Family Matters was a beloved ’90s sitcom that featured an African American middle-class family that aired every Friday night for nine seasons on ABC. While the show was classified as an American classic, one cast member recalled experiencing drama behind the scenes.
Actress Jo Marie Payton, who played matriarch Harriette Winslow in the series, sat down with ET’s Rachel Smith as the outlet highlighted the most iconic television mothers for Mother’s Day. Payton revealed some surprising details about her time on the show.
While the show was centered around Steve Urkel, played by Jaleel White, the 71-year-old said his attitude affected the chemistry between the cast members on set.
“There was one time he actually wanted to physically fight me,” Payton noted, recalling the season 9 episode, “Original Gangsta Dawg,” in which White also played Steve’s “gangster” cousin, OGD. “[There was a scene where] I said we can’t do that, standards and practices will not let that pass, it’s not gonna happen. He wanted to do it anyway. He was so mad. He started kicking and screaming and stuff.”
“He said something about, ‘She must want to melee.’ I said, ‘What’s a melee?’ He said, ‘a fight.’ I turned around — if he wanna fight, I would,” she continued. “Darius [McCrary] grabbed me. I was gonna whip his behind.”
Years after the series ended, Payton said she realized that White was “just a kid” at the time and doesn’t give him “all the credit” for his behavior.
“I give some of those adults credit too,” she added. “Letting him run wild and do whatever he wanted to do, thinking he can say what he wants to say, you know, and hurt people’s feelings and all that.”
Now, Payton said she’s focused on remembering the good times she had on Family Matters without harboring bad feelings towards White or the show’s producers.
“I did love all of my Family Matters crew,” she noted. “I’ve kept in touch with a lot of them. I see them on other shows. I love them all. We had incredible writers, I love them, and they know who my issue was with. It wasn’t with the entirety of them.”
When asked if she would be willing to reunite with the cast and do a reboot of Family Matters, Payton responded, “You know what I tell people? I never say never.”
In the meantime, Payton has remained busy reprising her role as the spunky, grey-haired Suga Mama Proud on the Disney+ series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which was renewed for its second season after the original aired more than 20 years ago on the Disney channel.