Family Matters stars react to their racist cop episode's relevance 26 years later
The Season 5 Family Matters episode "Good Cop, Bad Cop" airing on Jan. 11, 1994 depicted Reginald VelJohnson's Chicago police officer character Carl Winslow confronting a fellow cop who racially profiled his son, Eddie, after initially defending his fellow officers. The episode, one of the rare past TV depictions of police profiling black men, has gone viral amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing one month ago today. “I’m getting a little emotional just thinking about it,” says Darius McCrary, who played Eddie Winslow, while wearing a Black Lives Matter mask in a recent interview with SFGate. “That really happened to me. We told the producers. We had talked about it. In real life, the officers pulled me over because my vehicle was dirty. ‘And people who usually own those type of fine vehicles usually cared for their cars, so they wouldn’t have them dirty.’ That’s what the officer said to me in real life." McCrary adds: "These issues aren’t new, the cameras that are recording them are. It’s been happening for decades. I didn’t have a cell phone to record then, but I do now. Whenever I get pulled over, I always film the police. It’s sad that we have to do that, but we must always remember to film the police.” VelJohnson says that when the Family Matters writers "wrote the episode, we didn’t realize it would be so revealing and telling today. When I confront a racist cop, it’s a very sad thing. It’s a terrible, awful slash against human nature." VelJohnson says he performed the scene as scripted with no improvisation. “The scene was very powerfully written,” he says. “It was about a father who was not only confronting the major issue there, but he was protecting his son, and talking about what his son was involved with. And I think that dealing with all of those things as an actor, I portrayed it from that point of view. Protecting my family.” Although the 44-year-old McCrary and the 67-year-old VelJohnson agree that police brutality is a problem, they disagree over the phrase "Black Lives Matter." “All lives matter to me, that’s the only problem I have with that,” says VelJohnson, who apparently is unaware that "all lives matter" is a phrase used to counter Black Lives Matter. “Black lives do matter, and red lives, and white lives, and yellow lives do matter.” VelJohnson, who shadowed police officers for his cop roles in Die Hard and Family Matters, also says he has some sympathy with the difficulties of the job.