The trio shot to fame in the ABC sitcom back in 1993, and they candidly look back at their time as child actors on the podcast. Danielle was just 12 years old when she was cast in the show, Rider was 14, and Will was 17, and all three starred in the series until its final episode in 2000.
Since their podcast’s launch, Danielle, Rider, and Will have opened up about everything from pay disparities among the cast, scary encounters with fans, and their discomfort at how they were sexualized at such a young age.
Rider and Will have admitted to being “horribly uncomfortable” with the amount of “creepy” intimate scenes that they had to film as kids, and Danielle even opened up about the “absolutely wrong” way that some older male members of Boy Meets World’s crew would treat her as a teenager.
But it hasn’t all been negative, with the former castmates also heaping praise on the adults on set who would look out for their wellbeing — including stage manager Steve Hoefer, who was a guest on the show last week.
All three stars praised Steve for creating a “safe space” for them, as they acknowledged that they knew that they could go to him if anything was bothering them on set.
And they introduced listeners to another hugely instrumental person and positive influence from their time on Boy Meets World in Monday’s episode of the podcast, where they were joined by their former on-set teacher, Wesley Staples, who they referred to as their “real life Mr. Feeny.”
The hosts were full of praise for Wesley, who they said helped provide them with a sense of normalcy as well as a great education amid their child stardom.
As Will is older, he didn’t spend much time with Wesley while working on the show, however, Wesley was a key figure in Danielle and Rider’s lives — and they felt as though he looked out for them on a personal level in addition to his professional obligations.
For example, Danielle recalled confiding in Wesley amid her confusing relationship with Lance Bass, and him chastising her when he learned that she had started smoking.
In addition to the young cast’s education, a studio teacher also looks out for their welfare on set and ensures that their best interests are always taken care of — and that productions don’t break the labor laws on how many hours a child is working each day.
These laws vary by age group and by state, but during school time in California, minors between the ages of 9 and 16 are not allowed to be on set for longer than nine hours. Those nine hours can only consist of a maximum of five hours of work, three hours of schooling with their studio teacher, and an hour of rest and recreation.
And while none of the cast ever encountered an issue with this while working on Boy Meets World, Rider did recall a much more troubling experience early on in his career when he was forced to work for 18 hours straight.
Reiterating what a difference it makes to have a studio teacher as competent as Wesley looking out for child stars, Rider admitted that he’d previously had “multiple situations” where these rules weren’t followed.
“When I worked in Australia when I was 11, they didn’t have state protection. They didn’t have a welfare worker,” he said of the set. “The studio teacher in Australia turned out to be a background actor who they just gave a bump to also be my studio teacher, and they worked me so hard.”
“I remember one night, it was one in the morning, I’d been working for 18 hours, I was cold, we were freezing,” Rider added. “And I just remember the director being like: ‘C’mon, Rider! You can find that inner warmth, let’s do this!’”
“I was, like, literally passing out falling asleep,” he recalled, before admitting that his mom also struggled with the situation as she felt as though she couldn’t intervene to do what was best for her son.
“Obviously I was unhappy, but I think the hardest was on my mom because she was in a position where her son wants to be an actor, her son’s getting to be in this show, so she doesn’t want to shut down the production,” Rider explained.
“She felt so disempowered, and she’s just this stage mom who’d be an awful stage mom if she stepped in,” he went on. “So you need that person; you need that somebody with that authority who says: ‘Time’s up, you’ve worked nine and a half hours, that’s it.’”
Wesley agreed and pointed out that even if the child is tired after just a couple of hours of work then it is the welfare worker’s duty to tell production that they have to be let go for the day.
He then shared an anecdote from his time working with Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin during the height of his childhood fame. He said that Macaulay had just flown home from Australia and had to make an appearance at the American Comedy Awards.
“He did them, as usual, he was great,” Wesley recalled. “He came backstage and was tired. They put him in a carrel with ropes, and press was all around him shouting questions. I looked at him and said: ‘OK, time to go.’”
“So I pulled him up and his mother walked up to me and said: ‘What are you doing?’” Wesley went on. “I said: ‘I’m sending him out.’ You can’t do that, I’m his mother. I said: ‘Well, I’m sending you both out then.'"
“They went off and the makeup ladies turned to me and said: ‘Oh my god, thank you so much,’” he added. “Everybody sees. Everybody on the set sees what’s going on.”
Wesley also detailed another incident when a production went ahead and had a young girl film with a live bear after he’d told them that they couldn’t do that.
“I was once working in Northern California with Robert Conrad,” he began. “His 17-year-old son was in the movie and a younger girl, and they wanted the girl to be in a 20-foot tower with a live bear, and they insisted they were going to do it. I said: ‘You’re not going to do it. I’m telling you, you can’t do it.’”
“They went ahead anyway and did it,” Wesley revealed. “So I filed a formal complaint and they were taken before the labor commission and fined very heavily.”
Highlighting the issue of being unable to enforce that a child’s welfare is protected at work, Wesley added: “There’s a guy with a gun and a badge in Los Angeles who will come to a set and shut it down for you to enforce the law. But normally, it’s your word or nothing. They’re going to do it, you just have the right to make sure they’re fined and held accountable.”
You can listen to Wesley Staples's full episode of Pod Meets World here.