Jo Marie Payton, Reginald VelJohnson and Kellie Williams reunited at '90s Con on Saturday and spoke on the introduction of Steve Urkel to the ABC show
On Saturday, Jo Marie Payton, Reginald VelJohnson and Kellie Williams gathered together at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida to reminisce about their beloved sitcom that ran on ABC from 1989 to 1997. Jaleel White, who memorably played Steve Urkel, was notably absent from the panel, but that didn't stop the cast members from reminiscing on his involvement in the series.
During the conversation, moderated by PEOPLE's Senior Editor Breanne Heldman, the cast spoke kindly about White, 46, despite past public disagreements. "Hate is not a part of anything you do. I will always love him," Payton, 73, said.
Later, she added, "Yes, sometimes you bump heads and things — but I’ll always love him. He was always a child to me, and I don’t care how old he is, he’s still a child to me…to me, no matter how old he gets, he’ll still be a baby. And I forgive everything because I have that kind of heart to get past stuff."
VelJohnson, 71, echoed the point. "He had a lot to deal with, because we were already established as a family but he had to get into the group and introduce himself," he said. "We love him. We’re sorry he’s not here, but he’s a special person."
PEOPLE also caught up with the actors on the '90s con carpet, where they shared what they'd say to White if he were in attendance. "As we grow we learn, we change, we get a little more accepting of life," Payton said. "If he were here and I could hug him, I would. Because I don’t hold anything, and I don’t want you to hold anything either."
VelJohnson added, "I love you, Jaleel. You’re wonderful. Sorry you’re not here. We miss you." Williams, who still speaks to White, joked: "I talk to him, so he knows I love his crazy butt."
White previously claimed he was "not very well welcomed to the cast" in a 2021 interview with TV One. "I didn't see how I was stepping on anybody's toes, I was taking anybody's shine," he said.
In 2022, Payton claimed White wanted to "physically fight me" while filming an episode of the ABC series. Looking back at White's alleged on-set behavior, she stated in a conversation with Entertainment Tonight that he was "just a kid,"
"I give some of those adults credit too," she said. "Letting him run wild and do whatever he wanted to do, thinking he can say what he wants to say, you know, and hurt people's feelings and all that."
The cast also spoke of their close bond, calling their show a "family."
"The relationship we had as a family, as cast members, it was everlasting, it had no end to it," Payton said. "We knew from the day we came together we’d die to stay together."
Williams, now 47 — who was just 13 when the show aired — said her on-screen parents became true parental figures in her life. "I think that’s why people really love the show. When I say, 'I love you, Mom,' I'm really saying it to Jo," Williams said with a smile. "These people raised me. It wasn’t just a show; it was a family."
The show became a cornerstone of the network's TGIF lineup as it followed the lives of the Winslow family. Payton played family matriarch Harriette, and VelJohnson played police officer and patriarch Carl. Williams portrayed the couple's seemingly perfect, know-it-all daughter, Laura.
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As for whether the cast would ever reunite on screen together again, McCrary, 47, expressed at last year's '90s Con that he would be open to the possibility of doing so. "You need to contact [series co-creator] Bob Boyett and Netflix and tell them," he said. "The possibilities are endless today."
"You guys have so much more power in your hands than you did," he told event attendees. "There was three networks, four networks — NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. Now there are so many platforms … you guys can start an online campaign. Get on Facebook, talk, share … if you guys had this much power in your hands, Judy would have never got left at the mall."
'90s Con is currently being held in Tampa till Sunday.
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