'Boy Meets World's William Daniels Gets Candid About Being a Victim of Child Abuse in New Memoir
By Zach Seemayer
Actor William Daniels is opening up about being the victim of child abuse.
The two-time Emmy winner -- best known for playing kindhearted teacher Mr. Feeny on the '90s sitcom Boy Meets World and brilliant surgeon Dr. Mark Craig on the '80s medical drama St. Elsewhere -- writes in his new memoir that he didn't realize he'd suffered from child abuse until he was an adult.
According to the 89-year-old actor, he was forced into becoming a child actor by his mother, who pushed him into auditioning for roles at a very young age, and was made to sing, dance and act alongside his sisters, Jacqueline and Carol, for hours on end without having any say in the matter.
In his new memoir, There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT & Many Others, Daniels said that he started seeing a psychologist "many decades later," and that his doctor was the first one to suggest he'd been abused as a child.
"I was shocked to hear such a description — that I had been robbed of a normal childhood, forced to perform and put into situations that I had no control over," Daniels recalled. "It was unhealthy, my doctor said, that I was unable to express my anger, my fears and my dread of knowing what was expected of me in the future."
Daniels was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927 -- two years before the start of the Great Depression -- to David and Irene Daniels. His father was a bricklayer and his mom worked as a telephone operator.
The actor said that he was also emotionally hurt by his mother's "failure to say 'good job' or 'well done,' compliments surely all children need to hear."
"Mother believed, rather firmly, that children get ‘swelled heads’ if they had too much praise," he continued.
The acclaimed performer admitted that it took him "a long time to agree with this diagnosis," but has come to appreciate that he and his sisters were "the tools of my mother's ambitions."
"Why did my mother have to drag us around, throwing back carpets in her friends’ apartments, demanding that we dance like trained monkeys?" he wrote. "And why was I such a wimp and couldn’t say no? In my defense, I was just a child. But still …."
Daniels spoke with Peopleabout struggling to come to terms with being the victim of abuse, and how he was initially in denial.
"[My parents] didn’t realize the pressure of performance that my sister and I went through. So they sat out in back or stood out back with the other parents," Daniels shared. "It was during the Depression when kids became very popular performers because they didn't have to pay them."
The actor also recounted the time when he sat down with his parents later in life, and confronted them about how they treated him as a kid.
"'[My mother] looked out on the glass doors onto the pool and never looked at me once when I told her, 'You really put us through a lot,'" Daniels told People.
While his parents have both passed away -- his mother died almost 30 years ago, while his father died in 2001 -- Daniels said he still has a great deal of love for both of them, and conceded, "In retrospect, my parents were right. At least when it came to me."
"Clearly acting is what I wanted to do and what I’ve always wanted to do in spite of the countless times I said no and tried to push it all away," Daniels wrote.
Daniels is a father as well, and shared two children with his wife of 55 years, Bonnie Bartlett. However, neither of the couple's children followed in their parents' acting footsteps.
Daniels' memoir There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, & Many Others is on sale now.