Jaleel White Biography

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Birth Name: Jaleel White
Born: 11/27/1976
Birth Place: Pasadena, California, USA

Born Nov. 27, 1976 in Pasadena, CA, Jaleel Ahmad White began working in front of the camera in commercials at the age of three, and quickly became a veteran child actor, booking appearances on everything from "The Jeffersons" (CBS, 1975-1985) to "Charlie & Co." (CBS, 1985-86) to "Mr. Belvedere" (ABC, 1985-1990). In fact, he almost landed the role of "Rudy" on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) until Bill Cosby decided to make the character a girl. White's star-making role, however, came from a more unlikely place: a one-time guest spot on the sitcom "Family Matters" (ABC/CBS, 1989-1998) as the cartoonishly nerdy Steve Urkel. It was a testament to White's charisma that he managed to turn the character, clad in big glasses, suspendered-high-water pants, and a cardigan, into not just a scene-stealer, but in effect a series-stealer. A gifted physical comedian who gave Urkel his distinctively squeaky voice and bizarrely graceful movements, White quickly proved so mind-bogglingly popular that he was given a series regular role.

Although the series had originally been intended to focus on the middle-class African-American Winslow family, headed by Harriette (Jo Marie Payton) and Carl (Reginald VelJohnson), it only achieved massive success when the Urkel character arrived, and quickly usurped the focus of the show, pushing it into more over-the-top territory. Although some of the cast members resented the switch, White's presence powered the program to full-fledged hit status, and he won a three Image Awards for his work. The international Urkel mania the character created could not be overstated. Not only did White reprise the character on a slew of sitcoms in ABC's iconic, much-loved "TGIF" lineup, but Steve Urkel also spawned a dance, breakfast cereal, doll and countless other products, as well as a string of catchphrases, including "Got any cheese?" "Whoooaaaa mama!" and "Did I do that?" For a certain generation, White-as-Steve-Urkel became an essential pop culture symbol, fondly remembered decades later.

As with many other actors who created iconic characters like Henry Winkler's Fonzie from "Happy Days," White recognized the difficulty of escaping being typecast by the long shadow of Urkel. He took admirable steps to branch out professionally, writing an episode of "Family Matters" and creating a slew of additional Urkel relatives that allowed him to demonstrate his impressive range, including the Southern belle Myrtle Urkel and the smooth clone Stefan Urquelle. When the show ended, he voiced the titular video game hero Sonic the Hedgehog on several animated series iterations. He returned to live-action television with a sitcom that mirrored his attempts to move beyond child stardom, "Grown Ups" (UPN, 1999-2000), which failed to catch fire. He lent his voice again to an animated project, "Quest for Camelot" (1998), while returning to school at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he earned his bachelor's degree in film in 2001. After appearing in several lower-profile projects, he essayed a small role as a talent booker in the Oscar-winning "Dreamgirls" (2006), revealing a fully grown-up presence.

White starred on the web series "Fake It Til You Make It" and continued to book TV guest spots, including an episode of "House" (Fox, 2004-2012) as well as the direct-to-DVD creature feature "Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus" (2010). Revealing himself to have grown into a decidedly non-dorky adult, he made a well-received cameo as the quirky teacher of "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" (2011). While doing press for that film, he discussed the legacy of his Steve Urkel superstardom, displaying an admirable sense of perspective as well as stating his desire to move on artistically. Fans were glad to hear that he landed the hosting gig of Syfy's new game show, "Total Blackout" (2012). Meanwhile, in February 2012, it was announced that White would join the season 14 cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), competing alongside Melissa Gilbert, NFL wide receiver Donald Driver and old "Charlie & Co." co-star Gladys Knight.

By Jonathan Riggs




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