Tony Dow thoroughly enjoyed his time as the elder brother of Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver on the classic TV series Leave It to Beaver. However, playing Wally Cleaver didn’t come without its drawbacks. Playing any character for as long as Tony Dow played Wally comes with the risk of being pigeonholed in the role.
So when Leave It to Beaver went off the air in 1963, Dow worried that he would be typecast as the all-American boy he portrayed. In an interview with Fox News, Tony Dow described the concern he experienced when his time with Leave It to Beaver came to an end.
“That was a major problem,” Dow recalled. “But every actor has that issue… People formulate an opinion about you and expect you to be a particular way. And when you’re not that way, they’re disappointed. They don’t quite understand it. That was an issue I was faced with.”
“I wish I could have tried to get rid of that,” Dow continued. “But that changed, especially in the ’80s. I did High School U.S.A with Michael J. Fox. They were even going to make a series out of it so I was pretty happy about that because it would move me along. But that was also at the time when the new Leave It to Beaver came along.”
“So I had to make a choice. I was ready to do the other show. And the studio wanted me to do it. But then they were going to recast Wally. I just thought that wouldn’t work. I don’t know. It just didn’t make sense in my mind. So I decided to do it.”
Tony Dow Reveals How He Avoided the ‘Child Star Curse’ After ‘Leave It to Beaver’
Taking on a full-time career as a young child or teenager comes with consequences. At a minimum, the actor gives up what most would consider a normal childhood. Oftentimes, however, the consequences are far more severe. Many child stars eventually fall into alcohol and drug abuse, criminal behavior, even jail time.
As Tony Dow was just 12 years old when he was cast as Wally Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver, he could’ve easily fallen into the same trap. Unlike so many who came before and after him, however, he managed to avoid it. In his interview with Fox News, Dow explained how he accomplished a relatively normal life.
“When I wasn’t filming my life was normal,” Dow said. “My parents wanted to make sure it was normal. When I wasn’t doing the show, I was at school. We had family vacations during the summers and I had my group of friends. And I appreciated that.”
“It’s difficult to make the transition from being a kid actor to an adult actor because all sorts of things happen. Your voice changes. You’re no longer the cute little kid. You go through an awkward age and don’t get hired, so you quit…”
“I wasn’t neglected by my family,” Dow added. “I also started college and kept acting… Then I decided to stop and try other things, like directing, to keep things interesting. But my life was sort of consistently the same. So I didn’t have trouble with that transition. And I’m still keeping busy today.”