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Jaleel White reveals he was never invited to the Emmys

The 44-year-old actor and podcast host is opening up about his experience working as a Black child actor in Hollywood during the 1990s.
/ Source: TODAY

Steve Urkel may be one of the most lovable and recognizable characters in sitcom history. Despite the character's cultural impact, the actor that played him for nine seasons on "Family Matters" is revealing that not only was he never nominated for an Emmy, he was never even invited to the award ceremonies.

"It's fair of me now to definitely say ... you were made to feel African-American," Jaleel White told Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview. "Fred Savage was always invited to the Emmys; he was always treated like a darling during his time. I was never invited to the Emmys, even to present. It was pretty much told to us I would be wasting my time to even submit myself for nomination."

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Jaleel White
Jaleel White in 2011.Mike Coppola / Getty Images

The 44-year-old actor and podcast host said, "It was so normalized — you just shrugged and was said, 'Oh yeah, that's for the white kids.'"

Even though he portrayed what became an iconic character, White was never nominated for an Emmy for his role on "Family Matters," which ran from 1989 to 1998. He co-starred in the sitcom in his teens, first appearing on the hit show when he was 12. The sitcom itself was only nominated once over the course of nine years, for outstanding special visual effects in 1996. Other popular sitcoms in ABC's TGIF block of programming also weren't recognized by the Television Academy, including "Step by Step," "Boy Meets World" and "Full House."

Regardless of the prestigious group never honoring "Family Matters" or White (or even extending an invitation to the actor to present), the "‎Ever After" podcast host said that he felt the indelible impact of the sitcom through the public's universal reaction.

"I always took tremendous pride in how many different people, from all walks of life, came up to me and recognized 'Family Matters,'" White said. "I was always really, really proud of that because that showed a complete opposite of the way I was being treated by our television elite."

Nowadays, White urges Black creators to tell their stories, but to make sure they are relatable enough so people from all walks of life can appreciate them.

He said, "I even try to make sure I encourage African-American filmmakers today like, don't forget, we want to tell Black stories, but we want to make these themes universal enough that our Black stories can resonate with other people, other cultures."