Family Matters will go down in history as one of the national treasures of Black television. The show lasted more seasons than the hit Cosby Show and highlighted Black American life in a positive way. At the helm of the show was Jo Marie Payton, who starred as Harriet Winslow. Payton has fond memories of her time on the show, but she says there were some tense moments with breakout star, Jaleel White.
She says the two bickered over a scene
Payton played on the show until its final season. White’s character was promoted from a one-off to the star in its debut season which caused some tension between the cast. Payton wasn’t an exception. She told Entertainment Tonight that things nearly got physical between the two.
“There was one time he actually wanted to physically fight me,” Payton explained regarding the season 9 episode, “Original Gangsta Dawg.” In the episode, White played Steve Urkel’s “gangster” cousin, OGD. “[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… He was so mad, he started kicking and screaming and stuff.”
Things nearly grew into a fight between the two of them. “He said something about, ‘She must want to melee.’ I said, ‘What’s a melee?’ He said, ‘a fight.’ I turned around — if he wanna fight, I would,” she continued. “Darius [McCrary] grabbed me. I was gonna whip his behind,” she admitted.
She says Jaleel White’s bad behavior wasn’t his fault
White was barely a teen when he landed the lead gig. Growing up with that much power and stardom could have a negative impact on anyone’s attitude. Payton says she believes that was the case with White, telling the media outlet that White was “just a kid” at the time and doesn’t give him “all the credit” for his behavior.
“I give some of those adults credit too,” she said. “Letting him run wild and do whatever he wanted to do, thinking he can say what he wants to say, you know, and hurt people’s feelings and all that.”
The actress also talked about the show back in March
While appearing at ’90s Con in Hartford, Connecticut with her fellow Family Matters castmates Payton opened up about the possibility of doing a reboot of the hit sitcom.
She would only do a reboot if her on-screen daughter Judy Winslow was written back into the show.
“I said, You guys need to tell me something that is not only creative, but also politically correct to straighten out this situation because there’s nowhere in the world a family … You gave me three kids, you took away my baby,” she recalled of her conversation with the producers, via People. “If you had taken away my oldest child, we could have always come up with [various excuses in the episodes] that she was at the mall or with her friends. You took away my baby, and when I asked you, ‘Why did you take away my baby girl?,’ you said, ‘Nobody would notice.’”
“I said, ‘You know what, when we’re walking down the street, nobody’s gonna notice you because they’re not going to ask you, they’re going to ask me what happened to Judy,'” Payton continued. “So for me, that’s one of the other things that I [wouldn’t be] excited about, going back into it.”
If a reboot was to ever happen, Jo Marie Payton says “the very first episode has to be that [Judy] comes down those stairs” for her to ever consider playing the Winslow family matriarch again.