Jerry Mathers became a child star long before he landed the title role in Leave it to Beaver, and he’s thankful for the positive experiences he had.
In May of this year, Mathers met with Fox News and talked about his over six decades in Hollywood. The actor is best known for playing Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver from 1957 to 1963 on the classic TV series. He also reprised that role several times in guest roles and spinoffs, such as Still the Beaver and The New Leave It to Beaver. But he worked in dozens of other versatile roles beginning at age four.
However, Mathers first got into the industry at two, when a store owner spotted him in their clothing and asked his mother, Marilyn, if she’d let him model for them.
“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?’” he recalled. “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.’”
Marilyn was hesitant at first, but when she learned he’d be paid $15 to simply walk with a woman, do some twirls, and leave with his favorite outfit as a bonus, she said, “He could do that!”
Jerry Mathers Was 9 When He Began Starring in ‘Leave it to Beaver’
It wasn’t long before Jerry Mathers became more immersed in the entertainment world. First, he made short appearances as an extra on live TV. In 1952, Mathers landed an uncredited part in Son of Paleface and then a guest spot in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett. Then in 1954, he started starring in more significant roles before becoming The Beaver at age nine.
The legendary actor recognized as an adult that being a child star has a well-deserved stigma. But his mother was always on hand to protect him, which allowed Mathers to experience the positive side of being a high-profile celebrity.
“She took really good care of me,” he shared. “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.”
Leave It to Beaver was Jerry Mather’s first full-time job. And the cast and crew were careful with the young actors as well. Many of them have shared that Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver actors Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley were like second parents to them, and Mathers said the cast and crew 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,” Mathers continued. “They made sure that everybody… had families. So they had kids. And they knew what kids did… Everybody liked everybody.”
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