25 Things You Might Not Know About 'Boy Meets World'
On June 27th, Girl Meets World starring Danielle Fishel and Ben Savage will premiere on the Disney Channel. We’ve seen a preview and heard the theme song. Before getting invested in the life of Riley Matthews, let’s look back at the show that started it all.
1. Cory was originally supposed to have two best friends.
In the first three episodes of the show, Cory has a second friend, in addition to Shawn. The show was originally going to feature Cory’s friends as a group, rather than a duo, so the showrunners kept rotating in new friends. But the characters didn’t stick. The cast even started calling the cafeteria chair that those characters sat in the “death chair” because the actors would never return. Finally, in the season one episode "Cory’s Alternative Friends,” Topanga was introduced and the notion of another best friend was lost.
2. Shawn once said he had a sister who was never mentioned again.
In the “Cory’s Alternative Friends” episode, Shawn telephones his sister Stacy. In later episodes, Shawn doesn’t have a sister. Why? It has to do with the aforementioned plan for Corey to have two best friends. While filming the episode, the actor who was going to play one of those friends was fired. Rider Strong, who played Shawn, was given all of his lines at the last minute. In the original script, Stacy wasn’t Shawn’s sister. So, she never shows up in the show again.
3. Mr. Turner disappeared.
What’s with all the disappearing Boy Meets World characters? Mr. Turner played a vital role in the high school years of the show. Shawn even lives with him for a time. But in the fourth season episode “Cult Fiction,” Mr. Turner gets into a life-threatening motorcycle accident. He never appears on the show again and is rarely mentioned. In the next season, during the graduation episode, Minkus (who has also been MIA since season one) mentions Mr. Turner, saying that they had just been on “the other side of the school.” Mysterious.
Strong claimed that the twentysomething Mr. Turner was written into the show because Friends was popular at the time. But he didn’t quite fit into the show. Boy Meets World creator Michael Jacobs has said that we’ll finally find out what happened to Mr. Turner on Girl Meets World.
4. Members of Topanga’s family also disappeared.
Topanga’s family tree is also all over the place. Like Stacy, Topanga’s older sister, Nebula, is a one-episode wonder. She appears in the season one episode “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not,” but is never mentioned again. Topanga’s parents were played by five different actors over the course of the show: Peter Tork, Michael McKean, and Mark Harelik played her father, and her mother was played by both Annette O’Toole and Marcia Cross.
5. Minkus’s name was changed for a reason.
The writers changed Lee Norris' character's name to “Stuart Minkus” after it was discovered that there was an actual Stuart Lempke (the character's original surname) living in Philadelphia, which is where the show takes place.
6. Danielle Fishel replaced another Topanga.
Topanga was originally played by a different actress who ultimately didn’t work out for the part. On Fishel’s first day, she made the character very upbeat and peppy—but after rehearsal, Jacobs waited until everyone went home and had a meeting with her in which he told her that he wanted Topanga to be more of a slow, calm character, and they went through the script line-by-line. Fishel was terrified that she’d lost the part like the actress who played Topanga before her, so she spent all night practicing the part. After the next day’s run-through, Jacobs stood up and gave her a standing ovation.
7. Another character that was replaced: Morgan Matthews.
In the first two seasons, Lily Nicksay plays the youngest member of the Matthews family, Morgan. Then, a few episodes into season three, Lindsay Ridgeway takes over the role of Morgan. It was never explained why Nicksay was replaced. In the third season, Corey says, “Morgan, long time no see.” She responds, “Yeah, that was the longest time out I’ve ever had!” Nicksay has made a few reunion appearances with the cast and has said she’d be interested in appearing on Girl Meets World.
8. Topanga was named after Topanga Canyon.
It was taking a while to come up with Topanga’s name and it ended up becoming a last-minute decision. According to Fishel, “Michael Jacobs says he was driving down the highway when production called and said, ‘We need a name for this character!’ He happened to be driving past Topanga Canyon, so he said, ‘Topanga.’ He says that if they had called him two miles later, I would’ve been named Canoga, which is the next exit.”
9. The child actors were in school together.
Just like the show, the set itself revolved around a classroom. During the show’s early years, Ben Savage (Cory), Will Friedle (Eric), Fishel, and Strong were all still in school. Fishel later explained, “When we started the show, we had little sectioned off areas for each one of us to try to focus and work with our own individual teachers, but it always ended up being more like a regular school classroom with all of us chiming in and learning little bits of what everyone else was learning.”
10. Strong hated his Shawn haircut.
Though Shawn’s haircut was beloved by the fans, Strong didn’t feel the same way. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to change it. “I hated my hair. I came to the audition with that hairstyle, got the part, and the director Michael Jacobs never let me cut it from there on out,” Rider Strong said. “A bunch of girls at a sleepover told me to wear my hair like that—parted down the center—and I was 12, so I listened. It was my version of Christian Slater. But my hair is wavy and they would straighten it on the show and it would take forever. I wanted to cut my hair so bad, but the only time I got to was when we found out the show was going to be canceled.”
11. Strong stole Shawn’s famous leather jacket.
When the show ended, Strong made off with a nice souvenir. “Disney wouldn't let us take anything, but I had a leather jacket that I had bought on my own, and I swapped it," he said. Unfortunately, someone later stole the jacket from his car in Brooklyn. He wasn’t the only rebel in the cast—Ben Savage has admitted to stealing a pair of shoes from the show as well.
12. Scenes between Eric and Shawn were limited for a reason.
Friedle and Strong remain best friends to this day. Their undeniable chemistry made for some hard-to-shoot scenes. In a recent reunion, Friedle admitted, “They never let Rider and I do scenes together because we would look at each other and start laughing, so I think over seven years, we had, like, five scenes together.”
13. The episode “And Then There Was Shawn” was a cast favorite.
Both Friedle and Strong have pointed to the season five episode as a favorite. The 1998 episode was inspired by '90s horror movies like Scream. The episode co-starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was dating Friedle in real life. Her character’s name, by the way, was Jennifer Love Fefferman. It’s no wonder the cast “could barely get through the scenes,” as Friedle put it. “We were laughing so hard.”
14. The characters go to John Adams High School, a possible reference to William Daniels.
Though it hasn’t been confirmed, most Boy Meets World fans believe that John Adams High School is a nod to Daniels’s career. He played John Adams in the musical and film version of 1776. Another reference to his career: Mr. Feeny calls The Graduate a “great film.” Daniels played Mr. Braddock in the movie.
15. Daniels did have a Feeny-esque vibe on set.
He didn’t exactly mentor the kids, as fans might hope. The child actors were definitely intrigued by him, though. They originally thought he was British because he came across as very proper. “There wasn’t a whole lot of socializing off set, but we revered the character and the man,” said Savage. “When he’d come on set, we’d talk, we’d listen, and we’d absorb, and then he would vanish, like some sort of magical person that just pops into your life. He was like a mystic. He always taught us things, and there was so much to absorb from him.”
16. The show skips some grades.
Though the show definitely leaps ahead in time, it’s hard to tell when those leaps occur. In season one, Cory, Shawn, and Topanga are in sixth grade. In the season two premiere, the characters are officially seventh graders and enter high school. Then, in the season four episode “I Ain’t Gonna Spray Lettuce No More,” the characters are referred to as 11th graders. Season five represents their senior year and they enter college in season six. Somewhere in there, a couple grades were lost.
17. Strong wanted to quit the show to go to college.
He approached the showrunners about quitting to focus on his studies, but Jacobs convinced him that it was possible to do the show while attending college. Strong took all morning classes and then went to work. He even had a dorm room, as the school required, though he didn’t stay there every night. In 2004, four years after the show ended, Strong graduated with an English degree from Columbia University. The academic life suited him—he later got an MFA from Bennington College in 2009.
18. Maitland Ward didn’t audition.
Ward had actually auditioned for another of Michael Jacobs’s shows, Zoe, Duncan, Jack, and Jane. He really liked her, but she didn’t end up getting cast. Instead, he later called her to take the role of Eric and Jack’s roommate (and crush), Rachel.
19. Many young future stars appeared on the show.
Jennifer Love Hewitt wasn’t the only star to make a guest appearance on Boy Meets World. Future Parks and Recreation star Adam Scott played school bully Griff Hawkins on the second season. Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini spent a few episodes almost breaking up Cory and Topanga. In 1995, the same year that Clueless came out, Brittany Murphy played Trini for two episodes. A couple of future Buffy stars also appeared on the show: Charisma Carpenter and Julie Benz.
Perhaps the most surprising Boy Meets World guest star is Blake Sennett, who would go on to be the lead guitarist for the band Rilo Kiley and frontman of The Elected. During his child acting days, Sennett went by the name Blake Soper. Like Scott, he played a school bully: Joseph “Joey the Rat” Epstein. His first appearance was in season two and he popped up periodically until the episode “Graduation” in season five.
20. Willie Garson played three different characters.
Another famous guest star: Willie Garson, a.k.a. Stanford Blatch in Sex and the City. In two first season episodes, Garson can be seen as the assistant manager of the Market Giant supermarket, where Cory’s father works. He appears again a few years later as Mervyn, who applies for a job at the Matthews’ store. Then, in season seven, he’s the minister who marries Cory and Topanga.
21. Jacob’s son plays Joshua Matthews.
Joshua Matthews is the younger brother of Cory and Eric who was born during the sixth season. The part was played by various babies until the season finale, when Daniel Jacobs, son of creator Michael Jacobs, played him. Interestingly, Daniel had already made a cameo that season as a different character. He wasn’t originally supposed to be in the episode, but the child actor that they had cast was being too chatty when he was supposed to be silent during a scene. So, Michael Jacobs called his wife, who promptly brought in Daniel to play the part.
22. ABC ran an Internet poll asking whether Cory and Topanga should get married.
Jacobs wanted the iconic couple to marry before the show ended. ABC disagreed with the decision. The network executives thought that the characters, who were 20 years old, were far too young to get married. It was actually Jacobs who suggested the Internet poll. The audience wanted to see their favorite couple marry, and they did midway through the last season.
23. The tears in the finale were genuine.
The last scene in the classroom with Mr. Feeny was only filmed once. Strong explained, "We did that last scene in one take because we were such a wreck.” Ben Savage has said that the last scene was his favorite memory of the show. He described, “When they said, ‘Cut!’ on that final take, it was almost like someone was saying, ‘Say goodbye to your childhood.’”
24. The final scene is the only scene in the show showing Fishel’s tattoo.
Because the scene was only filmed once, the crew had four cameras set up to capture all the action. Midway through the scene, a writer asked Michael Jacobs, “What’s on [Danielle’s] neck?” He responded, “Chinese letters.” The writer asked, “Did you ever know they were there before?” Michael responded, “Hair has never given her pigtails before.” Those pigtails revealed a tattoo on Danielle’s neck, which is visible if you look closely.
25. Many of the characters will return on the spinoff, Girl Meets World.
Thanks to social media we already know a little bit about what to expect in the first season of Girl Meets World. William Daniels will be reprising his role as Mr. Feeny, Rider Strong will return as Shawn, Lee Norris will appear as Minkus, and William Russ and Betsy Randle will appear as Cory’s parents. Even Danny McNulty, who played school bully Harley Keiner, will make an appearance. Jacobs has said, “Whoever wants to be part of this show will be and whoever wants to move on will.”