‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Tony Dow Didn’t Think Role Would Define Life

by Taylor Cunningham

Starring in Leave it to Beaver stole Tony Dow’s chances of making a name for himself in Hollywood.

As the Wally Cleaver actor shared with the CBS Sunday Morning show, Dow didn’t think the role would define him—but it definitely did. And at a young age, he knew that he’d have to live with that for “the rest of his life.”

“I thought, this isn’t fair. I’d like to do some other stuff. I’d like to do some interesting stuff,” he told Jim Axelrod. “You know, it’s sad to be famous at 12 years old or something, and then you grow up and become a real person. And nothing’s happening for you.”

At first, he was sad about the revelation. But after a short time, he began to feel angry over the fact that his acting career was stunted. And that anger turned into a battle with depression that follows him to this day.

“Anger, if it’s untreated, anger turns to depression,” he continued. ” The depression isn’t something you can say ‘cheer up’ about. Ya know, it’s a very powerful thing. And it’s had a lot of effect on my life.”

However, his wife of 40 years has helped him understand that there are some blessings to forever being seen as Wally Cleaver.

“I’m very proud of him for talking about it, for dealing with it, and for sharing it with others,” Lauren Dow said.

But while she agrees with the connection between him and the youngest Cleaver boy, she believes it’s only because he instilled his personality into the character.

“They’re intertwined,” she continued. “Wally was very much like Tony.”

‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Jerry Mathers Enjoyed being a Child Star

But Jerry Mathers had quite a different reaction to being a child star. He actually enjoyed the experience. And as he grew older, his feelings remained positive.

As the Beaver actor shared with Closer Weekly in 2019, “being in the spotlight” felt natural to him. He started acting at the age of two. And while still young, he worked with people like Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Hope.

And despite being a major star, people mostly left him alone. So, his childhood was fairly normal.

“Some people would recognize me on the street, but not that many,” admitted Mathers. “It was just a really good life. I had a great education and I got to do some fabulous things, like getting a private tour of the Smithsonian. Any place we went, we were singled out pretty much and got great treatment. Just a fantastic life for a kid.”

However, unlike Tony Dow, Mathers had no interest in a serious acting career as an adult. While he has made appearances in TV series over the years, the parts were more for fun than money.

Instead, Mathers went on to work as an Air Force Reserve sergeant, a loan officer at a bank, a real estate developer, a disc jockey, and a national spokesman for PhRMA.

And all things considered, he says he’s grateful for the fans that Leave It to Beaver has given him.