How Rider Strong Learned To Love Shawn Hunter

Taken By Shiloh Strong

It’s been 20 years since Rider Strong first put on Shawn Hunter’s over sized leather jacket and ran his fingers through his thick brown hair on Boy Meets World. Soon after the T.G.I.F. staple premiered in 1993, Strong was plastered on many a preteen wall, courtesy of the centerfolds in the now defunct Teen BeatBop, and 16 magazines. After all, with a name like that, he was destined for teen super heartthrobdom… and Twitter mockery.

The 33-year-old actor, director, and self-proclaimed self-proclaimed “sometimes writer,” who recently got married, has made a hobby of responding to all the ridiculous Strong-centric jokes hurled at him on Twitter. “When I first joined Twitter, I started doing a self-Twitter search and the amount of people making fun of my name, it was ridiculous! I just started compiling a bunch of them and then at some point, I decided to make fun of somebody making fun of my name or to comment or respond, and it just exploded. Everybody was like, ‘That’s hysterical,’” Strong told BuzzFeed in a phone interview. He started gathering and responding to tweets every few weeks. “What’s weird to me is that actually, people are pretty nice. I mean, obviously, they make fun of my name, but, I mean, it’s a ridiculous name. It deserves to be made fun of … It’s hard because I never want to be too snarky, you know? I just don’t want to fall into that internet meme thing that starts happening. And I’ve been lucky that the balance has worked out. I can tease people for making fun of my name, because they kind of started it first. I’m just very aware of how stupid my name is,” he said with a laugh. “But I don’t get many mean tweets though. People are so nice to me online so I’m hoping that that continues.”

The online noise surrounding Boy Meets World has recently reached heights that would surpass the volume of Eric (Will Friedle) screeching for Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) — and that’s largely thanks to the upcoming Disney Channel spinoff Girl Meets World, created by the man behind the original series, Michael Jacobs. The series, which will debut in 2014, will center on the now grown-up Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel), and Riley (Rowan Blanchard), their 12-year-old daughter who’s just slightly older than Cory, Topanga, and Shawn were when Boy Meets World started in 1994.

“Will and I had no idea that that was happening,” Strong said of the spinoff. “And even Ben and Danielle, it got released to the press before they had made the deal. So they weren’t even sure that it was definitely happening and then it got released and then, of course, the internet just exploded with the news. And that sort of brought us all together because we all started instantly calling each other, being like, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘What do you know?’ So that was when the four of us started having dinners — Ben, Danielle, Will, and I — and we decided to all keep in touch. It was really the Girl Meets World thing that brought us back together.”

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But baggy jeans and floppy ‘do aside, the actor has plenty of fond on-set memories. “‘And Then There Was Shawn,’ which we called the Scream episode when we were shooting it, we all had the best times of our lives,” Strong recalled of the now-iconic Season 5 Halloween installment. “I can say that was probably one of the greatest filming experiences I’ve ever had as an actor because we just couldn’t stop laughing. And it was so absurd and there was this freedom in that absurdity. I think the reason why that episode worked was because, of course, it turns out to all be a dream sequence, but the emotional underpinning is still very Boy Meets World — what’s going on is actually kind of dramatic and the fact that my character can’t deal with this breakup. But, on the surface, we were making South Park references; Jennifer Love Hewitt is there for no reason; it makes no sense! And we just had a blast. There was this freedom to be idiots.”