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The first 13 episodes of Dawson’s Creek were shot in 1997 before the series premiered, so the cast was able to live life in Wilmington, North Carolina as regular people.
James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson were roommates. “I didn’t have any money yet because the checks hadn’t cleared,” says Jackson. “So I was kind of rescued by having somebody to sign up with. And then the high jinks happened afterwards.” Adds Van Der Beek, “I am still guilty of letting the f—ing alarm clock go off 70 times — sorry.”
The weekends only further bonded the tight group. “The boys bought Jet Skis and I bought a boat because we all lived on the waterway,” remembers Mary-Margaret Humes, who played Dawson’s mother Gail. “So we’d spend every weekend on this little island called Masonboro, and we’d go jet skiing and waterskiing and have barbecues. We’d get together for family dinners. We’d go to the movies and go bowling like normal people. Katie was good with karaoke.” Says Katie Holmes, “The crew took care of us. I remember we would bring our laundry [to set] and be like, ‘Can we just use your washer ’cause we’re learning?’ I still get a Christmas card from Reba, our craft-service person.”
Busy Philipps, who joined the series in season 5 as Joey’s college roommate Audrey, says she felt that warmness immediately. “That was something as soon as I got there that was presented to me like, ‘Oh, well, we all hang out and we’re all a family.’” Adds Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries), who wrote for the series in season 2: “This group was like the mayors of Wilmington. They could walk into restaurants and close down bars. It wasn’t about going to L.A. to the clubs and doing the Hollywood scene. It was about living in a small town and getting to know their community and having a really good time.”
Once the series exploded, things got a little more intense for the cast. “I was doing some appearance for The WB at the time, and it was pandemonium, like five times as many people as they thought would show up showed up,” says Van Der Beek. “We ran out of headshots. Girls were getting pressed against barricades. They had to take me out in a police car to get me out of there. To this day, whenever I hear a gaggle of teenage girls cackling and giggling, I have the lamest form of PTSD ever.” Adds producer Greg Berlanti, “I remember watching one girl hand her driver’s license because she had nothing else for Josh to sign.”
The fan enthusiasm could be overwhelming at times, too. Says Humes, “I remember one particular day we were in Raleigh-Durham and it was me, John Wesley Shipp, and Michelle Williams. We wanted to run into a mall to grab something. I remember Michelle grabbing my hand like, ‘Mary-Margaret, I don’t think I can go in there?’ I was like, ‘Sweetheart, why?’ and she was like, ‘Because people are looking at me.’ She never sought attention but we went into a mall in Raleigh-Durham and we were mobbed at Abercrombie & Fitch.”