‘Leave it to Beaver’: Why Jerry Mathers Nearly Skipped Over Audition of Beaver

by Will Shepard

Leave it to Beaver is arguably one of television’s best sitcoms. The show combined all the elements needed for success. On top of it, they were able to take two young boys and let them do their thing. As a result, the show quickly became a massive success in the late 50s and early 60s.

During an interview in 2010, Jerry Mathers sat down with Emmy TV Legends. The actor who would play Beaver described how the audition process for the show went.

“Well, actually,” Mathers explained. “The audition process, of course, was how I got the job. But, how I got it is probably the most interesting part because Leave it to Beaver was a cattle call.”

A cattle call audition, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, means that anyone can go audition. Mathers did not like this idea.

At the time of the audition, Mathers was only nine years old. But, he had already worked on a lot of projects. So he was well versed in Hollywood and liked the idea of being an actor.

Because he was so confident in himself, he did not want to do a cattle call audition. His agent, Glen Shaw, was impressed with the pilot. Shaw was able to convince Mathers’ mother that the television series would be a good thing to try. So, they went to the auditions.

“Basically, there were about 5,000 people on the interview,” Mathers remembered. “What they did was they would line you up and say, ‘Okay, these boys have brown eyes; these boys have blue eyes; these boys have blonde hair, red hair.’ They were looking for two brothers and their friend.”

Jerry Mathers Would End Up Starring in ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ but He Didn’t Want to Go to the Auditions

The process was arduous. It took a long time to get the numbers down to a manageable size. Mathers described how he would have to go into the audition space for a week. But then he recalled how he would get a week off from having to go back into the casting rooms.

“I was a little tired of it,” Mathers explained. “I didn’t like just sitting out there with all these kids, and I’d rather go out and play after school because all of these interviews were after school.”

Mathers then describes how he had just joined the Cub Scouts. However, his mom told him that he was down to the last ten kids. But, the soon-to-be star of Leave it to Beaver didn’t want to go because of a Cub Scout meeting after school.

The star of the show described how he was nervous in the interview because he wanted to go to the Cub Scout meeting. Miraculously, he got the job because he wanted to just be a kid rather than an actor.