'Boy Meets World' at ATX Fest: 'None of these kids ever went on to knock off a liquor store!'
The ATX Television Festival (Season 2!) kicked off in earnest Friday in Austin, TX with the first-ever official reunion of the Boy Meets World cast. The show, anchored by the endearingly ordinary trio of teenage stars Ben Savage (Cory), Rider Strong (Shawn), and Danielle Fishel (Topanga!) — went off the air in 2000 after seven years of TGIF programming.
Savage, Strong, Matthew Lawrence (Jack), Betsy Randle (the Mom!), Trina McGee (Angela), Maitland Ward (Rachel), and Lily Nicksay (Morgan #1) gathered with creator Michael Jacobs in the green room before greeting a sold-out theater of 300 fans who were watching the series finale. Jacobs told EW that the pilot for the reboot Girl Meets World, which will focus on Cory and Topanga and their 13-year-old daughter, has been shot and is awaiting pick-up from Disney. Strong is not in the pilot, though like all of the Boy cast members he’s been invited to participate in future episodes. Everyone’s beloved Mr. Feeny will appear—”interestingly,” Jacobs said coyly—in the pilot. And Randle says she expects to pop up on an episode every now and then with William Russ, who played her on-screen husband. “Surely we’ll show up for a Thanksgiving episode!” she said.
Before heading onstage for a panel conversation, the cast took Instagram photos of the theater marquee announcing their reunion. Jacobs explained that the name Topanga was born from a frantic conversation with the network exec anxious for a name. “‘I don’t know, Susie? Daphne?'” Jacobs remembers saying into the phone while driving in L.A. “‘Where are you right now?’ the studio executive asked me. ‘I’m on my way to Topanga Plaza.’ And that was that.” Savage and Strong bemoaned their characters’ signature wardrobe looks (ballooning shirts, layers, oversized leather jackets). “I didn’t realize I wasn’t a size Large until I was 20 years old,” said Strong. And then despite Savage’s desperate protests to keep mum, Jacobs confirmed that the boy’s first kiss really was with Fishel on screen and that his anxious question before the cameras started rolling was “Can I die from this?”
On stage, fans were treated to a special video message from Fishel, who was unable to be there in person. She’s Topanga, and people love her, and so whether charmingly describing her trying first run-through with the cast or being rescued by Jared Leto on the way to work one morning when her car hydroplaned in the rain, the audience responded with a swelling “Awwww!”
The cast agreed that their favorite episode to shoot was the Scream-inspired show. The consensus on absent cast member Will Friedle (Eric Matthews) seemed to be that he was the comedic genius and committed oddball of the show. And Savage believes himself now at the age of 33 to be still wading through his awkward years. All the kids long thought William Daniels, who played Mr. Feeny, was British. (He’s not. He just has good diction.) Everyone agreed that the enduring popularity of the show stems from always taking their audience seriously and looking upon one another like a true family.
Watching those last goodbyes with Mr. Feeny in the series finale remained emotional after all this time. “There was no filter between Shawn and Rider in that scene,” says Strong. “It was the same person freaking out.” Savage agreed: “It was like the end of the end of our childhood.” Earlier, Jacobs told EW that he remained ever proud of his cast. “None of these kids ever went on to knock off a liquor store!”