Save for some bit roles in a smattering of unremarkable TV shows, the world hasn’t heard much from Ben Savage since 2000. That’s when his reign as Cory Matthews, the lovable goofball lead on the seminal Nineties sitcom Boy Meets World, came to an end. But last week, with one tweet, Savage returned to our lives: “I’m going to be a father!” the 32-year-old wrote. “Well, on TV at least. The ‘Boy Meets World’ sequel is officially happening!”
Yes, much to the delight of twentysomething TGIF aficionados everywhere, Boy Meets World is getting a reboot. Titled Girl Meets World, the spinoff series, which is set to begin shooting in February and will air on the Disney Channel, stars both Savage and Danielle Fishel (as his wife, Topanga Lawrence) and follows the couple’s experience raising a 13-year-old daughter. Rolling Stone needed more answers, so we rang up Savage to find which, if any, old cast members would be returning, and how he’s preparing for impending fatherhood.
Congratulations are in order. What has life been like since the Girl Meets World announcement?
It’s been pretty . . . I’m gonna say pretty exciting. Let’s leave it at that.
Are you surprised at how insanely happy people are about this?
Well, it was very nice. I’ll say it was exciting and flattering that people are still so excited about the show after all this time.
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The show‘s popularity is tied into people‘s Nineties-related nostalgia. How aware were you of the show‘s revered status among people of a certain age?
I mean, I knew it was a highly-regarded show, and I know it holds a special place in people’s hearts after all this time. Like I said, it’s very flattering. But, you know, the other thing is, it was a big part of my childhood as well. As important as it is to a lot of fans and a lot of people who watched our show, it’s just as important to me after all this time. It was an integral part of my life too, obviously.
Apparently it was a big part of Snooki‘s and Brooklyn Decker‘s, as well.
It’s a little ridiculous. It’s very nice, though. All of it is very flattering. I know a lot of people grew up with that show. The funny thing is, back then – and it sounds like I’m talking about some prehistoric age – it was not long ago we didn’t have as much options of cable television and Internet. And we were all kind of in the same place at one point just watching TGIF on Friday nights. And so, to a lot of people, this show means a lot.
Thanks to your role as Cory Matthews and your brother Fred‘s as Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years, many people feel they know the Savage family on an intimate level.
At the risk of using this word too often, it’s flattering. And it’s very nice that people think of us that way. It’s nice that we have a special bond with the public.
Much of the show’s success and continued popularity over the years is due to its ability to speak to both kids and adults.
I guess it was kind of a hybrid of a kids’ show and an adult show. We were just having fun on that show. Everyone was just kind of having a blast. The writers were a lot of fun. And the directors were always fun. And the acting was always fun. It was just a fun experience. So hopefully that came across to our viewers. At the same time, we tried to communicate some sort of message that was somewhat wholesome and had some sort of meaning. And I think people appreciate it. I think people can really appreciate a show with a good message, but one that does that with some humor.
Had the idea for a Boy Meets World sequel come up over the years?
In an official capacity, no. This was really the first time where it had sort of been mentioned in an official way. I mean, people have been discussing it for a long time – some sort of movie-of-the-week or some sort of, I guess, some sort of film about the show. But I think that everyone associated with the show wanted to make sure that if we were to come back, that we weren’t going to do it in a way that was going to be a disservice to the show. No one wanted to really cash in, if you will, too early, or no one really wanted to do something that was going to be cheesy. So when we all decided to get together for this, there were a lot of discussions. I mean, this has been going on for months in an unofficial way. But the build-up to this Girl Meets World series, there was a lot of discussions and a lot of conversations to make sure we were all on the same page about what we were doing.
Were you hesitant to sign on?
Let me say this: It wasn’t that I was resistant . . . I think it was just a matter of making sure all of us were on the same page about what we were going to do in terms of making the show last another seven years, hopefully. There were different options around of following our characters or following this. But it just seems a little poetic that we’re coming back 13 years later and it’s following our daughter’s character. I like that concept, because it’s very poetic and it’s kind of passing it off to the next generation.
The sequel wouldn‘t have worked without both you and Danielle Fishel returning.
It was interesting how it came together. But Danielle and I had definitely had a lot of discussions of what we wanted to do, and if we were both onboard. Again, just making sure that everything was right and we felt right about it. Listen, the people that are doing the show – Michael Jacobs is the executive producer – they know what we’re about, and they know what we’re looking for. I guess it’s also a matter of trust that we’re all on the same page. ‘
A lot of people are wondering if other original cast members, such as Rider Strong’s Shawn or Bill Daniels’ Mr. Feeny, will be back in the mix.
We’re going to wait and see what happens. Obviously, I don’t want to give away too many details. But there’s definitely been discussions about some of everyone’s favorite characters popping up in the show and making appearances. We’ll see what happens.
We’d like to see a return of Lee Norris’ Stuart Minkus.
[laughs] That’s definitely an interesting way to go. I’m not sure when he stopped being on the show. I’m not sure, but I’m definitely in favor of a return of Minkus. Why not?
When do you start shooting?
We start shooting, I think, February of next year.
Some people are worried the show will be a bust.
We want to do justice to the characters, and we want to make sure we respect people’s memories of the show. It’s funny, a lot of the tweets and emails and mentions I’ve gotten are from a lot of people who are worried that the show wont’ hold up. And that we shouldn’t do it because it’s going to ruin a lot of their childhood memories. And I totally can understand that – I get it. I know there are things that they’ve done in the past where I feel like it’s ruined my childhood memories. And I didn’t like that. But we’re really working hard and doing everything we can to make sure that this is going to be something special and funny, and hopefully it’ll make new memories for a new generation.
How does it feel knowing you‘re about to be a father – onscreen, that is?
Well, I dunno [laughs]. In real life I’ve just been an uncle up to this point. Which has been great – it’s a nice role. We’ll see how fatherhood works for me.
Maybe you can draw from your experiences as an uncle for the role.
Perhaps. I think it’s slightly different. Being an uncle is easy. You just get to stick around for the fun pasts.
No babies waking you up in the middle of the night.
Have you started the casting process for the role of yours and Danielle’s daughter?
We’re working on that right now. There have been a few names tossed around. We’re meeting with girls and auditioning and that whole process. You know, we’re slowly trying to find the perfect girl.
Lastly, how often do random strangers call you Cory?
It’s a bit of a humblebrag if I make that complaint. I’ll just say, again, going back to our favorite word, it’s always very flattering when people recognize me.