WITH AN EYE ON ...;
What 'Matters' to a 17-year-old
actress making a future now
N.F. MENDOZA, Aug 22, 1993 Orange County Edition Section:
"People come up to me all the time in stores, when
I'm eating, and ask where Steve is," says Kellie
Shanygne Williams. Williams plays Steve Urkel's (Jaleel
White) object of affection, Laura, on the ABC sitcom
"Family Matters." "It's pretty funny, like
they think I carry him around in my purse!"
One thing Williams, 17, does carry around in her purse is
a charge card. "Shopping is my only leisurely
activity," she says. "And I love to shop. I
like to buy anything. I like to buy clothes, stuff for my
room. I love malls."
Williams divides her time between Los Angeles--where she
shoots. "Family Matters" and lives with her
mother and two younger siblings-and a Maryland suburb,
where she lives with her father. She'll be a senior at
her Maryland high school this fall.
She got the acting bug at 4. "I was really shy and
so my parents put me in theater classes, thinking it
would bring me out," says Williams. It not only
brought her out, it got her roles in local and national
theater, including a part in August Wilson's "Joe
Turner's Come and Gone," "The Colored Museum,"
and "Butterfingers Angel." At this point,
Williams was also an accomplished pianist, dancer and
singer. Her stage roles led to a part in the NBC special
"Celebration in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,"
during which she got to meet one of her idols, dancer-choreographer
Debbie Allen. Williams appeared in the feature films
"Men Don't Leave" and "Suspect"
before landing the role of oldest daughter Laura on
She used to say she was a lot like
her character, but now she finds Laura too conservative.
"I'm more on the crazy side, like Urkel," she
says. Unlike Laura, who has a bevy of boyfriends on the
show, Williams good-naturedly says she is still looking
for one. "People keep telling me to stop looking
because one will show up. But when I do that I still
haven't found one!"
"We have a lot of fun on the set," she says.
"We always flub up lines. Since our show is filmed
instead of taped, it takes forever. Our cast just goofs
around all the time, but it keeps the audience involved
and pepped up." While the academically inclined
Williams enjoys her sitcom job, she's not sure she will
continue as an actress. "I definitely am going to
college," she says and adds that she is looking at
Yale and UCLA, with law school a later possibility. She
concentrated on her studies during the show's recent
hiatus. Asked what future projects she has in mind, she
says emphatically, "My diploma!"
Williams is proud that "Family Matters"
provides good role models for African-Americans. "I
get lots of positive feedback," she says. "I
get lots of mail from African-American parents and kids
and they say they love the way the characters are written."
The shop-happy Williams found a kindred spirit last
season in Telma Hopkins--"We go shopping together a
lot!"--who now has her own sitcom, "Getting By,"
on NBC this fall. The one thing Williams doesn't seem to
have to worry about buying is a future. She's planned
ahead. "Family Matters" airs Fridays at 8 p.m.