Get ready for a nostalgic trip back to the '90s with Cory, Topanga, Mr. Feeny and the gang, as the cast of Boy Meets World is shipping up to the Hub for a special appearance at this weekend's Fan Expo Boston. Rider Strong, aka Cory's bad boy best bud Shawn Hunter, will join his old pals to talk about the hit show and hang out with fans throughout the three-day convention. Ahead of his trip to Boston, we caught up with Strong to chat about the legacy of Boy Meets World, the power of nostalgia and more.
Is it a bit surreal to see how much fans at events like Fan Expo Boston still love Boy Meets World after all these years?
Yeah, it’s kind of unbelievable. It’s not something I ever would’ve expected. I thought when the show was over and I was 20 years old, that I could sort of put my head down, go to college, maybe continue acting, but if I did, it just didn’t feel like anybody in the world would really care about me anymore. But then the show just kept living in re-runs. It was this weird experience of whole new generations of kids watching it on the Disney Channel throughout the early aughts. That just kept the show alive. In some ways, it became more popular when we were not on ABC. When we were ABC primetime, we were sort of like a lesser known show. Even though millions of people were tuning in, we weren’t getting much press. We were sort of flying under the radar. And I think that worked in our favor.
We ended up with a fanbase that grew up with us and also kind of felt like it was their secret, this sort of secret fan club of Boy Meets World. Our show was riddled with references and in-jokes. I think all that’s ended up making the show last longer than a lot of shows, which is great. So now, this experience is so strange. What’s awesome is I can’t even remember half the episodes, and when we’re at these conventions and fans are like, “Do you remember the episode where to said [this]?” And I’m like, oh my god, I had no idea. As much as it’s a nostalgia trip for the fans, it’s obviously very similar for me and for us. Even just like Will [Friedle], Ben [Savage], Danielle [Fishel] and me to be together in the same room and tell stories, it’s a trip. It’s so much fun and incredibly positive.
What do you think is fueling this nostalgia trend for ‘80s and ‘90s shows like Boy Meets World?
On one hand, it’s not only a nostalgia for the personal connection, which is profound and very real. I think it’s also nostalgia for a time when the outside world felt more monocultural. People gravitate towards songs that were really popular that everyone was listening to in the ‘90s. Everybody was watching the same TV shows. Everybody was seeing the same movies. That’s not true anymore. Now in the age of social media, we’re all sort of fractured. We know that there’s stuff that’s popular, but there’s a sense that everybody’s watching their own thing. If you’re into hip-hop, you’re listening to hip-hop music. If you’re into rock, you’re listening to rock music. It’s all different forms of popular, there’s not just one thing that everyone’s listening. Whereas the ‘80s and ‘90s, if you weren’t listening to Michael Jackson, you weren’t listening to music. If you weren’t watching The Cosby Show or Seinfeld, you weren’t watching TV. I think people crave that sense of belonging. I think there’s something lost in that. For better or worse, I don’t know, but we all feel it. When I think about times when everyone was going through the same thing, it’s kind of comforting. It feels nice. Remember when Chumbawamba defined 1997? It goes all the way back to the Beatles and Elvis, it was the same thing. People identified with a generational sort of moment, and I think that’s getting lost.
As someone who was a teen in ‘90s, what do you get nostalgic about from that era?
I really miss independent cinema. The fact that [Quentin] Tarantino is basically the only director still getting a big summer release for his wholly original stories shot on film, that’s awful. He was the most popular one of the ‘90s, but what happened with Pulp Fiction is he kicked the door down for so many great independent filmmakers and now all of that is relegated to television. There’s just no such thing as art-house cinema [anymore]. I remember in the ‘90s stumbling upon a movie like Run Lola Run or these smaller, independent films that really affected me, got under my skin, changed my life and outlook. You just don’t see that anymore. Some of those ‘90s directors are still busting out amazing films, you have [Paul Thomas] Anderson, the Coen brothers, Tarantino, but there’s no new people coming out with that size film in the theater. It’s baffling because, if the fact that there’s more fracturing of our culture and more room for diverse voices to enter in, you think that would mean there would be more original content. The reality is there’s just Avengers movies coming out.
Since you work more behind the scenes as a filmmaker and writer these days, do you feel like the current landscape is harder for independent voices to reach audiences?
It’s impossible. This is the struggle of my everyday existence right now. My brother and I, we write scripts and, unless it’s pre-existing content, unless it’s somebody else’s comic book or already been a TV show and it’s reboot, it’s really hard to get anybody to pay for an original idea. It just doesn’t happen. We’ve written plenty of scripts, sold them and developed other people’s ideas and stuff, but on our own, we still haven’t been able to make a feature film because we tend to write movies we think are very commercial, but if they cost over a million dollars, nobody’s financing independent films like above a million dollars these days. When an original film like Get Out comes out, we’re like “Yes!” Then you read about how that movie got made, it was a constant uphill battle. That’s a mainstream horror film. Jordan Peele, an incredibly successful actor and writer, had to convince somebody to give him $4 million to make that movie and put it out there, and that took him years. I just wish there were more opportunities.
What can fans expect from you going into the rest of 2019?
Right now I mounting a production of my first play that I wrote on my own. I’m really excited about it. We’re opening in six weeks out in L.A. We just finished casting this week. That is a fictional version of the Jordan Chandler-Michael Jackson case. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time and I’m really, really proud of it.
Photography by: Photo courtesy of Rider Strong