The beloved coming-of-age 1990s sitcom is now available in the Boy Meets World: The Complete Collection DVD set. You can jump back in time with Cory (Ben Savage), Shawn (Rider Strong) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel), and catch up on the memorable series that touched our lives 20 years ago, just in time for the new Disney Channel sitcom Girl Meets World. For the first time as a complete collection, the DVD set contains all seven seasons and previously released bonus material, plus newly created featurettes, which include brand new interviews with the cast.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, show star Ben Savage talked about what it’s like to revisit this show, 20 years after it first premiered, what it meant to him then versus what it means now, his concern about returning to the character of Cory Matthew for Girl Meets World, what eased his mind about the new series, what he enjoys most about playing this character, what he remembers about shooting the final episode of Boy Meets World, and how he’s looking to direct episodes of the new series. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
BEN SAVAGE: It’s almost like stepping back into your childhood, in a way, but with a different frame of mind and all the wisdom – or at least a little bit of the wisdom – of being an adult. It’s interesting because you’re almost like taking a step back in time, but you’re doing it all over again, which is nice ‘cause I know there are a lot of people who would like to revisit parts of their childhood. It’s been an interesting experience. It’s been fun, so far. It’s been an exciting process.
What did this show mean to you, back when you were doing it, and does it have a different meaning for you, now that you are older and can look back on it a little bit differently?
SAVAGE: It definitely does. When I was younger, it was such a part of who I was. I woke up every day and went to work, and I was on a show. The significance of what we were doing didn’t totally register just ‘cause I was a kid. That’s just what I knew. As an adult, you come back to it and you see how much the show meant to people and you see that it had an impact on people’s lives. I don’t think there are that many sitcoms like that out there anymore, and certainly not what Boy Meets World was doing. There’s a lot riding on the new show (Girl Meets World), and I think a lot of people have high expectations for it. Hopefully, we’ll deliver. We want to create great TV, just as much as our fans want us to.
Could you ever have imagined that the show would be not only as successful as it was, but also sustain that level of popularity today, to the point that people are so excited about Girl Meets World?
SAVAGE: No. That’s the short answer. It’s been a blessing, and it’s been great. I’m just glad we made something that people appreciate and that registers with people. I think we’ve always been very human and appreciative of our fans. Hopefully, we can still keep doing it.
When the talk about Girl Meets World started, were you worried that there wouldn’t still be an audience there for it and that people might not be interested in it?
SAVAGE: Good question. I don’t think that was my concern. I don’t think my concern was, “Oh, is it going to be popular?” I think my concern was, “Is it the right thing to do? Will it hurt the integrity of Boy Meets World? Is it a good thing that we’re doing? Is it needed?” I checked a lot of those off my checklist, after a few conversations with everybody. I think that’s where my head was. It wasn’t, “Oh, my god, is this going to be popular?” As luck would have it, people are excited about it, so that’s great. Did I anticipate that it would be this big? To be honest, I didn’t. But, we’re excited. We’re thrilled.
SAVAGE: You know what? I knew I was in good hands. We have Michael Jacobs at the helm. He did every episode of Boy Meets World, and he’s doing Girl Meets World. We have a lot of the same writers from Boy Meets World, all back again. That’s very comforting to me, just to know that they’re all back. It feels good. A lot of these guys grew up with me and saw me grow up, and they know how to write for me. I think we’re in pretty good hands. So, I wasn’t nervous.
What was it like to actually step back into a character that you hadn’t played in awhile? Did you need to take a minute to adjust and find him again because you are a bit older now, or did it feel like you hadn’t missed a beat?
SAVAGE: That’s a hard question to answer. I am the character. I always saw myself as him. As he grows and I grow, we grow together. But all that being said, it wasn’t as hard as I thought, getting back into Cory. There was a little hiccup where I was struggling with it, but Cory was easier than most characters because he was very settled, from the time he was 13. He was like a neurotic old man, since he was a little kid. That’s just Cory. I think Cory was ready to retire with Topanga and eat cake and play board games with old people, from the time he was 13 or 14. That’s the character. That’s who he was, throughout the show. It wasn’t totally hard to step back into that. It was actually kind of fun.
What’s it like to work with Danielle Fishel now, compared to the first time around?
SAVAGE: Danielle is great. She’s a wonderful person, and she’s a great friend and trusted confidante. I’m happy to be doing this with her. In fact, I don’t think I could do it without her. It’s just been great. She’s a very special person. I can’t say enough good things about her.
The level of fandom for this show is something that typically only genre shows have. When did you realize just how loyal and devoted this fan following was, and what’s it like to know that it never went away?
SAVAGE: It’s been a great feeling. We’re really appreciative of that. I’m not sure we ever really realized, while we were doing it, that we were doing a cult show that was a huge success, and that it was having a generational impact. I think we were just having fun and enjoying the show and doing our thing. As the years went on, we knew we had fans, but we didn’t have social media back then. We heard from our fans in fan letters, and they would come to the show. Now, you can get a better sense of what’s going on out there and what people are thinking. Fortunately for us, people are pretty excited about the show. I think Boy Meets World stood out. It was a quality show with heart that was funny, and people could relate to it. It didn’t talk down to kids. It didn’t patronize people. The generation that grew up with Boy Meets World appreciated that we respected them. We taught lessons, but we taught them in a subtle way. It was just a good quality show, and there aren’t many shows like that on TV, unfortunately. I wish there were more.
When you initially did this show, were you surprised at how much input they let you have, especially considering your age, at the time?
SAVAGE: I was an old man, since I was 13 years old. When you’re writing a kids’ show and you’ve hired kids, with all due respect, the writers were older. They gave us lee-way because we were how kids were. That was initially. As the show progressed, the writers knew us so well, and they knew what we were capable of comedically, and they knew what we were capable of acting wise, so they knew how to write around us. By the last season of the show, we’d been doing it for seven years. They gave us lee-way, but everyone trusted everyone and we made it work.
How surreal is the experience of coming into your own while playing a character on TV who’s also coming into his own?
SAVAGE: It’s much more bizarre looking back on it. At the time, I didn’t know any different. Looking back, the whole thing is surreal, but it’s fun. It was a fun way to grow up. I had a blast. It was strange, but in a good way. No complaints here.
What’s it like to have your first kiss in front of a live studio audience?
SAVAGE: I was nervous, but Danielle is pretty cute. I could have done a lot worse. I was in good hands. She’s a pretty girl.
Many people saw Mr. Feeny as the world’s greatest teacher and mentor. Did William Daniels ever take on that role with any of you guys?
SAVAGE: It’s an interesting question. I’ve gotten asked that a lot. Bill is a consummate professional. When we weren’t filming, he spent a lot of time privately. In a way, that’s what made Bill and Mr. Feeny so endearing and so interesting and so respected. There wasn’t a whole lot of socializing off set, but we revered the character and the man. When he’d come on set, we’d talk, we’d listen and we’d absorb, and then he would vanish, like some sort of magical person that just pops into your life. He was like a mystic. He always taught us things, and there was so much to absorb from him. We got what we could out of it.
What’s it like to be a part of the adult cast of Girl Meets World, watching the kids working? Does it feel like a bit of a role reversal?
SAVAGE: It’s funny you should say that. I do feel like that. The kids have their own pressures, too. They’re coming into a legacy show, and I think there’s a lot of pressure and expectation on them. When we were doing Boy Meets World, we didn’t know. We were just starting out and trying something new that took off. But, the kids are sharp. The kids that we’ve hired are all smart and interesting. They’re much hipper than we were, at their age.
What did you love most about playing Cory Matthews, the first time around, and are those still the same things you love about him now?
SAVAGE: I think what I love is that they let Cory be Cory. They let him just go. Cory was just a very settled character. He knew what he wanted. He knew he wanted this girl Topanga, from day one. Well, not from day one, but pretty early on. He knew he wanted to be with her, and he firmly believed in that and didn’t waver. On top of that, he didn’t like to go out much. He liked his sweaters and he liked caked. He was very settled in everything, and he didn’t like change. Those dynamics were pretty funny. That’s who they wrote for, and that’s the character I eventually became. It worked for me, too. I remember having so much fun, by the end. It was everything goes, on the show, but what made it so much fun to work on. Our characters took a lot of chances, but it was funny.
SAVAGE: I felt like I reached a satisfying conclusion. It was a sad moment. It felt like someone was closing the door on my childhood, in a way, but it was the right time. Although, I think Boy Meets World probably could have gone on forever, I wasn’t shaken up over it. The show had been on for seven years, and it was time for something new, so we all did something new. And guess what? Now, we’re all coming back.
Seeing the success your brother, Fred Savage, has had as a director, did you ever consider going that route, or was it always acting that you were interesting in?
SAVAGE: I have considered that. I’m actually probably going to be directing episodes of Girl Meets World. I think I might eventually turn to directing, at some point. That’s something I would probably pursue a little later on down the road, and not right away. Fred is doing great. He really, really enjoys directing. I think directing really matches his personality. Ever since we were little kids, he was the director. Even on Christmas morning, it was always Fred telling everyone where to be and where to put their presents. A director is the perfect fit for Fred. For me, it’s something I’d like to explore. I think I would definitely pursue it, later on.
Boy Meets World: The Complete Collection is now available on DVD.