Will Friedle didn’t know who Drake Bell was during Brian Peck trial, says star forgave him after “Quiet on Set”

“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 recalled Bell saying.

Will Friedle is still processing the revelation that his Boy Meets World costar Brian Peck sexually abused Drake Bell in the early 2000s, as he didn’t know who the Drake & Josh star was at the time of Peck's trial.

In a new episode of his rewatch podcast Pod Meets World, the actor explained his ignorance ahead of Peck’s trial, in which Bell was referred to as "John Doe" because of his age, and his conversation with Bell after Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV premiered.

“I'm sitting in the back of the courtroom,” Friedle remembered of Peck’s sentencing, wherein the former Nickelodeon dialogue coach was ordered to serve 16 months in prison and to register as a sex offender. “There's no social media. I am 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, Okay, I've been lied to. Automatically, I know this.”

<p>Tommaso Boddi/Getty</p> Will Friedle

Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Will Friedle

Friedle and his then-costar and current podcast cohost Rider Strong had both written letters of character support for Peck for the trial, explaining on an earlier episode of the podcast that the dialogue coach told them that his victim was nearly 18 years old, and that his crime against him was a one-time occurrence. On Thursday’s podcast episode, Friedle explained that he knew something was amiss when he saw how young Bell looked at the sentencing, as his young appearance didn’t match Peck’s deceptive description of an older-looking victim.

Friedle also discussed working with Bell a decade later on Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, wherein he played Deadpool opposite Bell’s Peter Parker. “He walked into Spider-Man, and I didn't know who he was, and he didn't know that I was there [at the trial],” the actor said. “We had the best day working together.”

<p>Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty</p> Drake Bell

Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty

Drake Bell

Shortly after the documentary premiered, Bell had called out Friedle and Strong for writing letters of support for Peck at his trial.

“Will was 27 years old, and Brian told him what he did,” Bell wrote on social media in March. “Many people turned away and said no I won’t write a letter but they did. Will was not manipulated. Brian admitted it to him and he wrote the letter anyway. Then he worked with me on many many episodes of spider man years later and never said a word to me about it.”

"RIDER WAS 24 years old when he wrote the letter and was told by Brian what he did. He wrote the letter anyway,” Bell said of Strong.

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<p>David Livingston/FilmMagic</p> Will Friedle and Rider Strong in 2022

David Livingston/FilmMagic

Will Friedle and Rider Strong in 2022

Once Friedle realized Bell was Peck’s victim, he had a meaningful conversation with him. “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 recalled. “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.”

“There comes a point where you have to look at yourself and go, ‘I have to be okay that I made a huge mistake, that I owe this person an enormous apology, that it’s not going to be enough and I’m going to spend a ton of time apologizing to this person,’” Friedle continued. “You have to use that to move on to become a better person yourself.”

Strong said that watching the documentary compelled him to contact Bell.

“[I was] so impressed with Drake, his courage… not only the courage to come forward now and to do this documentary and to be able to stand up for himself that way, but that he did it back then too,” the actor said. “It was like…I have to connect, reach out to Drake and obviously apologize, but also just hopefully lessen his burden in some way because he had done this courageous thing back then and still doing it now, and to just let him know that it wasn't this wall of people behind Brian knowing what he did and supporting him still, but it was actually this completely misinformed [group].”

Once he got ahold of Bell, Strong said he had an incredibly positive interaction with the former Amanda Show actor. “He was like, ‘Yes, call me,’ and I got on the phone with him and it was just instant connection, instant forgiveness. It was just amazing.”

Bell had previously shared that he reconnected with Strong on social media, writing, “I just had the most amazing conversation with @RiderStrong. we are all healing together. I have nothing but love and forgiveness for him.”

Listen to the full Pod Meets World episode above.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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