Boy Meets World’s Trina McGee Recalls Being Asked to ‘Turn Down’ Her Blackness

·3 min read
Photo:  Albert L. Ortega (Getty Images)
Photo: Albert L. Ortega (Getty Images)

If you’re of a certain age and all about ‘90s TV, then like me, you may have considered Boy Meets World appointment viewing. When Angela showed up in Season 5, things got even more exciting as we followed the ups and downs of her relationship with Shawn. Now, Trina McGee, who played Angela, is opening up about her experiences on the popular teen comedy, including how she had to dial down her Blackness for the white sitcom.

During an appearance on the Pod Meets World podcast, which is hosted by series stars Rider Strong, Will Friedle and Danielle Fishel, McGee discussed the transition she made from Black series like A Different World, Martin, and Family Matters to the mostly white Boy Meets World.

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“Coming from Black sitcoms, I always had to have a Black meter,” she said. “On Boy Meets World, my Black meter was probably down to about a two.” While filming the Season 7 episode “Angela’s Ashes,” where her father’s visit forces her to deal with long-held trauma over her mother’s abandonment, the actress revealed that her “Black meter had slipped up” and was “at about a nine.”

During production, Showrunner Michael Jacobs came over and told her to “turn down the Telma Hopkins about eight notches.” McGee added that she “knew exactly what he was talking about” and followed his directions, but also explained to her former co-stars that they were “lucky” they didn’t have to worry about this all the time because “sometimes, it was too much.”

Wow. There’s a lot to talk about there.

First of all, if he needed to give her notes, there was no need to bring the lovely Telma Hopkins into it. Second, McGee made it clear this was just one of multiple moments where she had to swallow microaggressions and uncomfortable moments and “just throw it away” because this was how she supported her family. While we were all shipping Shawn and Angela, the actress was busy navigating a minefield anyone who’s worked in a predominantly white space is familiar with.

McGee and Friedle also discussed the moment when the castmates were joking around together and Will stupidly told a joke referring to her as Aunt Jemima when McGee showed up in a red head scarf. At the time, she explained to Friedle why his joke wasn’t the same as all the other ones the cast had been saying about each other and he described it as a life-changing moment where his young, privileged self learned he couldn’t just say anything and assume it meant the same to everyone. As they talked through the incident, the two were very cordial and respectful, having learned from the situation and seemingly moved on.

The four actors repeatedly marveled at how if they had just gotten over themselves and explored these issues earlier, they could have saved themselves years of misunderstandings and resentment. For fans of the show, it was a fascinating conversation that added deeper context to some of the show’s less serious moments.

In case you’re feeling nostalgic and want to catch up, Boy Meets World is available on Disney+.