Why James Van Der Beek Said ‘Dawson’s Creek’ Popularity ‘Got Scary’

Actor James Van Der Beek starred in Dawson’s Creek. The series became a massive hit for the WB. With its growing viewership came an intense level of attention for its stars, especially those with the most screentime, like Van Der Beek. Learn what he said about the “scary” aspects of the TV show’s popularity.

James Van Der Beek starred in ‘Dawson’s Creek’

James Van Der Beek in a plaid shirt in front of tall grass
James Van Der Beek plays Dawson Leery in ‘Dawson’s Creek.’ | Getty Images

Van Der Beek began acting in his teens, first appearing in the 1995 comedy Angus. He then landed his first significant role as Dawson Leery in Dawson’s Creek. The WB teen drama premiered in 1997, introducing fans to Van Der Beek and his co-stars Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, and Joshua Jackson.

Dawson Leery is a dreamer, a 15-year-old boy who wants nothing more than to become the next big Hollywood director like his idol, Steven Spielberg. Growing up in a small Massachusetts town, he deals with romantic and family drama while pursuing his passion. Dawson’s Creek aired for six seasons on the network.

The show brought him (and his co-stars) fame

Michelle Williams (Jennifer Lindley), James Van Der Beek (Dawson Leery), Katie Holmes (Joey Potter) and Joshua Jackson (Pacey) in 'Dawson's Creek'
Michelle Williams (Jennifer Lindley), James Van Der Beek (Dawson Leery), Katie Holmes (Joey Potter) and Joshua Jackson (Pacey) in ‘Dawson’s Creek’ | Getty Images

RELATED: Why James Van Der Beek Didn’t Think ‘Dawson’s Creek’ Was Going to Be a Hit Show

Today, the stars of hit TV series often receive attention as soon as they’re cast, with fans finding them on social media and following them throughout their careers. But things were very different for actors back in the late ’90s. And for Van Der Beek and his co-stars, filming in North Carolina made them removed from the Hollywood crowd.

Nevertheless, Dawson’s Creek became an immediate hit. The network realized what it had going for it and included the actors in their ad campaigns alongside other young adult stars like those of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Van Der Beek saw his popularity reflected in the movie roles he was offered at the time.

Van Der Beek says the escalation of the attention was ‘scary’

Fame — immediate or otherwise, comes with its pitfalls. “I went from signing my first autograph ever at Universal City Walk in LA…to then like a week later I was doing some appearance for the WB at the time, and it was pandemonium,” Van Der Beek explained during a 2018 cast reunion for Entertainment Weekly.

“Like five times as many people they thought were going to show up showed up, we ran out of headshots, girls were getting pressed against barricades. They had to take me out and put me in a police car to get me out of there. I was like traumatized,” he continued.

“It really made me pull away actually quite a bit,” Van Der Beek added. “It got scary. You couldn’t go to a mall. I finally had money for the first time, and I couldn’t go to a mall,” he finished.

How ‘Dawson’s Creek’ still affects the actor

James Van Der Beek smiling
James Van Der Beek | Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Today, Van Der Beek’s known for other projects, like Don’t Trust the B—— in Apt. 23 and his 2019 Dancing with the Stars stint. But many still think of him for Dawson’s Creek. Though he doesn’t seem to mind discussing his most popular role, there may be some residual effects.

“To this day, whenever I hear a gaggle of teenage girl cackling and giggling, I have the lamest form of PTSD ever,” Van Der Beek deadpanned during the Entertainment Weekly interview. Though the actor’s fan base skews a bit older these days, it’s clear Dawson’s Creek had an impact on him that hasn’t faded.