About halfway into season 2 of Family Matters, a new character popped onto the scene: Willie Fuffner, a bully to Jaleel White’s Steve Urkel. Shawn Harrison auditioned for the role; he didn’t get it. “I walked out of there and I knew,” the actor tells EW during a reunion for the sitcom. (Larenz Tate ended up playing the role.)
But the casting director wasn’t quite done with Harrison, who was on his way out the door when he heard someone yelling his name. “Hey, can we have you read this other role?” they asked. He goes on to recall reluctantly agreeing to stick around, mentally distracted as he tried to prepare for this other role. “The whole time I’m having a hissy-fit in my mind like, I cannot believe this. I didn’t book another job. I’m pissed,” he says. “So I’m going through the lines and I can’t figure out what they want with this character who’s supposed to be dumb.”
It was one particular line, though, that Harrison thinks landed him the job of Waldo Geraldo Faldo. “The very first line I was supposed to say was [with classic, proper delivery], ‘What are you doing, Willie?’ For some reason, it didn’t come out like that,” he explains.
“I know what’s coming,” Reginald VelJohnson interrupts laughing, remembering Harrison’s delivery of the line from the 1990 episode.
“When I got into the room, I was like [said in the character’s iconic goofy diction], ‘Whatcha gon’ do, Willie?'” Harrison says, repeating the line (which you can see in the video below).
The producers, like his castmates, were thoroughly amused; he booked the job immediately and got a warm welcome on his first — well, technically second — episode. “My first greeting was from Jo, because she remembered me from the season before,” Harrison explains. “I had this little feature part. I was a shower guy. She was like, ‘Shower guy is back!’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, the pressure’s on.'”
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But it worked out just fine. In fact, producers weren’t quite done with Harrison. Just as Steve Urkel was originally supposed to be a one-episode-only character, Waldo’s role also expanded. “I had no expectations. I know I really enjoyed myself as guest cast on the show and was excited when… maybe a month later, they asked Larenz and me to come back for another guest spot,” he says. Waldo — who told countless stories of his equally strange-named (and some “famous”) family members, and uttered “sup,” “cool,” and “ah, gee” with nearly every appearance — became a recurring character through the end of season 3, and Harrison officially joined the series as a regular in its fourth year.
“Larenz went and did other things. They still wanted me… They had to figure out a way to put me in there differently,” he explains of the character’s shift. “That was when they matched me with Darius to become his friend.”
Watch the video above to hear Harrison’s TV family talk about “raising” him following his mother’s death, and to see classic TV sidekick Waldo in action, check out all nine seasons of Family Matters — plus other ABC comedies and TGIF titles including Full House, Step by Step, and Home Improvement — available now on Hulu.