“In my head, I attached no cultural significance to that whatsoever,” Friedle recalled during an episode of their “Pod Meets World” podcast, where the cast further reflected on the comment with fellow co-star Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Friedle.
“I saw a person who I thought was my friend but didn’t know all that well wearing a big, red hat,” the star who played Eric Matthews continued.
“You and I still hadn’t worked together a ton, but in my head, you were a part of the cast, so that means I’m gonna make fun of you,” he said to McGee. “So I thought, ‘Gonna make fun of her red hat.’ That’s as far as my dumb f–king privileged mind saw it.
“Right before I walked on for my part, I walked by and went ‘love your syrup’ and walked onto the set, thinking ‘Boom, zing, just got her for her hat,’” Friedle said. “I heard Ryder laughing. We finished the scene, and you came up to me–”
“Oh, I was pissed,” McGee interjected. The actress reportedly checked the star right then and there. “You were like, ‘That was not OK.’ And I was like, ‘What?’” Friedle continued. “I had no idea what you were talking about. You went, ‘Referring to me as Aunt Jemima.’ I was like, ‘I assumed that was like you calling me the Jolly Green Giant.’ And you’re like, ‘No. No, that’s not the same thing at all.’”
He added, “You explained to me — you never use the time as an excuse, but in the mid-’90s, I had no idea the cultural significance of the Aunt Jemima character.”
The Girl Meets World” guest star has briefly spoken about the incident with people afterward, adding, “I just kept telling friends and family the story, and they were like, ‘No, he doesn’t sound racist, he just sounds really dumb.’ That was the feedback I kept getting.”
She continued: “This is the thing, Will. You become part of the issue nowadays when you have to move in spaces with people of color, and you don’t really have to, by right, but it would behoove you to learn as much about them as you can. You didn’t have to back then, nor were you told to, nor would it affect your check, nothing.”
Friedle and have reconciled since the moment the actor said it had altered his perception. “That moment was the moment I was like, ‘You can’t just say stuff. You can’t just throw things out there because you think it’s funny and walk away,” he explained. “You could be hurting people. You could legitimately be hurting people because you think it’s funny.’”