faldo)

Though not as mysterious a disappearance as Judy, another character who exited before the end of the series was Waldo Geraldo Faldo. Eddie's dimwitted but kindhearted friend with a knack for the culinary arts, Waldo was played by Shawn Harrison during his intermittent appearances between Seasons 2 and 7.

After "Family Matters," Harrison's most prominent role was as the hairstylist Peaches for six episodes on the UPN sitcom "Girlfriends." He did not work as consistently in film and TV as some of his other "Family Matters" co-stars, but superhero fans should recognize him as the voice of Timber Wolf, a core legionnaire member who transforms into a werewolf-like creature with enhanced physical skills, on the animated TV series "Legion of Super Heroes," adapted from the DC Comics of the same name. In 2021, he took a recurring role as a comedy club owner on the BET+ sitcom "The Ms. Pat Show." He also appeared in the "That's So Raven" sequel series, "Raven's Home," as Sir Leo.

Rosetta LeNoire (Estelle Winslow) and Michelle Thomas (Myra Monkhouse)

Sadly, two members of the "Family Matters" cast died shortly after the show wrapped. Rosetta LeNoire, who memorably played family matriarch Estelle "Mother" Winslow, died in 2002 at age 90. Her final on-screen appearance was as a nurse in a 1998 episode of "Cosby." However, her legacy lives on through the Amas Repertory Theatre, which she founded using her own money in 1968 to promote racial diversity in theatre. Today known as the Amas Musical Theatre, the Manhattan-based non-profit has produced over 60 original musicals. One of them, "Bubbling Brown Sugar," was even nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1976.

Michelle Thomas joined "Family Matters" midway through its run, but she quickly made an impression as Steve Urkel's on-again/off-again love interest Myra. In August 1997, Thomas, then portraying Callie Rogers on the CBS daytime soap opera "The Young and the Restless," was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Following two surgeries, she died in December 1998 at age 30. Outside of "Family Matters" and "The Young and the Restless," she's best remembered for a recurring role on NBC's "The Cosby Show" as Justine Phillips, Theo Huxtable's girlfriend. She posthumously appeared in an indie film, "Unbowed."