Twenty-two years ago, on the set of “Boy Meets World,” Wilfridel likened his black co-star Trina McGee to Aunt Jemima.
The actor who played Eric Matthews apologized to McKee in a lengthy email a few years ago, but the actress has finally publicly discussed the “racist” incident with him.
McKee, 53, joined Boy Meets World alumni Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Friedle in an episode of their “Pod Meets World” podcast where the cast discussed the phrase further.
The actress who played Angela Moore was quick to confront Friedel, 46, when the comments took place — a move the actor helped him understand what racial stereotypes meant.
“In my mind, I didn’t have any cultural significance for that,” Friedel recalled on the Sept. 12 podcast. “I saw a guy who I thought was my friend but didn’t know very well was wearing a big red hat.”
“You and I haven’t worked together yet, but in my mind, you’re part of the cast, so that means I’m going to make fun of you,” he told McKee. “So I thought ‘to make fun of her red hat.’ As far as my stupid king-privileged mind can see, it’s the furthest.
“Just before I moved on, I passed ‘Love Your Syrup,’ and walked into the set thinking, ‘Boom, let her get her hat,’” Friedel said. “I heard Ryder ( Strong) laughed. We finished that scene, and you came to me—”
“Oh, I’m pissed,” McGee chimed in.
“You’re like, ‘That’s not good.’ I was like, ‘What?’” Friedel said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You say, ‘Call me Aunt Jemima. ‘ I was like, ‘I thought you called me the happy green giant. “You’re like, ‘No. No, that’s not the same thing at all. You explained to me — you never use time as an excuse, but in the mid-’90s, I didn’t know the cultural significance of the character of Aunt Jemima .”
Friedel continued: “I’m ashamed because the last thing you want to think about is that you’re part of the problem – like, your ignorance is part of the problem. In the back of my mind, I thought ‘I’m going to be a part of the problem because of her hat’ Make fun of her, that’s what I want to do. What just happened?’ I remember you explaining to me very patiently why I was an idiot, then we hugged and walked away. But I was shaken. …you Walking away, I remember really shaking.
Since then, Friedel says their exchange has changed his life.
He said: “That was the moment when I thought, ‘You can’t just say something. You can’t just throw things out there because you think it’s funny and walk away. You can hurt people. You can legally Hurt someone because you think it’s funny.”
McKee said she also talked to people about it afterward, adding, “I just kept telling friends and family this story and they were like, ‘No, he doesn’t sound racist, he just listens It’s stupid.’ That’s the feedback I keep getting.”
She continued, “That’s it, Will. Today, when you have to move around a space with people of color, you become part of the problem, and you don’t really have to, but you should know as much as you can. They. You didn’t need it at that time, you weren’t told, and it didn’t affect your checks, nothing.”
Friedle and McGee had reconciled before the podcast, as did McGee and Fishel — who McGee said were “rude, cold and distant” when he guest starred on “Girl Meets World” in 2015.
“Pod Meets World” can be listened to anywhere you get a podcast.