Zap2it: You’ve done guest roles on “House” and “NCIS” recently. Is “Dancing With the Stars” also a conscious part of your image-expanding approach?
Jaleel White: That’s what so funny. Those other things are easy for me … which isn’t to belittle the craft of acting, but being on a set and delivering lines and taking notes a director gives me, that’s second nature. I’ve been doing that since I was 3 years old, so if doing those shows comes as a shock to somebody, that’s great for my career.
I know Ed O’Neill to be an actor. Someone else may see him as Al Bundy, but I see him as an actor who goes on a show and knocks it out of the park. I see myself the same way; that’s a whole different animal than doing “Dancing With the Stars.”
Zap2it: Still, since “Dancing With the Stars” is known to highlight its celebrities’ pasts, your playing Steve Urkel on “Family Matters” is likely to come up a lot. How are you with that?
Jaleel White: I’m respectful of the process, and I have no desire to run away from that image, any more than William Shatner wants to run away from Captain Kirk. That’s never been my issue. That thing has paid for a lot of things for my family, it’s brought us a lot of joy, and it’s brought a lot of other people joy.
One of my favorite compliments I’ve received to this day is, “My mother was in the hospital. She’s recovering from cancer, and the one thing that brings a smile to her face is watching your show.” Those things touch me.
“Dancing With the Stars” airs Monday and Tuesday nights on ABC.