Danielle Fishel recently shared a heartbreaking story about her first day on the Boy Meets World set, and how she almost lost her role in the series altogether. For seven seasons of the 1990s classic sitcom Boy Meets World — and three seasons of its reboot series, Girl Meets World — Fishel was known to fans as her iconic character, Topanga Matthews (née Lawrence). However, fans recently learned Fishel was nearly fired from the role on her first day when she was 12 years old, after the show’s creator Michael Jacobs gave her some harsh feedback.
In a recent episode of the Pod Meets World podcast, hosts Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle revisited the early days of Boy Meets World alongside podcast guest and series director, David Trainer. Fishel mentioned she was actually the second actor to be cast as Topanga after the first actor was fired. She then explained on the podcast that she also felt the threat of getting fired herself, especially after her first notes session with Jacobs.
“I had never been a part of his marathon notes session,” Fishel explained. “This was my first one because it was my very first week. Michael starts off the notes by saying, ‘Danielle, I’m going to give you your notes all at 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 had for you, we would all be here for hours and no one would ever get to go home. So you’re just going to wait for the end.’”
She went on to explain how her “eyes welled up” after Jacobs singled her out in front of the entire cast and crew. Even retelling the story on the podcast, Fishel broke out in a sweat while recalling the sad memory.
Fishel recalled that after Jacobs finished with everyone else’s notes, he asked to speak to Fishel and her mother privately.
“He went through every single one of my lines and what he wanted and what I wasn’t doing right and how slow I needed to talk,” Fishel said. “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.”
Fishel and her mother worked all night to fulfill Jacobs’ notes and “get it right,” although Fishel said she remembers feeling more focused on making Jacobs happy than playing her character. The next day, Jacobs praised her for a job well done.
“He gave me some praise about some specific things and then, he started notes,” Fishel said. “There were no more threats of being fired; I had done the work and I had shown him that I was worthy. It totally sets up that you go after that every week. You’re chasing the dragon of Michael approval.”
Strong and Friedle agreed that Jacobs’ dynamic on set was not healthy. Friedle, said, “He set it up in such a way that for now when he gives you the standing ovation, it’s like the sun is shining on you. It had nothing to do with your acting. It was just, ‘Make Michael feel good.’”
Trainer was upset by Fishel’s story, calling it “hateful” and “disgusting.”
“Everybody who worked with Michael understood, implicitly or explicitly, whenever Michael lurched to one side of the boat, everybody went to the other side to keep it from going under,” Trainer said. “The job was — and that’s why I hated it ultimately — was to do your job but to also prevent swamping and drowning.”
New episodes of Pod Meets World are released regularly.