411 Movies Interview: Danielle Fishel of Boy Meets World and Game Box 1.0
Danielle Fishel is probably best known to the world as Topanga. Since Boy Meets World ended, she’s starred in a variety of Indy films and has been on the Tyra Bank shows as a correspondent. I recently sat down with her to discuss her new film, Game Box 1.0, which gives a neat twist on the video game genre. The film hits DVD on April 10th. We also discussed her first kiss with Ben Savage on Boy Meets World. Outside of that, we discussed Hollywood, role models, and a lot of interesting topics. I hope you enjoy my interview with Danielle Fishel.
TONY: What about the Game Box 1.0 script attracted you to the project?
DANIELLE: First of all, I’m a big video game fan! To be able to be the princess in a video game was sort of like a dream come true from the time I was a little girl. I used to play the original Super Mario Brothers. Because of this, to be able to be the princess in a video game was pretty cool for me. I liked that idea. I liked that I was going to be able to be the princess. I liked that I had quite a bit of action scenes in the movie as well. In my career on my Boy Meets World, I never really had much of that. It was something different for me.
TONY: A lot of the film was shot in front of a green screen. How difficult was that for you as an actress?
DANIELLE: It definitely was a challenge. You don’t have anything to interact with. Of course, you have your other actors and that’s amazing when you are working in a good group like I was. It’s actually a saving grace. When you are trying to imagine things falling from the sky or people running up after you, it takes a lot of imagination. It takes a lot of focus. When you are on a real set without a green screen, you can float through the scene. You might lose your focus, but it’s OK because you have other things to focus your attention on. With a green screen, you have absolutely none of that. You really have to be there for every single second.
TONY: A lot of make-up was used in this film to make it look realistic. How important was that for the director?
DANIELLE: It was definitely important to look realistic. I think the hair and make-up team did an amazing job. As far as being in the hair and make-up chair combined, I would say I spent close to an hour in the chair. The make-up did take quite a while. Thankfully, our make-up artist Katie was amazing. She pretty much got the hang of it pretty quickly. Once she knew what she needed to do and once we started doing it a few days in a row, it came pretty quickly. That hairpiece that I’m wearing in the movie actually took a long time to attach to my head. The hair took even longer than the make-up.
TONY: What’s your most vivid memory from shooting this film?
DANIELLE: My favorite memories are the scenes where we are climbing through a window and trying to get away from the bad guy. One of my funniest memories of that is the fact that shooting the scene wasn’t painful or difficult at all. I was climbing through this little window, and I did it without even thinking twice about it. I woke up the next morning, and I had enormous circular bruises from one side of my thigh to the other. I was having to use my thighs to pull me through the window. They were like my battle wounds! They lasted for a couple of weeks. I was showing them off to everybody thinking I was real cool. I was like, “Hey, look what I got doing a stunt!”
TONY: What’s the transition like from being on a hit show to doing smaller independent films?
DANIELLE: It’s definitely a transition. When I was filming Boy Meets World, we did everything primarily in order. We would rehearse for a couple of days and then start filming. By the time that show was over, I had the character down pat. I didn’t even have to think about it. She was just this other version of me. That’s how easy it was for me to get into it. When you are filming a movie in front of a green screen, you are filming everything out of order and having to jump around a lot in the script. It’s all new territory. It did take some adjusting. Luckily, that’s why you meet great directors to help lead you in that direction.
TONY: How much do you still miss Boy Meets World today?
DANIELLE: I absolutely miss the people I worked with. I honestly worked with such a wonderful, wonderful group of people. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a group that feels so much like family as the Boy Meet World family does. As far as missing it, I’m happy that I had the experience. On the same token, I wouldn’t want to redo it either. I think it was perfect the way it was. I miss the people, but I don’t necessarily miss doing the show every day.
TONY: How hard is it as an actress to move on after a hit show?
DANIELLE: It took a little bit of getting used to. When we finished doing the show, I was only nineteen. A nineteen-year old girl has a lot of things that she can occupy her time with. I got done doing the show and decided to travel. I spent a lot of time with my family. I went on vacation. I got to relive the childhood that maybe I didn’t get to have so much when I was younger working on the show. When the show was supposed to have gone back in August before it was canceled, it was really weird. It was so odd to not have that family to go back to come August. We still talk and see each other. That makes it a lot easier.
TONY: How come you think the show was popular for so long and connected with so many people?
DANIELLE: I think the great thing about Boy Meets World was the casting. Ben is such a great actor and so perfect at playing the everyman. He was the every kid. Every kid has their different trials and tribulations that they go through. Every kid has that girl that he has a crush on. They have their best friend and the things they get into. I think it was really relatable. Ben did such a great job. Really, all of us did a pretty good job of being your normal everyday people. Honestly, that’s exactly what we were.
TONY: How similar are you to your character on the show?
DANIELLE: I guess I’m pretty similar. The thing I always say about her is that she’s kind of a nag. I like to think of myself as not quite as much of a nag. Although, my boyfriend would probably beg to differ! He would be like, “No, you’re just like her!” Other than that, I’m a lot like her. She’s ambitious, hard-working, and loyal to her friends and family. I like to think I have a better sense of humor than Topanga.
TONY: One of the downfalls of being on a hit show is being type-cast. How hard is it for people to not see you as Topanga?
DANIELLE: I don’t think I’ll ever not be seen as Topanga. I really can’t go anywhere without people calling me Topanga. I’m totally OK with that. I’m just very grateful to have had the opportunity to play a character that so many people can relate to and still like to watch and see every day. It is difficult when it comes to other work. People do still want to just see you as Topanga. Overall, it hasn’t been too bad. I’ve been able to work with the Hillenbrand’s a bit. I’m also working now with the Tyra Banks show. I’m a correspondent on her show. That’s really fun because it’s me being able to be me. I don’t have to play a character at all.
TONY: You also had your first real-life kiss on the show. What was that day like?
DANIELLE: I was very nervous that day. We had an entire week of rehearsal ahead of time. With that said, Ben and I were not really kissing all that week. We were mostly skimming over that scene. On the day of taping, Ben and I were very nervous. Also, both of our families were there! Our grandparents were there as well. It was a little nerve racking to have your first kiss in front of that many people and an audience. I was very nervous and I was afraid that Ben was not going to be nervous at all. Honestly, I think he was more nervous than I was! He was literally shaking. He was so nervous. That was a really funny experience. It’s also one of the best memories of my life.
TONY: How important is it for you to be a role model? Also, do you think celebrities should have that responsibility?
DANIELLE: I really do. I don’t think you should ever try to be something that you’re not. I do think that being in the public eye that you have a certain amount of responsibility to show positive images and positive sides of yourself. I’m not saying you need to change who are you. If you have bad habits or foul language or whatever it is that you do in your normal life, that’s fine if that’s what it is for you. I think you need to keep that out of the public eye. People don’t need to see that. It’s very important that young girls have positive role models to look up to. Unfortunately, in this day and age there really aren’t that many.
TONY: We see a lot of sad stories with Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Why do you think they can’t stay out of trouble?
DANIELLE: I think they had a lot happen to them at a very young age and fairly quickly. I know they have worked very hard for the success they have had, but it happened overnight in some sense. One day Britney Spears put out a song, and the next day people couldn’t stop talking about her. It hasn’t stopped since. It can be overwhelming for a young girl. You are traveling from place to place like a lot of actresses have to. It’s the same thing with music artists who have to travel on tour. When you don’t have a real foundation or a place to plant your roots to stay mentally and emotionally intact, that can be very overwhelming.
TONY: You were also a young girl in Hollywood much like Spears and Lohan. How did you stay on the straight and narrow?
DANIELLE: My mom is by far my number one role model. She’s amazing! She’s my best friend and has always been my best friend. We’ve always had a very open relationship. I talk to her about everything. It started when I was young. When a lot of people in high school were keeping secrets, I was always coming straight home to tell my mom about everything that happened that day. I would tell her about boys and everything. My mom was very open with me. I think that helped a lot. I didn’t feel like she was ever holding anything back from me. I didn’t feel like I had all of these things I needed to explore on my own. I didn’t feel sheltered. That definitely helped. I’m certainly not perfect. I’ve never gotten into any kind of trouble that you hear or read about in the news. When I moved out of my parents house when I was eighteen, I used to go out and go to clubs. I had a drink before I was twenty-one too. I’m certainly not perfect. I did manage to not let it control my life. I enjoyed my life and did some things. It was a short amount of time and I got over that phase in my life. As they say, life goes on. Now, I like to sit at home and knit. I feel like an old lady!
TONY: A lot of young actresses or girls might be reading this right now. Because of this, what’s your advice on how to stay out of trouble?
DANIELLE: You definitely have to keep your core group of friends around you. You are going to meet a lot of people who are going to want to be your best friend right away. Those people are not best friends or even good friends. They are people that you might be able to have a good time with, but keep them at arm’s length. The people you have known since you were younger and your family are going to be the only people that are going to be there for the rest of your life. Those are the people who have your best interests in mind.
TONY: You have also started working on the Tyra Banks show. How did that come about?
DANIELLE: It’s been amazing! I’ve had such a great time working for them. I’ve been so blessed in my life to work with such great people. I don’t know how I got to be so lucky. It’s a great group of people. Tyra is an amazing woman. She’s so great for women and the messages that she puts out there. I really admire her. It came about when I was asked to be a guest on the show last August. They were doing a show on favorite TV characters of the 90s. She asked me to be a guest and I went on and sat there and talked to her. We really hit it off. She thought I would be great on the show as one of her correspondents. She asked me to come back in a couple of weeks. I told her I would absolutely do it. Since then, we just really work well together. She’s asked me back a whole bunch of times now and it’s been a great experience.
TONY: What’s your most vivid memory from Boy Meets World?
DANIELLE: My favorite memories are all from the first year and the first couple of episodes. The kiss with Ben with great. The same episode when they drew a heart on my face and lipstick. The episode I did where Topanga had a crush on Eric. Those are some of my favorite memories. I was only twelve years old and it was my first real long standing acting job. I had only done a couple of guest spots on Full House. I just remember at the start of the show having such wonderment and excitement in my eyes. I thought I had the best job ever!
TONY: Finally, why should people see Game Box 1.0? Also, what do you have planned for the future?
DANIELLE: You should definitely see Game Box if you are a video game fan or just a fan of seeing a great movie with awesome special effects. As far as the future, I signed a deal to be the NutriSystem spokesperson. It’s been awesome. I actually lost twenty-five pounds using that program last year. I talked about that on the Tyra show one day. They asked me to be their spokesperson. I’m about ready to start shooting commercials for it. I’m looking forward to working some more with the Tyra Banks show. I hope to someday be back on national television every day.