Last year, three of the stars of Boy Meets World launched a rewatch podcast where they share their personal memories of filming the popular ’90s sitcom, which ran for seven seasons between 1993 and 2000.
In one of their early episodes, Danielle revealed that although landing the role of Topanga Lawrence at 12 years old proved to be a life-changing moment for her, another young actor was originally cast as the now-iconic character.
In fact, Danielle didn’t even get a callback when she auditioned for Topanga, and was instead cast in a much more minor role as one of main character Cory Matthews’s other classmates.
On the podcast, Danielle remembered getting to set and watching the episode’s director, David Trainer, work with the original Topanga actor — specifically how they were “going back and forth” over how she should say the word “peace” during a cafeteria scene.
Rider recalled that “the whole episode was a disaster at that point,” and later that same day the young actor was let go from the project.
David was a guest on that week’s podcast, and was able to share his perspective on what had happened. He said: “There’s sort of problems that you think you can solve and then there’s problems you think you can’t solve, and by working with her she moved from one camp to the other camp. To the unsolvable camp.”
He added that the show’s creator, Michael Jacobs, had gone home for the day by this point, and so he called other crew members and told them: “This is a disaster, we’ve got to get rid of her.”
Danielle and another background actor were then invited to re-audition for the role of Topanga at the end of the day, and Danielle received a phone call to say that she’d got the part later that same evening.
And, as you probably know, the rest is history. While Topanga was originally only supposed to be in one Season 1 episode, the character ended up being such a big hit that she was brought back throughout the season before becoming a core member of the cast going forward.
Topanga was quickly established as Cory’s main love interest and the two characters ended up getting married in Season 6 of the show. Danielle even reprised her role in 2014 for the sequel series Girl Meets World, which is about Cory and Topanga’s daughter and ran for three seasons.
The actor, now 42, credits Boy Meets World as “the origin” of her Hollywood career and the springboard for her current position as a successful director.
But in recent years, Danielle has revealed that she has been unable to shake how the entire situation must have felt for the young actor that so nearly had the career-launching role instead of her.
And 30 years after the first episode of Boy Meets World aired, Danielle was finally able to track her down — and the two had a “meaningful and beautiful” private phone conversation about their bizarrely intertwined lives.
It has now been revealed that the actor that almost became the face of Topanga was Bonnie Morgan, who was 12 years old when she landed the role that was seemingly written explicitly for her.
And Bonnie agreed to appear on Monday’s episode of Pod Meets World, where she shared her side of the story for the first time. And revealed the shocking real reason why she was fired from the show.
In the candid conversation, Bonnie — who described herself as being an “outlandish, hippy, flower child” as a kid — explained that she first met Boy Meets World’s showrunner Michael when she auditioned for another of his shows, The Torkelsons.
After that, her agent contacted her about the role of Topanga and it seemed as though the role had been written specifically for her.
“I had three callbacks, they kept bringing me back,” she recounted. “Every time I’d audition we’d talk a lot… And every time I’d come, the script would change slightly, it seemed, to things that we had talked about.”
Bonnie said that she then received a call from her agent detailing a “power struggle” between Michael — who “loved” her — and others involved in the project that were less keen, but eventually “Michael won.”
And while Bonnie was over the moon to have been cast in the show, her joy was incredibly short-lived. She mused: “I didn’t know that you could get fired.”
“It was the weirdest day of my life,” Bonnie said of that fateful Friday. “Even as a kid I was like: ‘What’s going on here?’ I came in and all the adults were very short with me.”
“The table read was great fun, it was all there. It couldn’t have gone better with everyone around,” she went on. “The minute I was separated out, it was another story.”
Bonnie said that Ben Savage, who was the lead actor as Cory, was “poking” at her and making faces to try and get her to break character during the rehearsal, which seemingly irritated David as he tried to direct.
“At this point I was becoming a nervous wreck,” she explained. “I couldn’t get his name — the opening line, ‘Cory,’ I would guffaw ‘Cory’ and David was just like: ‘Get it together!’ I’m trying to pull it together and hold it together in sheer fear, and Ben kept doing this thing to crack me up and I was breaking and giggling.”
Bonnie then recounted the same feedback that she was getting over her delivery of the word “peace” that Danielle had mentioned in the previous podcast episode — and how David wanted her to “say it sweeter.”
“So I said it sweeter and he went: ‘No, I want you to say it…’ and he got really close to me, ‘…like you’re saying happy birthday,’” Bonnie shared. “I was so tiny at that moment and I just said OK, I will. And he goes: ‘Do it.’ And I said: ‘I thought you meant during the take,’ and he goes: ‘Do it now, wish me a happy birthday.’”
Bonnie said that Ben continued to tease her throughout the rehearsal and would mockingly repeat her lines back to her, she added: “We were going to do the kissing scene at the locker but at that point I was just like: ‘I’m just going to stay away from him until Wednesday,’ thinking I was standing my ground.”
Although David had called Danielle and another girl back to audition for Bonnie’s role at the end of the day, she went home without knowing that she had been fired — and didn’t find out until the following morning when her agent called her father.
And the reason behind the decision left 12-year-old Bonnie completely “shattered,” with the star sharing: “I had been with my agent for a very long time, I’d been working with her a very long time. The director said that I couldn’t take direction, which was one thing I’d never been accused of.”
“My agent immediately fought back on that one,” she went on. “It came out very quickly to my agent that the director didn’t think I was pretty enough. Literally did not think I was pretty enough, so that meant that a grown man, a boss, could lie and tell me I was untalented because the fact was he didn’t think I was pretty.”
“I’m taking away the thing you want most in the world, that was all but written for you, it’s because you’re not talented. Sorry, I lied, it’s just because you’re not pretty,” Bonnie imitated.
The podcast hosts were audibly horrified by what Bonnie had said, and as they expressed their sympathy Rider shared what he thought must have happened. He said: “My theory is that they made the decision at the table read. The reason you felt so awkward is that whoever was pushing against you — whether that was David Trainer alone or someone at the network — decided after that table read, and then you were dead man walking the entire day.”
But Bonnie replied with her belief that she was “dead” before she even got to the set. She countered: “I truly believe that David Trainer decided the minute the phone call was made that he was going to get rid of that kid come hell or high water, and what a thing to do to somebody.”
Bonnie then addressed Danielle’s negative experience with Michael on her first day as Topanga the following Monday, saying: “As viciously as I was treated by David, who was championing a different look that he cast… I understand that you had an equally terrible experience with my champion, Michael.”
Danielle had previously opened up about this in a past episode of the podcast, where she recalled being left close to tears after Michael threatened to fire her and embarrassed her in front of the entire cast and crew.
“We do the producer run through and we sit down for Michael’s marathon note session,” Danielle said of her first day on set. “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 anyone else their notes now, because if I made everyone sit here through all the notes that I have for you we would all be here for hours and no-one would ever get home.”
Danielle admitted that she was “sweating” just remembering the moment from three decades ago, and added: “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.”
Speaking to Bonnie on Monday, Danielle reasoned: “There was a power struggle that had nothing to do with characters, or Topanga, or the actors at all. It was a power struggle between two adults who wanted power period and we were all just —” to which Rider finished: “Pawns.”
“I’ve been on other sets observing when one mogul champions one person and another mogul champions another,” Bonnie added. “They’ll take turns abusing the other one’s favorite if you will, like: ‘Well I’m going to yell at yours and beat them down’ and it’s like: ‘oh you want to yell at mine? I’ll yell at yours!’”
Danielle said that during her first conversation with Bonnie “all the lightbulbs” switched on as she realized what had actually been going on behind the scenes during this time. She shared: “That notes session had nothing to do with me, it had nothing to do with my performance. And guess what? Everything Bonnie had happen had nothing to do with Bonnie, had nothing to do with her looks, had nothing to do with her performance.”
“It was another storyline that was playing out behind the scenes and we were just characters in the play,” she added. “And we never would have known that had we not talked.”
And Will noted that while male actors on Boy Meets World were fired over the years, he couldn’t recall a single time that a man was treated the same way that Bonnie and Danielle were. He said: “They weren’t called out in front of everybody and then fired, they just weren’t there again. It seems like this was, for some reason, if you’re a girl I’m going to wreck you in front of everybody.”
Bonnie went on to reveal that she’s only ever watched one episode of Boy Meets World and it was “very hard,” and difficult for her not to become “a bitter 12 year old.” Especially as well-meaning friends spent the first three seasons asking her if she’d auditioned for the role of Topanga because the character was so much like her.
She also struggled when her sister, Molly, landed a background role on the sitcom during Season 2 before becoming a recurring character.
Danielle ended up directly asking Bonnie if she’d ever "hated" her as a child for taking the role of Topanga, to which Bonnie bluntly replied: “Oh, of course!”
“I am not going to lie and say I was the bigger man about this,” she laughed. “But what you don’t know as a kid is that you had nothing to do with it. Someone else was going to have that role, because at that point it was going to be anyone but me because there were too many egos involved.”
“My victory was to be short-lived because someone didn’t want that guy to win,” Bonnie went on. “So absolutely when I turned on the TV and saw literally Barbie, the prettiest girl, a literal model — you were literally on Barbie commercials, like, you and Barbie next to each other — it was like: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s who they got and it was not me.’”
“So yes, of course, for a long time it was like: ‘She took it from me,’” Bonnie added. “But you were not in the corner conniving and conspiring — the seat was open and you were ushered into it.”
“It was not a good experience, I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that it was,” she went on. “It was a hard lesson in the real world of the business we’ve chosen.”
But Bonnie maintained that while she was initially resentful of Danielle’s casting, she now believes that “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.”
As for her career, Bonnie had turned down a supporting role in The Secret World of Alex Mack when she was cast as Topanga. Although she was able to get it back after being let go from Boy Meets World, the studio decided to swap her out for an older actor after the pilot aired.
Thankfully, after the two back-to-back blips, Bonnie’s career thrived and she has starred in several TV shows and movies over the years, and is also a professional contortionist — which helped her land the iconic role of Samara Morgan in horror movie franchise The Ring.