22 years ago, on the set of Boy Meets World, Will Friedle compared his black co-star Trina McGee to Aunt Jemima.
The actor, who played Eric Matthews, apologized to McGee in a lengthy email a few years ago, but the actress has finally addressed the “racist” incident publicly with him.
McGee, 53, joined Boy Meets World alumni Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Friedle in an episode of their Pod Meets World podcast, in which the cast further discussed the remark.
The actress, who played Angela Moore, was quick to confront Friedle, 46, with the comment as it happened – a move the actor helped him understand the impact of racial stereotypes.
“In my mind, I didn’t attach any cultural meaning to it,” Friedle recalled on the September 12 episode of the podcast. “I saw a person I thought was my friend but didn’t know that well wearing a big red hat.”
“You and I hadn’t worked together much before, but in my mind you were part of the cast, so I’m going to make fun of you,” he told McGee. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to make fun of her red hat.’ That’s as far as my stupid fucking privileged mind has seen.
“Just before I moved on for my part, I walked by and said ‘Love Your Syrup,’ and walked onto the set and was like, ‘Boom, Zing, just got her for her hat,'” Friedle said. “I heard Ryder (Strong) laugh. We finished the scene and you came up to me…”
“Oh, I was pissed,” McGee interjected.
“You said, ‘That wasn’t okay.’ And I was like, ‘What?'” Friedle said. “I had no idea what you were talking about. They said, ‘Referred to me as Aunt Jemima.’ I was like, ‘I thought that was like calling me the Jolly Green Giant.’ And you say, ‘No. No, it’s not the same at all.’ You explained to me – you never use time as an excuse, but in the mid-’90s I had no idea about the cultural significance of the Aunt Jemima character.”
Friedle continued, “I was mortified because the last thing you want to think is you’re part of the problem – your ignorance is part of the problem. In my head I was like, ‘I made fun of her because of her hat, that’s all I tried. What just happened?’ And I remember you very patiently explaining to me why I’m an idiot and we hugged and walked away. But I was shocked. …You walked away and I remember literally shaking.”
From that point on, Friedle said their exchange changed his life.
He said: “That moment was the moment I was like, ‘You can’t just say stuff. You can’t just throw stuff out there because you think it’s funny and walk away. You could hurt people. You could legitimately hurt people because you think it’s funny. “
McGee said she later spoke to people about the incident as well, adding, “I kept telling friends and family the story and they were like, ‘No, he doesn’t sound racist, he just sounds really stupid.’ That was the feedback I kept getting.”
She continued, “That’s the thing, Will. Nowadays you become part of the problem when you have to move around in rooms with people of color and you don’t really have to, but it would be appropriate to learn as much about them as possible. You didn’t have to, weren’t told, at the time, nor would it affect your check, nothing.”
Friedle and McGee had reconciled before the podcast, as had McGee and Fishel — whom McGee previously called “rude, cold, and distant” when she guest-starred on 2015’s “Girl Meets World.”
Pod Meets World can be listened to anywhere you receive your podcasts.