If you’re young enough to remember nights spent watching ‘Boy Meets World,’ you probably clearly remember Topanga Lawrence, played by Danielle Fishel. She was the beautiful bohemian child who made Cory Matthews’ heart go pitter-patter and stole the hearts of young and old fans alike, thanks to her gorgeous hair and witty remarks.
And that’s why you’ll also love her show, ‘The Dish’ on Style network, where she uses the same wit and snark to skewer today’s reality TV stars.
We talked to Danielle about her time on ‘World’ – including the scene that involved her first kiss on and off the set – still getting recognized on the street, and her wish to one day have her own talk show.
What’s a typical day like for you on ‘The Dish’? I’m not there Monday through Wednesday. On Thursdays I do my voice over for the show. Then I go across the street to my record meeting. My writers show me all the clips that they’re thinking about, we go through the script, tweak it, and on Friday I go into hair and makeup and we shoot the tape.
You were in everyone’s favorite TV series, ‘Boy Meets World.’ How did you end up on the show? I was 12 years old, tried out for the role of Topanga and didn’t get it. I ended up getting a different character. The girl that they did cast as Topanga wasn’t giving them exactly what they wanted to so they let her go, and asked me to re-audition for it. And at that point in time, they had a better idea of what they were looking for, I got it that time. It was only supposed to be a one-week gig. But it ended up being a favorite of our executive producer, and he turned it into the gist of the show.
And then your character stole the show! Yeah, I think when people think of ‘Boy Meets World’ they think of the Cory and Topanga relationship.
What were your favorite scenes to shoot? Definitely that first episode, when we [Ben Savage's character, Cory and Topanga] were handcuffed to the locker, and I kissed him. That scene stands out for me for many reasons. For one, it was my first major role on a television show. Two it was my first real life kiss and my first television kiss all rolled into one – on national television with my whole family watching. And the episode where Topanga moves to Philadelphia. Those are defining for me.
You literally grew up on that TV show. My entire teen years were there. From 12 to 19.
Do you still keep in touch with your co-stars? I do. I just saw Rider [Strong] a couple of weeks ago, we presented an award at Chapman University. That was awesome, being able to see him. Ben and I keep in touch occasionally on Facebook or text message. We’re all pretty good about staying in touch.
Do you still get called Topanga on the street by complete strangers, or “you look so much like that girl on ‘Boy Meets World’? Yes, I hear all of those things. I get “Hey, has anyone ever told you…” or “Hey are you who you I think you are?” and “OMG Topanga!” Every day (laughing).
Was it weird to go through Topanga Canyon or Topanga State Beach (in Los Angeles)? Would you get called out? Well, I grew up there. I grew up in Calabasas. The Topanga Mall was my mall (laughs). I went to Calabasas High School. I know the area very well and I heard all the Topanga jokes. That where Topanga came from, of course. It was from my executive producer driving on the 101 and passing Topanga canyon on the way to work every day.
What was it like being a sex symbol when you were so young? I don’t really think I was too aware of that. I’ve become more aware of it being an adult, with guys that come up to me and told me I was their first crush or whatever. At the time I wasn’t aware of it. And, um, people keep that to themselves when you’re like, 13. And of course, working with all the boys that I worked with and the boys next door – The ‘Home Improvement’ boys – they were just like brothers to me. That never let me feel like the pampered girl, I was just one of the boys.
Do you have a favorite clip of all time? There are so many. Some are more fun than others like the Hammerpants video. We had backup dancers and I had a little rap. It was really fun to do. Of course, also any time I get to do Kate Gosselin and I get to wear the wig. Stuff like that.
Tell me why you decided to do a show like this. I’ve always been a huge fan of ‘The Soup’ with Joel McHale, watching that show is where I get my biggest inspiration. In general being able to poke fun and make the entertainment industry a little more light-hearted, especially because you have so many people taking themselves so seriously. That just seemed like a great opportunity.
You seem like you have such a good time while shooting! I love it when people say that, because I am! I am having such a good time.
What’s your guilty pleasure TV show? I like ‘Project Runway’ and ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ I’m excited it’s coming back. Also, ‘The Housewives’ show, I try to keep up with them because we skewer them so often.
What do you do on your down time, when you’re not skewering stars? Well, I’m a big reader, I love to read, and I’m kind of a homebody. I’m big into going to the gym, and I’m also going full time for my Psychology degree.
That’s great. How long until you graduate? I have about three years before I finish my Bachelors degree – I just started last year. I probably have about seven years in school total, because I plan to get my Masters and my Doctorate.
What are your plans if you get a Doctorate? If I get my Doctorate, maybe some day I’ll have my own practice, many many years from now. Or maybe some day I would love to have my own talk show, using my education and still staying in the entertainment industry.
How do you keep ahead of TV news? Do you have to watch as much stuff as humanly possible? If I watched everything on TV I would probably go stir crazy! My writers and I sort of divvy up shows that we watch. I just try to have an idea of what people are talking about.
If you could have any guest star on ‘The Dish’ who would it be?
If we can get anybody from Project Runway, I think that would make my life.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Doing something similar to what I’m doing now. If not, I hope to be doing something that makes me happy, whether it’s in front of the camera or working in the entertainment industry. At the same time, I would also love to finish my education and maybe get married and have a family. I’m gonna be very busy in ten years.
Check out Danielle Fishel on ‘The Dish’ at the Style Network, Saturday nights at 10/9c.