The new year is off to a good start for actress Danielle Fishel. Fishel, who reprised her role as Topanga Lawrence in 2014 on Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World” is back for a second season and according to the actress look for more of her former cast mates from ABC-TV’s 90’s sitcom “Boy Meets World” to make cameos this season.
Toward the end of last year, producers of the Disney Channel series took to social media to announce that Will Friedle would reprise his role as Eric Matthews and that Williams Daniels would return as Mr. Feeny. Season two marks an encore performance for Daniels who made a cameo in the first episode of “Girl Meets World.” On Facebook last week producers announced that Rider Strong would reunite with his former cast members in the role of Cory and Topanga’s friend Shawn.
The return to series television was an unexpected fork in the road for Fishel. The star who first brought Topanga into America’s living rooms in the 1990’s was prepared to look at acting in the rear-view mirror of her life as she was embarking on graduate school work in psychology. When producer Michael Jacobs called her to see if she might be interested in returning to the role of Topanga, she had just applied for her masters in marriage and family therapy and the prospect of series television proved an interesting dilemma.
“In my mind, acting and Hollywood were in the past and I was totally fine with that,” the actress recounted for me in a recent interview. “It wasn’t like I was sad or disappointed. I loved school, loved psychology. I wasn’t even thinking about it when suddenly I got the call from Michael (Jacobs) who said ‘hey I have something to tell you.’”
And in an industry where timing is everything Fishel says “I found out the show got picked up two weeks after I got accepted to grad school. It was like being stuck between a beautiful rock and a gorgeous hard place.”
Fishel said while she was excited about returning to acting and putting her graduate degree on the back-burner, she wanted to meet with the producers of “Girl Meets World” and express some concerns about the character of Topanga. Pitched to her by producers as a mom to a teenager, Topanga and her childhood boyfriend turned husband Cory moved from suburban Philadelphia to a life in New York City. She said it was “very, very important to me, especially in this day and age that we have a 17-year-old girl whose focus in life is something more than finding a relationship.” Fishel said she wanted her daughter in the show to be “really smart, have interests and have her focus on friendship.”
Now the matriarch on “Girl Meets World”, Fishel says she and Ben Savage, who plays Cory, are the seasoned veterans on the set. She often finds herself being asked by younger cast members for advice as well as offer up guidance especially when it comes to the challenges of social media. “When we did ‘Boy Meets World’ in the 90’s, we really felt like we were doing the show for our friends and family. We never knew who was watching or how many people were watching, because there was no immediate feedback.”
Today she observes when an episode airs, the kids are on their cell phones and reading tweets and emails as well as Facebook posts. Fishel cautions that “kind of instant feedback sometimes can be dangerous,” adding that she has seen a younger actor fall apart because of comments that have been posted online.
Fishel, who wrapped up a tour promoting her new book “Normally This Would Be Cause For Concern: Tales of Calamity and Unrelenting Awkwardness” just before production on season two on “Girl Meets World” commenced, says she is comfortable with the fact that she will remembered by audiences old and young alike for her role as Topanga. “I recognize that most actors spend their entire careers hoping to get one job that someone will remember them for,” adding that when all is said and done if Topanga is what defines her acting career that “is way more I could have ever expected.”
As for her still-to-be-decided marriage and family therapy career, Fishel ponders the reaction of the couple sitting in their psychologist’s office and in walks Topanga. Following an awkward first few minutes, Fishel says she will be most eager to listen and dispense advice if warranted. But for now she will bask in the opportunity to once again play the iconic character on Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World.”