'Leave It to Beaver' star Jerry Mathers reveals why he was ready to leave hit '50s sitcom

The former child star, who played Theodore 'Beaver' Cleaver, was at The Hollywood Museum in a tribute to Motion Picture Mothers

Jerry Mathers was ready to give Hollywood a break after "Leave It to Beaver."

The former child star famously played Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver in the hit sitcom from 1957 to 1963. The actor was just a teen when he found himself out of a job once the series came to an end. But life, he said, was blissful when cameras stopped rolling.

"It ended at the right time for me," the 74-year-old told Fox News Digital. "I wanted to play sports and of course, working at the studio, that wasn’t something I was able to do. I was [now] able to be on the track team and football team. That was something I really wanted to do. And it was nice being in [a normal school]. I had a private tutor for the whole time that I was on the show. Now I was at a regular school, and it was a lot of fun. And I made a lot of good friends."

Jerry Mathers holding a camera while wearing a suit

Jerry Mathers starred as Theodore "The Beaver" Cleaver in "Leave It to Beaver." (Getty Images)

The close-knit cast and crew were also ready to move on, he noted.

"Not that we were tired of it, but it was a lot of work," Mathers admitted. "We had to be at the studio every day at 8 o’clock, work till 5. And on the weekends, a lot of times, we had PR to do… I’m not saying I didn’t like it, but it was just time… I was getting ready to go to high school and [my co-star] Tony Dow was getting ready to go to college. That was something we really couldn’t do if we were still on the show."

The cast of Leave It to Beaver sitting together with toy airplanes

Jerry Mathers said he was never pressured by his mother to pursue a Hollywood career. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Most recently Mathers and his 96-year-old mother, Marilyn Mathers, made an appearance at The Hollywood Museum to host a special tribute to the Motion Picture Mothers. The nonprofit was formed in 1939 as a small social group of women whose children were involved in showbiz. Marilyn currently serves as president of the organization.


Jerry Mathers embracing his mother Marilyn Mathers at The Hollywood Museum

Jerry Mathers' mother, Marilyn Mathers, is president of Motion Picture Mothers. (The Hollywood Museum)

Mathers said the matriarch never pushed him into having a Hollywood career. Instead, she was determined to give her son as normal of an upbringing as possible.

"She took really good care of me," he said. "I know some other child stars had very tough lives, but I had a very good time. I never had any problems with it. I loved going to the studio. It was a fun place with a lot of fun people."

"I’d been working since I was 2 years old," he shared. "I started on live TV. I did a lot of different shows, but only for like a minute or five minutes, six minutes. And then when I got the part on ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ of course it was a series, so we worked a long time on it. But it was just a lot of fun."

A formal portrait of Jerry Mathers in a suit posing with his family at home during 1960

From left: Marilyn Mathers, Norman Mathers, Susie Mathers, Jimmy Mathers and Jerry Mathers at home, circa 1960. (American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images)

Mathers said his family was just as supportive when he was ready to take on a completely different role in life.

"I spent six years in the National Guard," he said. "There [wasn't] any kind of combat or anything like that, but we were a transport unit. A lot of times, the planes would come back, and they had a lot of damage to them… It was not a lot of fun because we were doing very, very hard work, but it was something that I [felt] I should do for my country… It was something I was proud to do."

Mathers was discovered while he and his mother were at a department store. A chance encounter forever changed their lives.


A young Jerry Mathers wearing a striped shirt and holding a toy

Jerry Mathers' career in showbiz started when he was just 2 years old. (John Springer Collection/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

"She was looking for clothes for me, and she had taken her eyes off me for a second," he said. "Then a lady came up and said, ‘Is that your little boy?’ I had gotten maybe three or four feet away from her. And my mom said, ‘Oh, no matter what he did, I’ll pay for it. I’m very sorry, did he wreck something?’ And the lady said, ‘No, but we noticed that you’ve been trying clothes on him, and he fits all our clothes. We were wondering if he could be at our fashion show.' My mom said, ‘Well, this is the big city, I don’t know.’ Then the lady said, ‘He’ll take a lady’s hand, he’ll walk out on stage, maybe do a couple of twirls, and we would pay him $15. And he could keep one of the outfits he wears.' My mom said, ‘He could do that!’"

"I got a lifetime deal," he chuckled.

"Leave It to Beaver" explored the misadventures of a suburban boy. It ran for six seasons and aired more than 200 episodes on primetime. A syndicated sequel series in the ‘80s resulted in more than 100 episodes. The show starred Mathers, as well as Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont.

The cast of Leave It to Beaver smiling in a black and white photo

The cast of "Leave It to Beaver," from left, Jerry Mathers (Beaver), Tony Dow (Wally), Barbara Billingsley (June) and Hugh Beaumont (Ward). (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

"I think the thing that makes me smile the most [when I think about it] is all the people I got to meet – the cast and crew," he explained. "You just [saw] the cast members, but there were probably 60 to 70 people on the crew. And we were all friends. One thing about having a child on the set is you have to keep them happy because if they don’t want to work, they just say, ‘I don’t wanna work.’ But all the people were so nice. They made sure that everybody… had families. So they had kids. And they knew what kids did… Everybody liked everybody. There wasn’t somebody who said, ‘We don’t want to work with that person.’"

Over the years, Mathers focused on life outside the spotlight. At one point, he became a real estate agent and sold houses.

There was no urgency to return to acting, he insisted.


A close-up of Jerry Mathers smiling in a black and white photo

Jerry Mathers was getting ready to start high school when "Leave It to Beaver" ended. (Getty Images)

"It was something that I liked doing, but I also liked being able to have my own life," he said. "Life for me today is very, very good. I have ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ but I can also go out and meet people. I’m a grandfather now – I have five grandchildren. It’s wonderful. I also have a wonderful wife, and we have a great time with the grandchildren. We get to babysit them every once in a while… I still do autograph shows because those are fun. I get to go all over the country. People still come up to me with questions about the show and what I’m doing… I’m just so grateful… I have just a wonderful life because ‘Leave It to Beaver' has made me so many friends."

Mathers said the series resulted in a lifetime friendship with his TV brother Dow, who passed away in 2022 at age 77.

Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow both wearing black and smiling next to each other

Tony Dow passed away in 2022 at age 77. (Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Dow’s death leaves Mathers and Rusty Stevens, who played Beaver’s friend, Larry Mondello, as the only surviving members of the show’s core cast. Beaumont, Mathers' TV dad, died in 1982 at age 73. Billingsley, who played mother June Cleaver, died in 2010 at age 94. Ken Osmond, who played Haskell, died in 2020 at age 76.

Jerry Mathers embracing Tony Dow in a close-up photo

"Tony and I have always been very good friends," Mathers reflected. "He was a wonderful person to work with… He was just a wonderful guy, and he taught me a lot of things. It was funny because I’m the oldest in my family and Tony was the baby of his. [But] it was exactly opposite of what was on the show."

Mathers shared that the series could still be remade in 2023 – and he would support a reboot.


Jerry Mathers in a suit and tie smiling next to his wife

Jerry Mathers has been married to Teresa Modnick since 2011. (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

"All the things that are on the original ‘Leave It to Beaver’ are things that people can relate to," he said. "It’s just about a boy growing up in America… A couple of people say, ‘Well, it’s not very realistic.’ But I think it’s very realistic… kids are always the same. They may act a little different, have different kinds of clothes or whatever, but it was just a fun show to be on… I had a wonderful time. I had no problems. There weren’t any big things that happened to me. All the things that happened to me were so good."

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.