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October 6, 2015

Jaleel White talks about what matters to him with new series Road to the Altar

by Danny Gallagher, posted Jul 6th 2009 2:28PM
Jaleel White and Leyna Juliet Weber in Most prime time network shows have a chain of command that would make the Pentagon look like a PTA board.

There's the writers who send their scripts to the show runners who then have to filter their changes through the director who send them to the producer where it's thumbed through and sent to a group of picky censors and so on and so on. Ninety offices later, the script is finally ready for shooting, even though the story went from a quirky drama about a lawyer who represents illegal immigrants to a sci-fi epic about mutant leeches who suck out astronauts' brains through their nostrils.

But actor Jaleel White has found a place in Hollywood where the usual studio aristocracy has been thrown away in the name of freedom and simplicity: the Internet.

"I'm so excited about it because I don't need to go to an executive now," White said in a recent phone interview. "Our focus group is America."

White's first major Internet venture is in the new online series Road to the Altar, a reality show style mockumentary of one couple's rocky road to the start of eternal matrimony. White, best remembered for playing the nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel on perennial-fan favorite Family Matters, plays Simon Fox, the eternally patient groom to Rochelle, played by Leyna Juliet Weber, who co-wrote and co-created the series with director Annie Lukowski.

The first hook that reeled him into the series, Jaleel said, was the fact that he didn't even have to audition. The pair wanted him for the part from the start and their humor and story made for some tasty bait.

"It is ten times funnier than any of the stuff I read for TV," he said. "They (Weber and Lukowski) are both two rockets filled with estrogen and they have a great point-of-view, especially when it comes to this wedding stuf f... I love to see filmmakers who still have their vision intact. They know what they want to shoot and they are capable of shooting it with the budget that they have."

The series combines a tight story outline with some loose improvisation and breaks through the fourth wall with a series of video blogs featuring almost all of the major and minor characters. All except his, Jaleel said.

"I have to admit, I'm jealous of the video blogs," he said with a laugh. "I love watching those video blogs because those are the funniest part of the entire web series to me. You can really see those people embodied in those characters."

And since its also on the web, Jaleel said they are allowed to really explore the depths and humor of their characters without resorting to unspoken television rules and relying on edginess through more conventional targets.

"Let's talk about the obvious. Lena's white and I'm black," he said. "If we were doing this as an NBC series, half of the jokes would have to be about that. The bottom line is they are telling their story, so it's a non-issue."

The issue does come up in a future episode, but Jaleel said the humor derived from it is exposed "organically, like all of the material wasn't geared just towards that."

Ultimately, the series not only gives him the freedom to take an active part in a constantly evolving series, but he said it also gives him the chance to have his and others creations more readily accessible to people who want it.

"Actors never really had mix tapes," Jaleel said. "If nobody's going to put you in that next NBC hit drama or FOX comedy, a lot of people are left asking where is he now and they don't understand that you're really just sitting back and being patient. With the web, there are so many bright filmmakers who just need a shot and this is their mix tape."

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Only closed minded people stereotype other people.
There are plenty of child stars who have re-invented themselves. I think Jaleel is on the right track.

September 07 2009 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good for Jaleel (and all involved). I hope it's a success.

July 07 2009 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow he is out of the tv loop, "that next nbc hit drama". So funny!

July 07 2009 at 5:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Fulton

Sadly, he will always be Steve Urkel.


July 06 2009 at 8:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joe Fulton's comment

We'll see... It's always possible to reinvent oneself, and for Jaleel who, besides seeming well adjusted for a former child star, looks nothing like his former self, and has a couple of truckloads of talent, it should be do-able.

July 27 2009 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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