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Boy Meets World Stars Share Strong Opinions About Being Called 'Child Actors'

The Boy Meets World cast
(Image credit: Disney)

Since starting their podcast, Boy Meets World alums Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel, and Will Friedle have spilled a number of personal, behind-the-scenes stories. While they've spoken about the good times, the former co-stars also haven’t shied away from the downsides of being the stars of a classic sitcom. While they're all clearly adults now, some people might still refer to them as "child actors," and the trio of podcasters have some strong opinions when it comes to that title.

It was during a recent episode of Pod Meets World that the three hosts opened up about still getting the “child performer” label long after their time on the ABC sitcom ended. Of course, many young actors have worked to shake the stigma surrounding the category and, clearly, Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel, and Will Friedle had to do the same. Strong, who has since become a director, revealed that in the past, he found a number of ways to avoid using the "child actor" label to identify himself:

I refused to call myself a child actor until maybe five years ago. I intentionally avoided the phrase ‘I was a child actor.’ I would find ways around it, I would say ‘I acted when I was a kid’ or ‘I started acting when I was young.’ For whatever reason, I became obsessed post-Boy Meets World by immediately not acknowledging my identity as this thing… I had to acknowledge I hated ‘child actor’, which to me seemed more derogatory.

His take on being a child actor isn’t too surprising. The Shawn Hunter actor admitted to running away from his Boy Meets World fame, as he had a major chip on his shoulder due to being associated with the show.

And Rider Strong wasn't the only one who disliked being labeled a child actor. Co-host Danielle Fishel didn’t hold back when talking about that the infamous tag either. What apparently became a sticking point for her was the plethora of negative connotations that surround that moniker:

I also avoided ‘child actor.’ I think for a few reasons. One…it’s a loaded phrase. It also implies somehow possibly messed up, possibly a drug addict, possibly caught up in things. It also has the feeling that when you are no longer a child, it is taken away from you. That now you’ve outgrown a thing, now you’re no longer special because you’re no longer a child. So, you have that feeling of am I no longer still good at what I do? Am I not an actor now that I am no longer a child?... For a lot of people, it is weightier than the description… It also has that sense of there must be something wrong with you because you were a child actor.

Over the years, many young stars have made headlines due to legal and personal issues. Drew Barrymore has been particularly vocal about being a child star and dealing with drugs at a young age. Some child stars also struggle with transitioning into more adult roles, and such gigs can yield mixed results for them. And as Danielle Fishel mentioned, having one’s value wrapped up in their place in Hollywood can lead to self doubt.

While his colleague had their issues with the label, Will Friedle actually didn’t view his status as a child actor as a negative thing. He just saw himself as an actor who started working at a young age. But the Kim Possible alum did touch on the uphill battle young actors who worked during the '90s had to face after the negative press surrounding numerous '80s child stars:

I never called myself a ‘child actor,’ and it wasn’t conscience. I was just always an actor. it was always ‘so you’re an actor.’ I’m like ‘Yeah, I’m an actor,’ and then they’d asked when I started and I’d say, ‘Oh man, when I was a kid or really young.’… coming into the early ‘90s, you were coming off the 1980s child actor, which did have that negative connotation around it. You peaked at 17, then you robbed a liquor store. That’s what happened when you were acting in the ‘80s. I think we hit a different version of child actor in the ‘90s. We just did. I never referred to myself as a ‘child actor.’ I was always just an actor… But I never put myself in the ‘child actor’ category, and I don’t know why.

The Eric Matthews actor certainly does provide an interesting perspective here. Multiple child actors of the era were in the news for a plethora of negative reasons unfortunately, so public opinion wasn’t in their '90s counterparts' favor. But despite that, Will Friedle is one of the stars who's managed to thrive over the years.

Not everything about the Boy Meets World stars experiences were negative. For instance, they were surrounded by great adult actors who provided guidance that served them well in the years that followed. Will Friedle, Rider Strong, and Danielle Fishel have opened up about the lessons they learned from working with Mr. Feeny actor William Daniels, who treated them as equals even when they were young. As child actors, they certainly appreciated that and, knowing what they know about the business, I'm sure they'll treat any other young actors with that same respect.

If you want to hear about things like Ben Savage being Danielle Fishel’s first kiss or why Cory Matthew’s sister Morgan switched actresses mid-show, you can listen to Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle spill secrets on Pod Meets World. You can also check out their past work by getting a Disney+ subscription and streaming every season of Boy Meets World.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).