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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actresses > Features Interviews F to J > Danielle Fishel

Danielle Fishel

Gamebox Princess

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 15, 2007.

Danielle Fishel has grown up before our eyes.  In seven seasons of ABCís beloved TGIF sitcom Boy Meets World, she played Topanga Lawrence, the sweet and beautiful girlfriend of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), the boy who was, indeed, meeting the world.  Since the series went off the air in 2000, Fishel has done some low-budget independent films like Longshot and Dorm Daze 1 & 2, hosted a sports talk show and also works as a correspondent on The Tyra Banks Show. 

Fishelís latest film release is Gamebox 1.0 Ė a thriller about a video game tester (played by Nate Richert, another TGIF veteran who played boyfriend Harvey on Sabrina the Teenaged Witch) who drowns his sorrow about the killing of his girlfriend in a video haze.  When he is sent a mysterious and strangely realistic new console, he realizes that this game is for his life.  Fishel plays both the murdered girlfriend Kate and Princess, her video-gaming counterpart. 

As Gamebox 1.0 was gearing up for its video release, Fishel was nice enough to check in with us and let us know about the movie and what itís like to come of age in front of the camera. 

You have been acting since you were about ten.  How did you get started? 

When I was in elementary school, there was a girl who was a couple of years older than me who came to school one day and said that she had gotten an agent and she was going to be a model.  I thought she was really pretty and just really cool, basically.  So I decided that I wanted to do the same thing.  I went home and told my mom that I wanted to be a model and she told me, ďWell, you canít.  Youíre only two and a half feet tall.Ē  (laughs)  So I went back to school and I was disappointed, and I told my little friend I canít be a modelIím too short.  She said, ďOh, my agent is going to put me on TV, too.  I donít think you have to be tall to be on TV.Ē  So that was basically it.  I went home and decided you donít have to be tall to be on TV, mom and thatís what I want to do.  For about a year I begged her to let me start auditioning and get an agent.  Finally she relented.  (laughs) 

Youíre probably still best known for your role of Topanga on Boy Meets World.  What was it like to be a part of the show and how surreal was it to be part of the show at the height of popularity? 

It was great.  It was definitely, probably going to be always the most cherished memory of my childhood.  We spent a long time together, from twelve to nineteen, so most of my very formative years were spent with those people.  They are like family to me.  Yeah, I guess it was kind of surreal.  Although, I guess when you start acting at ten and by the time youíre sixteen or seventeen youíre on the cover of magazines, youíre kind prepared for it.  Youíre aware what youíre getting into from the very beginning.  I think it was actually more surreal for the people I was going to school with.  They just saw me as being regular old Danielle, and yet other people saw me as being somebody else.  Thatís interesting. 

Is it hard as a former child actress to get people to take you seriously as an adult?  Do you see casting directors who still look at you as Topanga? 

Yeah, I do think that is something that is pretty difficult.  People have a tendency to get locked into something.  Once they categorize you as something, they want to hold onto that.  So, yeah, breaking out of thatÖ and I also have the downfall in this industry of looking still very, very young, which doesnít help, either.  If I looked drastically different that I did on Boy Meets World that would potentially help.  But I donít, my face still looks exactly the same.  I did change my hair color, which Iím hoping helps.  I decided to go brunette.  Hopefully that will help people think of me differently. 

If you werenít acting, what do you think youíd be doing? 

Then I would be in school or by now would have probably graduated and Iíd be teaching. 

Just a decade ago sitcoms like yours were huge.  Nowadays the art form seems to have been pretty much left behind for reality TV.  As an actress, does that limit your opportunities? 

Absolutely.  I mean as an actress you either need to broaden the scope of things youíre willing to do and open that door into possibly doing reality TV, or you need to move entirely into film Ė which is difficult for me, because I absolutely love doing sitcoms.  I hope that someday the sitcom craze will come back.  Iím not a fan of reality TV.  (laughs)  Iím actually ready for that to be over.  I do hope that [sitcoms come back] at some point in time, especially family comediesÖ I think weíre really lacking for those on TV these days. 

On the other hand, many older series like Boy Meets World are now released on DVD.  How nice is it that all your old work is coming back and so easy to get ahold of?  Do you ever watch any of the old shows? 

I do.  I mean I donít have it set on my TiVo, because Iíve seen them all, obviously.  But if I happen to be flipping through the channels or itís late at night and Iím looking for something to watch, I will always go and check the Disney Channel to see if itís on.  I know itís on several times a day.  Especially the older ones, when I was a kid.  Itís kind of like popping in an old home movie for me.  So I do enjoy watching it when they come on. 

Since Boy Meets World, you have done some straight-to-video movies Ė like Gamebox 1.0 and the Dorm Daze movies. How different is it working on films than on TV? 

You know, itís less stress I guess considering the amount of time, but when weíve done these independent movies Ė the Dorm Daze and Gamebox Ė we filmed them all within three weeks or a month, working about sixteen to eighteen hours a day.  So there is a lot of stress while putting them together.  And, you know, it feels kind of chopped up, because when youíre filming a movie you certainly donít film it in the proper order that youíre filming.  So you always feel like you are portraying pieces of the character.  You donít feel like youíre really feel like you get to feel the full scope of the character at any one time.  So thatís a little bit different.  Especially doing Gamebox in front of a green screen.  That was an entirely different experience. 

Yeah, I was just going to say, Gamebox 1.0 must have been weird to film, because the great majority of your scenes were in a computer animated world.  Did you have to do the whole thing on green screen and just imagine what was going on and how hard was that to do? 

Yeah, we did basically.  You just do the entire thing on a green screen.  It was definitely a little bit more difficult to have to use my imagination so much.  I donít really consider myself to be a very imaginative person, so I really had to really rely on the other actors and to rely on my directors to let me know what exactly was going on so that I could picture it with every emotion.  That coupled with the fact that playing a video game character Ė you know, video game characters donít have many facial expressions.  I act a lot with my facial expressions.  I had to this time get everything, all the emotions through with just my eyes.  So that was also a challenge. 

You were also essentially playing two separate characters Ė the girlfriend Kate in flashbacks and the computer character Princess.  How interesting was it to be able to put a slightly different stamp on both Ė but still having to have a basic similarity? 

Yeah, that was really interesting for me.  It was definitely a fun challenge.  I really liked being able to after weeks of playing Princess being able to do the small amount of scenes I have as Kate, because I felt I could use my face again.  (laughs)  You know, when youíre a real person, I could actually smile big and just use my face, which made Kate seem real fun.  There is a lot less of Kate in the movie than there is of Princess, though. 

Is it a coincidence that you and Nate Ė who were both love interests in TGIF shows Ė were cast together?  Did you know him from the old days? 

Yes, I had met Nate from years before when we would do different ABC events and things.  I had known him before, but we certainly werenít friends or anything.  We were acquaintances.  And, yeah, I donít know if that was a casting choice that they made purposely.  I know they had worked with Nate before on some films and knew that he was a very professional, hard-working actor.  They had worked with me before as well and I believe they felt the same way about me.  Itís important, especially when youíre doing a movie that is going to be entirely green screen, youíd better be working with people that you like, because, you donít have a lot of other distractions. 

Gamebox 1.0 was actually filmed a few years ago. How does it feel now that it is finally coming out? 

Well, Iím just so happy to see the final result.  Starting from three years ago when we did the movie, we had no idea what the final outcome was going to be.  Weíve only been able to get bits and pieces up until this point.  So, thinking about it and working on it and imagining what it was going to turn out like, it really has lived up to all of our expectations. 

Gamebox is essentially about the danger of people living in a fantasy world and refusing to face reality.  How did that theme resonate for you? 

It definitely resonates with me.  Iím always saying to people in different situations, you just canít look at it that way.  This is difficult, especially nowadays, where life is just really harder Ė especially for kids Ė than it was way back even when I was a kid, or when my parents were kids.  Life continues to get harder.  You canít just drown yourself in a video game or continue to go see movies or watch TV or do whatever you want to escape all the time.  I think thatís why nowadays there are so many more kids who are taking pills and self-medicating, because they are just trying to escape reality.  Itís kind of a sad state. 

You had mostly done comic roles in the past, but Gamebox is pretty dramatic.  Do you prefer doing comedy or drama?  Which is harder for you? 

Oh, gosh, I really canít say I have a preference of either one.  When I first started acting, I considered myself a more dramatic actress.  Comedy was not something that came so easily to me.  But then, after a small amount of time being on Boy Meets World and learning things from my other comedic actors and learning things from the executive producers and producers I had on that show, comedy now just comes so easily to me.  So, I really canít say that I have a preference.  I really enjoy them both.  I would say I think comedy does come easier to me now. 

I saw an old quote from you on the internet which said you donít drink, you donít smoke, you donít do drugs. You Shop. Still true? 

Well, you know, that was taken twelve years ago.  I was fourteen at the time. 

Yeah, I figured it was probably pretty old.  I have to admit most of the stuff I found about you on the internet seemed kind of outdated.  Stuff like favorite bands Ė Counting Crows and the Cardigans.... 

I know!  Iím like, oh my gosh!  Does nobody update anything?  Itís so weird.  People bring that quote up to me all the time and will use it against me.

Iím sorry; I didnít mean it that wayÖ 

By no means do I have a drinking problem.  Yes, I do drink.  I especially love a glass of red wine with Italian food.  I actually did smoke for a long time, but I quit about five-and-a-half months ago.  I certainly do not do drugs.  Have never done drugs.  So, thatís something I did stick with.  (laughs)  And I still do shop.  Absolutely! 

Lately youíve been working as a special correspondent on The Tyra Banks Show.  Youíve also done a show for sports radio.  What are those like?  Do you enjoy getting into a totally different part of show biz? 

I am, absolutely.  Especially, like we were talking about before, with there being so much reality TV out there, you know with the things I like to do Ė there are just really not that many options out there.  So, I had to kind of branch out and figure out other things I love.  One of my major passions was sports Ė still is sports Ė so I had that opportunity to work for the cable radio network.  I hosted a sports show for them for quite a while.  Then my schedule kind of got out of control and I had to stop doing that.  Being a correspondent for The Tyra Banks Show has been amazing.  I really admire her and respect her and she works with such an amazing group of people.  Thatís been a really fun experience for me.  Itís entirely new, being a correspondent.  Iíve always loved the idea of talk shows.  Iím able to be myself, instead of being a character.  Sheís really given me a wonderful opportunity to be a part of her family there. 

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I donít know.  I think that people would probably be surprised to know that Iím really a very huge homebody.  I have a very small amount of friends.  I maybe have five friends, literally.  Iím not close to anybody else in the entertainment industry.  I donít even live in LA.  I completely avoid that entire celebrity scene.  I think that surprises most people.  I think people think I live this really glamorous life, but I basically run around in my sweats and cook dinner and run errands and clean my house.  (laughs)  Thatís the extent of my life. 

Ideally, how would you like for people to see your career? 

I donít know.  I really donít feel like Iíve created too much of a career up to this point.  I think Boy Meets World was amazing and by far the staple of my career.  Iíd like to think Iím going to have several more staples that Iím in the process of creating.  So, I donít know.  Maybe in thirty years ask me how Iíd like for people to perceive my career. 

Are there any misconceptions youíd like to clear up? 

Well, for one, the "I donít drink, I donít smoke, I donít do drugs, I shop."  I think a lot of the things that people think about me are things that people heard me say when I was a very early teenager.  So if anything, Iíd just like people to realize that people grow up and people change.  You evolve as a person.

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2007 Lionsgate Films. All rights reserved.
#2 © 2007 Lionsgate Films. All rights reserved.
#3 © 2007 Lionsgate Films. All rights reserved.
#4 © 2007 Lionsgate Films. All rights reserved.
#5 © 2007 Lionsgate Films. All rights reserved.
#6 © 2007 Lionsgate Films. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 15, 2007.

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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 15, 2007.