By Terry Kelleher
Updated October 13, 1997 12:00 PM

>Jaleel White


THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ARE THE suspenders: Steve Urkel isn’t wearing any! A season-opener dream sequence perchance? Nope, the teen nerd from hell with the falsetto voice and lamentable whine (“Did I do thaaaat?!”) on CBS’s Friday night sitcom Family Matters is finally growing up. And Jaleel White, the 20-year-old, 5’11” actor who has played Urkel since the show’s first season (1989-90 on ABC), seems almost wistful. “Yeah, the suspenders are gone, but his saddle shoes will remain,” he says. “Urkel will become as normal as we can make him.”

One big leap: Urkel’s long-unrequited love for neighbor Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) will at last blossom. “Like, we’ll be kissing, and I’m enjoying it instead of being repulsed,” says Williams, 21. Off the set, she says, White is “so cool and normal.”

For White, who lives in an L.A. apartment, normalcy means afternoon rehearsals at the Family Matters set in Burbank—where his dad, a dentist, and mom, a homemaker, still attend Friday night tapings—preceded by morning classes at UCLA, where he’s just another undergrad studying film and television. “I’ll blend in as much as you’ll let me,” he says. He has had less luck elsewhere. “Oh, man, kids love me,” he groans. “When I go to a mall, it’s over.”