How the Cast of ‘Boy Meets World’ Avoided the Dreaded Child Star Trope [Exclusive]

Being a child star doesn’t always have the best connotation, but that’s not so for the actors in Boy Meets World. In the worst cases, child stars experience hard ships off-screen in many forms. Fortunately, the cast of Boy Meets World didn’t. As Showbiz Cheat Sheet learned speaking with Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle, and Rider Strong, there’s a multitude of reasons for that. Hear more about their experience on the ABC sitcom and how they avoided falling into that child star trope. 

A lack of internet helped the ‘Boy Meets World’ cast avoid the child star trope 

Actors, musicians — anyone in the public eye today is constantly being ridiculed online. Thanks to social media, we know in a matter of seconds when a celebrity does something they shouldn’t. That wasn’t a thing when the cast of Boy Meets World was working because the Internet and social media weren’t readily available. 

“I think there’s a lot of child actors from our generation that didn’t fall into that trap,” Fishel told us. “And it’s just because we were the last generation before the Internet.” 

A photo of the 'Boy Meets World' cast from 1998; L to R: Maitland Ward, Will Friedle, Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Matthew Lawrence, Trina McGee, and Rider Strong
Maitland Ward, Will Friedle, Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Matthew Lawrence, Trina McGee, and Rider Strong | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

She added: “We had the ability to make mistakes and be human without the entire world knowing within seconds because it’s being broadcast everywhere.” 

Fischel also cited the problem with drugs and alcohol many ’80s child stars ran into. The Boy Meets World cast never really ran into that, either.

“There was a little bit of a pendulum swing where you didn’t have that,” she said of her generation. “We were all like really clean-cut kids.”

Rider Strong attributes not falling into the trope because they were ‘aware’ of it 

Strong played Shawn Hunter, Cory Matthews’ (Ben Savage) edgier, rule-bending friend with a heart of gold. He attributes the casts’ awareness of the child star trope as something that helped them avoid becoming part of it. 

“There was an awareness, I think, because of what had happened to the first generation of TV kids, which wasn’t great,” Strong said. “You had a lot of sad, tragic stories. There was an awareness for us. We consciously talked about it with our parents of how to … stay in school [and] have a somewhat normal life or a set of friends that have nothing to do with the industry.” 

In Strong’s opinion, the child stars of Boy Meets World “all made versions of a conscious effort to try and stay normal.” 

Love and support from their families also helped the ‘Boy Meets World’ cast avoid the negative aspects of child stardom

Unlike some child stars whose parents relied on their success, the cast of Boy Meets World was not supporting their families behind the scenes. “Our parents had jobs or at least one parent had a job that was supporting the family,” Fishel explained.  

'Boy Meets World' logo with surrounding headshots of the cast including Ben Savage, Will Friedle, Danielle Fishel, Matthew Lawrence, and Rider Strong
Ben Savage, Will Friedle, Danielle Fishel, Matthew Lawrence, and Rider Strong | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

On top of that, they were all working because they wanted to be — not because they had to. “I think … for some families, there is no way around it,” Fishel elaborated. “If you have a child who is working, parents can’t have a full-time job. I am not judging anyone who has to rely on their child’s income in order to make the family work. But in our situation, that pressure wasn’t there.” Not having that weight on their shoulders allowed the cast of Boy Meets World to truly embrace being kids. 

“… We all wanted to be there,” Friedel echoed. “We wanted to be acting [and] wanted to do everything we had to do, and we were compensated fairly for it. That wasn’t always the case back in the day with child actors.” Friedle, whose parents are both lawyers, also cited the Coogan Law. It protects child actors by putting a portion of their gross earnings in a monitored trust. 

He concluded: “We started to really get the benefit [after] a lot of unfortunate stories that happened before us.”

Watch Boy Meets World on Disney+ and hear more from Fishel, Friedle, and Strong in their weekly podcast Pod Meets World

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