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“Boy Meets World” stars discuss former friendship with convicted child abuser costar: 'It's awful'

"He turned us against the victim," Will Friedle said on an episode of his "Pod Meets World" podcast.

Boy Meets World stars Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle got serious on the latest episode of their podcast Pod Meets World when discussing their former friendship with season 5 guest star Brian Peck, who would go on to be convicted of child molestation.

On Monday's episode of Pod Meets World, the trio were joined by family therapist Kati Morton to discuss "the difficult subjects of grooming, childhood sexual abuse, and their effects on victims" after Strong and Friedle were recently contacted for a statement about working with Peck ahead of the release of Quiet on Set, an upcoming documentary on alleged abuse behind-the-scenes at Nickelodeon.

<p> JC Olivera/Getty; Greg Doherty/Getty; Tommaso Boddi/Getty</p>

JC Olivera/Getty; Greg Doherty/Getty; Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Peck appeared on multiple episodes of Boy Meets World in 1997 and befriended the young Strong and Friedle, who played Shawn and Eric respectively on the ABC sitcom. A few years later in 2003, Peck was accused of molesting a child, and he pleaded no contest to charges of committing a lewd act against a child. He was subsequently convicted and spent 16 months in prison. 

Both Strong and Friedle remember spending a lot of time with Peck on set and off. "I was working a lot after Boy Meets World, and this guy had so ingrained himself into my life, I took him to three shows after Boy Meets World," Friedle said. "This was the type of thing where the person he presented was this great, funny guy who was really good at his job, and you wanted to hang out with...  I saw him every day, hung out with him every day, talked to him every day."

Fishel wondered if Peck being an out gay man helped him get a "pass" from parents for spending time with actors 20 years younger than him. "There was probably a part of them that didn’t say it because they were afraid it was going to be taken as homophobia, instead of, 'This is a boundary, gay or not. This is a boundary between adults and kids,'" Fishel said.

The actors also remember how Peck manipulated them into believing he was innocent when he was accused of child molestation in 2003, and how they didn't realize how serious the accusations against him were at the time. The hosts claim that Peck told them a version of events that reversed the situation so he seemed to be the victim, and they eventually faced the victim's family in court to defend Peck. "My instinct initially was, 'My friend, this can’t be. It’s gotta be the other person’s fault,'" Friedle said. "The story makes complete sense the way that he’s saying it."

"He didn’t say that nothing had happened," Rider said. "So by the time we heard about this case and knew anything about it, it was always in the context of, 'I did this thing, I am guilty. I am going to take whatever punishment the government determines, but I’m a victim of jailbait. There was this hot guy, I just did this thing and he’s underage.' And we bought that storyline. I never heard about the other things because, back then, you couldn’t Google to find out what people were being charged with. So in retrospect," Rider speculated, "he was making a plea deal and admitting one thing, which is all he admitted to us, but it looks like he was being charged with a series of crimes, which we did not know."

So when Peck asked Strong and Friedle to support him in court, they agreed. They even wrote letters to the judge to defend Peck. And Friedle said the victim's mother called out Peck for bringing them to court.

"'Look at all the famous people you brought with you, and it doesn’t change what you did to my kid,'" he remembered her saying, while he "just sat there wanting to die. It was like, 'What the hell am I doing here?' It was horrifying all the way around. We weren’t told the whole story, but it doesn’t change the fact that we did it. I still can’t get the words out to describe all of the things that I’m feeling inside of myself."

Friedle continued, "There’s an actual victim here, and he turned us against the victim to where now we’re on his team. That’s the thing where, to me, I look back at that as my ever-loving shame for this entire [thing]. Getting taken in by somebody who’s a good actor and a manipulator, I could chalk that up to being young and that’s the way it is. It’s awful. I’m going to use that for my growth as a human being, but when there’s an actual victim involved and now I’m on the abuser’s side, that’s the thing I can’t get over and haven’t been able to get over."

The actors end the podcast episode by saying they hope their conversation can help even one person realize they are being manipulated or groomed and seek out the right help.

Representatives for Peck did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.

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