Monday, July 12, 2010
The Conversation Between Jaleel White and the Executive at NBC on Creating Urkel’s Alter Ego, “Stefan”
Two men are in a twentieth-plus floor executive suite in an LA high-rise. The walls are painted with that washed, patchy grey that screams early 90’s and shoulder pads on women’s outerwear. The office is decorated, or perhaps festooned is a more appropriate verb, with the angular, solid-colored art that with the exception of television executives has literally zero demand even among the most artistically and culturally deficient.
The role of Greg Davies, NBC’ President of Television Entertainment, should be played by some one like ‘Saved by the Bell’s’, Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) character, or NBA Commissioner David Stern. Basically, an older, white grayish, balding, or grayish and balding, man.
Jaleel/ Urkel should be played by no other than Jaleel White himself. Of course, if Mr. White doesn’t want to reprise his role for existential purposes (i.e., like when you hear your voice when setting-up an answering machine and you haven’t heard your voice in a long time, and its unsettling, not only because your voice is a different pitch then what you hear in your head or because you might have a previously unnoticed, slight lisp, but because you realize that you’re both existing listening to the answering machine in the present, and existing in the past as you’re saying something to the effect of “leave a name and number and that you [presumably now a present, or future you] will call back”) Nick Cannon will suffice.
Greg (sitting in a high-backed, leather chair while flipping a quarter along the back of his fingers): Come in, sit down, get comfortable. What can I get you? A Pepsi? A Mountain Dew?
Urkel: Ahhh, no. Nothing I’m fine.
Greg: How’s my biggest star doing? You hear about the ratings report? We’ve dominated every major demographics market from 8:30 to 9:00 on Friday nights. We’ve got kids in China, other side of the world, saying “Got any cheese?” I mean they say it in Chinese; difficult to pronounce; a bunch of Xs and dipthongs our tongues can’t handle.
Urkel (mopely, staring at his shoes): Great.
Greg: Wooh, wooooh. I will not have my favorite ner . . I mean star frown like that. Give me the goods, my man. What’s going on? Why the long face.
Urkel: It’s . . . it’s well. It’s Urkel.
Greg: Urkel . . . I mean Jalell, what do you mean it’s Urkel?
Urkel: The character. I can’t do it anymore. I’m twenty-three years old and I’m still playing this ridiculous nerd. Every audition I go to, the casting director just makes me say “Did I doooo thaaaaaatttttt?” and they laugh and usher me out.
Greg: He’s your bread and butter. You’re a star because of him. Because of you.
Urkel: Well, yeah I mean the money’s great. But, I’m not a star. I mean a real bona fide staaaarrr. It’s like I have all this money and fame but I can’t use it. I rolled up to a party at Malibu in my new lipstick red Testerosa, and Scott Wolf said “what the hell is Urkel doing in a Lamborghini?” Frick Scott Wolf, and frick ‘Party of Five’. And, girls, don’t even get me started on girls. Do you know what it’s like to be getting a lap dance and have the stripper stop mid dance and ask you if you’re voice is really that high and nasally?
Greg: I’m married Steve . . . I mean Jaleel. The wife ixnayed strip clubs. In the prenup.
Urkel: Well, I’m not married. And, I’m trapped. It’s like I’m imprisoned in this character. In Urkel. Although it’s bizarre because I have all the money and fame—things normal people would dream of—but its worthless, I can’t do anything with it because everyone thinks I’m Urkel.
Greg: What do you want me to do? I can talk to Tom in Distribution and see if we can up you to 25% of revenue on VHS sales. I’m still waiting to hear from Melinda on The Urkel Movie. That thing goes through you can buy your self some Indonesian atoll. Buy yourself a hoard of Russian girlfriends. I have a magazine of them somewhere around here . . .
Urkel (now pacing around the room, jangling the keys to his Testerosa in his pocket): You’re missing the point. The money without the women and the prestige is almost worst than not even having it in the first place. Look at Darius. He’s dating one of the girls from SWV. SWV! I Get so Weak in my Knees?!?!? That song is awesome, And, Darius is Eddie. Nobody even knows his character’s name. They just think he’s Urkel’s dumb brother or something.
Greg: I thought Darius plays Waldo.
Urkel: No, that’s Shawn.
Greg: Eddie’s the male looks of the show. Aesthetics. Hell, Eddie looks like a damn black Chuck Norris. He’s like a magnet to anything with two X chromosomes. You’re the comedy, you’re what people look forward to seeing every Friday night. What they trudge through the work week for. You’re the meal ticket; why we’re all here. ‘Steve the star’. I mean ‘Jaleel the star’.
Urkel (sitting again, and rubbing the toe of one of his Jordan’s in circles around the toe of the other): I want out. I’ll quit. I’m not showing up at dress rehearsal tomorrow. I’ll tell my agent.
Greg: Woooooh, woooh there. Hold on. Back it up. Beep. Beep. What if we get you a really pretty girlfriend on the show? One that likes nerds . . . I mean that likes, well you know?
Urkel: You already did that. Myra? This second the assistant director says cut she won’t look at me. I heard she’s with someone from ‘All 4 One’ anyway. Not even like a main guy in the group. Kind of heavy set guy with a thin-lined beard.
Greg: So what can I do? My hands are tied. Your character’s a nerd. You are who he is . . . I mean he is what it is, I . . .you know what I’m saying.
Urkel: I want you to make me cool. I want another character.
Greg: You mean kill off Urkel? Not that kind of show Jaleel.
Urkel: No I don’t care some kind of time machine. Something that makes Urkel cool. But, I don’t want to be called Urkel. Maybe, Rex, Vince, Stefan . . .
Greg: Or, Greg?
Urkel: Or, Rip . . .
Greg: I like Greg.
Urkel: Look I’m serious here. I’ll go to my agent.
Greg: Shesh. Fine, Stefan or whatever, it is. We’ll have to incorporate something kind of sci-fi like a time machine or a sorcerer’s wand to make the transformation happen since Urkel’s a nerd. I’ll call a meeting with the writer’s this afternoon.
Urkel: You see, right there? You said it nerd.
Greg: They’ll say Family Matters jumped the shark.
Urkel: There won’t be a Family Matters without Urkel.
Greg: By the way, whatever happened to Judy Winslow?