It’s hard to imagine “Boy Meets World” without legendary actor William Daniels playing the iconic role of Mr. Feeny. But it almost didn’t happen, because Daniels turned down the role twice!
The 95-year-old actor, flanked by his wife of over 70 years, actress Bonnie Bartlett, opened up to ET’s Kevin Frazier about the reasons why he didn’t see himself playing Cory Matthews’ (Ben Savage) teacher-turned-mentor. For starters — and simply put — Daniels didn’t want to do a sitcom.
He was having the time of his life playing Dr. Mark Craig in the drama series “St. Elsewhere”, for which he won two Emmys, including in 1986 for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Bartlett also won an Emmy that year for Best Supporting Actress, as they became the second married couple in history to win an Emmy on the same night for “St. Elsewhere”. Williams had also voiced K.I.T.T., Michael Knight’s (David Hasselhoff) autonomous, artificially intelligent car on the iconic ’80s series “Knight Rider”.
On top of all that, Daniels wasn’t fond of the character’s name in “Boy Meets World”, which premiered in September 1994. The couple was in Florida when the sitcom’s creator, Michael Jacobs, asked Daniels why he turned down the role.
“I said it was a funny name, Feeny,” Daniels recalled. “I thought it was gonna make fun of teachers and I didn’t like that whole idea.”
Bartlett, who had a recurring role in the sitcom as Daniels’ TV wife, said Jacobs assured Daniels that the teacher role would be “good” and “respectable,” especially since Jacobs said the role was based on one of his past teachers.
“And yet, when you saw the script for the first time at the table reading [you] quit,” Bartlett recalled. “He quit at the table reading!”
Bartlett explained Daniels quit because he didn’t think the script was “good enough.” She added that Jacobs implored Daniels to give him that evening to re-write the script and tailor it so it’s better suited for Williams.
Jacobs did, Williams stayed on, and the rest is history.
Back in March, while discussing the possibility of a reboot, Will Friedle and Trina McGee spoke to ET’s Brooke Anderson at 90s Con and they shared why, if there was ever a reboot, it wouldn’t be complete without Williams being part of it.
“He’s the nucleus, for sure,” said McGee, who starred as Angela Moore.
“First of all, as Mr. Feeny was one thing, but William Daniels himself is a consummate professional actor,” Friedle, who played Eric Matthews, later explained. “He taught us how to … You weren’t late, you knew your lines. He never treated us like we were kids. ‘I don’t care if you’re 11, we’re colleagues. Be on the straight and narrow.’ But also very nurturing, because he was a child actor too, so he knew what we were going through.”
Perhaps the best part about Daniels on the set?
“He didn’t mind when you would say K.I.T.T.,” McGee said.
“That’s what we knew him from, the voice of ‘Knight Rider,’” Friedle added. “Of course, that’s what we’re going to say. We always say, our executive producer’s name was Michael Jacobs and [Daniels] would go, ‘Michael,’ And we’d all go, ‘K.I.T.T!!!’”
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