The first odd thing about last Friday is that my cell phone rang. The second is the identity of the caller.
It was Will Friedle.
The “Boy Meets World” star called on a blocked number, which was a wise move on his part, or else I would still be texting him right now about my thoughts on a “My Date With the President’s Daughter” sequel or just to talk about my day.
This weekend, Will is a featured celebrity guest at Wizard World Comic Con, where he will be meeting with fans and hosting Q&As with the casts of “Boy Meets World” and “Kim Possible.” I was lucky enough to have a phone conversation with him, and he was the same enthusiastic, positive and insightful person I was already obsessed with before this.
I’d like to share with you a few highlights from our conversation, over the course of which we talked about his life filming “Boy Meets World,” an unproduced script he wrote when he was a teenager, his personal battles and his future projects. At one point he even played a cruel trick on me, so stay tuned for that.
Topher Balfer: Your work has spanned three generations now. You did “Boy Meets World,” and then “Kim Possible” and recently “Girl Meets World.” What is it that draws you to entertainment for young people?
Will Friedle: That’s a good question. I’ve got this thing where even if you’re waiting in line, for anything, and the person in front of you is holding a baby, it’s my goal to make that little kid laugh. I don’t know what it is, but I think it has to do with the fact that when it comes to humor, kids don’t lie. If they like something, they’re gonna laugh, enjoy it…But if they don’t like it, they’re not gonna pretend they do. So there’s something very genuine about the laugh of a child. You make somebody even in their 20s laugh, there’s a chance they’re just being polite. Somebody 6 or 7 years old is not gonna go out of their way to make you feel good about your comedy. So if you can get a kid to laugh, you know you’re doing something right. I don’t know if I have a very gentle way about me or…I don’t know what it is, but I always seem to get cast to entertain kids and I’ve been loving it. It’s been 31 years now….which is odd because I don’t have any children. I have a step-daughter, but she’s all grown up.
TB: I guess in that sense you have many, many children.
WF: Yes! I guess I have children that I don’t have to take care of myself. It’s like being an uncle, which I love. I got to play with my nephews and then go ‘Here you go!’ and hand them back. By far the best of both worlds.
What a good guy, right? He almost sounds like an actual superhero, which in some ways, he is. In addition to his work in front of the camera, Will has starred in several animated series and has dipped his toes into both the DC Comics and Marvel animated universes.
Of course, he was Ron Stoppable in “Kim Possible,” but he was also the voice of Terry McGinnis, the teenaged Batman in “Batman Beyond.” He is Bumblebee in “Transformers: Prime,” Deadpool in “Ultimate Spider-Man” and Star-Lord in the animated “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
WF: I remember one time, my nephew who’s now in college, was probably about five and they lived in Brooklyn but he flew out here. And he said, ‘I made sure that the crime in the city was taken care of while I’m gone. But I’m 5 years old now, Uncle Will, and I think it’s time I see the Batcave.’
TB: How did you play that off?
WF: It’s one of those things where you have to just go, ‘Ya know, I don’t think you’re ready yet, we’ll see tomorrow.’ And then you hope they go off onto a different subject…
In 2014, the “Boy Meets World” cast and crew joined forces once again to create “Girl Meets World,” a Disney Channel series that focused on Cory and Topanga’s children and their friends. Although Eric Matthews didn’t appear in the first season, he returned for seasons two and three, marking Will’s first appearance on camera since the end of the original show. Unfortunately, “Girl” was short lived, running only three seasons compared to the seven seasons of “Boy Meets World.”
TB: I wanna talk about “Girl Meets World.” Why do you think it was important for the show to come back?
WF: You know, I don’t know. Like “Batman Beyond,” “Boy Meets World” just resonated with people. It’s so strange because when it started, we were kind of like the little show that could. We kept going, but we didn’t have a whole bunch of publicity. I have to say this — “Boy Meets World” fans are the greatest, most loyal fans you’ll ever meet in your life. It was one of those things that become more popular as time went on. Kinda like “The Room,” although a little better. It just kept going, and then I think people just wanted to see what happened with Cory and Topanga. You know, the idea of meeting your love that early and it sustaining is something that really resonated with people. So I think they wanted to see what they were up to, what their kids were like…and then “Girl Meets World” kind of spawned.
TB: But you weren’t going to do it…
WF: I wasn’t gonna do it, I was just happy to have done “Boy Meets World” and was kind of not doing on-camera work anymore and moved on with my life. And they did a whole season and then I watched, called Michael [Jacobs] and said, ‘You know, I think I wanna come on and play again.’ So that was the first time I’d been on camera in a long time. And it was fun to come back.
TB: You stepped away from on-screen work. But when you did “Girl Meets World,” you actually wrote an episode. Is that something you’d explore further?
WF: I’ve been writing for many, many years. When I was actually on “Boy Meets World,” I wrote a Winnie the Pooh movie for Disney and sold it. I don’t think they ever made it but it was an idea that I still love to this day. It was a live action and animation combination, where Christopher Robin is now 18 years old and in college, and his parents move him away from the Hundred Acre Wood because he was talking to imaginary people. And he moves on with his life, but this company comes in and buys the Hundred Acre Wood and are going to level it. So animated Winnie and Tigger stow away on a plane and show up at Christopher Robin’s university to bring him back to save the Wood. I wrote this whole thing and they loved it, and…I don’t know. But I’ve also written for many of the animated series that I do. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and it was one of the reasons I came back to “Girl Meets World.” I said to Michael, ‘I really want to write an episode,’ and he said, ‘If you want to write an episode, you’ve gotta be on one or two as well.’ And I thought that was a fair trade, and I had a wonderful time doing it. It was tough for me. I deal with anxiety and coming back was a difficult thing. But the fans were amazing, and that certainly props you up. And once I’m out there, you start to feel the vibe and the rush again. And you’re right back in it.
Now, I mentioned before that Will Friedle played a joke on me. For those of you who have stuck around this long, brace yourselves. It’s here.
Click through to the next page to indulge in my embarrassment.