Boy Meets World stars look back on show's 25-year legacy at New York Comic Con
Boy Meets World was not based on a comic book, and it certainly didn’t involve any superheroes. Nevertheless, when cast members Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, and Will Friedle took the stage at New York Comic Con on Friday to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary, they were met with the kind of rapturous applause usually reserved for those involved with The Walking Dead. The old co-stars reminisced about their experience on the show, shared inside jokes with audience members, and basked in the unexpected legacy of Boy Meets World.
“When we were on the air we weren’t that popular,” Friedle noted at the start of the panel. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch and other shows had all this press; they were the popular shows and we were the show that just kept going. It wasn’t until the second or third runs that people started to talk about us. We could leave the set during the sixth or seventh season and we wouldn’t be recognized anywhere.”
“We had the feeling we were doing the show for our grandparents,” Fishel added. “I know some people watched it, but it’s pretty crazy because then when social media became huge we realized, ‘Oh, a lot of people are still watching the show and were watching then, we just didn’t know.’ I’m actually thankful we didn’t know that too many people were watching, because it made us more thoughtful. If I had known how many people were watching, I would’ve been more self-conscious about things, and instead we got to be very natural and explore our characters.”
Here are five other things we learned from the convention’s Boy Meets World anniversary panel.
The actors had a tough time finding their next step
Savage, Fishel, and Friedle spent seven formative years on Boy Meets World, which meant that finding a next step was pretty tricky. Fishel talked about being burnt out and how hard it was to find an equally-satisfying project, which inspired her to go to college and get a psychology degree before eventually returning to Topanga for Girl Meets World.
“After Boy Meets World ended, I just didn’t have any interest in the things that were coming my way,” Fishel said. “After finishing a show like that, you’re burnt out. We were sad, those tears in the finale were real, but when we woke up the next day it was like, ‘I’m so glad that’s over now.’ Then it’s a rocky few years, because it’s like, can anything feel as good as what you had just done? A lot of times, the answer is no, and you go through one of those career lulls. I got into hosting, I hosted a show called The Dish for a few years, that was really fun, and then I went to school and got my psychology degree. I was going to get my master’s degree and then Girl Meets World came along. It can be hard.”
It was harder for Friedle than most. After one audience member declared they were a huge fan of his and wondered why he did more voice-over work (such as voicing Terry McGinnis on Batman Beyond) than on-camera work Friedle explained that he suffered from debilitating anxiety for years after the show ended.
“What brought me to voice-over was anxiety,” Friedle explained. “I was planning to do more on-camera work, but then I got hit with these anxiety attacks that prevented me from doing that. I was so thankful I had voice-over because I could still perform and act. Lately I’ve pulled out of that because of Girl Meets World. [Creator] Michael [Jacobs] was like, ‘Come back if you want to come back.’ So I’ve been slowly starting that again, and it’s been fun. Voice-over is great. To train for it, Kevin Conroy, who was Batman, was kind of my mentor and showed me the ropes and what to do. Now we’re getting back on track. Danielle and I are maybe doing something in the future. We’ve got cool stuff coming down the line.”
“We developed an on-camera show that we are shopping currently,” Fishel added.
Girl Meets World allowed the stars to teach the next generation too
Boy Meets World ended in 2000, but that certainly wasn’t the last time fans got to see Cory or Topanga. The two characters returned for Girl Meets World in 2014, and Friedle also reprised his role as Eric over the course of the series. One audience member, a young girl who grew up with Girl Meets World the way many other audience members grew up with its predecessor, asked the stars about the main differences between their experiences on the two shows.
“When we were doing Girl Meets World, it’s such a different world than the one our generation was growing up in,” Savage said. “So the stories were different. The girls who were on the show [Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter], there’s so much pressure on them. We grew up without social media, so we just could be kids and grow up while we were doing the show. Now with this modern world, there’s so much tremendous pressure on girls—they not only have to do well on screen but they have to live perfect lives too. Being a kid is about making mistakes! It seemed like there was enormous pressure on them.”
As a result of this added pressure, Fishel said she took her role as a mentor very seriously.
“I took that role very seriously. I told them, if there was anything they wanted to talk to me about, my door was always open, and they could come to me,” Fishel said. “They took me up on it! They would come into my dressing room and tell me what was going on with them, and I would help them handle it. We put those lessons we had learned into effect. A lot of times you learn something but never get the chance to help someone else with that information. We were given that opportunity to help them.”
A good episode for Friedle meant Savage was busy
While discussing the many social issues discussed by Boys Meets World, Friedle pointed out that many of them revolved around Shawn (Rider Strong). As he put it, it sometimes seemed like show creator Michael Jacobs was just continually asking, “okay, how are we going to make Shawn angst-ridden this week?”
Very few plots revolved around Friedle’s character, Eric Matthews. And apparently, whenever they did — such as when Eric took in an orphan boy named Tommy (J.B. Gaynor) — it meant Savage was too busy for a Cory-centric episode.
“Occasionally there was a touching thing with Eric,” Friedle said. “But if you saw a touching episode with Eric, it meant that was the week Ben had his SATs. Like, sometimes people tell me they love the episode with Tommy. Yeah, Ben was taking a test.”
Savage’s diet changed by the time of Girl Meets World
Fans’ passion for Boy Meets World was evident in the extremely well-thought-out questions that many audience members had for the cast. Sometimes these questions were so smart they even went over Savage’s head, and he would need Fishel to explain them for him. When one such audience member asked if they ever disagreed with something their characters had done, Savage said this question felt like a final exam. “Great, so Eric gets an episode!” Friedle cracked.
“Look, I’m just an actor, there are plenty of people making decisions before I even get involved,” Savage said in response to the question. “I just read the lines and try to make people laugh. But I like craft services! On Girl Meets World I was trying to be healthy so I would eat a lot of Fiber One from craft services.”
Fishel added, “He would walk around set with a giant bowl and just say, ‘Mmm, Fiber One!’”
The Fiber One story then became a running joke for the rest of the panel. For her own response to the question, Fishel said, “I’m Topanga. I’m never wrong.”
The series finale still makes Savage emotional
Like most TV shows, almost every scene on Boy Meets World required four or more takes to get it right — “or eight takes if I forgot my lines,” Savage joked. But that wasn’t true of the show’s iconic closing scene, in which longtime teacher/mentor Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) says goodbye to each main cast member before declaring “class dismissed,” turning off the lights in both his classroom and on the show itself. According to Savage, that scene was done in only one take, and the actors’ tears were real.
“When Mr. Feeny said ‘class dismissed,’ which still gets me, and then we wrapped, this huge wave of emotion went over me,” Savage said. “Like, ‘wait, wait no! One more take!’ I’ll always remember that moment. It was like someone was closing the door on our childhood — but in a good way! It definitely left an impact.”
Friedle added, “The thing I remember about that end scene is not just we only did it once, but when we left the classroom there wasn’t an actual hallway, but just this tiny little box with all of us wedged together looking at each other like ‘Well, it’s over, we’re done.’ That morning I also recorded the last episode of Batman Beyond. I finished two shows on the same Thursday. That was one hell of a Thursday!”