Welcome to @90sgirlproblem’s new feature. We’ll be doing interviews with various 90s stars and posting them on our Tumblr page to share with our followers. First up is the boy we all wanted to marry when we were 15: Ben Savage. We caught up with Ben by phone last week:
90sGP: So, let’s start at the beginning. How did you end up auditioning for and landing the role of Cory Matthews?
Ben Savage: This is going back a long time. I would just say I had been working a lot at that time as a child actor. I ended up meeting with some producers who were interested in making a show about the experiences and the upbringing of a young boy and, I guess, just getting the insight into the mind of a young kid. I met with Michael Jacobs, who was the executive producer of Boy Meets World. He had done a lot of shows at the time. He did a show called Dinosaurs, and he had done Charles in Charge. They wanted to develop shows for TGIF, which was their primetime lineup on Friday. We eventually came up with the show, and one thing led to another, and there you have it.
90sGP: Did you realize that it was going to be such a big hit at first?
Ben: No. Even at the time, I don’t think we realized it was a hit. I think Boy Meets World has just gotten better with age, kind of like a fine wine. I feel like, at the time, it was a big hit, but we didn’t have — it’s so odd to say it now — we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have Twitter. We didn’t have Facebook. It was hard for us to gauge (the interest). We got really, really good ratings. I knew we were popular, but it’s such a different world now. I think Boy Meets World was a very influential show for a lot of younger people.
90sGP: I think a lot of people really loved watching Cory, Topanga and Shawn grow up through junior high, high school and college. Which of those time frames did you like best on the show?
Ben: I liked it the longer it went on. By the end of the show, we were all so comfortable with each other and were having so much fun. The writers knew how to write our characters really well, and they knew what jokes worked for different actors. I think by the time it ended I was having so much fun with it because it had been seven years. It came very easily. We had developed a nice flow. I think shows take a long time to grow, and people take a long time to get comfortable with each other, especially when it comes to comedy. Shows need that time to grow and become a nice, cohesive unit. Shows nowadays, it’s so much tougher for shows to get on the air because there’s so much more competition. Shows are given an air time of just a couple of weeks — sometimes, they air for just one episode or six episodes and they’re pulled off the air. It’s much tougher now than it used to be.
90sGP: Do you have a favorite episode? Does any one stick out?
Ben: They all stick out for different reasons, but I would say as far as impact, the final episode of Boy Meets World really had a big impact on me because it was almost for me like saying goodbye to a chapter of my own life. I remember we shot the last episode and everyone was crying, and I just remember myself being very emotional during that time because it was almost like closing a chapter of my childhood.
90sGP: When you run into fans of the show, what do they usually ask you about?
Ben: The questions have changed over time. It used to be “Did I ever date Topanga in real life?” That’s what everyone wanted to know.
90sGP: And the answer is?
Ben: We were very, very good friends but when you grow up with someone since the time you’re 11 years old, and you see each other go through some pretty awkward years, by the time you both hit 20, you don’t really want to date or anything.
90sGP: Good point.
Ben: We were very, very good friends. So, people ask me that, and the answer is no. They also ask if I still keep in touch with people from the show.
90sGP: What’s a quick rundown of things you’ve been up to in the Hollywood/TV/movie world since Boy Meets World ended?
Ben: After Boy Meets World ended, I went to Stanford. I studied political science there, and I think it was a good experience for me to go because I’d been working for so long. I wanted the experience of getting a normal education and going to a normal school. After Stanford, I came home and I’ve been working ever since. I’ve been doing a lot of film and a lot of TV, a lot of guest spots, a lot of writing. A whole host of a bunch of different things.
90sGP: So you like writing, producing — that sort of thing?
Ben: I do. That’s where I want to eventually land. Believe it or not, I still have a huge penchant for sitcoms and comedies. There is some really funny stuff on TV right now, but nothing like … funny, nice, sweet sitcoms.
90sGP: That’s true. Everything’s gotten edgy.
Ben: Yes, everything’s edgier now, which is understandable because they have to compete with cable shows. But there is a market for that. The entertainment business is like a huge pie. I think there’s still a big slice for funny, interesting, quirky sitcoms. So, that’s where my focus is. I write a lot, working to create shows like that, trying to keep the American public entertained.
90sGP: OK, so here are some of our fun questions from our Twitter followers. Is there any chance of a Boy Meets World reunion?
Ben: You know, I’ve spoken to the executive producers about that. I’m going to say that it’s probably unlikely, unfortunately. I know the cast members would probably love to do it, but it’s a difficult situation to make happen. I think we were maybe going to do it for awhile a few years back. I think if there were ever some sort of Boy Meets World reunion it would be like me getting a show on the air and having some of the other people from the show make an appearance. As far as an official Boy Meets World reunion, I don’t know. I’m not going to say no 100%, but I’m just not sure. It’s out of my control.
90sGP: I know you said people ask you often if you’re still close with other members of the cast. Are you all still in touch?
Ben: We all still talk. We still communicate and we’re still friendly, but everyone’s got their own lives. Everyone’s so busy. I guess when you grow up with someone and you spend so much time with them, you don’t need to talk to them and see them all the time. Like, when I do see Rider (Strong) or Will (Friedle) or anyone, it doesn’t matter if it’s been six weeks or six years, you just immediately go back into a routine. I think you could say that about anyone you’re close with in your life. What I always like about good friendships and relationships is that it doesn’t matter how much time it’s been, you can immediately sit down and start talking and pick up where things left off. It’s like no time has passed at all. I think that’s the sign of a really good friendship, and that’s how I feel about a lot of the cast members from Boy Meets World.
90sGP: How did being a TV kid impact/affect you?
Ben: I was very blessed, and it was a really great opportunity to be an actor. It was fun and exciting and interesting. I was around people who tried to keep me normal and humble. I think it was a really interesting and unique way to grow up. I think there were a lot of advantages and a couple of disadvantages. I just kind of rolled with it.
90sGP: Here’s a fun one. Based on Cory and Topanga’s relationship — everyone’s ideal couple — do you have any relationship advice to share? Did it teach you anything about real-life relationships?
Ben: I don’t know if I have a specific piece of advice that wouldn’t sound negative, but I think it did teach all of us — myself included — a lot about what it means to be in a healthy, committed, loving relationship. I think it was kind of a nice model. I hear that from people a lot. I guess to go back to your other question about what I get asked the most … people always say, “I loved that relationship.” My mentions on Twitter, a lot of them are, “Gosh, I wish I had a relationship like you and Topanga.” What that says to me is that everyone’s looking for something very special, and it’s not just girls. I think guys feel the same way that, at the end of the day, despite all the drama and all of the ups and downs of relationships, at the end of the day, people just want someone special that they can just relax and have fun with. They can just take care of each other. … That Cory-Topanga relationship taught me that everyone just wants someone special, someone to love.
90sGP: Our last question, and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to. … But most of our followers are curious, well, first off if you’d marry them, but the second-most common question we got for you was: Do you have a real-life Topanga?
Ben: This is going to sound a little snobby, but I get a lot of marriage proposals on Twitter.
90sGP: (laughing) I’m not surprised.
Ben: I’ll keep it very brief. There is no Mrs. Savage yet. That’s all I’ll say. (laughing) … What was the question again?
90sGP: Just about a real-life Topanga. I think everyone just loved that relationship so much.
Ben: She was beautiful and fun and supportive. I was kind of funny and neurotic and weird. It just kind of worked. The funny thing is those (characters) were really us. It wasn’t like we were really playing these characters. That was really just the writers writing off of who we were. The writers really just took our personalities into account. They saw me as this funny, like, nutcase, and they said, ‘We’ll write around that.’ And Danielle (Fishel) was so sweet and so smart, such a loving person. So pretty.
(Message from Nicole and Stef: Again, a big thanks to Ben for his time! This interview has been edited slightly and condensed. Image credit: http://people.zap2it.com)