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Growing Up Cleaver: ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Jerry Mathers Reminisces About the Show

Photo Credit: Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

Everyone loved Leave It to Beaver, and how could they not with the troublesome and endearing title character, played by Jerry Mathers? Although the show ended decades ago, it had a big impact on both fans and the cast. In a recent interview, Mathers talked about his experience growing up as a child star and what his relationship was like with the rest of the Cleaver family.

Leave It to Beaver

Launched in 1957, Leave It to Beaver defined the suburban family sitcom for a generation. Young Jerry Mathers played the role of Theodore “Beaver” alongside Tony Dow as brother Wally Cleaver. The show ran for six seasons, producing over 200 episodes. After the show ended, many of the cast members came back to work on the movie Still the Beaver, and the sequel series The New Leave It to Beaver. 

Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow sitting in directors chairs with their names on the back.
Behind-the-scenes photo of Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow who play Beaver Cleaver and Wally Cleaver respectively on Leave It to Beaver. (Photo Credit: bigpix/ MovieStillsDB)

One of the last times that the whole cast got together was following the taping of the series finale, “Family Scrapbook,” which aired on June 20, 1963. The episode was designed as a look back at the show over all its seasons. When filming wrapped, the entire cast and crew got together for a party on the soundstage, something that stuck with Mathers for the rest of his life.

Fond memories

In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, he talked fondly about this memory. He said, “We were on the living room set and all the actors, writers, and writers’ assistants came. Even people who hadn’t been on the show in a while came in and out. We were all friends, but we knew we were probably not going to see each other that much again. I only realized later on how nice it was to have that many friends.”

Tony Dow, Hugh Beaumont, Jerry Mathers, and Barbara Billingsley pose as their character from 'Leave It to Beaver.'
(Clockwise from left) Tony Dow, Hugh Beaumont, Jerry Mathers, and Barbara Billingsley pose together in a promotional portrait for the show Leave It to Beaver, c. 1957. (Photo Credit: CBS Photo Archive/ Getty Images)

Aside from the happy memories of filming, Mathers also touched on the things that he liked about the show, namely that it gave a kid’s perspective on life. He said, “Our show was a really good look at what they do think and how differently they think from adults. Obviously, a lot of kids didn’t have a life like Leave It to Beaver, but a vast majority had bad things happen to them at school or other things that were very real to kids watching the show.”

He also joked about how his attitude toward fame changed over the years. He said when he was younger people would see him on the street and loudly exclaim, “‘Oh, it’s the Beaver,” to which he would respond, “I’m Jerry Mathers — that’s just the name they gave me on the show.” This doesn’t seem to bother him much anymore, and he seems to look back on the role and the recognition that came with it much more positively.

The last one left

As Mathers has such fond memories of the show, it’s no wonder he said years ago that he’d happily agree to come back to a reboot as Grandpa Beaver if he was asked. He said, “I’d want to read the script first. But as long as it stuck with the same morals and things that we did on the original shows, I’d be very happy to do it.” One of his reasons for wanting to do this was that “A lot of the cast members [from the sequel series] are still alive, so it’d be fun to go back and see all of those people again.”

Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow in black t-shirts pose together.
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow stop for a photo while signing autographs at the Hollywood Show held at Westin LAX Hotel, July 8, 2017. (Photo Credit: Albert L. Ortega/ Getty Images)

Sadly, in the following years, the remainder of the actors passed away. The parents on the show, Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, passed away in 2010 and 1982, respectively. The death of Mathers’ on-screen brother is much fresher, however, as Tony Dow passed away in 2022. Mathers is now the only one left, making it unlikely that another reboot will ever happen.

More from us: The Brady Bunch’ Dad Robert Reed Refused to Say This One Line

Still, the actor clearly has many happy memories of his time as part of the Cleaver family.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.