If you were a kid in the ’90s, chances are you are more than familiar with the names Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Eric — the main characters of popular sitcom Boy Meets World.
Equally famed for its array of enviable hairstyles and its tackling of tough subject matters, the show ran for seven seasons during ABC’s iconic “TGIF” block alongside other hits like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Family Matters.
It was on our screens between 1993 and 2000, chronicling the lives of its central characters from the age of 11 until the end of college. In 2014, the show was revived for the sequel series Girl Meets World, which followed Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley.
Girl Meets World aired for three seasons until 2017, with most of the major cast members reprising their roles for the series.
And the renewed interest that the sequel sparked in Boy Meets World seemingly inspired the original cast members to start a podcast to discuss their time on the show, aptly named Pod Meets World.
The podcast launched in June and is hosted by Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle, who played Topanga, Shawn, and Eric respectively.
Each week they rewatch an episode of Boy Meets World — which they have not seen since the ’90s — and share their memories of filming with a special podcast guest.
This week, the group revisited Season 1, Episode 7, “Grandma Was a Rolling Stone,” which featured Will’s first-ever onscreen kiss. This prompted a serious discussion about the cast’s “creepy” and “uncomfortable” experience of shooting intimate scenes on set.
Will, the oldest of the podcast’s hosts, played the older brother of the series's main character, Cory (Ben Savage), while Rider and Danielle, who were 14 and 12 when the series launched, played his best friend and love interest, respectively.
Will was 17 when this particular episode was filmed and he recalled leaning on guest star Keri Russell for guidance before shooting the kiss.
“The script said, ‘and they kiss… a good kiss,’” Will told his shocked cohosts. “And I said to [Kerri], ‘What does that mean?’ And without missing a beat, she said, ‘Tongue.’ I will never forget that.”
As Boy Meets World progressed, both Will's and Rider’s characters became heartthrobs who would date many different girls, and Will said that he found the way that he was expected to interact with the background actors “horribly uncomfortable” and “really creepy.”
“When I was about 18 and it was a girl a week — Rider, we both went through this, where it’s like: ‘That’s your partner and you’re going to kiss!’” Will began, “I started asking, ‘How would you like to do this?’ because it’s creepy.”
He then compared shooting a scene with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Love Hewitt to one with an actor he didn’t know, Marguerite Moreau.
“In the Scream episode where I’m kissing Love, people are like, ‘Wow, it looks like you just jammed your tongue down her throat,’ and I’m like… Well, I did — a) for the joke, and b) she was actually my girlfriend, and she knew we were going to kiss,” Will explained.
“But Marguerite Moreau, when she came on, we talked a little bit about it because it wasn’t like, ‘Hi, nice to see you, now I have to jump on you and throw my tongue down your throat,’ it’s really creepy,” he went on. “It was hugely uncomfortable. Everyone talks like, ‘Oh man, you get to kiss all those girls!’ But it’s not as awesome as you might think it is.”
“It really is horribly uncomfortable, and to do it in front of an audience and hearing people go ‘woo’ and all this, it’s really uncomfortable,” he concluded.
Danielle then pointed out that onscreen kisses are impacted by how much chemistry the actors feel with one another, and Rider agreed as he added: “There were times when it was fun, but other times when it wasn’t, and it really just depended on the person.”
“And it wasn’t whether they were pretty or not,” he continued. “It was just literally that chemistry thing, there were times where I was like, I don’t want to have to kiss this person again, it was awful, and there were other times where you’re like, oh, that was fine.”
Will was then keen to point out the “power disparity” between him and Rider and the background actors that were being brought in for them to kiss.
“We should at least address, especially in this day and age it needs to be talked about, the kind of power disparity that’s going on,” he told his cohosts. “Because we’re regulars on the show so we have a job and we know we’re going to have a job, and it puts the [guest] actor in a position of saying: ‘I’m not gonna say I don’t want you to put your tongue down my throat.’”
Rider agreed and admitted that they all would have benefitted from having an intimacy coordinator on set — something that simply didn’t exist in the ’90s.
“The role of an intimacy coordinator makes so much sense to me,” he said. “I love the idea. That never existed, and now it’s become pretty standard on set and I love it. I’ve never worked with one personally, but I totally think that it’s a necessary role because you can’t just trust that a director or a producer is going to have the experience or the delicate tone that is required of that situation.”
Will interjected to add, “Or the morality,” which Rider agreed with before concluding: “I think having an assigned person just to navigate that with the actors is great and an essential role. That’s basically what we are talking about, a need for intimacy coordinators.”
The group also questioned the normalcy of having children kissing in kids TV shows in the ’90s and pointed out that it doesn’t happen anymore. “Why is that? Because it’s not like we’ve got more conservative,” Rider questioned.
Answering his own query, the actor theorized that people these days have much more access to a variety of things, adding: “Back then it seemed like you were servicing the idea of having to be a little sexy, but now that would just seem out of place — I’m not watching the show for that.”
And Danielle shared her hope that it was just a reflection of young actors being treated better in the industry as she said: “Maybe it’s that the people writing the content are now uncomfortable asking real 12-, 13-, 14-,15-year-olds? I know when I’ve been on set [as an adult] the conversation is: ‘We would never ask a child to do that; we’re not doing that because that’s an uncomfortable thing to ask any 14-year-old to do.’”
“Back then, they weren’t asking that question,” Will interjected. And Danielle agreed, adding: “We were actors, it didn’t matter whether or not we were uncomfortable or comfortable with it. Whatever the writer wrote is what you did, and you were made to feel that if something did make you uncomfortable, it was inappropriate for you to express that.”
“You weren’t really supposed to say: ‘I don’t want to do this. I don’t feel comfortable,’” she went on. “You’re a prop, as an actor you say the words and do what’s written on the page, no questions asked.”
“Having autonomy as a child actor is very difficult,” Rider echoed. “You start to believe that if you stand up for yourself or do not want to do something or say a certain line a certain way, you feel like you’re making waves and feel like you’re making a problem and it’s so unhealthy.”
This isn’t the first time that the group have discussed being uncomfortable with the way that they were treated as child stars on Boy Meets World.
In an earlier podcast, Danielle recalled being threatened with the ax after the show’s creator, Michael Jacobs, was unhappy with her rehearsal for her first episode of the show at the age of 12.
Danielle was drafted in at short notice to replace another girl who was supposed to play Topanga, and she remembered fighting back tears after the creator embarrassed her in front of the rest of the cast and crew by telling her that he was saving her rehearsal notes for the end of the day because if he made everybody else stay for them they’d all “be here for hours.”
“What I know specifically was said is: ‘All I know is, if you don’t come back tomorrow doing this entirely differently, you are also not going to be here,’ referencing the girl I had replaced,” Danielle added, admitting that she was "sweating" remembering the moment from almost 30 years ago.
Her story left the episode’s director David Trainer — who was a guest on that week’s podcast — furious, and he told her: “This is a hateful story. There’s many wonderful things about [Michael Jacobs], but there’s hateful things. This is one. To hear this, you’re sweating? I’m really pissed. It’s enough to make me want to sign off of this podcast. I don’t want to be associated with anything that guy is associated with. This is just not how you do things. I’m glad it became a hit, but this is disgusting.”
And this week, Danielle revealed that there was a huge pay disparity between her and her male costars, and her agent and father ended up forcing her to boycott a table read in order to get paid more.
Danielle first appeared in the fourth episode of Season 1, “Cory’s Alternative Friends,” and was only supposed to be in that one episode. However, her character Topanga ended up being such a hit that she was brought back for several more episodes that season before becoming an established part of the cast going forward.
“I was considered a series regular in Season 2, but I still didn’t get to do every episode,” she explained. “I was a series regular who was guaranteed 13 [episodes], and I think I ended up doing 19 out of 22 or something.”
Rider remembered feeling angry on Danielle’s behalf when she wasn’t included in the show’s promotional photo shoot or opening credits for Season 2, telling her: “I remember it being confusing, and I remember being upset on your behalf, like: ‘She’s working so hard and she’s not part of the main cast.’”
Danielle then told listeners: “We’ve talked about it before privately, but if you guys knew the pay disparity, even after I became a series regular… The excuse was: ‘We didn’t know you were going to be on the show, we weren’t anticipating you.' But by Season 2, you did know. By Season 2, I was accounted for.”
“I get that in Season 1 I wasn’t part of the budget,” she continued. “You weren’t anticipating having another series regular, but by Season 2… That excuse should go out the window, and then Season 3 rolled around, and they were using the same excuse.”
Will added: “There was still the pay disparity when they were clearly building Cory and Topanga as a thing.”
“I had to threaten to not show up to a table read,” Danielle said. “My dad was not having it. My dad and Judy Savage [her agent] were doing the negotiations with ABC, or Disney, and they said to me, ‘You have to not go,’ and I was sobbing: ‘I have to go, it’s my job, you’re going to lose this job for me.’”
In fact, 12-year-old Danielle was so concerned about losing her dream job that she recalled telling her family that she would never speak to them again if she got fired due to her boycott. However, she ended up not showing up to a table read, and while it was hinted that this resolved the issue, she did not go into detail.
Danielle, Will, and Rider all agreed that they have plenty more shocking experiences that they will revisit in the coming weeks, which will no doubt leave their listeners hooked.
BuzzFeed News have contacted ABC for comment.
Correction: “Grandma Was a Rolling Stone” is Episode 7 of Season 1 of Boy Meets World. A previous version of this post misstated the season.