Jaleel White Auditioned For Role of Rudy on ‘The Cosby Show’
Prior to stealing our hearts on ‘Family Matters’, Jaleel White, who played the iconic role of Steve Urkel, had the opportunity to co-star on The Cosby Show.
Apparently, prior to hitting the air in 1989, the sitcom had not identified whether or not the family’s child, Rudy, would be a male or female. As you know, Rudy was played by Keshia Knight Pulliam. However, White says he auditioned for the role.
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.
Now that I’m adult I understand — you’re never going to [present the show to the] network without options. … That was a complete lie just to get me to come back. 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 wasn’t one of the kids they pointed and admits the experience was heartbreaking.
I went home, and I just … I cried my eyes out. But I did things that a kid does when they’re hurt, and they’re acting out. My mom had to grab me and shake me. She was like, ‘If you ever react like that again to an audition, you’re done. [acting].’ She was probably more rattled that I was reacting this way.
The very next year I got cast in another show that was called ‘The Cosby Clone,’ Charlie & Co., with Flip Wilson and Gladys Knight, that only lasted for one season. I continued to work, going to school constantly. I worked my entire youth. And then, [Family Matters] comes along, literally, probably about six months before I was absolutely dead set on quitting [acting] because I was going to the NBA.
His basketball dreams came to halt after he landed Family Matters.