See Birthday Girl Danielle Fishel and the Rest of the Boy Meets World Cast Then and Now

Danielle Fishel, who played Cory Matthews' main squeeze Topanga on classic '90s sitcom Boy Meets World, is celebrating her 40th birthday and we're feeling a little nostalgic...

By Natalie Finn May 05, 2021 9:00 AMTags
Danielle Fishel, Ben Savage, Boy Meets WorldWalt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

So often on Boy Meets World it was all about the girl.

And that girl was the brainy and civically ahead of her time Topanga Lawrence, played by Danielle Fishel, who scored the role of a TGIF lifetime when she was only 12 years old.

That former child star is marking her 40th birthday May 5, and needless to say she's grown up a bit since Ben Savage's Cory Matthews first realized he was crushing hard on his classmate with the exceptional hair.

After bringing Topanga back as a successful lawyer, wife (to Cory, obviously) and mom to daughter Riley and son Augie in Girl Meets World for a few seasons, Fishel remarried and in 2019 she and husband Jensen Karp welcomed son Adler. He was born a month early, meaning many anxious days and long nights for the new parents, but once Adler's condition stabilized after a few weeks they were able to take their bouncing bundle of joy home. 

So these days Fishel has even more to celebrate aside from having long since secured her place in the YA sitcom hall of fame.

"It has been interesting because on one hand there are so many milestones and changes that happen in the first year of having a baby, so I feel really lucky that I have this forced time to slow down," Fishel told TV Insider a year ago, mid-quarantine. "Also, I feel lucky he is at the age he is at. He is about to be 11 months, which means he didn't have to be taken out of school. As far as Adler is concerned, this is just the greatest time ever. It just means mom and dad are home all the time. He gets tons of one-on-one time with us. He enjoys that and is not missing anything."

And he's got some time before he tunes into the fact that Mommy is a TV legend.

"I try to keep in mind all the time that the cast was just as lucky to be a part of that show as the fans who are so appreciative of how it impacted their life," Fishel said of Boy Meets World's devoted 1990s-era viewers, so many of whom grew up along with the show's stars. "We're just as lucky. I could have been anybody in those roles. It could have been anybody to have those experiences we got to have. I constantly think about how lucky we are. People ask me all the time if it bothers me that I'm only known for being Topanga. I think no, because it could have been so much worse."

Watch: Danielle Fishel on THAT Wedding Episode: E! News Rewind

Asked what she meant by that, she explained, "There are so many characters that would really bum me out to be known as when I look back at the course of TV. Topanga was so cool. I'm so lucky that's the character I'm known for. I feel the same way about the lessons. We were so lucky we had the writers we had, who cared about the audience and never wanted to talk down to the audience. Who insisted in keeping the episodes real and tried to get as much into those 22 minutes as they possibly could without making it too cheesy."

The actress, host (including of the at-home Instagram Live gameshow "Scorantine" with Karp, which helped entertain and pass the time during the pandemic) and hair care entrepreneur also revealed that the old gang had been staying in touch from their respective houses, thanks largely to an email chain started by Rider Strong expressly to check in with each other in COVID times.

And, conveniently enough, Will Friedle and his wife Sue are neighbors, so even though they couldn't socialize up close, Fishel explained, she and Karp generally walked their dog past her TV brother-in-law's house.

No, we're not feeling nostalgic—you're feeling nostalgic. So in that case, here's an update on where the cast of Boy Meets World is now:

Ben Savage

We were there for Cory Matthew's biggest moments in life: his first kiss, his first fight, the first time he drank beer—the list goes on and on. While Mr. Matthews started off as your average adolescent, sports-loving, prioritizing friends-over-studying C-student, fans grew up with Cory and watched him become a loyal man (Topanga 4-Ever) with a kind heart.

Savage graduated from Stanford in 2004 with a degree in political science and continued to pop up on TV (Party of FiveChuck) and the occasional indie film before reuniting with TV sweetheart Danielle Fishel to reprise their roles on the 2014 Disney Channel spin-off Girl Meets World.

After that show ended in 2017, Savage (who, incidentally, is Fred Savage's little brother) appeared on series including The LeftoversSpeechlessCriminal Minds (as a young Jason Gideon) and Homeland (as young Saul, making that two gigs playing a Mandy Patinkin character as a younger man). His Instagram (a BMW-throwback wonderland) pre-pandemic indicated he had a girlfriend (they went to a wedding together in November 2019 and celebrated his mom Joanne's birthday in L.A.), but he kept her identity private.

Just in time for Valentine's Day 2021, however, he and Fishel reunited for a rom-com spoof touting perfect lunch date spot Panera Bread.

Danielle Fishel

Topanga Lawrence was kind, passionate, patient and super-smart—and she had one of the all-time great heads of hair on TV. She also taught us that vanity is not a trait worth having (remember when she cut off those gorgeous locks to make a point?!) and that there's nothing wrong with declaring that you found your soul mate at only 5 years old. 

Between Boy Meets World and Girls Meets World, Fishel—whose first kiss was a smooch for the show with Ben Savage—was mainly herself on TV, appearing as a correspondent on The Tyra Banks Show and hosting Style Network's The Dish. She also went back to college at 27 and earned her degree in 2012

She met first husband Tim Belusko at school, and they were married for two years before quietly divorcing in 2016. She married Drop the Mic host Jensen Karp in 2018, with former co-stars Savage (who congratulated his "favorite TV wife" on her engagement) and Will Friedle in attendance.

Fishel and Karp welcomed son Adler in June 2019. The proud mom also, most fittingly, has her own hair care line, Be Free by Danielle Fishel, and since directing several episodes of Girl Meets World has continued on behind the camera helming episodes of Disney Channel's Sydney to the Max and Raven's Home.

Rider Strong

Shawn Hunter, Cory's best bud, had a tumultuous upbringing and could be a smart-ass who didn't appear to care about school or his future, but his innate sweetness and good intensions won out over any bad-boy tendencies. 

After Boy Meets World, Strong most notably starred in Eli Roth's 2002 sleeper horror hit Cabin Fever and its 2009 sequel, was one of the stars of the short-lived Pepper Dennis and voiced Brick Flagg in the animated series Kim Possible before returning to play Shawn in seven episodes of Girl Meets World. Most recently you could hear his voice on Disney XD's Star vs. the Forces of Evil and see him in the indie comedy Cosmic Radio.

Rider has also been behind the camera, writing, directing and producing some shorts and the 2017 TV movie Micah the A--hole Ghost with brother Shiloh Strong (who was originally up for the role of Eric Matthews).

In 2013, Strong married Alexandra Barreto and their son, Indigo, was born in December 2014.

Will Friedle

Eric Matthews was the big brother who offered up the sage advice "Life's tough, get a helmet."

Friedle showed up as Eric again on Girl Meets World, but in the meantime his voice became ubiquitous in animated shows including Kim PossibleTeen Titans Go!DC Super Hero Girls and Disney XD's Guardians of the Galaxy (as Star Lord Peter Quill).

Years before he attended Fishel and Karp's wedding, he was best man at the 2004 nuptials of Step by Step star Jason Marsden, TGIF cross-over programming at its finest. In December 2019, he sported a T-shirt with Topanga's face on it, a bit of swag courtesy of Fishel's hair care line.

Friedle tied the knot with Susan Martens in 2016 and they celebrated their third anniversary in Italy, while a quarantine-era Instagram post from 2020 read, "My wife made me my very own mask! #loveduringthepandemic." Friedle appears to be taking a break from social media these days but he, Strong and William Daniels are on the list of talent planning to be at the 2021 edition of FanX Salt Lake when the comics convention takes place.

William Daniels

George Feeny was a tweed jacket-wearing no-nonsense type, but he was also a devoted teacher who cared about his students and could turn any of the kids' conundrums into a learning opportunity. Mr. Matthews got a double dose, because Mr. Feeny was his neighbor as well.

Daniels, a two-time Emmy winner for St. Elsewhere as well as an original star of the musical 1776 and the voice of David Hasselhoff's car K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider, secured himself a new generation of fans from Boy Meets World. After serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1999 until 2001, he continued to make guest appearances on the likes of ScrubsBoston Legal and The Closer and had an arc on Grey's Anatomy in 2012. Now 94, Daniels' most recent acting role was playing Mr. Feeny again on Girl Meets World, and he keeps up with appearances at fan conventions.

Daniels has been married to actress Bonnie Bartlett since 1951 and they're parents of two sons.

Betsy Randle

Amy Matthews was more of a presence than some TV parents get to be when a show centers on the kids' antics, always there with a comically exasperated line or two, followed by unconditional love.

After Boy Meets World, the married mother of two most notably played Mrs. Winterbourne on Charmed and returned for a few episodes of Girl Meets World as Cory and Eric's mom.

In real life she's mom to daughter Jessica and son Aaron with husband John Randle.

William Russ

In the grand tradition of Jason Seaver, Steven Keaton and Tony Micelli, Alan Matthews was a pretty cool TV dad.

Russ, whose film work includes The Right Stuff and American History X, remained a busy character actor after Boy Meets World, appearing on Boston LegalThe Young and the Restless90210ColonyNCIS: Los Angeles and, more recently, Bosch and 9-1-1, to name a few. (And, along with his TV wife Randle, a couple episodes of Girl Meets World.)

Behind the scenes he's dad to a son and daughter with wife Clare Wren.

Lee Norris

Stewart Minkus was the brainy side-eye-giving teacher's pet before going mysteriously MIA for three seasons—supposedly after Cory and Shawn willed him to disappear, according to a scene in the series finale. Fortunately, he came back in time to graduate from high school with everyone. So where had he been? "The other part of the school... over there," Minkus explains.

Rider Strong claimed at Wizard World Comic Con, per Looper, that Norris' character was written out because of the popularity of fellow TGIF geek Steve Urkel over on Family Matters, and the Boy Meets World creatives didn't want to double down on comedic nerdom. 

Norris, who got his acting start as little Chuckie Lee from The Torkelsons, went on to graduate from Wake Forest, play another small-screen geek, Marvin "Mouth" McFadden, on The CW's long-running drama One Tree Hill, and return as Minkus for a few episodes of Girl Meets World. He has since been on a couple episodes of The Walking Dead and at some point over the years he caught David Fincher's eye, appearing in both Zodiac and Gone Girl. Most recently he appeared in the Tom Hanks-starring WWII action drama Greyhound.

He's been married to wife Andrea since 2011.

Matthew Lawrence

Shawn's older half-brother Jack Hunter (they shared the same much-married deadbeat dad) showed up in season five and they moved in together for awhile along with Jack's best friend—conveniently, Eric Matthews.

The Mrs. Doubtfire star was also on the sitcom Brotherly Love with real-life siblings Andrew and Joey Lawrence, and has been in numerous indie films, most recently the horror thriller The Dead of Night, and a guest star on shows including Boston PublicCSI: MiamiWorkaholicsMelissa and Joey and Hawaii 5-0.

Matthew first met professional dancer Cheryl Burke when Joey competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2006, and they dated for about a year. But after going their separate ways for a decade, they reunited, got engaged in 2018 and married each other on May 23, 2019.

Trina McGee

Finally, Shawn Hunter's scarred numb heart was pierced by Angela Moore (who, alas, "moved away" at the end of the show, leaving Shawn to pick up those pieces).

McGee has been in a number of made-for-TV movies and short-lived TV series and also reprised her Boy Meets World role on an episode of Girl Meets World.

She is also an artist and mother of three kids, two of them with ex-husband Courtland Davis.

Maitland Ward Baxter

Rachel McGuire was the girl both Eric and Jack lusted after during the college years of BMW, and she dated Jack before deciding they should just be friends—though they did join the Peace Corps together.

Ward starred in the 2004 comedy White Chicks with Marlon and Shawn Wayans, but more recently won three AVNs after making her adult-film debut in 2019's Drive. "I found out that I love sexual performance," she told The Daily Beast in April, talking about the unexpected direction her acting career had taken. "It's like being in a dance, or an ice-skating pair. You're doing this great artistic piece, and I just love it." Ward now has a total of five AVNs, as well as six XBIZ Awards, and she's a star and co-producer of The Big Time, a sitcom in the works about the porn industry.

"It shows porn in a more fun light where we're like this family—kind of like GLOW in a way," she explained. "And they didn't treat me like I was a porn actress...When I talk to people in the mainstream, I feel like the taboos are starting to shift, and I feel like I can cross back and forth, and people won't just pigeonhole me as one or the other."

Married since 2006 to Terry Baxter, she told In Touch Weekly in January 2020 of her real estate agent husband, "He is a very good photographer, too. He has taken pictures of me along the way, like on my social media."

Lily Nicksay

The first of two Morgan Matthews, Nicksay played Cory and Eric's little sister from 1993 to 1995—then scored a role in the Michelle Pfeiffer-Robert Redford romantic drama Up Close and Personal.

As she grew up, the actress guest-starred on a few TV shows, including The Mentalist, 8 Simple Rules and Judging Amy, and later returned as Morgan for the 2017 finale of Girl Meets World.

She has been going by Lily Gibson since marrying songwriter Dave Gibson in 2015, and was credited with that name on a 2019 episode of NCIS.

Lindsay Ridgeway

After the "longest nap ever," Morgan re-appeared from a year of being in another room of the house as an older, entirely different girl.

Ridgeway, who took over the role of Morgan in 1996 until the series' end in 2000, graduated from UC Riverside in June 2007 and earned a master's degree in counseling from the University of Redlands in 2010. Also a singer, she has performed the national anthem at pro sporting events around Los Angeles, and worked part time for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team as a member of the Kings Ice Crew.

She also came back as Morgan for the Girl Meets World finale.

Linda Cardellini

Lauren was one of the few people who could get between Cory and Topanga.

Cardellini graduated from Boy Meets World to the shamefully short-lived Freaks and Geeks, and after that it was off to the races in Scooby-DooERBrokeback MountainMad Men (earning an Emmy nomination for guest actress in a drama series), New Girl and the Netflix drama Bloodline. She also joined the Marvel Universe as Clint/Hawkeye's wife, was in the 2019 Best Picture Oscar winner Green Book, and both co-stars in and is a producer on the Netflix dark comedy Dead to Me (earning 2020 Emmy nominations for Best Comedy Series and Best Actress in a Comedy).

Meanwhile, the actress is mom to daughter Lilah-Rose with longtime partner Steven Rodriguez.

Ethan Suplee

Frankie "The Enforcer" Stechino did the physically imposing bidding of whichever bully was in charge at John Adams High School, though over the years the secret poetry enthusiast proved to have a soft spot for Shawn and Cory.

Suplee's estimable credits include American History X, Remember the Titans, Unstoppable and playing Randy Hickey on all four seasons of My Name Is Earl. He was also in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, played Billy on the Netflix comedy The Ranch, and most recently he re-teamed with Edward Norton for the noir drama Motherless Brooklyn and appeared in the controversial horror-satire The Hunt.

He has been married to Brandy Lewis since 2006 and they have two children together. Last but not least, in January 2020 a photo he posted of his newly shredded self, the result of a hard-won battle to lose weight and get healthy, went viral.

Adam Scott

After Harley Keiner ended up in reform school, Griff Hawkins took his place as chief bully at John Adams High.

Since then, Scott has become the consummate onscreen sweet 'n' funny guy, with the occasional snide wise-ass and morose midlife-crisis-having married guy thrown in for good measure. His greatest hits include the intense HBO drama Tell Me You Love Me; the hit comedy Step Brothers; Starz' beloved Party Down; the even more beloved Parks and Recreation; the sporadic and hilarious The Greatest Event in Television History on Adult Swim; Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years LaterThe Good Place and, of course, Big Little Lies, playing Ed, the unbelievably patient and understanding husband of Reese Witherspoon's busybody Madeline. 

Next up, he's a star of the eerie-sounding drama series Severance, headed to Apple TV+ in 2021.

In real life Scott has two kids with Naomi Sablan, his wife since 2005.

Anthony Tyler Quinn

Mr. Feeney may have been everyone's stern granddad, but the leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle-riding Jonathan Turner was the cool-dude teacher at John Adams High, and Shawn went to live with him after his dad took off yet again—even though apparently that wasn't Shawn's idea of a good plot twist.

"They only brought him in because Friends became a hit," Rider Strong recalled to Vanity Fair in 2011. "And ABC was like, 'We need twentysomethings on every show. Including on this kids' show that's only watched by teenagers.' And, remember, they had him and they had the character of Eli, who was the black young teacher. And they were going to have this whole twentysomething storyline. I don't know what they were thinking, but it was a complete disaster. It didn't work at all."

However, Shawn was devastated when Mr. Turner was in a motorcycle crash at the end of season four—which Turner recovered from off-camera and was never seen again until he resurfaced on Girl Meets World, having married a nurse he met in the hospital after the accident.

In the meantime, Quinn joined the drama on Melrose Place for a four-year stint, was on Pretty Little Liars in 2012, and popped up on Feud: Betty and Joan in 2017. 

He's been married to Margaret Quinn since 1985 and they have two children.

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