LGBTQ

Boy Meets World cast open up about ‘grooming’ by star Brian Peck


Beloved 1990s sitcom Boy Meets World has been back in the headlines this week: due to a podcast episode where the stars Rider Strong and Will Friedle addressed a dark chapter in the show’s history, reports Variety.

The nostalgic Pod Meets World podcast, which is hosted by several of the cast members (but not the show’s main star) and takes a look back at the hit show, recently addressed claims about guest actor Brian Peck.

Peck, who had been an actor and dialogue coach on numerous kids TV shows before joining Boy Meets World, appeared as a guest star in two episodes on Season 5. Rider Strong and Will Friedle were both friends with Peck, who was convicted of sexually abusing a child in 2004. Peck’s crimes form part of the upcoming “Quiet on Set” docuseries, which looks at past alleged abuse that occurred on multiple Nickelodeon sets.

Four years after Boy Meets World ended, in 2004, season 5 guest star Brian Peck was convicted of sexually abusing a Nickelodeon child actor. He spent 16 months in prison after being charged with eight counts of sexual abuse, including a lewd act against a child and oral copulation of a person under 16.

The Boy Meets World cast, pictured in the 1990s
The Boy Meets World cast, pictured during the show’s run. Ben Savage – in the white striped tee – is not a podcast host (ABC)

During the podcast, hosts Danielle Fishel (who played Topanga Lawrence), Rider Strong (who played Shawn Hunter) and Will Friedle (Eric Matthews) were joined by therapist Kati Morton to discuss Season 5 guest star Brian Peck, and “the difficult subjects of grooming, childhood sexual abuse and their effects on victims.”

In the episode, Friedle explained how he became friends with Peck, saying “I didn’t really go to parties. I didn’t really do that stuff. But I was working a lot after Boy Meets World, and this guy had so ingratiated himself into my life, I took him to three shows after Boy Meets World” he explained.

“This was the type of thing where the person he presented was this great, funny guy who was really good at his job, and you wanted to hang out with … I saw him every day, hung out with him every day.”

Strong also said that he also hung out with Brian Peck “all the time” outside of work as well – even though Peck, who is now 63, was nearly 20 years older.

Fishel shed light on the clear boundaries typically maintained between cast members and stand-ins, emphasising Peck’s exceptionality, saying, “All the years of having stand-ins, no one ever, do I remember, regularly went to lunch with the cast members. But this person did and part of that’s because, when they arrived on set, they were extremely charming. They were very personable. They had a lot of jokes,” Fishel said.

“They also, because of their many years of experience working in the entertainment industry, knew other, very successful, famous kids and young men and regularly talked about them.”

“This is a boundary, gay or not.”

The fact that Peck was gay also came up as a potential reason for the fact that boundaries weren’t enforced as firmly as they potentially should have been. Fishel explained, “The other adults on set, who maybe could have or should have said, ‘Why are you guys going to lunch with this guy?’ ‘Why is this guy going to Rider’s house for a party?’ There was probably a part of them that didn’t say it because they were afraid it was going to be taken as homophobia, instead of, ‘This is a boundary, gay or not. This is a boundary about adults and kids’.”

The revelation, in 2003, of Peck’s misconduct came as a shock to Friedle and Strong, who at first believed his initial narrative of victimhood, then ended up grappling with guilt and remorse as they had supported Peck in court during his trial. Friedle nor Strong said neither knew how serious the case actually was at that point.

Rider Strong and Will Friedle attend the world premiere of “Toy Story 2” on November 13, 1999 at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Strong and Friedle wrote letters to the judge in support of Peck. “We weren’t told the whole story, but it doesn’t change the fact that we did it,” said Friedle. “I still can’t get the words out to describe all of the things that I’m feeling inside of myself.”

“He didn’t say that nothing had happened,” said Rider. “So by the time we heard about this case and knew anything about it, it was always in the context of, ‘I did this thing, I am guilty. I am going to take whatever punishment the government determines, but I’m a victim of jailbait. There was this hot guy! I just did this thing and he’s underage.’ And we bought that storyline.

“I never heard about the other things because, back then, you couldn’t Google to find out what people were being charged with. So in retrospect, he was making a plea deal and admitting one thing — which is all he admitted to us — but it looks like he was being charged with a series of crimes, which we did not know,” Rider continued.

“We’re sitting in that courtroom on the wrong side of everything … The victim’s mother turned and said, ‘Look at all the famous people you brought with you. And it doesn’t change what you did to my kid,’” Friedle said. “I just sat there wanting to die. It was like, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ It was horrifying all the way around.”

The episode concluded with Strong expressing discomfort over airing the conversation, fearing its impact on Peck’s life – and the show’s legacy.

“I still feel like we should not be ruining this man’s life more,” he said. “I still feel that. I think there’s a lot of layers to that. It just makes me so uncomfortable. The fact that this person, this convicted child sex offender, worked on Boy Meets World… it’s going to rise to the top of one of the most talked about facts about us and our show … I don’t like the idea that we are affecting the cultural memory of Boy Meets World with this. That’s a bummer because I feel like, in my experience of Boy Meets World, it’s not that big of a part of it.”

Brian Peck did not reply to Variety’s request for comment.





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