Dark Secrets The Cast Of Family Matters Tried To Hide

Family Matters, the simultaneously warm and wacky "T.G.I.F." staple, began life as a spinoff of '80s odd-couple comedy Perfect Strangers. Jo Marie Payton portrayed elevator operator Harriette Winslow on that show, and Family Matters depicted her home life with husband Carl, their three kids, plus Aunt Rachel and Mother Winslow, of course, not to mention the wacky neighbor to end all wacky neighbors, Steve Urkel.

Debuting in late 1989, Family Matters became one of the definitive sitcoms of the '90s on the strength of longevity alone, but it evolved as much as the decade did itself. By the time it wrapped up in 1998, it was no longer a family sitcom about the Winslows, but a sci-fi show about breakout character Urkel and his inventions going awry. (Also, he said "did I do that?" a lot, and it was hilarious. The '90s were a different time, kids.) All the pressures of putting out a hit sitcom weighed on the actors, many of whom experienced some major personal and professional problems. Here's a look at the scandalous side of Family Matters.

The cast of Family Matters resented Steve Urkel

Family Matters' most famous and valuable asset was surprisingly not originally part of the series. Jaleel White's whiny-voiced super-nerd Steve Urkel, whose likeness graced countless lunchboxes, dolls, T-shirts, and cereal boxes first appeared halfway through season one. He was just some dork who lived next door to the Winslows and came over to bug teenager Laura, upon whom he had a powerful crush. This male, geeky Kimmy Gibbler was a hit with audiences and network executives. 

"It was [producers] Bill Bickley and Michael Warren that called myself, Telma Hopkins [Aunt Rachel], and Reginald VelJohnson [Carl Winslow], together and told us that ABC liked the Urkel character so much they're going to make all of the shows about him," Jo Marie Payton (Harriette Winslow) told TV Series Finale. While the non-Urkel cast members went along with the plan (and Payton says they're "still laughing to the bank with the residuals" because Urkel "made the show go" for so long), the shift on Family Matters caused some tension. "It was a real shocker to all of us, you know what I mean? Because he was this little character," Payton said.

White agrees that the situation got a bit dicey. "Things were definitely strained in the early going. There's no sense in hiding that," he told Vanity Fair. "There was a division between myself and the rest of the cast, but over nine years and 215 episodes, obviously relationships get better."

Judy Winslow disappeared from Family Matters

In the first four seasons of Family Matters, the Winslows had three kids: Eddie, Laura, and little Judy, portrayed by Jaimee Foxworth. Then the character disappeared, never seen or even mentioned again. Did Steve Urkel erase her existence with one of his crazy gadgets? 

Nope, according to Foxworth, the show's creative team wrote off Judy because they didn't want her around. "The producers felt that they could do it and no one would notice," Foxworth told The Root. "They figured they could just throw me away, no explanation at all. Some of my cast members knew before I did." Her TV mom, Jo Marie Payton, tried to change producers' minds, but to no avail. This was the first and by no means last tough break Foxworth experienced.

Foxworth turned to music, joining her two older sisters in the R&B trio S.H.E.. The group released just one album, 1997's 3's a Charm, and fizzled out after a lack of success. Then, 19 and in need of money, Foxworth returned to acting... in adult films. Under the name Crave, Foxworth appeared in such notable projects as Booty Talk 20 and My Baby Got Back 29. Foxworth later said on The Dr. Oz Show that she also got into porn as a form of rebellion against her "very strict" upbringing, but that she untimely "wasn't comfortable with just seeing myself in that light." She made her last dirty movie in 2002.

Jaimee Foxworth fought some demons after Family Matters

While she got herself out of the woods professionally, Foxworth still had some personal demons to slay long after Family Matters had come to an end. In the 2000s, she became heavily dependent on alcohol and marijuana while also struggling with some mental health issues. "It got bad for me," she said on The Doctor Oz Show. "So for most people, drinking and smoking weed is really not that bad. But for me, I had a little bit of depression, and I was basically keeping myself to myself." She got to the point where she was just hanging out by herself in her bedroom, getting high, and almost always alone. When she realized she'd cut herself off from the world and "didn't really have friends," she knew it was time to get some help. 

In 2008, she appeared on VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drewbut still continued to smoke marijuana for a few months after that, quitting it for good when she learned she was pregnant.

Darius McCrary's post-Family Matters restraining order

In 2014, Darius McCrary — forever TV's Eddie Winslow from Family Matters — decided to marry Tammy Brawner of the Harlem Globetrotters. By 2017, that marriage was over, and it reportedly ended in a frightening way. According to E! News, Brawner received a restraining order against McCrary after alleging multiple counts of abuse against her and their infant daughter. 

Brawner reported that McCrary's excessive drinking and drug use made him violent, and that he not only struck her, but held his daughter over a pot of boiling water while screaming about how he wished she'd never been born. Another time, Brawner says, McCrary flew into a rage and threw picture frames around the house, just barely missing hitting anyone. (This isn't the first time McCrary was accused of domestic abuse; his previous wife, Karrine Steffans, claimed McCrary perpetuated multiple acts of violence against her.) McCrary was ordered to move out of the family home and stay 100 yards away from his wife and daughter.

In response, McCrary's attorney labeled Brawner "a predator motivated by a desperate desire to extort money out of Mr. McCrary while trying to create an advantage in an impending divorce and custody battle." For his part, McCrary posted a photo of himself and his daughter to Instagram, captioned, "Yea right...sad some people will do ANYTHING make #TMZ."

Family Matters' Darius McCrary had a messy divorce

Two weeks after a judge granted Tammy Brawner a restraining order against Darius McCrary, McCrary got one against Brawner. According to TMZ, McCrary claimed that Brawner had violent tendencies, alleging that she threw a hot iron at him, leaving a second-degree burn on his chest. Weeks after the courts ordered these two to avoid each other, Brawner filed for divorce. Citing irreconcilable differences in legal documents (which TMZ got ahold of), Brawner asked that McCrary be blocked from seeing their daughter until he sought treatment for substance abuse and attended domestic abuse intervention sessions.

Nearly two years later, the couple reached a divorce settlement. Brawner received legal and physical custody of their daughter, with weekly visits for McCrary, although he'd need a court-appointed monitor for the first 20. Additionally, the court ordered McCrary to seek help for his problems with alcohol, drugs, and violence, and attend parenting classes. Additionally McCrary was on the hook for monthly child support payments of $1,366. That's a significant increase from the amount he was ordered to pay back in 2018. According to The Blast, McCrary said his acting career at the time generated a monthly income of just $462 a month. With a "low-income adjustment," McCrary had to pay Brawner monthly checks of just $29 at the time.

This is all sadly ironic in that McCrary once founded FathersCare, an organization that seeks to help men become better and more conscientious fathers.

Jaleel White also had domestic disputes after Family Matters

Abuse allegations also dogged Darius McCrary's Family Matters co-star Jaleel White. In 2012, Bridget Hardy, White's former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, told Star (via RadarOnline) that two years earlier, their relationship came undone after the former Steve Urkel turned violent. After finding evidence of infidelity on the actor's phone, Hardy says White "blew up" after she confronted him about it, and then struck her "across the chest area." It gets worse, Hardy reported: "He pushed me into the toilet, and it broke." Hardy got out of the house and took her daughter with her on a planned out-of-town trip. When they returned, White had changed the locks on the house and placed all her possessions in a storage facility.

When Hardy went public with her story, White waved away the allegations. "When you're doing well in life, it's par for the course certain individuals will try and knock you down," he said in a statement (via People). "When the individual is also the mother of your only child it is particularly hurtful." White further explained to People that Hardy made her comments when she did to get an upper hand in child custody negotiations.

Family Matters' Jaleel White went off on his Dancing With the Stars partner

An actor who is still working in film and TV but not quite at the same level of fame they enjoyed years earlier on an ABC series? That all makes Jaleel White — Steve Urkel of Family Matters — the ideal Dancing with the Stars contestant. In 2012, he signed on for a season of ABC's glitzy, grueling, career-reinvigorating competition show, paired up with longtime DWTS professional dancer Kym Johnson

According to Us Weekly, White made a mistake during one of the show's intensive rehearsal sessions, and stepped on Johnson's foot. She said "ouch," as people do when something hurts a little, prompting White to come unglued. The source who spoke with Us Weekly said that White "got in her face" and yelled at Johnson for "acting like a baby" and also called her an "idiot." A shocked, teary-eyed Johnson made a hasty retreat, and contestant Donald Driver tried to get White to relax. It didn't work — White then "started going off on the producers and shouting about how they put him with a 'stupid' partner." At that point, pro dancer Mark Ballas tried to defuse the situation, but White wasn't having any of that. White, famous for playing the most annoying sitcom neighbor of all time, screamed at Ballas, "You remind me of that annoying sitcom neighbor who gets into everyone's face." Producers wound up sending White home for the day.

Jaleel White from Family Matters was almost Rudy on The Cosby Show

Jaleel White found fame on one of the most popular family sitcoms of all time, Family Matters. Years earlier, he almost landed a part on another, even more high-profile family sitcom: The Cosby Show. 

White landed an audition to play Rudy, the youngest Huxtable kid, and he seemingly nailed it. "We were all packed up and ready to go to New York and my agent had told my parents that they needed to start looking for places to live out there," White told Vanity Fair. He attended one more audition — a "formality" for NBC brass — where he ran into a little girl who was also auditioning for Rudy. White suddenly realized he didn't exactly have the role quite yet. 

"That was my first time walking into a room of 30 people staring at you going, 'O.K., make me laugh.'" White officially lost the role to that little girl — Keisha Knight-Pulliam — not long after. Creator and star Bill Cosby decided he wanted the family dynamic on the show to reflect his real family's, which meant Rudy would be a female character instead of a male one. White, all of 8 years old, took his rejection in person. "They were in such a hurry to get to New York and start filming that they came out and picked the kids one by one right in front of all of us," he said. "The rest of us all went home crying." 

Remember when Family Matters got a whole new mom?

Family Matters started out as a vehicle for Jo Marie Payton, who originated the character of Harriette Winslow on Perfect Strangers. Oddly enough, Payton walked away from the show in 1997, halfway through the show's ninth and ultimately final season. She'd wanted to stretch her creative muscles elsewhere for a long time. A couple of years before her departure, she was offered the chance to star in a biopic about gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, but couldn't do it because of her commitment to the show. She'd even lobbied ABC to give her more gigs. 

"I would go into ABC with my agent every year and we would ask for just another project, something else to do," she told TV Series Finale. "Like, Bob Saget was doing America's Funniest Home Videos." Those opportunities never presented themselves, and so, when her contract was up after eight Family Matters seasons, she re-signed for the first half of season nine.

Producers recast the role of Harriette, bringing in actress Judyann Elder, a move that proved tough for the rest of the cast. "It was hard for me, to, after nine years of doing something with one person, was like getting a divorce and marrying somebody else," Reginald VelJohnson (Carl Winslow) told Entertainment Weekly. "And it was weird." Darius McCrary (Eddie Winslow) agreed. "No disrespect to Judy, who came in to play her, I felt like my mom was gone."