It’s nearly impossible to mention attention-grabbing family sitcoms without naming Family Matters as one of the most popular series during its original run on television. From wacky moments and scintillating characters, it’s difficult to imagine the show without its memorable cast — although one star was noticeably missing once the end of the series occurred.
Of course, we’re talking about Jo Marie Payton, who famously portrayed Harriette — the matriarch of the ever-dysfunctional Winslow family. And while Harriette was undoubtedly a popular character, and, truthfully, set to be the star of the series (since Family Matters was technically a spinoff), it’s common knowledge that Steve Urkel quickly became the main focus of the sitcom.
Still, Harriette was a strong-minded character that fans immediately gravitated towards and saw as their own motherly figure. However, shock and dismay surrounded the ‘90s show once it became clear that a major casting change happened during the show’s finale season.
Why was Harriette recast on Family Matters?
While the Harriette character remained the same, the face behind the significant figure changed by the time the final season of the show aired. Instead of Payton making her return as Harriette for season 9, she was replaced by actress Judyann Elder, who portrayed the character of Harriette for the rest of the series’ run.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time a character change was made in the show, with the Judy Winslow character seemingly disappearing one season and never being talked about again. However, this situation was undoubtedly different, with the change being implemented due to contract disputes and Payton’s frustration with the show’s quality over the years.
While recasting a major character wasn’t an incredibly popular decision made amongst shows, it certainly wasn’t unheard of, with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air following a similar path when it recast Vivian Banks after its third season. But regardless of which actress portrayed Harriette Winslow, the character remains highly beloved and unforgettable in regard to fierce TV moms.