Anyone who was born in the eighties more than likely grew up with the television series Boy Meets World- and anyone who grew up with that series grew up with actress Danielle Fishel, who portrayed Topanga Lawrence in a seven year award-winning performance, beginning in 1993. She also made guest appearances on programs such as Full House and Harry & the Hendersons, and in 2008 became the host of The Dish- a comedy which skewers the latest in pop culture. Danielle was gracious enough with her time to discuss her career, life experiences, and inspirations with me in a recent conversation.
Jason Anders: What do you remember about your acting career before Boy Meets World- such as what it was like to appear on shows like Full House and Harry & the Hendersons?
Danielle Fishel: I remember everything about those appearances! Full House was paritcularly fun because I was already a fan of the show. Everyone was so nice, and I thought John Stamos was so handsome! Lori Laughlin was the nicest woman, and all the kids got along well. It was a great time.
JA: Do you have a fondest memory from the set of Boy Meets World?
DF: No, there are way too many to name. Old episodes of Boy Meets World are my home movies, but some of my favorite memories took place in our on-set classroom. Ben on one side of the room working on one subject, Rider in the other room discussing philosophy, and me sitting in the middle trying to listen to both of them and get my own studying done. Our teachers, Wesley and David, did a great job at giving us a school environment conducive to learning life lessons as well as school lessons.
JA: So tell me what it was like when production of Boy Meets World wrapped in 2000; you went on to appear in films such as National Lampoon's Dorm Daze, among others. Do you prefer working in film or television?
DF: Being involved with Boy Meets World impacted my life in many positive ways, but I was also ready to be a 'typical' nineteen year-old girl as well. I took a few years off from acting, and when I came back to it, all anyone wanted me to do was play some hyper-sexual antithesis Topanga role that didn't interest me. The National Lampoon movie was a happy medium. Typical sexy teen movie, without me having to do anything I didn't feel comfortable with! Being on a weekly show is definitely a different schedule than doing movies, and I much prefer the television schedule!
JA: Primarily you have worked as an actress throughout your career, up until recently taking on the role of hosting your own series on the Style Network called The Dish; tell me about this series and how it came to be, and how does it compare to work you have done in the past? Do you prefer it to acting in film and television?
DF: The Dish is the Style Network's version of The Soup on E! I have been a fan of The Soup for years, and had watched Joel McHale from the very beginning, so when I got the call to audition for this show, I felt very confident. I knew what they were looking for. I jumped at the opportunity and am so fortunate they hired me! One of my favorite parts of this new job is the way it allows me to be "me", my personality, my sense of humor, but I also get to role play. It's like a perfect combination of acting and hosting in my eyes!
JA: Speaking of acting, who are a few of your favorite performers?
DF: I adore Jennifer Garner and Reese Witherspoon. Angelina Jolie is captivating, and no one holds a candle to Meryl Streep. I also love John Malkovich, Edward Norton, and the entire cast of Saturday Night Live. Particularly Seth Meyers, Kristen Wiig, and Andy Samberg.
JA: What are your favorite on-screen performances of all time, and why?
DF: I am absolutely stunned by Meryl Streep's performance in Sophie's Choice because she flawlessly displays the emotions most people find impossible to imagine. I also love Robert De Niro in A Bronx Tale. He plays such a great "everyman" father.
JA: And while we're on the subject of favorites, what are your three favorite films of all time?
DF: Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption, and any Pixar movie!
JA: Which films make you laugh more than any other?
DF: I love old movies like The Jerk and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles! I am also a huge fan of Pineapple Express and Meet The Fockers. Who knew Robert De Niro was so funny!?
JA: What advice would you offer to someone trying to break into the entertainment industry, and also, what are your thoughts on children getting into professional acting as young as you became involved?
DF: My advice would be to be a strong minded individual and to be realistic. There is a lot of competition out there, and you need to work your butt off to make yourself stand out. Keep connection and ties to the friends and family you've always had, and be wary of new "instant" friendships. As for children getting involved, I don't think it is a bad idea if you have a strong family who is going to watch you like a hawk. It's very easy to get side tracked or blinded by the prizes when you do have some success, and kids need responsible adults to steer them clear of those things. Also, keep getting an education!
JA: What is your favorite virtue?
DF: I have a few, but I'll choose forgiveness right now.
JA: What would you say inspires you most in life?
DF: The love of my family, friends, and co-workers. I find inspiration in all the remarkable qualities I see in the people I surround myself with.
JA: What do you enjoy to do most when you are not working?
DF: I am a full time school student, so most of my non-working time is spent at school, but when I have time away from both I love to read, cook, and workout with my boyfriend. I spend all my free time with him and our families.
JA: Where do you see yourself professionally five to ten years up the road?
DF: Five to ten years up the road is nearly impossible to predict in my line of work! However, I would love to have a career like Ryan Seacrest's where I am busy with all different kinds of work all day long. I don't know how he does it so seamlessly! I'd also love to be doing another sitcom (maybe playing a mom at that time! Yikes!), and continuting to host The Dish, or my own talk show. I'm gonna be busy!
JA: If you had to sum up your career thus far with just one word, what would it be?