Written By: Hayley Bradbrook
Photos: William Daniels Official Website
William Daniels is one of the most beloved actors on stage, the small and the big screen for the past six decades. He has had a very impressive career including playing Mr. Braddock in The Graduate, K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider, Dr. Craig in St. Elsewhere, and probably what he is most well-known for now a days, Mr. Feeny in Boy Meets World. Many people particularly loved and connected to the character Mr. Feeny because he taught lessons not only in the classroom, but outside the classroom as well.
JossBecause was lucky enough to chat with the legendary actor William Daniels where we talked about his new memoir, There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others, which takes and in-depth look of his professional and personal life. We also discussed how playing the iconic character of Mr. Feeny impacted his life, and who his favourite Canadian actor is.
What was the writing process for your book?
I picked up a pencil, not a pen, and started writing.
In the book, you opened up about the abuse you faced from your parents as a child, why do you feel it was the right time to share this story now?
It was an attempt to recover the lost memory that I thought I had lost about the beginnings of my career and entering show business with my mother and sister and so forth. It was my attempt to recover the experiences that I had in show business from the beginning to just recently.
I had already known that I was being pushed into something as a young man. But I realized later on that I really belonged where I am in show business as an actor.
Did you learn anything surprising about yourself when you wrote the book?
It wasn’t a surprise with the anger I pushed towards my mother when starting show business.
But I was surprised that I was able to recover as much of the story of my career and life that I was able to.
What do you want fans to take away from your book?
Well, that I haven’t bored them by reading it.
There are so many 90s sitcom comebacks that are so successful now such as Fuller House and Girl Meets World, which you made many appearances in. What was the process like for the Boy Meets World reboot?
Boy Meets World became very popular. So Disney decided to follow that up with Girl Meets World. I was not on that show but I did do several episodes in the beginning to get it started and get Mr. Feeny back in there because it turns out that Mr. Feeny has become quiet a popular figure.
It was also very interesting the characters Cory and Topanga suddenly being parents. These people who I’ve known as children now were coming back to do Girl Meets World. They were all grown up and it was quiet a pleasant experience. They were very solicitous of me in my old age, and if I blew a line or something Ben (Savage) would come over and say ‘Bill we’ll just do that over again.’
Every single millennial wanted Mr. Feeny to be their teacher! How does that feel to know that you played such an iconic character who has impacted so many people’s lives?
I feel very good about that. I was concerned about when we first started Boy Meets World and I spoke to the producer/director/creator Michael Jacobson. I said I don’t want this character to be this foolish teacher, I wanted to play a respectful character. He assured me that it was going to be that way because he was basing the characterization of Mr. Feeny from a teacher in high school that he had who also became his mentor. That explanation relieved my anxieties.
Mr. Daniels also noted how important it as for him to add humour when playing the character.
“It always helps I would think as a teacher to be able to teach the course but also get a few laughs. It means that they are paying attention.”
Who is one character from your career that you would want to experience again?
I did about four episodes on Grey’s Anatomy and I was playing a doctor. That was a chance to explore again the character that I have played called Dr. Craig.
Favourite Movie of 2016
I think Moonlight was one of my favourites.
Favourite Line from Boy Meets World?
Actually it was my final lines on the show. It meant a lot to me as they left that I said ‘I love you all’ to an empty classroom. I was very moved by that for some reason, maybe because I’m a sentimental old man.
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This interview has been edited and condensed.