To read more on the Dawson’s Creek reunion, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday. You can buy the full set of five covers here. Or purchase the individual covers featuring James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, Michelle Williams & Busy Philipps, or the original foursome online or at Barnes & Noble. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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I know how lucky I am. I have the coolest job. I get to work with your favorite celebrities, all the time, bringing awesome, creative projects to you through Entertainment Weekly. As I am always quick to remind people, though—the stars, they’re just like us. They truly are normal people. But even I had a moment during our recent Dawson’s Creek reunion when I forgot that we were spending the day with Katie, James, Josh, Michelle, and friends. I was transported to a different place entirely—20 years ago, back to a very familiar creek.

I have been given the gift of booking our EW Reunions and it’s one of the most fun things we do here at the magazine. From Buffy to Blossom, Family Matters to The L Word, I lovingly consider it my baby, and making a Dawson’s Creek reunion happen became my passion project.

See, I had just turned 15 years old when Dawson’s Creek premiered, and it spoke to me on a visceral level. I was grappling with feelings I didn’t know how to express. Dawson’s premiered, and suddenly there it was, right on the screen in front of me. I grew up on a literal creek, in a small town with boys I had known since childhood. I played soccer with those boys, ran on the beach with them looking for hermit crabs, but spent most of the time teasing them — and those boys were suddenly becoming kinda cute, kinda cool lacrosse players. But I couldn’t quite process these new feelings.

Suddenly, I see this pilot, where a girl named Joey Potter says to a boy named Dawson Leery: “It’s not like I wanted to be the one holding your hand. I just didn’t want her holding it.” I had never identified with anything more in my life.

The show was so true to our lives and to that specific time in a life. I watch the show now and it is so beautifully simple in the fact that there were no cell phones, no internet, no texting, no Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. You had to call people on the phone and talk to them in person. Miscommunications happened because of human error, not ghosting or service trouble. It was about feelings and relationships, things that, in this age of information and social media, are often forgotten.

I could go on and on about the more ‘trivial’ things I loved about Dawson’s—the music! The fashion!—but the reason the show was so impactful to me was because it was such an accurate reflection of teenage life. (Though, I will admit, I absolutely bought clothes from the joint Dawson’s Creek/American Eagle collaboration…many, many clothes.) For many like myself, it was really about the topics the show tackled. Not just the relationships but the issues. From religion to sexuality, mental health to parental drama, first love to first heartbreak—there was no lack of stories to which everyone could relate.

And there was another: death. Creator Kevin Williamson has said that he felt the big death in the finale needed to happen so the gang could grow up. I didn’t really understand what he meant until I had grown to the age the gang reached in the finale’s fast-forward. By then, I had rewatched the entire series several times and, during one such binge in my late twenties, my beloved Dawson’s was there for me once again in a real time of crisis. My tight-knit group of friends had lost one of our beloved members. I finally understood what Kevin meant. There was the time before she died, and the time after—and in the latter, we had absolutely become adults. We saw life through a different lens.

All of this brings me to the day of our reunion shoot. I stood there on set, in front of yet another beautiful creek, taking in this scene before me: this intersection of real and reel life that I never could have imagined at 15 watching that pilot. It reminded me of another one of my favorite Dawson’s quotes: “Life can surprise you in a thousand different ways.” I hope this 20th anniversary reunion celebration surprise brings you as much joy and nostalgia as it has given us in bringing it to you.

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