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‘Boy Meets World’ stars tried to distance themselves from the show. Why that’s changed

Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Will Friedle also told TODAY which episodes will be emotional for them to rewatch during their “Pod Meets World” podcast.
Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel and Will Friedle take fans on a trip down "Boy Meets World" memory lane on their new podcast.
Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel and Will Friedle take fans on a trip down "Boy Meets World" memory lane on their new podcast.iHeartMedia
/ Source: TODAY

“Boy Meets World” stars Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Will Friedle are “extremely proud and pleasantly surprised” by how people seem to be reacting to their podcast, “Pod Meets World.” 

Fans met the trio when the beloved sitcom premiered in 1993. It centered on Ben Savage’s character, Cory Matthews, as he came of age. Fishel portrayed love interest Topanga Lawrence, Strong was Cory’s best friend, Shawn Hunter, and Friedle played older brother Eric Matthews for seven seasons until the show’s May 2000 finale.

In June, Fishel, Strong and Friedle reunited as they began to rewatch every episode and reminisce on that period in their lives, as well as share behind-the-scenes stories. Already there have been many moments of reflection and nostalgia shared with listeners on episodes and social media — to promote the podcast, Fishel re-created Topanga’s famous “donut in the sky” performance art poem.

One thing they weren’t expecting was how emotional it would be to walk down memory lane.

Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Will Friedle and Ben Savage on set of "Boy Meets World" in 1994.
Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, Will Friedle and Ben Savage on the set of "Boy Meets World" in 1994.ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

When “Boy Meets World” wrapped, Fishel, 41, and Strong, 42, wanted to disassociate themselves from their characters and find their own identities after spending most of their teen lives on the series.

“At the end of the show, I was like, ‘Goodbye and good riddance!’” Fishel told TODAY in a joint interview with Strong and Friedle over Zoom. “I really wanted to take a full, hard-stop break from the entertainment industry. I didn’t really know what that meant because I also didn’t have intentions of going right to college.”

“At the end of the show, I was like, ‘Goodbye and good riddance!’”

DAnielle Fishel

The actor, who was 19 when the show ended, said she “was burnt out” and “wanted to get away.” 

“It led to the awkward decade of being in your 20s, where you’re really, truly trying to figure out who you are. And to have the feeling of running away from something is never great,” she continued, before clarifying that she “never had negative feelings about Topanga.” “I also never really had negative feelings about ‘Boy Meets World.’ I did definitely just want to have a totally separate identity from it.”

Strong, Savage and Fishel with William Daniels.
Strong, Savage and Fishel with William Daniels, aka Mr. Feeny.Scott Humbert / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Strong added that he felt the “exact same.”

“I was ready to leave the show early,” he admitted, adding that “the second the show was over” he went to college and “did not want to have anything to do with the show.”

The actor believed the buzz around “Boy Meets World” would disappear over time. However, that wasn’t the case, as the show “stuck around” and was rediscovered by a new generation. In 2014, Disney Channel revived the series as “Girl Meets World,” centering on Topanga and Cory’s daughter, Riley (Rowan Blanchard). Actors from the original series, including Strong and Friedle, had cameos throughout the show’s three-season run.

As for Friedle, 46, he never wanted to disassociate himself from “Boy Meets World,” explaining that he “loved everything about it.” Jumping on a couple of shows after the sitcom made him “see the difference in being on the set with people you grew up with.” He also credited his age gap with his co-stars as a reason for having a different experience on set.

“When you’re 12 and when you’re 16, you might as well be two different species. It’s such a different age,” Friedle said. “That makes a big difference.”

Strong played Savage's best friend on "Boy Meets World."
Strong played Savage's best friend on "Boy Meets World."ABC Photo Archives

Strong said it took him decades to be comfortable with talking about his experience on the show: “Until I was, like, 40.” Once the show was over, he left acting and went to college. His journey included pursuing and mastering new interests, which included writing and directing.

“And once I was completely confident in those things, then the idea of going to conventions or talking about it on a podcast doesn’t bother me because it’s a reflection,” Strong said. “It’s a big part of my life, but it’s not something I need to combat anymore. And that just came with age and experience.”

Fishel agreed. Her perspective changed when she went to college, got her psychology degree and knew she wanted to be a marriage and family therapist.

“Once I had that goal that I was pursuing … all of a sudden it didn’t feel like talking about ‘Boy Meets World’ (or) talking about the only talent I’ve ever had or the only life experience I ever had,” she continued. “Once I knew I had a path that I was pursuing, I felt more comfortable talking about it.”

Friedle compared it to someone reliving their high school glory days and having the “highlight” of their lives come at age 17.

“It’s easier to come back and talk about it now when you have established yourself, (whether that is) as a family person, we’re married, you’ve established other parts of the career, whatever you want to do,” Friedle explained. “It makes it easier to go back and look because it’s not the only thing that you have now, and I think that’s important.” 

Fishel and Friedle on the episode "She's Having My Baby Back Ribs," which aired March 3, 2000.
Fishel and Friedle on the episode "She's Having My Baby Back Ribs," which aired March 3, 2000. ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

As of now, the actors have reflected on eight “Boy Meets World” episodes and have welcomed various guests like Lee Norris, aka Stuart Minkus, and William Daniels, who portrayed beloved school teacher Mr. Feeny. There are 158 episodes in total, and they know there are some they will eventually cover on the podcast that will make them emotional.

“I know for a fact there will be some emotional stuff for both Will and I when we get to some of the later seasons and there were some conversations around our weight,” Fishel shared, referencing the Season Seven episode titled “She’s Having My Baby Back Ribs,” in which Topanga becomes insecure about her body and Cory thinks she’s pregnant.

Friedle added, “There’s a couple coming up that Danielle and I have already talked about that will be a little strange to see. Topanga having a crush on Eric I think will probably be an interesting episode. But yeah, some of the later ones I’m sure will be tough to watch.”

The trio will continue to drop two new episodes per week. They recently announced they will do a live taping in El Cajon, California, on Oct. 22. They promised there will be audience participation.

“We’re really just being ourselves, enjoying the process and seeing where it takes us,” Fishel said. “It’s been a really nice feeling because it’s a very authentic conversation that we plan to continue having.” 

“We have the greatest fans in the world and it's fans that we’ve had for 30 years now,” Friedle added. “They’re incredible people and they’re joining us once again on the journey.”