Dark secrets of the cast of Boy Meets World

For adults of a certain age — looking at you, Millennials — there's no more of a universal cultural touchstone than Boy Meets World. Ben Savage starred as Cory Matthews, a regular if mischievous and hyperactive Philadelphia junior high student, who runs around with BFF Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), avoids bullies, and resists the gruff support of his teacher, the beloved Mr. Feeny (William Daniels). As the series progresses, Cory and Shawn move up to high school and beyond, experiencing "very special episode" types of problems (i.e. family issues, school trouble, heated squabbles, and substance abuse), as well as big joys — most notably Cory's own blossoming true-love relationship with his whip-smart hippie classmate, Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel).

Boy Meets World was a staple of ABC's lineup from 1993 to 2000 … but before, during, and after its run, its large cast experienced a fair amount of upheaval in their personal and professional lives. Here are some less-than-sunny events from behind the scenes of Boy Meets World.

Teen dream Rider Strong hated his Boy Meets World haircut

The early-to-mid-'90s were a golden age for the hormone-charged, pubescent masses to obsess over swoon-worthy, Tiger Beat-adorning, non-threatening celebrity teen boys. Rider Strong, for example, sent many a tween heart aflutter with his portrayal of Shawn Hunter (Cory Matthews' goofy, troubled best friend on Boy Meets World), and the shaggy bowl haircut he wore to bring that character to life. However, the former teen heartthrob had a hard time adjusting to both.

"I was never super-comfortable with it to be honest," Strong told Cosmopolitan in 2013. "I'm not a shy person … It would just be weird to go somewhere and have groups of girls scream and hyperventilate in front of you." Yeah, but they just dug the hair, right? Well, turns out he didn't. "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," Strong admitted. "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."  

Yeesh. That meant Strong had to keep that very '90s haircut until 2000 — long after it went out of style.

Lance Bass broke Danielle Fishel's heart

In both the past and present, Danielle Fishel — forever TV's Topanga — has done alright for herself in the romance department. She married (and then divorced) her college math tutor, and got remarried to comedy writer Jensen Karp in November 2018. But back in the late '90s, the actress dated one of the era's most desirable dudes on the planet: Lance Bass of *NSYNC. 

In her 2014 memoir, Normally, This Would Be Cause for Concern, Fishel explained that she met the blond-tipped boy band singer in the late '90s at a live TGIF special, where they exchanged numbers (via The Hollywood Reporter). The two later hit the town for a date at a taping of a Céline Dion Christmas special … and the rest was history. Well, sort of. They ended up dating for a year and a half, and even attended Fishel's high school prom together, but things ultimately didn't work out. Fishel later realized why when Bass came out to her as a gay man. "I was really happy after he was able to go public with it," she later told Ok! News in 2009. "Because I don't think anybody should have to live their life in a way where they feel like they're keeping a secret."

William Daniels didn't want to play Mr. Feeny

When Boy Meets World debuted in 1993, the best known actor in the cast wasn't one of the kid actors anchoring the show — it was William Daniels, who portrayed the prickly but lovely teacher, Mr. Feeny. An accomplished performer, he first appeared on Broadway in the late '50s and later starred in the original productions of 1776 and A Little Night Music, before transitioning over to television, where he won an Emmy for his work on the medical drama St. Elsewhere and, perhaps more impressively, voiced talking car K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider.

The experience apparently imbued Daniels with a dignity bordering on arrogance, as he revealed in his 2017 memoir, There I Go Again, that he initially had little interest in playing Mr. Feeny. "At a meeting with the show's author and executive producer, Michael Jacobs … I told him I didn't want to play a high school teacher who's made to look foolish for the sake of some cheap laughs," Daniels wrote (via People). After Jacobs promised that "he would never have me play an idiot," Daniels signed on. Then he attended the show's first table read … and hated his character's story so much that he quit the show. After a hasty rewrite of that first script, Daniels thankfully un-quit.

Will Friedle stopped appearing on screen shortly after Boy Meets World

Every sitcom needs a happy dumb guy, and for Boy Meets World that character is Eric Matthews — Cory's older brother, who deals with his own young adult issues. Will Friedle played the role with exuberant relish, and he later parlayed his TGIF stint into a nice career within the romantic comedy realm (Trojan War, My Date with the President's Daughter, etc.), guest spots on other sitcoms, and voicing Nightwing in numerous animated Batman projects. Actually, his post-Boy Meets World career has overwhelmingly consisted of voice acting gigs, ever since Friedle was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that precluded more traditional on-screen acting.

"What brought me to voice-over was anxiety," Frielde said at a Boy Meets World panel held at the 2018 New York Comic Con (via Entertainment Weekly). "I was planning to do more on-camera work, but then I got hit with these anxiety attacks that prevented me from doing that. I was so thankful I had voice-over because I could still perform and act." We are, too!

ABC didn't want a Corpanga wedding

Cory and Topanga were #CoupleGoals years before social media or its hashtags were even a thing. The central storyline of Boy Meets World, of course, is the slowly developing relationship between the two, which evolves from junior high classmates who didn't like each other, to friends, to boyfriend and girlfriend, to — in the show's seventh and final season — husband and wife. "When you know, you know," the old saying goes, and they got hitched even though they were very young, not yet old enough to buy beer. 

Even though "Cory + Topanga 4VR" was clearly and always endgame for Boy Meets World, ABC surprisingly objected to the show's producers' plans for the characters to marry, according to a 2011 Vanity Fair interview with actor Rider Strong. Even Strong had his doubts: When asked if the couple would have gotten divorced by that point, he quipped, "Probably." However, Strong quickly added, "No, no because the whole conceit of the show was that they were meant for each other." Indeed, had Cory and Topanga not stayed together and lived happily ever after, there never would've been the Disney Channel reboot/update Girl Meets World about Cory and Topanga's daughter, so there.

Matthew Lawrence and Cheryl Burke's on-and-off romance

Matthew Lawrence has portrayed the new character who arrives to save an aging TV show that's declining in popularity a number of times: As toddler Danny Carrington on Dynasty, as abandoned child Matthew on Gimme a Break!, and as Jack Hunter, Shawn's formerly estranged half-brother, on Boy Meets World. However, the actor's personal life has been as equally mildly dramatic. 

Around 2006, Lawrence first met Dancing with the Stars professional staff dancer Cheryl Burke, according to People. At the time, her celebrity partner was none other than Blossom star Joey Lawrence — a.k.a. Matthew's older brother. They wound up dating for about a year, only to split up. The reason, according to third Lawrence acting brother Andy via a TMZ ambush interview: She apparently liked to drink and party more than her man did.

But just like Cory and Topanga, these two were apparently meant to be. According to E! News, they got back together in early 2017. Lawrence proposed the following year in an elaborate ceremony that began with a love letter set out for Burke to read after a shower (via People). When she looked up from reading, Lawrence was down on one knee. Aww.

How Boy Meets World tried to be more like Friends

Friends has remained one of the single most popular TV shows for literal decades, and it cost Netflix $100 million for the rights to stream every episode for just one year in 2018. Somehow, the show about six friends in their twenties (plus a monkey and Gunther) was an even bigger cultural juggernaut during its debut season in 1994-95. Millions of women got the "Rachel" haircut like Jennifer Aniston's character, the theme song topped the charts, and other TV series tried to copy the Friends formula in any way they could. Even Boy Meets World tried to inject a bit of that other show's youthful energy into the mix, despite the fact that it was a show for and about children.

In a 2011, Rider Strong told Vanity Fair that ABC implored the show's producers to somehow add some hip, "twentysomethings" to the cast. They obliged with the arrival of Eli (Alex Désert) and Mr. Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn) — two cool, friendly teachers at John Adams High School. Neither character lasted very long. "I don't know what they were thinking, but it was a complete disaster," Strong admitted. "It didn't work at all."

Ethan Suplee lost weight after Boy Meets World ... and then lost jobs

Ethan Suplee is a familiar face and a versatile actor who has popped up in some high-profile movies and TV shows since the '90s. You might recognize him as William from Mallrats (the guy who couldn't figure out a "magic eye" poster), or from his starring turn as the dim but sweet Randy on My Name is Earl, or, for our purposes, that time he had a recurring role on Boy Meets World as Frankie Stechino, a school bully who eventually becomes pals with Cory and the gang. Frankie, like a lot of Suplee's roles, is a heavyset guy — but in 2009, the actor shed a lot of weight. 

"I started obsessively riding bicycles. I actually did get properly thin at one point — I was nine percent body fat," he told Entertainment Weekly's What to Watch podcast in 2016. However, when he started to go for roles with his new, leaner frame, he just couldn't land them: "I found that people were like, 'Who are you? We don't know you. You're this new person.'" He added, "So a couple years ago I made the decision: I'm not going to kill myself to be thin when nobody knows me as a thin person. And so I just kind of relaxed on my diet."

Blake Sennett's band went through a dramatic breakup

The cliché answer for child actors answering the question, "What came next?" is usually that they wound up washed up and out of work. However, that wasn't what happened to young actors Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, who respectively starred in The Wizard and played bully minion Joey "The Rat" Epstein on 16 episodes of Boy Meets World. Instead, the duo went on to form Rilo Kiley, one of the most acclaimed indie rock bands of the 2000s. The group disbanded in 2011. Unfortunately, that breakup was about as civil and harmonious as a couple of teen characters from Boy Meets World calling it quits.

While discussing his other band, The Elected, with Consequence of Sound at the time, Sennett likened Rilo Kiley to a corpse "laying on his back in a morgue with a tag on his toe." A few months later, he told Spinner that the band was decidedly finished (via Entertainment Weekly): "I just felt like there was a lot of deception, disloyalties, greed, and things I don't really want to submit myself to." Yikes.

Everywhere you look, there's a feud

A former teen star best known for a '90s family-friendly sitcom accidentally upset the star of another '90s family-friendly sitcom over a remark about drugs. …It's a situation to which most everyone can relate. In a 2013, Danielle Fishel shared a headline-making anecdote from her TGIF days about the time she was on a private jet to Disney World with her family … and the guy who played Danny Tanner on Full House

"We were trying to take a nap, and all of a sudden Bob Saget walks down the aisle, rips open our curtain, and shouts, 'Do you guys have any coke?!'" Fishel told Maxim (via HuffPost). "Then he looks my dad in the eye, laughs, and closes the curtain." For his part, Saget didn't appreciate what he thought were disparaging remarks and issued a crude response. "What show was she on? Big Chest, Small Wonder?" he quipped, adding, "She's kind of like Bilbo Baggins, very tiny." Geez.

Saget went on to say that his cocaine comment was made in jest: "I was always making jokes; that's what I did." Meanwhile, Fishel called Maxim out for not publishing her story-capping remark, tweeting, "Maybe you should have printed what I said at the end 'we knew he was joking. It was funny.' He didn't pick up on that."

William Daniels had a difficult childhood

By and large, Boy Meets World was a gentle sitcom about middle-class, well-loved kids with kind, doting parents and teachers guiding them along as they navigated the typical problems of young life. Unfortunately, that's far from the experience that cast member William Daniels had back when he was just a boy meeting the world. 

The veteran actor opened up about his years as a child actor in his memoir There I Go Again, recalling a time when he was pushed by his mother to sing, dance, and act on numerous radio shows, and had to work late into the night and over weekends. "When I started writing his book, I started seeing a psychologist, who suggested that I was an abused child," Daniels wrote (via People). "I was shocked to hear such a description — that I had been robbed of a normal childhood, forced to perform and put into situations that I had no control over." He added that he found it "hurtful" that his mother never paid him a compliment for all that hard work.

Maitland Ward pursued more 'adult' roles after Boy Meets World

Maitland Ward joined Boy Meets World in season six as Rachel McGuire, an attractive roommate and romantic foil to Eric Matthews and Jack Hunter. While those two initially fight over her, the trio ultimately decides to just be friends. For the most part, the rest of the Boy Meets World cast went on to make similarly family-friendly entertainment (both Girl Meets World and Will Friedle lending his voice to Batman cartoons come to mind). However, Ward went in the opposite direction. 

The actress appeared in a handful of movies and TV shows after Boy Meets World ended in 2000, before joining the cosplay circuit and showing up at comic and sci-fi conventions dressed in revealing, pop culture-inspired outfits (via Too Fab). What little clothes she had on soon came off: In 2013, she started posting naked or almost-naked pictures of herself on her various social media accounts, according to MEL Magazine. When Ward was apparently looking to get back into acting of a sort in 2019, she signed with a talent management agency that specializes in adult performers.