“If the audience perceives that what this is about is a love triangle, then they don’t know us,” Michael Jacobs tells TheWrap of Disney Channel sitcom’s current storyline
The daughter of “Boy Meets World” couple Cory and Topanga Matthews may be growing up in a tougher titular world, but “Girl Meets World” will still deal with many of the same coming-of-age issues that were central to its predecessor’s seven-season run.
“The thing that intrigued me about it is that the world is so different,” creator and showrunner of both series Michael Jacobs told TheWrap. “There are so many fundamental changes to the world that Cory and Topanga’s children live in.”
As the second season wraps up, “Girl Meets World” finds itself in the midst of its first serialized story, a love triangle that is developing between Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga’s (Danielle Fishel) daughter Riley (Rowan Blanchard), her best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) and their classmate Lucas (Peyton Meyer).
Ahead of the season finale, “Girl Meets Legacy,” Jacobs talked to us about how the show has turned out, why the triangle is really not a triangle, and how he prepared his actors to play the long game.
Has the show turned out how you expected?
Yes, it has. What we wanted to do was take a look at what would happen with the “Boy Meets World” concept if we took it forward one generation. The thing that intrigued me about it is that the world is so different. There are so many fundamental changes to the world that Cory and Topanga’s children live in. Social media, the political state of the world, what kids know by looking at the screen that they have immediate access to. It made, for me, a very interesting landscape to do a new series about a person discovering the world that they live in, just as Cory Matthews did.
The first year of the show was a very good introduction to what we wanted to do, and we think the second season really fulfilled — certainly began to fulfill — the potential of a coming-of-age comedy for this generation. We think the third season, which we are working on right now, will show the growth and the feelings that kids have to come in contact with in order to evolve in a world where everybody, unfortunately, I think, has to grow up very fast.
The love triangle that has developed seems like the first serialized story you’ve told on the show. Do you plan to do more such stories?
Yes, we do. We think that “Boy Meets World” always benefited from its soap opera qualities. There were certainly, at the heart, the relationship between Cory and Topanga. I think they broke up and got back together 29 times. The relationship between Shawn and Angela — all of the relationships — there was always a triangle on “Boy Meets World,” which was Eric, Jack and Rachel, which sustained for years. On “Girl Meets World,” if the audience perceives that what this is about is a love triangle, then they don’t know us. There is a much bigger and broader conceptual question that we are answering with what appears to be a triangle between Riley, Maya and Lucas.
When you say “It’s not a love triangle” could that be because Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis) will be brought into the equation and it’s really a love rectangle?
Everyone will be brought into the equation. To answer this as simply as I can without giving anything away, the “Girl Meets” angle has always been a very important part of the show. Every episode is titled “Girl Meets” something. If we did “Girl Meets Love,” it would not be one episode. It would be a sustained series of episodes in an attempt to explain, for this generation, what the perception of love is, versus what love may actually be, versus are we ready for that at all? Something that is so important cannot be something we tell in one story. But the understanding of how to grow and what’s valuable to these kids will manifest itself over these episodes. We want to do it intelligently, and what we’re not looking to do is a love triangle.
I’ve said this from the beginning: If you look at the pilot, and look at some subsequent episodes, the hints of what we’re doing are very deep-seated, and you’ll understand completely. This series was always about this magnificent friendship between Riley and Maya, and if you look at the differences in the girls you will understand what’s going on now.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by phrases like “It was clear from the pilot,” which you’ve said in the past?
I can’t, because if I explain it, I’ll give it completely away. [laughs] But all you have to do is look at what the pilot was about, and then track the evolution of the two girls and you will understand that this could not possibly be a triangle in these three, at all.
I will give you one further piece of advice for the audience … If you look at the pilot’s story — not to go back and look for moments, like this is the moment, or that’s the moment — track the characters. How are they growing? Then you’ll clearly understand what we’re doing. There are some episodes [in Season 3] that will involve Shawn. If you track the character of Shawn, if you track the character of Maya, and their relationship together, and what Cory means to Shawn and what Riley means to Maya as friends, and the responsibility of friendship, you’ll understand perfectly what’s to come, and you’ll welcome it.
You’ve said this was planned from the beginning but how much did the actors know this was coming?
They don’t. The actors don’t want to see the next script, they don’t want to know the next moment, because they’re good actors. If you know what’s coming, there is a tendency to play ahead, and they don’t want to. I’ve spoken to Rowan and Sabrina, and Ben and Danielle just smile at this. If you take “Boy Meets World” conceptually, the entire series, and you think about how it started, with a little boy who didn’t want to paint a fence because he wanted to go to a water war, and then realized his father was Superman because he painted the fence for him … That was always, at the youngest possible point, what “Boy Meets World” was about, the realization of what was important and valuable.
If you look at “Girl Meets World,” you’ll find that the love the characters have for each other, in a world that is tougher than Cory Matthews’ ever was, this has to be the guiding force of what this show is. If “Boy meets World” taught that sometimes you can find the person you will ultimately love for the rest of your life, “Girl Meets World” wants to teach that if you’re very lucky, and you understand the value of your friendships and how important these people will be to you, they can sustain you for an entire lifetime. Those are two wonderful lessons to learn about life, and that’s what I hope our contributions will be with these two series.
“Girl Meets World” Season 2 finale will air Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on The Disney Channel. Season 3 is now in production and will later this year.