‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Jerry Mathers Talked Being an Actor Since Two-Years-Old

by Liz Holland
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“Leave It To Beaver” star Jerry Mathers has been in the game for a long time. Though he doesn’t work as often as he once did, the 73 year old actor has spent nearly his entire life on screen and in front of cameras. Most people know Mathers for his iconic role as Beaver Cleaver in the late 50s/early 60s sitcom “Leave It To Beaver.” However, the performer’s career started years earlier. For his first official gig, Mathers appeared in a department store ad. Not long after, he was the star of a PET Milk commercial, opposite popular comedian Ed Wynn. 

In a 2017 interview, Mathers shared a bit of what it’s like to have been an actor from such a young age. “Well, I’ve been an actor since I was two years old. So, I started working on live TV when I was two years old,” Mathers explains.

“In fact, my very first job was on the Ed Wynn show…I’d walk out on a stage, with an audience of about 1,000 people. I had a bottle in my hand, and I would start drinking from this bottle. I had a cowboy hat, six guns, and cowboy boots, and I’d look in the camera and say, ‘I’m the toughest hombre in these parts and you better have my brand!’ and Ed Wynn would come out and do a commercial for PET Milk, which was baby formula at the time, but it was in the can. So that was my very first job,” the actor recalls. 

Jerry Mathers Starred In a Formula Commercial

Mathers’ appearance on the Ed Wynn show was one of many jobs he landed before he got his star role spot. Mathers says, “Before I did ‘Leave It To Beaver,’ which I started at about 7 [years old], I worked with Bob Hope. I did two movies with Bob Hope, worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Shirley MacLaine, John Forsythe. I did a whole lot of movies all the time. So, I was not an accomplished actor, but an actor that had worked a lot before I even started ‘Leave It To Beaver.’”

As society moved into the second half of the 50s, television shows became increasingly popular.

Jerry Mathers offers an interesting perspective as a child actor growing up at the same time that television was becoming an increasingly popular form of entertainment. 

How ‘Leave It To Beaver’ Star Made It To the Big Screen

In an interview with a Wisconsin radio station in 2021, Mathers recalls that in the early days of television, a lot of actors came from modelling gigs. “A lady would hold your hand, you would walk out, and they would say, and this is our outfit for whatever, and then the people would go in and hopefully buy it for their children,” Mathers explains of his modelling jobs.

The actor continues,  “So, they said, well, they’ve been working with people and in front of people, and most of the live shows had an audience. So, I just started doing that. Alfred Hitchcock was doing a commercial, because even those were live, for his last movie, saw me, I did start doing movies and all sorts of TV shows and from then on I was working all the time.”

Mathers hasn’t slowed down since! Most recently, you can see Jerry Mathers in Episode #1.2 of “Idol Chat.” The episode aired in September of 2021.