Last month, EW broke the news that 11-year-old Rowan Blanchard landed the coveted spot of Riley, the daughter of Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel), in the pilot for the Boy Meets World reboot, Girl Meets World, which goes into production for the Disney Channel this month.
For the issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY on stands now, EW spoke exclusively to Blanchard, who most recently starred in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, about almost getting passed up for the part, meeting her on-screen parents for the first time, and the kinds of dilemmas her character will face (let’s just say boys are involved).
EW: When did you first hear about this part?
BLANCHARD: It was like in the beginning of December.
EW: Had you heard of Boy Meets World at the time?
BLANCHARD: I had heard of Boy Meets World before because it’s on like TV and stuff in the mornings so I watch it. I saw a few episodes and I really liked the idea of people growing up. When I found out I was [auditioning for] Girl Meets World, at first I didn’t know it had any relation to Boy Meets World and then I started reading the script and I saw Cory and Topanga and I was so excited.
EW: Girl Meets World executive producer Michael Jacobs told EW that he loved your first audition, but thought you might be too young for the part.
BLANCHARD: Michael goes, “I would have cast you right now if it weren’t for your age.” And then I was really disappointed. I actually went into the car and cried. My dad was like, “You know, it’s not your fault. It’s your age.” Then two weeks later we got a call that they wanted to bring me back in and make me look a little bit older. I was so excited.
EW: What was it like meeting Ben and Danielle for the first time?
BLANCHARD: It was really surreal to do the lines with them I have to say, because, you know, they’re Cory and Topanga. It was really cool to be able to read with them and get a feel for how the show was really going to play out.
EW: When I spoke to Michael, he said that Ben [who met Blanchard before Fishel] immediately clicked with you.
BLANCHARD: I could kind of tell he really liked me, so I was really happy about that, too.
EW: How could you tell?
BLANCHARD: When I was reading the lines, we played off each other really well. I know that takes some trust to be able to read with someone so easily, so I knew that we definitely liked each other.
EW: Have you had a chance to sit down with Ben and Danielle?
BLANCHARD: I did actually talk to them. The [producers] were in the room talking and they sent us out. We talked for about 10 minutes about school and if I’d seen Boy Meets World. It was really cool to have like a one-on-one conversation with them.
EW: Tell me about your character. Is she more like her mom or dad?
BLANCHARD: She’s a lot like her dad in that she’s not rebel. She struggles with that a little bit I think because her best friend who is edgy and stuff [and that] isn’t Riley. Riley wants to be her friend in a sense.
What is Riley’s relationship like with her parents?
BLANCHARD: I think she’s really close with both of her parents but she does struggle with her dad because she doesn’t like being like her dad. She wants to be more original.
EW: Does Riley want to be a singer or actress?
BLANCHARD: The show is about Riley growing up. It’s not about Riley singing or Riley dancing. I think that’s what makes the pilot unique. I feel like she’s going to be the one person who stays Riley.
EW: What kind of things will she be dealing with in school?
BLANCHARD: Crushes…[Laughs] I can’t really say anything more but basically in the script she’s dealing with boy problems.
EW: Riley is a year older than you. Do you have anything in common with her?
BLANCHARD: I do. We’re both very, very alike in the sense that we’re really loyal, and we’re both—I hate to brag—but smart. We both are excited and we both have a bright spirit. We’re both happy people who deal with everyday problems.
EW: Are there things in school that you’re dealing with that you think Riley will be dealing with?
BLANCHARD: I think Riley will deal with grades and you know the nervousness of when they’re passing the paper back and you don’t know what you got and you’re so nervous. Riley will deal with the problems that we deal with everyday in school.
I hear Cory is a teacher at Riley’s school.
BLANCHARD: My dad was actually my P.E. teacher for a little bit, so I can definitely identify with that. Like I said Riley and I are almost exactly alike. I understand hating being called out on and getting treated differently, so I think Riley dislikes that her dad is her teacher because I know I definitely didn’t really like it. But I feel like it has its strong points too because she can come to him when she needs things. I also think he’s definitely harder on her because she is his daughter.
EW: In which ways are you and Riley different?
BLANCHARD: I mean there’s not much. We’re different in the sense that Riley kind of wants to not be like her parents and I kind of want to be like my parents. We’re not really different, we’re almost the same person.
EW: How do you feel about Riley’s uncle Shawn possibly making an appearance on Girl Meets World?
BLANCHARD: I think Riley would love having an uncle Shawn because Shawn’s character on Boy Meets World is a lot like the character of Maya, [who is Riley’s best friend], kind of a rebel. I think Riley really likes the idea of going against the teachers even though she would never do it.
EW: When you watched the show did you have a favorite character?
BLANCHARD: Probably Topanga. She’s just so happy and pretty and smart and nice. I think that’s definitely something I would like to be like.
EW: What did you like about Boy Meets World?
BLANCHARD: I liked how it was original and how it was just about what we go through everyday. It wasn’t like there was a whole spin to it and this and this is going to happen. It was about what happens in a daily basis. It wasn’t like a soap opera or something so dramatic. It was something that had everything. A little bit of everything.
EW: What kind of reaction have you received since you’ve landed this role?
BLANCHARD: It was kind of crazy. My phone was blowing up and I had gained like 5,000 followers overnight. It was really surreal.
EW: Do you manage your own social media?
BLANCHARD: My mom kind of manages it, but I’m mainly on there. I understand Twitter much more than I understand Tumblr.
EW: What are people saying to you?
BLANCHARD: A lot of people are really excited to see the continuation of Cory and Topanga and Boy Meets World. I was getting a lot of positive feedback, which I was really happy about.
EW: Why do you think people are so excited about Girl Meets World?
BLANCHARD: I think people are excited because even watching Boy Meets World you can tell that those characters are going to do something when they get older. I think people are excited to see characters they grew up with continue.
EW: When you realized this was a reboot of Boy Meets World did you feel any pressure? Or do you feel any pressure now?
BLANCHARD: It’s not that I feel pressure, but I feel like we have to stick to what people loved about Boy Meets World.
EW: So what are you looking forward most to?
BLANCHARD: I’m most looking forward to working with Ben and Danielle and especially Michael. There was a time when I was auditioning and auditioning and I was either too young or too old and Michael really pushed for me so I’m really excited to work with him.
EW: Have you thought about how you’re going to balance a TV show?
BLANCHARD: School is the first priority because I love school and I really care about this, too — but I have to balance this out, too.
EW: What have your friends been saying?
BLANCHARD: Let’s just put it this way, my true friends are really happy for me, like really happy for me. My best friend Regan is just out of this world happy for me. She knows I’ll be able to balance it. She knows I’ll be able to still be her best friend and be on a show. My friends will help me stay grounded and so will my family.
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