June 16th, 2011
08:00 AM ET
If the casting for “The Cosby Show” had played out differently, Jaleel White – yes, Steve Urkel from “Family Matters” – could’ve been Rudy Huxtable instead of Keshia Knight Pulliam.
White, 34, tells Vanity Fair that the character was originally supposed to be a boy.
According to White, he thought he was all squared away – his agent had even told his parents to start looking for places in New York. But then, with one more audition left that was supposed to be a “formality for the network,” “a little girl comes walking in, and I’m like—even at eight years old—‘Who’s she?’” White recalls.
“And they’re like, ‘She’s auditioning for Rudy, too.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s not as much of a formality as I thought.’”
After lining up all the potential Huxtable kids, White, needless to say, was passed over. “The rest of us all went home crying. It was amazing. Obviously, I’m grateful that things worked out the way they did; I think it put a little more money in my pocket.”
Indeed, White continues, any job he didn’t get was probably for the best. “Let’s get something straight: All of these rejections resulted in me making a s--load of money elsewhere.”
Presumably, some of that cash came from his nine-year run as Steve Urkel, a job that White says he took seriously.
“I loved playing those characters…If I were Bart Simpson and I were animated, I’d still be on the air right now,” he says. The issue was that he was getting older. “I knew physically I had made certain sacrifices to keep that property alive that just couldn’t be made anymore. I wasn’t changing my hair; I was staying out of the gym. To be honest, I was retarding my own growth as a man in order to maintain the authenticity to what I thought that character should be.”
Meaning he apparently wore his pants way too tight for too long – White says network execs started mentioning “the bulge of my sack!” In the last season, the pants became looser. “It’s not overly sophisticated,” White says. “I’m the highest paid black kid in the history of television, just so you understand that. I was trying to prolong the checks!”
And in case you’re curious, not even White knows what happened to poor Judy Winslow, the character that seemed to just disappear.
“I didn’t get an explanation. Her momma asked for too much and they sent her upstairs. That was it,” he recalls. “Back then, family television had a way of getting away with certain things that, obviously, you couldn’t get away with now.”
White stars as a bango-strumming teacher in the family film “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,” in theaters now.
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