Danielle Fishel reflects on “pay gap”

  • Danielle Fishel addressed a “pay gap” between her and her male co-stars on “Boy Meets World.”
  • She said it persisted after she was made a series regular and her team advised her to skip a table reading.
  • She followed the advice of her team, with which her father agreed, but thought she would be fired.

On Monday’s episode of the “Boy Meets World” podcast, “Pod Meets World,” Danielle Fishel and her co-hosts Rider Strong and Will Friedle discussed the large “pay gap” in Fishel’s contract compared to her male counterparts and how she jumped a table read during negotiations to reduce the gap.

The hosts and their guest, Lauren Lapkus, were discussing Fishel’s position on the show throughout the early seasons of the popular TGIF sitcom around 9:00 PM when Fishel referenced the pay disparity that persisted “even after I became a series regular.”

“The excuse that was used was that, ‘Well, we didn’t know you were going to be on the show,'” she said.

Danielle Fishel wearing a black sweater and blue top.

Danielle Fishel in 2009.

Amy Graves/WireImage

Fishel’s role as Topanga Lawrence, Cory Matthew’s (Ben Savage) eventual love interest and wife, was originally just a small guest star in season one, filmed when Fishel would have been around 12 years old. Series creator Michael Jacobs and producers saw the potential in the pairing and subsequently expanded Topanga’s role to include several episodes in season one and continue into season two.

“By season two, you knew it. By season two, I was accounted for,” Fishel said, noting that the excuse that there wasn’t money in the budget to pay her more should go “out the window” by then . But it didn’t.

Fishel, now 41, said unnamed executives gave her and her team the same excuse as recently as season three, even though she and Strong had the same agent at the time.

Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel and Will Friedle.

Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel and Will Friedle.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Friedle added that Fishel was paid significantly less even as the show “clearly built Cory and Topanga as a thing.”

Cory’s romance with Topanga technically started on her first episode, titled “Cory’s Alternative Friends”, when Topanga gave Cory her first kiss. As Fishel became a regular, it slowly gained at least as much importance as his friendship with Shawn (Strong).

“I had to threaten not to show up to a table read,” Fishel said, recalling the team’s fight to get her paid fairly.

Fishel said her father and agent Judy Savage (no relation to Fishel’s costar Ben Savage) stood her ground in negotiations with ABC or Disney (Fishel couldn’t remember which) and told her she had to skip a table read to show them that she was “serious about not coming back” unless she was “fairly treated”.

Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel

Savage and Fishel in the 1998 “Boy Meets World” episode called “Graduation.”

ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Fishel recalled sobbing to her team as a young teenager, saying, “You’re going to lose this job to me.” She said she was young and didn’t care as much about being paid fairly as her father and Judy did.

“If they end up firing me because I don’t show up to a table read, I’ll never talk to my family again,” the mother of two recalled thinking.

But she said she listened and noticed, “I ended up not showing up.”

The topic quickly changed before the story ended, but Fishel continued to star as Topanga on every season of the show until it ended in 2000, so presumably the contract dispute was resolved to the satisfaction of her team.

New episodes of “Pod Meets Word” air weekly.

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