21 years after its ending, the sitcom Family Matters still holds a significant place in the minds of not only viewers, but also the cast and crew who worked on the show.
During TV One’s reunion special for their Thanksgiving weekend marathon of the show, actress Jo Marie Payton, who played matriarch Harriette Baines-Winslow, examined the show’s legacy alongside fellow stars Reginald VelJohnson and Kellie Shanygne Williams.
“People could relate to us. We were relatable because we weren’t poor poor, but we weren’t super rich either,” Payton said. “We were more relatable than any other Black show.”
However, despite its impact, the show did have a close call with racism and colorism that could have appeared on the show. Payton reflected on being exasperated of having to constantly fight for things or defend decisions, she shared a specific moment from a scene in a Family Matters script that was eventually cut due to racism and colorism. Payton revealed that the Family Matters cast were given a script that featured a dark-skinned character named Uncle Cornelius who was the subject of a joke made by Steve Urkel (Jaleel White).
“Hey, Uncle Cornelius, how’s the baboon heart? Don’t let me catch you swinging from the chandelier,” Payton said, referring to the joke written in the script.
“Then the camera went on to Uncle Cornelius and there he was, this very dark-skinned man. I was so upset.”
At one point, Payton instructed VelJohnson to speak to producers after one of them instructed to put a banana in Uncle Cornelius’ hands. “I said Reggie, you need to go straighten this out because I’m about to tear the ceiling off the place.”
Despite this moment, the cast still spoke fondly of the impact, significance and legacy of the show. VelJohnson shared that “Black shows weren’t popular when we came out. We were all surprised when we lasted nine years.”
Watch the clip of the Family Matters cast below.
Photo: Getty Images
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