Many people have warm memories of Boy Meets Worldincluding cast members Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle, who started a rewatch podcast (Pod Meets World) for their iconic ’90s sitcom. As much as they may enjoy revisiting the series, though, working on it apparently left some emotional scars.
In a recent episode, Fishel recalled when she first got the part of Topanga–after another actor had already been cast. Within days, she was on set, and had her first “marathon notes session” with series creator Michael Jacobs and the cast.
“Michael starts off the notes by saying, ‘Danielle, I’m going to give you your notes all at one time, at the end and I’m going to give everyone else their notes now, because if I made everyone sit here through all of the notes I had for you, we would all be here for hours and no one would ever get to go home. So you’re just going to wait for the end,’” she shared. “From that moment on, my eyes welled up because you know, I’m now in front of everybody—all the producers, all the writers, all the cast and all eyes are on me for a second.”
Fishel began sweating just remembering the uncomfortable moment, remembering, “He went through every single one of my lines and what he wanted and what I wasn’t doing right and how slow I needed to talk. … What I know specifically was said is, ‘All I know is, if you don’t come back tomorrow doing this entirely differently, you are also not going to be here,’ referencing the girl I had replaced.”
After getting heaped with pressure, Fishel and her mother ran her lines late into the night so she would nail it the next day. It paid off, as she recalled Jacobs saying the next day: “Let’s give Danielle a round of applause, you did exactly what I asked of you. Thank you, thank you. Congratulations, it was wonderful.”
“He gave me some praise about some specific things and then, he started notes. There were no more threats of being fired, I had done the work and I had shown him that I was worthy,” she said. “It totally sets up that you go after that every week. You’re chasing the dragon of Michael approval.”
Hopefully this doesn’t ruin anyone’s childhoods, but the three co-hosts were all in agreement about the unhealthy environment fostered by chasing Jacobs’ approval. Friedle reflected, “He set it up in such a way that for now when he gives you the standing ovation, it’s like the sun is shining on you. It had nothing to do with your acting. It was just, make Michael feel good.’”
Strong also claimed that the sitcom could be a “damaging” environment, going so far as to say that his performance was “not acting,” but “puppetry.” Of Jacobs, he remembered worrying that “somebody’s gonna get fired if something’s not right or if we don’t make this one person happy.”
“It didn’t allow me the creative joy of discovery and experimentation and recognition that there is no right or wrong in art,” Strong said of the show as a whole. The perils of child stardom are indeed many.