‘Leave it to Beaver’: Jerry Mathers’ Poor Attitude at Show Audition Earned Him the Role

by Keeli Parkey

In order to land his famous role on “Leave it to Beaver,” Jerry Mathers had to go through a fairly lengthy audition process. Frankly, he wasn’t very happy about doing it and he let his feelings show.

Fortunately for him – and television fans – his poor attitude actually helped him get cast in the show. He, of course, went on to play the character of Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver. The show aired from 1957 until 1963.

According to Mathers, the audition was a “cattle call” and there were thousands of actors there trying to land a job on “Leave it to Beaver.” He talked about this during a 2006 interview with the Television Academy Foundation.

It was a long process and the young Mathers began to get annoyed with it. Turns out, he wanted to go to a Cub Scout meeting and not another audition for the show even though he was one of very few children left in the running. So, his mother came up with a solution.

Jerry Mathers Went to ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Audition Wearing His Cub Scout Uniform

“(My mother) said, ‘Well, you know what? Your Cub Scout meeting isn’t until maybe an hour or an hour and a half after school.’ She said, ‘What we’ll do is – there’s only going to be a few kids on it – we’ll dress you in your Cub Scout uniform. And then, we’ll go to the interview and we will be back in time for (the meeting),'” Mathers recalled.

Jerry Mathers then agreed to go to another audition for “Leave it to Beaver.”

However, when they arrived the process was taking a lot longer than the young actor had hoped. He said that all of the approximately 10 other actors had a chance to go before the show’s team before he did. And, when it came time for him to go before them he was pretty annoyed.

“I was just really jittery,” Mathers said. “And, the producers knew me because they’d interviewed me for probably six or eight weeks. … They both had large families. They knew kids. … So, they looked at me and they said, ‘Jerry, what’s wrong? You’re so jittery today, don’t you want to be here?'”

Mathers Told Producers He Did Not Want to Be at Audition

The young Jerry Mathers then told the producers exactly how he felt.

“I said, ‘No. I want to go to my Cub Scout meeting,” he recalled.

So, the producers let Mathers leave. He didn’t get the 10-15 minutes with the producers the other actors had on that day. Of course, his mother wanted to know what happened in the room and why he was in there for such a short time. He told her the truth.

“My mom went, ‘That’s probably not the best thing to tell them because now they think that you don’t want to work and we spent all this time,'” Mathers said.

It turns out that the producers of “Leave it to Beaver” liked what Mathers said to them that day.

“The reason I got the job is that they would rather have a kid that wanted to go to a Cub Scout meeting than to be an actor,” he said.

You can watch Jerry Mathers talk about “Leave it to Beaver” below. His comments about his attitude at the audition begin around the 1:45 mark.