It’s been almost 30 years since Family Matters debuted on ABC, so it’s remarkable that we haven’t heard this story before.
During a recent reunion of the cast of Family Matters, Jaleel White, who played Urkel, admitted that he was almost cast as Rudy on The Cosby Show. Jaleel White described the story of coming sooooo close to being on The Cosby Show:
In 1984, I auditioned for The Cosby Show. And that was a very emotional audition. [Then-NBC president] Brandon Tartikoff was in the room. And Mr. Cosby, obviously. They brought everybody that made the show, all the kids – they probably had us audition over the course of like five or six hours. My agent had been told that they’ve pretty much settled on [me], so I went to the audition thinking I was just going on a last audition. And then, all of a sudden, this little girl walks in.
That little girl was, of course, Keshia Knight Pulliam, who went on to play Rudy for 8 years. White continued,
They were flying everybody out the next day to New York to begin rehearsals to do the show…We were planning, we were packing; my mom and dad were trying to figure it out, ’cause my dad was in dental school at the time – ‘How are we going to do this, Gail? Are you going to New York with Jaleel to shoot the show?’ And [the producers] came out after about six hours and they said to a bunch of little kids and their parents, ‘We will take you, you, you, and you.’
White was not one of the kids, and he was crushed. He broke down in hysterics later, and his mother said if he ever did that again after an audition his acting career would be finished. Just a few years later he took on the role of Urkel in Family Matters.