Played by Reginald VelJohnson.
Carl Otis Winslow, who originally appeared on the sitcom Family Matters alongside his wife Harriette, is the, son of Estelle, brother-in-law of Rachel, and the biological father of Eddie, Laura, and Judy, uncle of Richie and adoptive father of 3J. His initials spell COW, and he is often teased because of this. He holds his position as "King of the Castle" (self-proclaimed "Big Kahuna") very seriously; however he is easy to admit defeat to Harriette when involved in typical marital disputes.
Carl is an officer for the Chicago Police Department. By the end of the series, however, Carl has been promoted to Captain. He takes his job seriously, and it is often suggested that he is very good at what he does, despite the fact that his boss, Lt. Murtaugh, is very incompetent. Fitting into his character, he has an avid love for doughnuts and other junk food. This plays into the fact that he is overweight, and in several stories throughout the series, Carl's physical health plays a role.
Early on, he is a police sergeant; he is eventually promoted to lieutenant, and eventually captain.
Carl is constantly annoyed by his pesky neighbor, Steve Urkel, who has a very high level of respect for Carl, and affectionately calls him "Big Guy". Although Steve is relentlessly annoying, and has cost the Winslow family tons of time and money, resulting from his own clumsy demeanor, Carl is often there to back Steve up, and help him out in times of distress. Over the progression of the show's run, Carl develops a fondness for Steve that surprises even himself.
Carl is very protective of his children, especially his daughters, and is very strict when it comes to Eddie taking responsibility for his actions. More than once, this has led to serious conflict with his children (and one time, caused Eddie to move out).
Throughout the series, whenever Carl decides to firmly stick to a decision, he sternly states his catchphrase, "I have spoken!" Some other catchphrases he has said to Steve Urkel every time he gets annoyed with him is "Go home Steve!" then Steve says, "But Carl" then Carl says again, "Go home!" then Carl says right before Steve opens his mouth, "GO HOME! GO HOME! GO HOME!" then Steve replies "I don't have to take this. I'm going home." Carl also replies to Steve's accidents after Steve says, "At least no one got hurt", Carl says "Not yet" then chases Steve to hurt him. Also when Steve does anything to annoy Carl, Carl says to Steve, "Steve come here" then Steve says, "Oh Boy" and Carl chases Steve to hurt him.
Harriette is Carl's wife, Rachel's big sister, biological mother of Eddie, Laura, and Judy, aunt of Richie, and adoptive mother of 3J. Harriette is a very conservative and strong-willed woman. She holds her role in society as a mother and working woman with high regard. Harriette is very reluctant to tell people what they want to hear, as she is very frank and upfront about her feelings. She is very constructive in her demeanor and attitude. She was Director of Security for the Chicago Chronicle. She had previously worked at the newspaper as an elevator operator, but was laid off when she asked for a raise. She applied for the security position, but her former boss was reluctant to hire her, due to her lack of experience. Harriette explained that despite a lack of experience, she was more than able to perform the job because of her activities as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She remained at the job for four years, until she was fired for refusing to reduce her security staff during a budget crisis. She was later a service clerk at Ferguson's Department Store, a job she got soon after losing her job at the Chronicle. She is later promoted to Head of Sales, replacing an ill-tempered, condescending department head. Her character changed after the eighth season, only to allow for Elder to take on the character in the last half of the ninth and final season. Harriette would often gently speak her catch phrase, "Carl".
Played by Darius McCrary, Eddie is a casual NBA, NFL fan, and jock. He is the only son, and oldest child, of Carl and Harriette until they adopt 3J. During the early years of the series, he was a high school student with sometimes stereotypical traits of a high school slacker (e.g., poor grades and irresponsible behavior). Eddie frequently had a stormy relationship with his father, especially concerning Carl's strict rules. Eddie's best friends were Waldo Faldo and Steve. During the first two seasons, he was also friends with Rodney Beckett, a Caucasian classmate. He also on occasion, would hang out with "Weasel". Initially, his relationship with Urkel - who considered Eddie his "best bud", and often affectionately called him "Eddo", it was little more than out of pity (seeing him as nothing more than an unpopular nerd). Steve remained loyal to Eddie, and he eventually accepted him as a true friend. Eddie enrolled at the Police academy, eventually getting hired by the Chicago Police Department as a rookie officer.
Played by Kellie Shanygne Williams, Laura is the oldest daughter of Harriette and Carl, and the object of Steve's affections. It is suggested that she makes high grades. Laura generally had little patience for Steve's antics, but her seeming disliking of him only seemed to egg him on further. She eventually learned to love Steve, and they became engaged to be married in the third to last episode, Pop Goes the Question. The original plan for the series finale was to be Laura and Steve's wedding.
Played by Valerie Jones (pilot only), and Jaimee Foxworth (1989-1993). Judy is the younger daughter, and youngest child, of Carl and Harriette. Her middle name is unknown (Laura's middle name is Lee and Eddie's middle names are James and Arthur). She is nine years old as the series begins, and is in the series until she is twelve. It is suggested that she enjoys a close relationship with her sister Laura. She attended elementary school, and later middle school (in sixth grade). During her years on the show, the name of her schools are never disclosed. She later disappeared from the series altogether, with no explanation given.
Played by Jaleel White, Steve Urkel is a stereotypical nerd, with large, thick eyeglasses, "high-water" pants held up by suspenders, a high-pitch nasal-tone voice, and a snorting laugh. While highly intelligent, he was also quite accidental-prone, (spawning his catchphrase, "Did I do that?", later on the show he says to Carl "At least no one got hurt," then Carl replies "Not yet," then Carl chases Steve to hurt him, and "Look what you did!", assuming the accident happened by another person's fault and counter phrase to "Did I Do That?".) and socially awkward. He was also known for his massive crush on Laura Winslow, and constantly attempting to win her affections. He also frequently got on Carl's nerves. He became known for his signature "Urkel Dance", a novelty dance that he frequently performed. He has also created numerous inventions, that were otherwise considered impossible, especially for the 1990s. He first appeared in the first-season episode "Laura's First Date". He also had an alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle. Steve's nickname for Estelle is "Estelle my belle." Richie Crawford affectionally calls him "Uncle Steve," since he's at the Winslows so often.
A supporting character who made many appearances throughout the show's run, Myrtle was Steve's cousin from "the deep South". Myrtle's father, Big Daddy (portrayed by Reginald VelJohnson in a dual role), owns a peanut farm, making that particular branch of the Urkel family very wealthy. The two live on a large Biloxi plantation, called "Urkel Oaks", which (in Myrtle's premiere episode) her father was rumored to be selling. Myrtle had an obsession with Eddie, just as Steve had with Laura. Unlike Steve, who respected Laura's personal space, and accepted the fact that she dated other guys (though not happily), Myrtle crossed most boundaries to an extreme, causing Eddie to be terrified of her (as his sister Laura was a little uncomfortable around Steve). Myrtle returned in Season Seven, and when she returned, her personality was still the same, but her voice was much different. When Greta became Eddie's girlfriend, she and Myrtle would get into fights, going to extremes at times. In a dream sequence, when Eddie is paid a lot of money to marry Myrtle, Greta crashes the wedding, and engages in a catfight with Myrtle. By the conclusion of the series, Myrtle moves on, realizing that she has far too much pride, and way too much money, to deal with the likes of Eddie. When Eddie asks what he'll do without her in his life, Myrtle responds with: "Well, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." And left with her chin up high. Her line was also a reference to the 1939 film, Gone With The Wind.
Myrtle Urkel is played also by Jaleel White.
Played by Telma Hopkins (1989-1993, occasionally appearing 1994-1997)
Rachel was Harriette's widowed little sister. She moved in with the Winslows shortly after her husband, Robert, died (the series never showed any flashbacks of him). She is the mother of Richard "Richie" Crawford. A budding singer, she is also a writer and an entrepreneur, opening Rachel's Place (a hangout for teenagers, much in the vein of Arnold's from Happy Days) in 1990, which replaced Leroy's, a similar hamburger joint that Urkel had accidentally burned down. Rachel is seen throughout the first four seasons; after a year's absence, she made occasional appearances during the rest of the show's run. Rachel considered herself more beautiful than Harriette. Rachel's trademark was hats. Her final appearance was in the season 9 Christmas episode, and she wasn't seen again after opening her presents.
Played by Joseph & Julius Wright (credited as Joseph Julius Wright) (1989-1990); and Bryton McClure (1990-1997)
Richard "Richie" Crawford was the only son of Robert and Rachel Crawford; Robert dies before Richie was born, which in part prompts Rachel's move into the Winslow household. There, Carl effectively fills the "father" role left vacant by Robert's death.
Richie is almost a year old in first-season episodes, and age-advanced to 4 years old thereafter. He is a typical mischievous child, and even idolizes Steve; in fact, due to the nerd's constant visits and unrelenting crush on Laura, Richie calls him "Uncle Steve".
In later episodes, Richie becomes friends with a young orphan named 3J (whom the Winslows eventually adopt). His final series appearance was the Season 9 Christmas episode "Deck the Malls."
Played by Orlando Brown (1996-1998)
3J—Jerry Jamal Jameson—was a young orphan whom Carl and Harriette adopted early in the 1996-1997 season. He was introduced as Urkel's Little Brother (in an episode paying homage to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America program), and later is friends with Richie. His street-wise, smart-mouthed demeanor is a cover for his loneliness and desire to have a stable, permanent family; his birth mother had given him up for adoption shortly after he was born, and frequently had moved around. The Winslows, seeing that he needed love, decide to adopt him.
Played by Michelle Thomas (1993-1998)
Myra was introduced midway through the fourth season as a possible girlfriend for Urkel. She was the cousin of Laura's then-boyfriend, Ted, who set up the date to get the nerd out of his way. Myra was supposed to be a one time character (just like Steve was, in Season One), but was given a role on the series.
Myra Monkhouse is a beautiful girl who is attracted to nerdy boys and polka music. She has a very perky and persistent personality. In season 5, she transferred to Steve and Laura's school to be closer to her "Stevie-kins". Steve, who is also attracted to Myra, only agrees to date her, on the condition that his feelings for Laura remain intact. This frequently causes Myra to feel in competition with Laura for Steve's affections; Laura would often try to correct the misunderstanding, but Myra would only become more convinced that Laura was after Steve. However, since Laura doesn't really show any attraction for Steve, Myra is willing to accept a truce, although the Laura-Myra relationship remains testy, even in the most banal, non-Urkel situations. Steve and Myra soon grow apart and eventually break up in season 9, as Steve was about to start a real relationship with Laura. Myra, however, never fully accepted the idea of their relationship being officially over. When Steve asks Laura on a date and Laura accepts, Myra grows furious at her loss. She pairs up with Stefan Urquelle (Jaleel White) and both set out to win them back. Stefan fails as well as Myra, though she continues to try multiple times. Because the show was canceled without a series finale, Myra's fate, or whether or not she continues to try to win back Steve's affection, was unknown.
Waldo was portrayed by actor Shawn Harrison. (1990-1996)
Waldo was part of Family Matters from 1990 to 1996. For most of the time Waldo was featured on the show, he was friends with Eddie Winslow (the son of the show's main characters, Carl and Harriette Winslow) and the Winslows' quintessential nerdy neighbor, Steve Urkel. Like Urkel (the show's most famous character), Waldo was an outlandish, almost surrealistic character. While Urkel was the resident nerd, Waldo was the resident idiot. Waldo has reached the point where he even annoys Urkel. Waldo was discovered to be a great chef. Waldo has also been afraid to walk, until he was ten.
Waldo's most famous trait was his dimwittedness and uncanny ability to misinterpret a simple question, comment, or directive. Waldo was, however, an excellent cook. His catchphrases include: "Cool","No prob, Bob!", and "Sup!"
Played by Barry Jenner (1990-1992)
During Carl's time as sergeant, Lt. Lieutenant Murtaugh was Carl's superior officer, and was used as a comic foil for Carl's straight man. He was boastful, arrogant and rather boneheaded. He took advantage of others, took credit (or tried to) for accomplishments or actions of others, and desired to date Carl's sister-in-law, Rachel. Frequently, his behavior toward Rachel crossed the line of sexual harassment.
Murtaugh showed an open disdain for Steve Urkel, laughing at him and calling him "nerd" on many occasions. However, the two shared a song and root beer floats and the end of one episode after both their objects of affection scorned them. In another episode, Murtaugh is appreciative of Urkel's sense of good sportsmanship and fair play when, after losing his watch in a poker game, Urkel gives it back.
Murtaugh legally changes his name every time he is promoted, and it is evidenced by an episode in which Murtaugh mentions he'd like to remain on a first name basis, and when Carl tells him he doesn't know his first name, Murtaugh replied with "Lieutenant!" After explaining, Carl asks what Murtaugh's name was before, and receives the harsh reply "Sergeant!" (Murtaugh's punchlines were often replied with a serious deadpan expression from Jenner.)
Murtaugh's final appearance is in the fourth-season episode "Number One With a Bullet" (after he visits an injured Carl in the hospital and makes his final attempt to cozy up to Rachel). The circumstances surrounding his departure were never explained. The likely reason is that Carl was promoted to lieutenant shortly after that episode and Murtaugh no longer would be his superior.
Played by Sherman Hemsley (1994-1995)
After his promotion to Lieutenant, Carl's second boss was Capt. Savage, who — like Lt. Murtaugh — was loud-mouthed, arrogant and boastful, although he did not exhibit sexual harassment-like behavior. In the episode "Par for the Course", Capt. Savage, Carl, and Steve all played golf together. Captain Savage cheated by kicking or moving his ball when he was not supposed to. Steve convinced Carl to confront Savage about his cheating. Savage responded by saying that he liked that Carl confronted him and they needed more honest police officers like Carl, then warned him if he were so confronted again, it could cost him his job. In another episode, Savage and his girlfriend came to the Winslows to have dinner. Carl recognized Savage's girlfriend from a strip club, but Savage (who already knew about his girlfriend's profession) had Carl reprimanded for not minding his own business.
Played by Dick O'Neill (1996-1998)
When Carl began pursuing a promotion to captain, Commissioner Geiss was introduced. Like his predecessors, Geiss was openly disagreeable, but in a somewhat different way. Rather a curmudgeonly grouch, Geiss nevertheless took a shine to Carl, who went out of his way to impress him.
Played by Bridgid Coulter (1990-1991)
Eddie's first "serious" girlfriend, seen occasionally during the second season.
Played by Tammy Townsend (1995-1998)
Eddie's steady girlfriend since early in the series (when the main girl in his life was Jolene) was Greta McClure, the daughter of his boss at the Mighty Weenie. Greta was a friend of Laura; her father was very strict with her and didn't exactly approve of Eddie. At one point, he decided to give Greta an ultimatum: she had to stop seeing Eddie or he'd cut off her funding to college. Greta chose Eddie and resorted to posing nude for art class to raise money. Greta is also successfully able to fight off Myrtle Urkel, the "girl" who is vying for Eddie's affections. As of the end of the series, they are still together.
Played by Shavar Ross (1992-1994)
Weasel is a streetwise high school student who is a friend of Eddie Winslow, appearing from 1992-1994. Weasel—whose real name is Alex Park—likes to do things like moon metermaids. He gets detention a lot, and received a commemorative plaque from Steve Urkel on his 100th day of detention, which Weasel was proud of. In one episode, he went to the school dance with Waldo Faldo's sister, Quesadilla. Eddie and Waldo were worried that Weasel would be disrespectful to Quesedilla, but she said that he had been a perfect gentleman. Weasel was notorious for getting the guys into sticky situations, often through a hare-brained get-rich-quick scheme.
Played by Ebonie Smith (1989-1990)
Penny was Laura's best friend during the first season of the series.
Played by Cherie Johnson (1990-1998)
After Penny left the scene, Maxine followed, becoming Laura's main sidekick for the rest of the series run. Like Laura, she was pretty, popular and boy-crazy. From 1993-1996, she dated Waldo Geraldo Faldo; despite his stupidity, the two remained loyal to each other throughout their relationship. Maxine had softer feelings for Urkel, unlike Laura (during the early years), a trait she inherited from her predecessor, Penny. It is said in an episode that her mother doesn't care for her, but this is untouched in any other episode.
Played by Patrick Dancy (1992-1993)
Ted was Laura's boyfriend during the fourth season. Although he has positive qualities, he also has a testy relationship with Steve Urkel, tending to be annoyed with the nerd when he believes he is interfering in their relationship — for instance, in "Stuck on You," Urkel accidentally glues his hand to Laura and is unable to free it, just as Ted arrives for his date with Laura.
The Ted-Laura relationship begins to show promise until the episode "Rumor Has It," when Ted allows his friends to spread a rumor implying that he and Laura had sex on their first date. Urkel overhears Ted and his friends talk about the date and vows to expose them; later, Laura refuses to believe Urkel, but after learning from Maxine that she heard the same rumor, works with Urkel and Eddie to expose the truth.
Ted and Laura don't speak to each other for several weeks, but Ted returns later on. His most prominent role later on in the fourth season is in the episode "A Thought in the Dark," where the character Myra Monkhouse is introduced as Ted's cousin and potential suitor to Urkel.
Ted and Laura mutually agree to break off their relationship in the episode "Heart Strings." Although the Myra character continued to appear throughout the rest of the series run, no mention of Ted nor any reference to his being Myra's cousin is made again.
Played by Kim Valentine (1991-1992)
During the series' third season, the character of Cassie Lynn Nubbles was added as an antagonist to Laura and Urkel. She was a spoiled, vain, shallow and egotistical teen-ager, although her attempts to upstage her classmates and thus improve her social standing always ended in failure. Examples of her behavior included:
Cassie Lynn's appearance in "Food, Lies and Videotape" was the character's last.
Played by Susan Krebs (1990-1992)
Ms. Steuben was one of the teachers at Vanderbilt High, where Urkel, Laura, Eddie and Waldo were enrolled. While she proved to be a good teacher, she was also a very nervous one as she taught several classes where Urkel was enrolled, including home economics, social studies and drama. She continually tried to elude Urkel by teaching classes she thought he would never enroll in, but instead wound up teaching several of his classes. Urkel's ambitious and over-enthusiastic ways frequently resulted in situations that caused Ms. Steuben no end of grief, and on at least one occasion — after a major accident in a cooking class, where Urkel's mutated yeast causes uncooked bread dough to spill out of the oven and create a huge mess — prompted a near-resignation.
Ms. Steuben appeared in four episodes: "Marriage 101," "Fight the Good Fight," "The Show Must Go On" and "Food, "Lies and Videotape," spread out during the second and third seasons. Although most of her encounters in these episodes were with Urkel, a majority of her appearance in "Fight the Good Fight" had her interacting with Laura as she attempted to start a black history course.
Her appearance in "Food, Lies and Videotape" marked Mrs. Steuben's final appearance.
Played by Clyde Kusatsu (1990-1994)
Equally harried by Urkel's antics was Vanderbilt High's principal, Edgar Shimata. He appeared in a number of episodes during a period of four seasons, from 1990 through 1994. He and Steve sometimes conversed in Japanese to each other when they didn't want to let anyone else know what they were discussing.
While most of Shimata's appearances were comedy relief, he did help oversee Laura's attempt to start a black history class. His duties also included presiding over Vanderbilt High's student court; in "Presumed Urkel," he heard the case where Urkel was accused of causing an accident that resulted in an explosion in the school's chemistry lab, and handed down an acquittal when it was proven that Urkel was framed by an overzealous fellow student.
Played by Tom Poston (1994-1995)
Vanderbilt's perpetually confused janitor, Alfred Looney was always available to cause commotion through his absent-mindedness and remind everyone that his last name is pronounced "Lou-né" ("it's French" Looney would sternly remind everyone).
Looney was prominently featured in three episodes during the series' fifth and sixth seasons. His first appearance came in "Presumed Urkel," where he was a witness in a student court case where Urkel was accused of blowing up the school's chemistry lab.
In "The Looney Bin," it is revealed that Looney was homeless and living, without the school's knowledge or consent, in the school's old bomb shelter; Urkel, Carl and (eventually) the school administration help Looney find a suitable place to live. Looney's final series appearance came in "Wedding Bell Blues," where he tries to commit suicide after learing his bride-to-be is not true to him; Carl and Urkel are able to talk him out of it and reunite him with an old girlfriend.
Played by Ron Orbach (1995-1997)
Mr. Neitermeyer first appeared in the episode "Bugged" as Harriette's obnoxious boss. Harriette invited him over to play in Carl's weekly poker game with Carl's permission. Neitermeyer acted very rude every time he won, which annoyed Carl who couldn't risk Harriette's job by getting upset. Realizing how inconsiderate he was acting to the family, Harriette then stood up to Neitermeyer and kicked him out once it was found out he no longer had any authority over her. Nick returned later as the Winslow's new neighbor. His rude behavior caused an on-going feud with Carl during season 8. However, realizing the bad influence their feud had on the kids, Carl decided to become friends with Neitermeyer. Their bonding led to Nick revealing that his bad attitude toward Carl is the cause of jealousy over not having a family after his wife left him. He was last seen in the episode "Revenge of the Nerd".