By Veronica Dudo
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) — It was the trademark suspenders, tight pants, oversized glasses and whiny voice that catapulted Jaleel White into stardom for his portrayal of lovable geek “Steve Urkel” on the hit TV series “Family Matters.” Now 35, the actor is the host of a new game show and continues to work in the TV and film industry writing screenplays and acting in a web series.
Over the weekend, White hosted a party at The Pool After Dark inside Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, where he talked about appearing in Cee Lo Green’s music video, what it was like portraying Steve Urkel, and his memorable appearance on “The Johnny Carson Show.”
Welcome to Atlantic City!
You wrote the screenplay for a romantic comedy. Any updates on when that might come out?
Oh God, I have no idea. We’re in pre-production hell when it comes to that project, but I do have a new show coming out on Syfy called “Total Blackout.”
It’s a game show.
Yeah–I’m really, really excited about that. It comes out in March/April. I’ve never been a host of a game show before, and this is definitely going to be a comical game show where we know more than the contestants–it’s going to be fun.
Can you give us any details on what the premise is?
I mean the premise is basically like Punk’d in the dark; it’s like “Punk’d” meets “Wipeout” in the dark. We shoot the entire show in night-vision, and then the game-play happens on the other stage, and I have a very interesting elimination process—how about that for the contestants!
So, how fun was it to be in Cee Lo Green’s “Cry Baby” music video?
[Laughs] It was fun; that was a surprise. My manager basically just called me up on a Saturday and was like, ‘You’re going to dance tomorrow.’ I had four hours to get the steps, and the next morning, I shot with all of these young, energetic, amazing dancers on a Disney back lot. And a month later, my phone’s ringing off the hook because I’m viral one morning. I just tried to keep up with those young kids the best I could.
Early in your career you worked with Sherman Hemsley, Flip Wilson, Gladys Knight and Jennifer Aniston. What did you learn from them?
I didn’t learn anything from those people. [Laughs] I will say this: I have been very fortunate to be around a lot of very famous people at a very young age who handled themselves with a lot of class. I didn’t work with a lot of dimwits, so I like to think conducting myself with a lot of class and just being an old-school celebrity is really what I bring to the table, and I get a lot of that from my influences. You know, I was on Johnny Carson—I’m old enough to have actually been on Johnny. As a matter of fact, the time I was on Johnny Carson, Jay Leno was a guest and he came on after me!
Obviously, being on Family Matters changed your life. Looking back now, what do you think of that experience?
A kick-a** experience. The only part that makes it weird is that I’m thirty-some years old, and I feel like sometimes I’m talking about all these homeruns I hit in high school. [Laughs] But as far as the experience is concerned, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Obviously I saw the world, made great money, I learned the art of comedy–I probably cherish that the most, that I really learned the art of comedy.
BUZZ @ THE BEACH
For the February 3rd weekend, the legendary Tony Bennett performs at Caesars Casino, while Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys hosts the party at The Pool After Dark inside Harrah’s Resort. Jay Mohr and David Guetta will appear at the Borgata, and the Trump Taj Mahal welcomes the AMeiZING World Tour Live.