He first stole our hearts as the lovable snort-prone Steve Urkel in “Family Matters,” and now, Jaleel White is set to make America smile once again as he prepares to hit the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”
As his dance floor debut draws near, AccessHollywood.com caught up with the 35-year-old star to dish on his multiple upcoming projects, fatherhood and his off-screen relationship with Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura Winslow on “Family Matters”) – the long-desired object of Urkel’s bespectacled, suspendered affection.
“It was very brother-sisterly,” Jaleel said of his off-air status with Kellie. “She’s married now and we both have children. She moved back to Maryland and I think that was a good move for her. She’s readapted to real life and motherhood.”
Adding, “Kellie’s wonderful – she’s great. I always thought she was an incredibly underrated actress.”
Hanging out with Kellie and friends wasn’t the only perk of “Family Matters” daily life – Jaleel revealed he used to play basketball with George Clooney during his down time, as the “ER” set was right next door.
“[I won] pretty much all the time. But George is quite the hustler when it comes to H.O.R.S.E.,” Jaleel told Access with a laugh, referring to the friendly basketball game. “You do not want to play George Clooney in H.O.R.S.E.!
“I haven’t [kept in touch with him],” he added. “Obviously there was a huge age difference and our interaction was organic. The guy loves basketball, he’s a complete gentleman — very competitive — and really one of the coolest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of working next door to on a stage.”
Now the proud father of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jaleel admits his baby girl is more familiar with his role in the family comedy “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,” versus “Family Matters.”
“She’s old enough to understand that Daddy goes to work, she is old enough to understand that Daddy’s work puts him on the TV,” Jaleel told Access of his daughter’s comprehension of his career . “She will come hit me over the head with the ‘Judy Moody’ DVD and say, ‘Put Daddy in!’ and I think that’s really awesome.
“People ask all the time, ‘Does she know what you did?’ and I say, ‘No! You’re old, she’s young!” he added, laughing. “She knows me from ‘Judy Moody’ and the Cee Lo video [‘Cry Baby’].”
As for whether his daughter will get to watch her daddy compete for the mirrorball trophy from the “DWTS” ballroom, Jaleel says she may be a little young for a front row seat.
“I’m probably going to keep her in [my] trailer,” he told Access. “I don’t really want to put her out there like that — not right now at least. I’m going to play it by ear.”
The actor will definitely have the support of a family member in the ballroom however – Mama White, who is a huge “DWTS” fan.
“Gail White – she will not be denied!” he said with a laugh. “I would be shocked if she does not come to every show.”
In addition to “Dancing,” Jaleel will soon play host on Syfy’s new game show, “Total Blackout,” as well as guest starring on USA’s “Psych” for a second time next Wednesday alongside Mekhi Phifer and Cheech Marin, and the actor is thrilled to be back bringing smiles to faces of his fans.
“I make people laugh. If you give me a funny script, I’m going to make it even funnier,” he told Access. “My heroes are Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy and people of that sort, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and hopefully I’ll get back to that soon enough.
“But right now, it’s really about running the gamut of showing people I can do all of these other things, and hey, it seems to have worked out in the last 20 months really great,” he added.
See Jaleel make his “Dancing with the Stars” debut alongside professional partner Kym Johnson when Season 14 premieres on Monday at 8/7c on ABC.
“Total Blackout” premieres on April 25 at 10 PM on Syfy.
-- Erin O’Sullivan