Characters / Family Matters

These are the characters that appear in Family Matters.

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    Steve Urkel
Portrayed by: Jaleel White

  • Abhorrent Admirer: His undying devotion to Laura is not received well at all. But that has just as much (or more) to do with his outrageously weird personality than the way he looks.
  • Abusive Parents: His parents were implied to be this.
  • Academic Athlete: Downplayed. He's a brilliant student and can play basketball, but he's not so good at other athletic activities.
  • Accidental Pervert: Walks in on Laura in the shower by mistake when both planned to take one at the same time.
  • Adorkable: He is smart but clumsy.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: How he is seen and treated for most of the series. He's hated by his classmates, the teachers (including the principal), and his own family. The Winslows are the closest thing he has to real friends and most of them can't stand him most of the time.
  • And Starring: In the last seasons.
  • Annoying Laugh: "Ah heh-heh-heh *snort**snort*!"
  • Badass Bookworm: As Bruce Lee Urkel, an alter-ego created by Steve via a celebrity sample potion called Bruce Juice.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • The Archie to Myra's Betty and Laura's Veronica.
    • He's also always the Betty to Laura's admirer/boyfriend of the week's Veronica. Over and over and over again.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Steve is a nice, easygoing person. If you push him too far though, he'll either tell you off, embarrass you, or give you a beatdown as Bruce Lee.
  • The B Grade: In "Food, Lies, and Videotape," Steve learns to cope with getting a C in home economics.
  • Black and Nerdy: Smart enough to create certain things such as a robot, a jetpack, and a transformation chamber.
  • Black Sheep: Most of Steve's relatives can't stand him any more than anyone else. In fact, Steve mentions that they pay him a lot of money to keep him from visiting.
  • Breakout Character: The irksome Steve was introduced as a single gag character in the episode "Laura's First Date" (aired December 15, 1989), meant to highlight just how bad an idea it was for the well-meaning Carl to find his dateless daughter Laura a date for a junior high dance at the last minute. By the end of the first season, Steve was appearing in every episode, and when the first episode of Season 2 aired in September 1990, Jaleel White was given billing alongside the rest of the cast. Eventually, he would end up as the real star of the show, with the Winslows becoming supporting characters.
  • Bungling Inventor: Some of his inventions work just fine. Others, not so much.
  • Butt-Monkey: As a result of his nerdy and clumsy behavior.
  • Catch-Phrase: Several. "Did I do thaaat?", "You love me, don't you?" etc. In later seasons, they changed it up: "Look what you did." and "At least nobody was hurt." The latter would be followed up with someone else (usually Carl) replying with "Not yet!"
  • Character Development: Later episodes portray him as less physically weak (he plays basketball), and less clumsy and socially oblivious.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Ultimately achieves this with Laura.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Played for Laughs. He's just so incompetent, inept, and prone to disaster that the amount of destruction he causes occasionally borders on the epic. In a nightmare sequence of Laura, Steve builds a fully-fuctioning nuclear weapon and inadvertently detonates it by uttering the code word "buttercup", blowing half of Chicago completely off the map and killing millions. As always, all Steve can say in light of his actions is "Did I do that?"
    • Played straight when he used his invention to grant him the fighting skills of Bruce Lee, becoming Urkel Lee. When this happens, he'll open a can of whoop-ass on offending parties. On separate times, Carl and Richie also join in on the action.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sometimes, especially in later seasons. The dumber somebody interacting with Steve is, the more likely it is to get him going. Needless to say, Waldo is guaranteed to bring it out of him during any interaction between the two.
  • Determinator: Nothing will stop Steve from achieving a goal.
  • Ditzy Genius: Despite being a brilliant scientist and Teen Genius, he's clumsy, has No Social Skills and is a general nuisance and walking disaster.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Towards Laura. Steve invokes it at times (to questionable effect) when point out Laura uncharacteristically treating him like a human being.
    Steve: I'm wearin' you down, baby! I'm wearin' you down!
  • Drop-In Character: Steve was this before he moved in with the Winslows.
  • Extraverted Nerd: Former trope namer. Despite the thick glasses, nasal voice, quirky hobbies note  and interesting wardrobe, Urkel would say he's a smooth, hip ladies man. He is incredibly upbeat, though, and wouldn't know embarrassment if it bit him...for better or worse.
  • Flanderization: In particular, he went from being a bright but mundane high school nerd to a full Mad Scientist who can wrap the laws of physics around his little finger.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: His Flanderization in later seasons takes this Up to Eleven. He becomes a Mad Scientist able to create a time traveling machine and many other crazy inventions in which he can clone, teleport, and shrink himself.
  • Geek Physique: He had this in the earlier seasons.
  • Hidden Depths: He's a good basketball player.
  • Honorary Uncle: To Richie. Richie grows out of calling him "Uncle Steve", but keeps looking up to him.
  • Hopeless Suitor: For most of the series, he was for Laura.
  • The Klutz: Bordering on lethal klutz, since he is infamous for causing disasters everywhere and destroying Carl's property as a result of his outright clumsiness. He gets better in later seasons.
  • Last-Name Basis: Occasionally.
  • Lethally Stupid: He often causes disasters without meaning to, much to Carl's dismay.
  • Lovable Nerd: He has a kind heart and is willing to help anyone.
  • Mad Scientist: He occasionally even laughs like one.
  • The Millstone: Especially in early seasons, thanks to his never-ending clumsiness. The Winslows' never-ending exasperation with Steve breaking things was expanded on in several episodes.
  • Nerd Glasses: He wore a pair.
  • Nice Guy: He'll help anyone even if they bullied him beforehand.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup:
    • Subverted in that many of Steve's inventions that we see are the prototypes, and Steve hasn't worked all the bugs out yet. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Averted with the "cool elixir" that turns Steve into Stefan. When Stefan turns out to be a Jerkass after the first time Steve turns into him, Steve reworks the formula to make Stefan a nicer person the next time he transforms.
  • Parental Neglect: The reason for his attachment to the Winslows.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Go home, Steve!" "But..." "Go home, go home, go home!" "I don't have to take this. I'm going home."
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: In Season 2.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Ultimately, this is how Steve feels, except when they wanted to give An Aesop about being happy with who you are. Most of the time, however, he seemingly didn't give a rats ass that everyone referred to him as a nerd, especially since he was probably the coolest person in the school despite his labeling.
  • Rejection Affection: Steve spends the entire run of this sitcom aggressively trying to win Laura's affections even though she is repulsed by him. His perseverance pays off in the end.
  • Science Hero: He becomes this as the series went on.
  • Sexier Alter Ego: Stefan Urquelle.
  • Show Stopper: He would often evoke this response upon entering the scene.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: He is a Laura-sexual for most of the series, though he does get another girlfriend later in the series who ironically turns out to be Steve-sexual.
  • Spear Counterpart: One episode has Laura's guardian angel subjecting her to a Dream Sequence where she becomes Laura Urkel, Steve's Distaff Counterpart. Steve himself becomes Steve Winslow, essentially a male Laura.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Due to the fact that he's the breakout character. The problems began when the focus slowly but surely shifted from the Winslow family and Steve to just Steve, his annoying habits, and his bizarre inventions.
  • Stalker With a Crush: Towards Laura.
  • Teen Genius: Steve created a lot stuff in the series.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Just ask the Winslows. The last of Steve's intro IDs has the family trying to hold the front door shut in order to keep Steve from entering the house.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Every time he went into his transformation booth to gain the personality, fighting skills and even the accent and hairstyle of Bruce Lee.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Cheese.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With most of the Winslows.
  • Unwanted Assistance: One of the triggers for the Phrase Catcher above is Steve trying (and failing) to help the Winslows with a project despite their protests.
  • Wacky Guy: Because of his clumsiness and inventions.

    Carl Winslow
Portrayed by: Reginald VelJohnson

  • Action Dad: Justified because he's a cop. He has taken down crooks and has verbally defended his family (and Steve) several times and helped to diffuse a bomb.
  • Angry Black Man: In "Fight the Good Fight" and "Good Cop, Bad Cop."
  • Acrofatic: Carl's remarkably fast, despite his spare tire. Just look at any occasion when he chases Steve.
  • Berserk Button: Steve, mostly. More specifically, whenever Steve's clumsiness ends up wrecking his property or physically injuring him.
  • Big Eater: His mother often makes fun of him for it.
  • Bumbling Dad: Zigzagged. While he's very good at his job and is a loving and attentive father, nine times out of ten, his attempts at home maintenance turn out to be a disaster even when Steve isn't involved.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Often on the receiving ends of Steve's antics.
    • His mother, Estelle, makes more than a few sarcastic comments about her son's weight, too.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: His general view of Steve. For all the times that Steve's damaged his person or his property, and otherwise driven him nuts, Carl realizes that Steve still looks up to him as a father figure, and has also helped the Winslows out multiple times.
  • Cursed with Awesome: When Myra messed with the transformation chamber that turned Steve into Stefan, she ended up turning Carl into a nerdy "Urkelized" version of himself. Stefan tries to fix the chamber, but he's having trouble since he's not as smart as he is when he's Steve. Fortunately, being turned into a nerd made Carl a scientific genius, and so he fixed the chamber himself before being turned back to normal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He usually does this when he's around Steve.
  • Doom It Yourself: Carl's a top notch police officer. Unfortunately, when he starts trying to build or repair things around the house, things don't go so well. Occasionally subverted when he's paired up with Steve, as his attempt at building a shelf turns out just fine while Steve comes up with something that looks more like a post-modern art project.
  • Good Parents: He loves his children, and Steve, very much.
  • Happily Married: To Harriette.
  • No Indoor Voice: When he gets especially angry, he screams at the top of his lungs.
  • Papa Wolf: To his own kids, obviously, but he even gets like this for Steve, too.
  • Parental Substitute: Seen this way by Steve. He eventually accepts this role.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Due to the fact that he's a cop.
  • Scary Black Man: Whenever one of Steve's mishaps pushes him too far, he ends up chasing after Steve while bellowing like a rogue elephant.
  • Stout Strength: More than one crook has learned the hard way that Carl's pretty strong underneath his fat.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: According to his mother, it's donuts. Then again, he is a cop.
  • Unfortunate Name: Actually unfortunate initials: Carl Otis Winslow.

    Harriette Winslow
Portrayed by: Jo Marie Payton (1989–1997), Judyann Elder (season 9)

    Edward "Eddie" Winslow
Portrayed by: Darius McCrary

    Laura Winslow
Portrayed by: Kellie Shanygne Williams

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Almost all of her potential suitors who serve as romantic false leads are unlikable jerks.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Laura is a cheerleader and an insanely popular Dude Magnet.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Much to her dismay, she was the Veronica to Myra's Betty for Steve's Archie.
    • She's also always the Archie to Steve's Betty and her admirer/boyfriend of the week's Veronica. Over and over and over again.
  • The B Grade: In an early episode, Laura finds out on her progress report (not even her final grade for the semester!) was going to be a B in one course. She instantly declares herself grounded from everything until she can bring it back up.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: Anytime Steve focuses his attention on another girl, she shows shades of this to various degrees.
  • The Cheerleader: Downplayed. She's a cheerleader who can be shallow at times and bitchy towards Steve especially in the beginning, but she's also very goodhearted, smart and responsible.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Usually the biggest one in the family. She's especially snarky towards her brother or her Abhorrent Admirer Steve.
  • Distaff Counterpart: One Christmas episode has Laura meet her guardian angel. He subjects her to a dream sequence to show her what she puts Steve through. She becomes Laura Urkel, essentially a female version of Steve. Steve becomes her spear counterpart as Eddie's brother.
  • Dude Magnet: She wasn't supposed to be this in the first season, in fact there's one episode where she is sad because no one asked her to a school dance. Then Steve becomes the show's Breakout Character with Laura as the object of his affections and the rest is history. To give Steve competition to win her heart, Laura suddenly becomes the most popular girl in her school, with boys fighting over her and hitting on her in every episode and considered a paragon of beauty by everyone.
  • First Girl Wins: Becomes Steve's fiancée.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to Eddie's Foolish.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: In the last season, she eventually learns to love Steve and agrees to marry him.
  • Go-Getter Girl: A very ambitious girl who always gets straight A's and takes both school and job seriously. She eventually gains admittance to Harvard but sadly her parents can't afford it.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Maxine.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: She has a lot of boyfriends. and then there's the way she fawns over Stefan (Steve's Sexier Alter Ego).
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: She blasts anyone who dares to badmouth Urkel, despite the fact that she herself can't stand him most of the time.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Steve regards her as the most beautiful girl in the world, as do several of the other boys who show interest in her. She is pretty, but not that much more so than other girls in the series.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Subverted. She gains admittance, but her parents can't afford it.
  • Little Miss Snarker: In Season 1, the pre-Steve days, Laura serves mainly as this.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: She loved and fawned over Stefan, Steve's Sexier Alter Ego.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Almost as much as her mother.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Especially towards Steve. She wasn't very nice to him in the early seasons.
  • Tsundere: To Steve. Initially a type A, then evolving into a type B.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Steve for most of the series and, eventually with Myra too (until the last season).

    Judy Winslow
Portrayed by: Jaimee Foxworth (Valerie Jones in the pilot)

  • A Day in the Limelight: Judy never really gets a day in the limelight, only a few subplots:
    • In "Fast Eddie Winslow", she must write a book report about Swiss Family Robinson after she doesn't read the book.
    • In "Ice Station Winslow", she feels ignored by her family because of her younger cousin Richie.
    • In "A Thought in the Dark", she ruins Harriette's dress and begs Carl to cover for her.note 
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: One of the most infamous examples of this along with the trope namer. She disappears after Season 4, without explanation. Afterwards, the other characters act as if she never existed and Harriette and Carl only had two kids (Eddie and Laura).
  • Flat Character: Her character never really had much to do. Season 1, the pre-Steve days, was her most prominent season: she provided comic relief by saying "cute" things, and was Laura's sidekick in several episodes. In Seasons 2 and 3, she's often paired with Richie, and aside from two small subplots, she usually has one or two lines, or sometimes none at all. In Season 4, her character appears in only 9 of 24 episodes.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Judy wore her hair in braided pigtails in Seasons 1 through 3. In her final season, she wore her hair down, including in her opening title credit.
  • Out of Focus: After Steve is introduced, she becomes a background character; in Seasons 2, 3, and especially 4, she is given very few lines (usually in scenes involving the entire family), until her character is completely eliminated in Season 5.
  • Sassy Black Girl: Mainly in Season 1, as her character would give sass mainly to her older siblings.

    Estelle Winslow
Portrayed by: Rosetta LeNoire

  • Badass Grandma: A running gag, possibly the most badass character in the show.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Estelle may be a kind old lady, but she is more than capable of taking care of herself. For example, she threw a criminal on the ground when he tried to attack her.
  • The Bus Came Back: Occasionally in the last two seasons.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Way to go, Carl!"
  • Cool Old Lady: Estelle is a very active old lady.
  • Deadpan Snarker: In addition to berating her son whenever he screws up, Estelle could always be counted on to make cracks about Carl's weight and fondness for donuts.
  • December–December Romance: With Fletcher.
  • Determinator: As a little girl, she went to a whites only library in hopes of being given a library card every day for six months before the librarian finally relented and the library became integrated.
  • Dirty Old Woman: An episode at a male strip joint has the waiters and dancers greeting her cheerfully as if they're good friends, indicating that she's a regular customer.
  • Fan Of The Underdog: She's the only one who genuinely liked Steve from the beginning.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Estelle showed a picture of what she looked like during World War II in the middle of a presentation in Eddie's history class.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Estelle is a badass.
  • Put on a Bus: After Season 7.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Estelle isn't afraid to tell it like it is.

    Rachel Crawford
Portrayed by: Telma Hopkins

  • And Starring: "And Telma Hopkins as Rachel".
  • The Bus Came Back: Makes occasional guest appearances in Season 6 and 9.
  • Cool Aunt: For the Winslow kids.
  • Nice Hat: She often wears hats.
  • Out of Focus: In Season 4, her role was much smaller. After this season, she was...
  • Put on a Bus: Ironically, since her son Richie apparently still lived with the Winslows.
  • Took a Level in Badass: She tightrope walked on a clothesline several stories in the air (in heels) to save a drunk Steve from plummeting to his death.
  • Widow Woman: Her husband died before the series started.

    Richie Crawford
Portrayed by: Joseph & Julius Wright (Season 1), Bryton McClure (Season 2-9)

    Waldo Geraldo Faldo
Portrayed by: Shawn Harrison

  • Ascended Extra: Seen as an extra in a Season 1 episode where he was credited as "Guy in Towel".
  • Beta Couple: With Maxine.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Initially he was this to Willie, the school bully and a minor villain. Starting in Season 3, he becomes this to Eddie.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He goes from an idiot who can't do anything right to an idiot who also happens to be the best Supreme Chef in town.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Cool", "No prob, Bob!" and "Sup".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: "If you cut me, do I not sneeze?"
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Sometimes, towards Maxine.
  • The Ditz: Sometimes you have to wonder just how Waldo made to high school.
  • Dumb Is Good: Invoked when Eddie and Laura set Laura's friend, Maxine, up with him. She was initially put off by his stupidity, but in the end, she found him at the same time to be a charming and sweet guy.
  • Genius Ditz: He's an excellent cook. He surprises everyone when he takes a home economics course and proves a natural genius as a chef, to such an extent that in one episode he reveals he was trading recipes with Wolfgang Puck. His mom is a lousy cook, so he had to fend for himself.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sort of. Was originally introduced in Season 2 as the sidekick to the school bully, Willie, who picked on Steve, until he presumably stopped hanging out with him, after being arrested. Afterwards, he was rewritten as a good guy and one of Eddie and Steve's best friends.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Eddie.
  • Hidden Depths: Besides his talent for cooking, he's also revealed to be good at tap dancing in one episode. Also, despite being generally an idiot, he has shown a strong sense of morality in more than one episode.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: One of the most innocent and good-natured characters, except in his early appearances.
  • Nice Guy: After he becomes Eddie and Steve's friend. Unlike most people he actually doesn't mind Steve.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: In Season 4.
  • Put on a Bus: After Season 7.
  • Repetitive Name: Waldo Geraldo Faldo.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Sensitive Guy to Eddie's Manly Man.
  • Straw Loser:
    • Eddie isn't the smartest person in the world but next to Waldo he looks like a genius.
    • Waldo is also there to show that Steve isn't Eddie's only friend who is a loser. Eddie's friendship with Steve makes more sense because all his bad qualities can be seen as not that bad when you consider that his other best friend is kind of dumb.
  • Supreme Chef: After he discovers his talent for cooking.
  • Wacky Guy: He plays this trope along with Steve, but in a different way.

    Myra Monkhouse
Portrayed by: Michelle Thomas

    Maxine Johnson
Portrayed by: Cherie Johnson

    Jerry Jamal " 3 J" Jameson
Portrayed by Orlando Brown

  • Alliterative Name: Jerry Jamal Jameson
  • Cousin Oliver: He was introduced late in the series.
  • Foil: 3J finds some of Richie's pastimes to be boring, and is more morally ambiguous than he, but the two ultimately become best friends.
  • Happily Adopted: The Winslows adopt him.
  • Kidanova
  • Malicious Misnaming: 3J calls Steve "Urkie" until he realizes that Steve actually cares about him.
  • Never Learned to Read: He's much younger than most other examples of this, but is old enough for it to be a problem.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Is almost always referred to as 3J.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: In Season 8.
  • Sticky Fingers: His first episode depicts him picking several people's pockets, although in the last instance, he does it to get some bullies off of Steve's back.
  • Tagalong Kid
  • Took a Level in Badass: In "Karate Kids".
  • Will They or Won't They?: In a different sense; the functional difference between fostering 3J and adopting him outright is that the former leaves open the possibility that 3J's biological mother, to whom he unknowingly spoke, will come back for him and take him home. Carl finds 3J's mother more than a year after the Winslows welcome him into their home, but she asks Carl not to tell 3J why she can't take care of him. Instead, Carl tells 3J that he couldn't find her. The two discuss the prospect of 3J being adopted by the Winslows, and 3J happily accepts.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Due to his street smarts.

    Stefan Urquelle
Portrayed by: Jaleel White

    Myrtle Urkel
Portrayed by: Jaleel White