‘Boy Meets World’ actors apologize for defending sexual abuser who targeted Drake Bell

Former “Boy Meets World” cast members Will Friedle and Rider Strong are revealing the details of their apology to Drake Bell after they voiced support in court for the man who sexually abused Bell in the early 2000s.

The issue came under renewed scrutiny following the docuseries “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” which debuted in March and highlighted the abuse Bell experienced at the hands of Nickelodeon dialogue coach Brian Peck.

In 2004, Peck was convicted of sexually assaulting an unnamed Nickelodeon child star. He later served 16 months in prison. During the trial, Friedle and Strong both wrote letters of support vouching for Peck’s character.

“I’m sitting in the back of the courtroom. There’s no social media. I’m 26 years old at the time. I don’t watch Nickelodeon. I don’t know who Drake Bell is. I see a kid walk into the courtroom and I’m like, ‘OK, I’ve been lied to.’ Automatically I know this,” Friedle said on Thursday’s episode of his “Pod Meets World” podcast, recounting his experience of the trial.

Friedle added that Peck falsely told him and Strong that the victim was nearly 18 and that the abuse had been an isolated incident.

After the initial episodes of the “Quiet on Set” series aired, Friedle and Strong reached out to Bell to apologize and Bell later described their talk as “the most amazing conversation.”

“Talking to Drake was amazing … horrible … healing, for a number of reasons,” Friedle said in the Thursday podcast. “He started the conversation by saying to me, ‘Before you say a word, I want you to know I love you, and I forgive you.’”

Friedle also said he clarified to Bell that he didn’t recognize him in the courtroom and thus didn’t think to address the issue when the two worked together roughly 10 years later on the series “Ultimate Spider-Man.”

“We both talked about how happy we were that was the case because we had the best day working together,” Friedle said. “All I wanted to do from the day in that courtroom was apologize to whoever was there. The idea that I found out later that he was standing in front of me, and I did not have that [chance], was nuts.”

Strong said during Thursday’s podcast he felt “so full of regret and shame” after seeing the docuseries, adding, “there’s really no excuse” for the fact that he believed Peck’s side of the story and chose to support him.