How different would the Black pop culture world had been if we never had the iconic characters Rudy Huxtable or Steve Urkel played by their original actors?
Well it almost happened!
“In 1984, I auditioned for The Cosby Show. And that was a very emotional audition,” White recalls at EW’s recent reunion with him and his costars.
“[Then-NBC president] Brandon Tartikoff was in the room. And Mr. Cosby, obviously. They brought everybody that made the show, all the kids — they probably had us audition over the course of like five or six hours. My agent had been told that they’ve pretty much settled on [me], so I went to the audition thinking I was just going on a last audition. And then, all of a sudden, this little girl walks in.”
That little girl was Keshia Knight Pulliam.
Apparently no one at Family Matters knew this old tea!
“Really? You’re telling us something now,” says a shocked Telma Hopkins, who played Aunt Rachel on the 90s ABC hit show with White.
The 40-year-old actor continued: “Now that I’m adult I understand — you’re never going to [present the show to the] network without options. … That was a complete lie just to get me to come back,” White continues. “They were flying everybody out the next day to New York to begin rehearsals to do the show. … We were planning, we were packing; my mom and dad were trying to figure it out, ’cause my dad was in dental school at the time — ‘How are we going to do this, Gail? Are you going to New York with Jaleel to shoot the show?’ And [the producers] came out after about six hours and they said to a bunch of little kids and their parents, ‘We will take you, you, you, and you.’”
He admitted to EW that he was indeed devastated.
“I went home, and I just … I cried my eyes out. But I did things that a kid does when they’re hurt, and they’re acting out. My mom had to grab me and shake me. She was like, ‘If you ever react like that again to an audition, you’re done [acting].’ She was probably more rattled that I was reacting this way.”
Well clearly it all worked out because five years later, White was cast in the role of Steve Urkel and the rest is television history!