Mr. George Feeny has been an unofficial mentor to generations of young people since Boy Meets World premiered in 1993. The connection between the teacher and the audience came courtesy of William Daniel’s performance. That said Daniels is the only image when the name Feeny comes up. But that almost didn’t happen. The Boy Meet World alum explained why he turned down the role twice.
Before becoming one of Millennials and Gen Z’s favorite teachers, Daniels was a TV and stage veteran having starred in the hit Broadway musical 1776 and the drama St. Elsewhere, which won him an Emmy. By the time the classic show came around, he just wasn’t into the idea of doing a sitcom. After turning down the role initially, creator Michael Jacobs called up the Emmy winner to hear his reason. The Mr. Feeny actor explained to ET what he told Jacobs during the call.
Daniels’ reasoning made sense. Feeny wasn’t a name viewers likely heard regularly on TV or in real life. The 95-year-old actor was looking at the 1990s sitcom landscape where teachers were foils for the main characters rather than fully-fleshed-out characters (i.e., Saved by the Bell). Thankfully, Jacobs assured the acting veteran the role was “good” and “respectable.” His words were enough to persuade the St. Elsewhere actor to become the benevolent next-door neighbor and teacher.
The BMW showrunner’s words only subsided Daniels’ worries for a moment. The thespian’s dissatisfaction extended beyond the character as tensions rose during the table read for the pilot (not an unusual occurrence on the ABC sitcom). His wife Bonnie Bartlett chimed in that his dissatisfaction led to him quitting upon reading the first script.
According to Bartlett, her husband felt the writing wasn’t good. Quitting during the table read pushed Jacobs to rewrite the character to suit Daniels’ acting pedigree. The revision must’ve been to the 1776 star’s satisfaction as he stayed with the sitcom. Feeny in the first script must’ve leaned into the actor’s initial fears. But the BMW creator wanted the TV and stage actor bad enough that he overhauled the script in one night.
If he had left the role, Daniels wouldn’t have been a mentor on and off-screen to his Boy Meets World co-stars. Rider Strong, Will Friedle, and Danielle Fishel recalled learning a lot from the Emmy winner, including how to be professional on set. But his castmates weren’t the only ones affected by his presence as the Knight Rider alum recalled fun yet scary encounters with some young fans in New York.
You can revisit your favorite George Feeny moments by watching Boy Meets World through a Disney+ subscription. Follow up the rewatch by watching Girl Meets World and see William Daniels’ touching cameos. Once you’re done with both shows, look over our 2022 TV schedule to see what sitcoms are premiering this fall.
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