Boy Meets World Vet Danielle Fishel Recalls Harsh Criticisms Showrunner Gave Her Immediately After Landing Topanga Role

Danielle Fishel as Topanga Lawrence in Boy Meets World
(Image credit: ABC)

Boy Meets World is a time capsule of some fun TV times of the 1990s, but it seems that the sitcom fun didn't necessarily translate to the off-camera action during the show's early days. It was especially harsh for BMW vet Danielle Fishel during the first season. The actress – whose character was originally meant to be a one-and-done – shared that she wasn’t meeting creator Michael Jacobs’ expectations during her first episode. She recalled harsh criticisms that Jacobs gave her immediately after landing the beloved TV role.

The actress-turned-director spoke about her tumultuous first week on the Boy Meets World set on the latest episode of Pod Meets World. Fishel revealed that she was initially cast as “Fish Girl” in the Season 1 episode “Cory’s Alternative Friends” before the original Topanga actress was fired. After the recast, the cast went through a marathon notes session after a dress rehearsal. At the moment, Jacobs planted seeds of fear in the then-12-year-old actress’s head with harsh feedback. The actress shared:

Michael starts off the notes by saying ‘Danielle, I’m going to give you your notes all in one time at the end, and I’m going to give everyone else their notes now because if I made everyone sit here through all of the notes I have for you, we would all be here for hours and no one would get to go home. So, you’re just going to wait for the end.’

Of course, the showrunner did this in front of the entire cast and crew along with show producers. The Girl Meets World alum admitted his words embarrassed her and made her emotional. She knew things weren’t good, but it was what happened after Jacobs’ note session that signaled she might be fired if she didn’t heed his criticisms. Fishel continued:

I was like ‘I don’t know what’s coming for me but it’s not good.’… He called my mom down and we sat down at the Matthews’ family kitchen table and literally opened up the script and went through every single one of my lines and what he wanted and what I wasn’t doing right, how slow I needed to talk…The other thing Michael said in front of everybody or maybe just to my mom and me. What I know was specifically said was ‘All I know is if you don’t come back tomorrow doing this entirely differently, you are also not going to be here,’ referring to the girl I replaced.

Based on her ordeal early on, it sounds like the BMW creator was a taskmaster with high expectations. The story is especially emotional, as Fishel had the fate of her job hanging over her head when she was still just a child. BMW director David Trainer was livid upon hearing Fishel’s account, calling Jacobs' actions “hateful” and “disgusting.”

While the criticism did stoke fear in the TV actress, his words also motivated her to nail down the Topanga role. She revealed that she stayed up until three or four in the morning, studying her lines with her mom coaching the fast talker to speak slower. After the late-night run-through session, Fishel went into the next script reading with anxiety over her fate in the comedy series. Instead of more harsh criticisms, the My Two Dads creator gave the young actress positive reinforcement after a run-through for ABC executives.

Michael says this time ‘Danielle…’ and I’m like ‘Yes.’ He stands up and all the writers stand up alongside him and says ‘Let’s give Danielle a round of applause. You did exactly what I asked of you. Thank you, thank you. Congratulations. It was wonderful.’ It was praise and then it was back to notes. There were still more notes for me, but there were no more threats of being fired, and the next day we were taping.

Luckily, things worked out for the actress, and she became an instrumental part of the ABC sitcom’s successful run. While Danielle Fishel didn’t have the easiest start with Jacobs, she did feel supported by Trainer and other directors while learning from Mr. Feeny actor William Daniels

This wasn’t the first time that the BMW vet has expressed her feelings about the sitcom, as Fishel revealed the final seasons were tainted by her need to move on. She’s not the only alum to speak on their experience, as Rider Strong mentioned running away from the fame and LA because he didn’t want to be associated with the family sitcom. So, fans’ nostalgic memories and the cast’s don’t necessarily align two decades after the show ended.

If you want to hear more stories like this or the Morgan Matthews mid-series swap, you can listen to Fishel, Strong, William Friedle, and their guests spill more on the Boy Meets World rewatch podcast Pod Meets World. But if you just want to relive every Topanga Lawrence moment, just check out the ABC sitcom by subscribing to Disney+.

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).