Danielle Fishel Opens Up About Her Next Chapter as a Director & a Mom-to-Be
April 26, 2019
It's been over 25 years since Danielle Fishel first endeared herself to audiences all over the world as Topanga Lawrence on Boy Meets World. At 12 years old, the actress made her mark with her portrayal of the quirky, independent, outspoken character. Now, at nearly 38, she's entered a whole new phase of her professional and personal life. Fishel made her directorial debut on season 2 of Girls Meets World and more recently helmed several episodes of Disney Channel's Sydney to the Max—one which will air tonight, Friday, April 26 at 8:30 p.m. PDT. Fishel is also expecting her first child, a baby boy, with husband Jensen Karp in July.
In this next phase of her career, the former child star couldn't be more thrilled to be parlaying her experience toward mentoring and supporting young actors. "I directed my first episode in season 2 and got to direct three more in season 3," Fishel tells Parents.com exclusively. "That's where I really got to decide if this is something that I loved and that I really wanted to do, and [producer] Michael Jacobs was really great about giving me that opportunity to feel my way through it. I knew pretty much after the first episode, like, yes, this is definitely what I want the next phase of my career to be."
The aspect of standing behind the camera that Fishel loves the most? Working with kids. "I absolutely love it," she shares. "They are the same age that I was when I started, and I just feel like I'm giving back to my younger self. I get to be an influence in their life. You know, this is, for a lot of them, their first job, and I think that every profession and every career you go to, the things you learn at your first job, even if you don't ever work in that same field again, some of those things stick with you forever. You're learning responsibility, you're learning how to be accountable, you're learning how to let people treat you, and you're also dealing with people who are in a position of authority and like, how do I speak up for myself and yet also be respectful of their position?"
Then, of course there's the fact that as a 12-year-old, no matter how confident you are, you're still a self-conscious tween or teen, Fishel points out.
"There were plenty of things—Lord knows Topanga drew a lipstick heart on her face and did a dance in front of people, and Topanga had to do so many things that Danielle at the time, was shaking on the inside, like, 'Do I look ridiculous?" and yet, still did it," she shares. "Those are the moments that then people still point to 25 years later. So, whenever the kids I'm working with feel self-conscious about something, very rarely do they say, 'I feel self-conscious about this.' They don't even know that's what they're feeling. So I have, a couple of times, pulled people aside and said, 'Are you feeling self-conscious about this? Let's talk about it, and then I'm going to show you something. I'm going to make you watch this thing that I did, and I'm going to tell you exactly how I felt doing it.' And yet, just yesterday, there was an article written about that moment! Because everyone can relate, and everyone is weird! We're all weird!"
It's not only her experience that makes this next phase a no-brainer for Fishel. It's her personality, as well. "I just know that I am a patient individual," she notes. "I love kids, and I've been in their shoes, so I know what it feels like to be them, so I pride myself on creating a really safe, warm environment for them to learn and to take risks and to have a good time and still also be professional and get a job done."
And while working closely with this next generation of child stars, she aims to set an example as an adult, as well. "I like to think that hopefully, I'm showing them that you can do this from the time you're very young and eventually come out the other side as a nearly 40-year-old person and have your life together," Fishel shares. "There's not just one path to take."
Although Fishel has spent so much of her life in the spotlight, it's not exactly something she adores 24/7—especially in her personal life. It's for that reason that she'd prefer to avoid having a baby shower before her son's arrival.
"In my job, I have to ask for attention and then even promoting my job involves asking people to pay attention, so in my personal life, I'm very much like I just want to be mellow," Fishel says. "I'm also—for being someone who has extroverted personality traits—I'm very much an introvert. It's exhausting to be around that many people for that amount of time. I'm always aware of, 'Am I coming across as grateful as I feel?' and trying to open the gifts. Here's the real truth of it too: I have never once in my life wanted to go to a baby shower—or a wedding shower. If you ask most people, if they're being truthful, they agree. They're not fun. No matter who they are for!"
Another less than enjoyable aspect of this next chapter Fishel acknowledges she'll face is mom-shaming. But she already knows how she'll handle it. "I'm pretty good about not really caring what anyone says at all, there's already been a few people who've made their very strong opinions known on Instagram about whatever, and I usually just ignore, or delete, block," she says. "I'm like, 'You're going through something on your own.' But I'll see how I feel. It's different when you have the baby and you feel protective and you feel like someone's calling you a bad mom, so who knows what kind of mama bear instincts are going to kick in?"
She gives fellow celeb mom Chrissy Teigen props for the way she handles shamers. "I think the way she handles it... if she sees other people giving [a troll] attention, she feels like now it warrants a response, because I don't want what you've said to be the overriding voice on this matter," Fishel shares. "So, I feel like that's when she steps in and makes a comment or she just says something very witty."
Fishel's also all about keeping negativity at bay when it comes to going into labor and delivery. "I want to avoid horror stories," she says. "I feel like we, in society, for whatever reason really glamorize the hardships of labor and birth and pregnancy, and if you go into something being like, 'Welp, I'm in for the worst day of my life,' of course you're going into it expecting it to be really hard. If I go into it like, 'This is what my body is built to do, I'm more than capable of doing this, women have been doing it for centuries and centuries and I'm going to feel connected to them and I'm going to gather their strength,' hopefully on that day, it doesn't all just fly out of my head and I'm like, 'Ahhhhh!' Who knows, maybe I'll be a screaming banshee, but hopefully I'm not!"
Either way, there's undoubtedly much to celebrate on the horizon for the actress, director, and mom-to-be.