Dawson’s Creek is one of the most iconic TV shows of the early 2000s. The show revolved around a tight-knit group of friends—Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen—who all lived in the beautiful (and fictional) town of Capeside, Massachusetts. After its premiere in 1998, the show became nearly every teen’s obsession. It quickly became one of the most talked-about TV shows that year.
Some even say that it defined an entire generation. Now that Dawson’s Creek is streaming on Netflix, it’s bound to captivate another generation of teens. From behind-the-scenes secrets to on-set romances and what the stars are up to today, we’re taking a look at the pop culture phenomenon that is Dawson’s Creek.
If you’re a Dawson’s Creek fan, then you know the show has a familiar feel to it—and that’s not just because you’ve re-watched every episode a million times. The show’s creator, Kevin Williamson, told reporters that other shows on the air inspired him.
“I pitched it as Some Kind of Wonderful, meets Pump Up the Volume, meets James at 15, meets My So-Called Life, meets Little House on the Prairie,” said creator Kevin Williamson. “I sort of threw everything in there.” But Williamson didn’t just pull from other shows. He also used his childhood growing up in North Carolina as the basis of several of the show’s storylines.
Dawson’s Creek’s idea came to Williamson after TV producer Paul Stupin asked him if he had any ideas for a new TV show. “At the moment, I started making up a show. I had no idea! I started talking about growing up in North Carolina on a creek with my video camera, filming movies in the backyard and wishing to be Steven Spielberg,” the show’s creator told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I just kept talking; it was about my friends and me.” As time went on and the show’s storyline began to come together, Williamson realized that he was on to something. He pitched the show to Fox, who regrettably passed on the idea, so Williamson brought Dawson’s Creek to The WB, and the rest is history.
Williamson originally wanted to cast actress Selma Blair as Joey but decided to audition other actresses for the role just in case. He had seen Katie Holmes in Ang Lee’s 1997 film, The Ice Storm, and wanted her to audition. However, Holmes, who was still in high school at the time, refused to fly out to Los Angeles because she already had another commitment: playing the lead in her high school play.
Instead, she decided to send an audition tape, which was filmed in her basement. “I had the camera, and my mom would read Dawson’s lines,” Holmes told Rolling Stone. But in a technology mishap, Holmes accidentally recorded over half of her audition with her sister’s volleyball tournament. Luckily, the producers loved her, and she got the part.
We all know and love Joshua Jackson as Pacey Witter. It’s actually quite hard to picture him as anyone other than Pacey. But when Jackson first auditioned for a part on the show, he had his eyes on two roles: Pacey AND Dawson. Well, it was less Jackson’s idea and more the producers. They just couldn’t seem to make up their mind and kept having Jackson read for both Dawson and Pacey.
“I fell in love with Josh Jackson because he could read any role, Dawson or Pacey,” Williamson told The Hollywood Reporter. “But something wasn’t complete, and that’s when the network said they didn’t see Josh as Dawson, and rightfully so. Luckily, Williamson made the right call and cast Jackson as Pacey.
After casting Jackson as Pacey, all that was left to cast was the role of Dawson. Williamson knew that James Van Der Beek was perfect for the part. On the other hand, the head of Sony didn’t think the actor had star quality and refused to have him cast in the show.
This led to Van Der Beek having to read and re-read the same scene over and over again. Finally, Williamson had enough and began yelling, “I wrote Dawson! I am Dawson! This is Dawson!” the show’s creator had his way, and the actor was cast two days before filming began.
Dawson, Joey, Pacey—those aren’t names that you hear every day. So, how did the show’s creator come up with them? Well, according to Williamson, he pulled from his childhood. “Dawson came from a real place called Dawson’s Creek where we all hung out as kids and partied.”
Pacey was one of Williamson’s childhood friends’ names. “I’d never met anyone with that name and thought it was a cool name,” Williamson admitted. Joey wanted a girly name (Josephine) that could easily turn into a boyish name because Joey was a tomboy.
Dawson’s Creek continued to shock audiences and critics every week, especially with its blunt conversations about sex. And that first season plotline about an affair between a high school student and a teacher? Yeah, that’s pretty controversial.
In fact, Procter & Gamble was appalled by the storyline and decided not to sponsor the show. And that famous question that Joey asks Dawson (“How many times do you walk your dog?”) was meant to be a bit more inappropriate and straightforward. However, standards and practices told the show’s writers to tone it down before the show could air.
For those who didn’t know, Williamson also wrote the screenplays for the Scream films, as well as I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sometimes, the Dawson’s Creek creator would use Dawson’s world to wink at his own work.
In the Season One episode The Scare, Joey and Dawson watch I Know What You Did Last Summer together. There are also a few Scream references thrown into the episode and the iconic Scream mask. Then, later in the season finale, there’s a poster of the film hanging in Dawson’s bedroom.
Dawson’s love for everything Spielberg came directly from Williamson’s own days as a kid. “In fifth grade, Jaws came out. It began my love affair with Steven Spielberg,” the show’s creator once told reporters. “I took out a spiral notebook, and I wrote the sequel to Jaws.”
Hmm, that sounds familiar. However, it was hard for Williamson to get permission to hang all of those Spielberg posters in Dawson’s room. In fact, the director personally watched the pilot to approve of the use of his work. That’s pretty cool, right?
During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Williamson said that the cast acted like one big, happy family. “It was a magical experience. We were all living in Wilmington, North Carolina. We were all hanging out, we were going to dinner every night, we were going to the movies,” he explained.
“It was interesting we were all a tight, little circle, and then one year later, we couldn’t go to the mall anymore.” Holmes agreed with Williamson’s version of events, telling Rolling Stone that she and her fellow castmates had “so much fun” together.
Did you know that Joey and Pacey weren’t supposed to end up together? You can thank Holmes and Jackson for the show’s final storyline. “[The couple] had instant chemistry,” Williamson confessed to The Hollywood Reporter. “We all saw that, and we were like, ‘Okay, uh, [do we pair them up in] Season Three? Season Two?!'”
The show’s creator decided that this chemistry would be the thing that breaks up Dawson and Joey. Their chemistry was so real that the two decided to date back in 1998. Although Jackson was Holmes’ first love, the relationship fizzled after one year.
In the late ’90s, Brad Pitt was one of the most attractive actors in the world. Who are we kidding? Brad Pitt is still one of the most attractive actors in the world. Anyways, in 1998, Pitt’s good looks were the inspiration behind Dawson’s iconic hairstyle.
According to Van Der Beek, he was almost not cast as Dawson because of his “prepubescent Jesus” haircut. To make him look more like a future Hollywood star, the actor decided to get a haircut based on a picture he saw of Pitt in an issue of Vanity Fair.
The song I Don’t Want to Wait will be forever linked to this teen heartbreak drama. But as actress Busy Phillips pointed out on her show, Busy Tonight, that song was actually about a woman living during World War II. “She had two babies, one was six months, one was three, in the war of ’44,” the actress revealed.
Fun fact: Producers originally wanted Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette to be the show’s theme song. However, The WB couldn’t secure the song’s rights. This was also the reason why the show switched to Jann Arden’s Run Like Mad on DVD and streaming services.
In the Season Three finale, True Love, Jack kissed his boyfriend Ethan, which was the first male gay kiss featured on U.S. primetime TV. Ten years after the episode aired, actor Kerr Smith, who played Jack McPhee, recalled knowing how historic that moment truly was.
We knew what we were doing. We knew what we were addressing,” the actor explained. “We knew that it was important and that a lot of people were going to be looking up to the show now for this particular type of storyline. I think we did a good thing.”
Actress Meredith Monroe was actually 29 years old when she played 16-year-old Andie McPhee. Looking back at some of those promotional pictures, we do have to say that the rest of the cast seems to still have their babyfaces.
Monroe was nine years older than the show’s lead, Katie Holmes, and ten years older than Michelle Williams (who was just 16 when she was the first cast and also happened to be the show’s youngest cast member). But Monroe’s on-screen brother, Kerr Smith, was also too old for high school. In fact, Smith was 27 when he made his first appearance on Dawson’s Creek!
One of the downsides to filming in beautiful North Carolina was the potential for hurricanes. In fact, halfway through the series, a hurricane took out the pier right outside the Leerys’ home. The pier was completely destroyed, but since it had already become a beloved part of the show, the crew decided to rebuild it.
But hurricanes weren’t the only thing the show’s cast and crew had to worry about. One day while out swimming, Josh Jackson saved two women from drowning off the coast of Wilmington. The actor stayed with the women until the Coast Guard got there.
Years after Van Der Beek cried in the Season Three finale, his ugly cry face became a viral meme. The actor has a good sense of humor about the entire situation, admitting that his tears were real and not scripted.
“I wasn’t supposed to cry. It was just one of those things that happens when you’re playing a character for so long,” Van Der Beek told HuffPost. “You know, it was just high drama; you’ve been living with this character for a while, and a scene like that just kind of drops in your lap, and you just lose it.”
According to Busy Phillips, Katie Holmes was clearly the star of the show. So much so that Phillips says all of the producers and directors favored her. If Phillips ever had trouble with her lines, the director would tell her, “Don’t worry if you can’t get it. We’ll just cut to Katie.”
“That’s what we do mostly anyway, because … I mean. Look at that face!” This caused a rift between Phillips and Holmes. It also didn’t help that the two actresses had nothing in common and rarely spent any time together while filming.
Phillips also says that she tried to connect with the actress over their mutual passion for arts and crafts. However, Phillips “had a hard time really connecting with [Holmes].” Apparently, by the time Phillips joined the cast, Holmes dated American Pie actor Chris Klein for a while.
Every time Klein came to Wilmington for the weekend, the two always spent time together away from the rest of the cast. But although Phillips couldn’t get close with Holmes back in the day, there are no ill feelings between the two actresses.
Actress Michelle Williams knew that Dawson’s Creek was about the love triangle between Pacey, Dawson, and Joey, but that still didn’t stop her insecurities from creeping up on her. “At times, I felt, ‘What’s not good enough about me? Am I doing something wrong?'” Williams later confessed.
“Flipping through the script, you’re only in three pages, ‘Oh, boy. Okay.'” The actress said that Van Der Beek helped her through these hard moments by reminding her that less screen time meant that she wouldn’t be associated with the show in the future, which was actually better for her career in the long run.
Sometimes a party is just too fun to pass up, even though you are having a long day of filming in the morning. Well, that sure didn’t stop Phillips from living her best life by partying it up when she wasn’t supposed to. Most of the time, the actress got away with it.
But on one particular night out, Philips got so drunk that she tripped, dislocated her knee, and ended up in the emergency room. This was also an inconvenience for the show’s writers, who, according to the actress, “had to rewrite the show so that I was laying down and sitting down for two weeks.”
Dawson’s Creek had six head writers, one for each season. Even after the second season ended, Williamson went off to do his own thing. During a Reddit AMA, a Dawson’s Creek fan asked why the show went through so many writers during the course of the series. Luckily, Van Der Beek had a pretty reasonable explanation.
“I think it was more a function of our writers being in such high demand that they were eventually wooed with offers [to do] their own shows.” He also explained that sometimes writers had a hard time joining an already established show and left after realizing that “it just wasn’t quite the right fit.”
Actor John Wesley Shipp famously played Dawson’s father on the show. However, as time went on, Shipp became disappointed by how small the parents’ roles were—especially after Williamson left to focus on other projects. “At the end of the four seasons and the kids were going to be going to college, I saw the handwriting on the wall,” Shipp explained to reporters.
“We would be standing in the background with Lily and waving at Parents Day, and I really had no interest in doing that.” The only way producer Paul Stupin could convince Shipp to come back is if his character passed away.
Everyone knows that Dawson and Pacey were enemies on the show, especially after Joey put a wedge between the two. But what many people didn’t know was that actors James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson didn’t exactly get along on set.
This off-screen tension was yet another reason why the writers decided to pin the two leads against each other in the show. Writer Gina Fattore even revealed that Jackson and Van Der Beek didn’t get along, which meant the writers avoided putting Pacey and Dawson in scenes together.
Dawson’s Creek fans remember Abby Morgan as the snarky party girl who never failed to stir the pot. However, her most memorable moment on the show was her death scene that shocked fans around the world.
After her heart-to-heart with Jen on the docks, Abby hit her head and fell into the water, where she drowned. Fans were confused and upset by the character’s abrupt death. However, it was actually actress Monica Keena’s idea to kill off the character. Apparently, Keena grew tired of traveling to North Carolina to film her reoccurring role and asked to leave the hit series.
Little did audiences know that Jen’s days on the show were numbered—much to Michelle William’s dismay. According to Williamson, Williams did not want Jen to die. “Michelle was a little scared and nervous,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“She goes, ‘Well, what if we do a reunion show? What if we do a movie or something?’ I’m like, ‘Well, then you’ll be a ghost.'” The show’s creator also explained that Jen’s death was meant to be a lesson. It was the last bit of growth that the characters needed to be pushed into adulthood.
Many people don’t know this, but actress Meredith Monroe actually filmed a few scenes for the series finale. Andie was a medical resident in Boston who came back to the neighborhood to say goodbye to Jen. The actress also had a sentimental scene in the hospital cafeteria with Pacey.
Writer and longtime friend of Williamson, Julie Plec, revealed in 2015 that she felt it was incredibly important for Pacey and his first love to “have some sort of resolution. Unfortunately, her scenes were cut from the finale. Fans can still watch the deleted scenes on the Dawson’s Creek DVDs.
The changes in Andie and Pacey’s storyline weren’t the only things that didn’t make it to the finale’s final cut. In fact, the original finale was much different from the one that actually aired. In the original finale, Jen jets off to New York, and Joey decides to follow her dream of going to Paris (and doesn’t end up with either Dawson or Pacey).
However, The WB convinced Williamson, who had previously left the show, to write his own version of the finale. His was set five years after the original finale’s events and gave Pacey and Joey their happy ending.
After Dawson’s Creek premiered, actor James Van Der Beek became one of the most recognizable faces in the U.S. And while Dawson was a bit of a jerk, without him, there would be no Dawson’s Creek. Van Der Beek first became interested in professional acting at the age of 15.
He asked his mother to take him to NYC to find an agent. By the time he was 16 years old, Van Der Beek had made his professional debut in an off-Broadway play called Finding the Sun. Both he and the production received great reviews, which set the stage for his breakout role on Dawson’s Creek.
In the years since Dawson’s Creek ended in 2003, Van Der Beek has had quite a steady career. However, the actor is more focused on his comedy than his acting skills. His role on Don’t Trust the B—-, as a fictionalized version of himself, solidified his career as a comedian.
The actor also starred in Viceland’s mockumentary, What Would Diplo Do? as a fictionalized version of DJ and producer Diplo. In 2019, the actor also appeared in Dancing with the Stars but was sent home to be with his family after his wife had a miscarriage.
Actress Katie Holmes stole everyone’s heart with her role as Joey Potter. Dawson’s Creek was Holmes’ first acting job on TV, and after the show premiered, the 19-year-old became famous very, very quickly.
While many people today remember her for her failed marriage to Tom Cruise and their daughter Suri (which, for some reason, still fascinates the tabloids nearly a decade later), the actress has so much more to her. She reportedly scored 1,310 (out of 1,600) on the SAT and was accepted to Columbia University, where her father wanted her to become a doctor.
Luckily for us, Holmes decided to drop out of Columbia and continue her acting career. Today, she is still acting. In 2017, she reprised her role as Jackie Kennedy on the miniseries The Kennedys: After Camelot. In 2016, Holmes also starred, directed, and produced the film All We Had.
Following her 5-year marriage to Tom Cruise, the actress said that she feared the Church of Scientology for Suri’s safety. She moved on with actor Jamie Foxx, but the two sadly ended their relationship six years later. Homes is currently dating chef Emilio Vitolo Jr.
After playing Pacey Witter, actor Joshua Jackson became America’s heartthrob. But long before his role on Dawson’s Creek, Jackson was known for another childhood favorite: The Mighty Ducks movie franchise. However, it wasn’t always clear to his parents that he was going to be a successful actor because he couldn’t seem to get up in the morning.
In fact, Jackson was kicked out of high school for coming to school late. His excuse? The Jon Stewart show didn’t come on until 1:30 a.m., and he was too lazy or tired to wake up for school in the morning.
Shortly after Dawson’s Creek wrapped in 2003, Jackson moved to the UK to pursue his stage theater career. He then went on to star in another fan-favorite show, Fringe, and the hit shows The Affair and Little Fires Everywhere.
Jackson has proved repeatedly that he still has what it takes to be a great actor. As for his personal life, Jackson was in a relationship with Holmes during the show’s first two seasons. After his ten-year relationship with actress Diane Kruger, Jackson married model Jodie Turner-Smith.
Actress Michelle Williams played NYC outsider Jen Lindley. She first began her career as an actress when she was only a teenager. In fact, Williams filed for emancipation from her parents so she could pursue her career with fewer child labor laws. To comply with the emancipation laws, Williams completed her high school education within just nine months.
Not getting a proper education, however, was something that the actress later came to regret. A few months later, the Williams moved to Los Angeles, where she worked low-budget movies and commercials until she finally landed the role of Jen.
Williams has probably become one of Dawson’s more serious actors and has received several Oscar nominations for her performances. Just two years after Dawson’s Creek ended, Williams was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Brokeback Mountain.
It was during the filming that she met and fell in love with her costar Heath Ledger. The two dated for three years and had a daughter before breaking up shortly before his untimely death. Williams later married musician Phil Elverum in 2019 before divorcing just a year later. The actress is now married to director Thomas Kail, whom she met while filming Fosse/Verdon.
Actor Kerr Smith’s performance as Jack McPhee was historic. The actor was 26 when the show first premiered, making him one of the older actors on set. However, you would have never known it from his convincing portrayal of teenage angst.
Before making it on Dawson’s Creek, Smith studied at the University of Vermont, where he was a prominent member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He began acting in 1996, with his role as Teddy Hughes on As the World Turns. He also made a cameo in The Broken Hearts Club, as well as Charmed.
Smith continued to make a name for himself even after Dawson’s Creek came to an end. He’s had reoccurring roles on hit TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Fosters. The now-48-year-old is also known for her role as Principal Honey on the hit show Riverdale.
As for his personal life, Smith married actress Harmoni Everett in 2003. However, the union was short-lived and ultimately ended with Smith filing for divorce in 2009. Since remarried, he has started a holistic wellness business, TerraLife Wellness, with his new wife, Lisa.
Actress Meredith Monroe’s performance in Dawson’s Creek is what made fans okay with Andie McPhee and Pacey dating (and keeping Joey and Pacey from being together). Monroe, who was 29 years old while playing 16-year-old Andie, was on the show for four years.
Before she was an actress, Monroe worked as a model in New York City. She appeared in several commercials for Ford, Mattel, Disney, and L’Oreal. She then made her transition into acting after being cast as Tracy Dalken in Dangerous Minds. This led to a small role on Sunset Beach, which then led to her being cast as a regular on Dawson’s Creek.
Like many of her fellow castmates, Monroe continued with her acting career after Dawson’s Creek wrapped. She is known for her role on the hit show Criminal Minds as Haley Hotchner, the unit chief’s wife for the BAU. However, her character was murdered by the Boston Reaper in the series’ 100th episode.
She also has reoccurring roles on Heart of Dixie, Castle, and 13 Reasons Why as the mother of Alex Standall. As for her personal life, the actress has been married to talent manager Steven Kavovit since 1999. The couple also have 5-year-old twins.
Actor John Wesley Shipp played Dawson’s father, Mitch Leery. But before his role as one half of Capeside’s power couple, the actor was known for his role as Flash on the hit show The Flash and his roles on soap operas like One Life to Live and As the World Turns.
Shipp appeared on 83 episodes of Dawson’s Creek but became unhappy with the show’s direction—especially after Williamson left to work on other projects. He didn’t like how small the parent roles were becoming. So, he asked to be written off, and Mitch was killed in a car accident.
After leaving Dawson’s Creek, Shipp returned to his daytime TV shows. He played Eddie Ford on One Life to Live and the ex-husband of the character played by Kathy Griffin in Drop Dead Diva. The actor also returned to his involvement with The Flash.
While he didn’t reprise his role as the title character, he was cast in a “mysterious” role in 2014, which was later revealed to be the role of Henry Allen, Flash’s father. But in continuation with his tragic on-screen deaths, Shipp was killed off in Season Two.
Actress Mary-Margaret Humes played Mitch’s wife (and Dawson’s mother), Gail Leery. Before making it as a TV actress, Humes was a pageant girl. She won the Miss Florida USA pageant and became the third runner-up in Miss USA in 1975. That’s a pretty big deal!
Six years later, Humes made her big-screen debut in the film History of the World. During the ’80s, the actress made several guest appearances in TV shows, including Love Boat, Dukes of Hazard, the Fall Guy, The A-Team, Knight Rider, and Matlock.
Dawson’s Creek ended on a positive note for Gail. After losing her husband in the fourth season, she remarried in the finale. After Dawson’s Creek ended in 2003, Humes has kept herself busy. In fact, the actress has been credited with nearly 20 roles since the show wrapped.
She went on to guest star on several shows, such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Minds, and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as several television movies for the Hallmark Channel. Unlike the rest of her castmates, Humes is supportive of a revival of the show.
Actress Mary Beth Peil played Jen’s grandmother, whom everyone knew and loved as Grams. She began the series, unable to understand her granddaughter but eventually became more open-minded to not only Jen but everyone around her. Grams was such an important part of the show that she was the only “adult” role credited as a series regular during the series’ six seasons.
Before her appearance on Dawson’s Creek, Peil trained as an opera singer at Northwestern University and sang with the New York City Opera. She also appeared in Broadway productions and was even nominated for a Tony Award!
The actress returned to her roots after Dawson’s Creek ended. She had parts in Anastasia and Follies. She also reunited with Joshua Jackson for an episode of Fringe and starred in the thriller movie Mirrors in 2008. Peil also played Nancy Reagan’s mother in the Showtime movie, The Reagans.
Between 2009 and 2016, the actress also played Jackie Florrick, the mother of Chris Noth’s character, on The Good Wife. The actress currently lives in a beautiful apartment in New York City’s Upper West Side. She never remarried after divorcing her husband in the ’90s.
Busy Phillips, whose real name is Elizabeth Jean, was already known for her role on the hit show Freaks and Geeks. Phillips joined Dawson’s Creek’s cast in Season Five as Joey’s college roommate and Pacey’s love interest.
Before making it as an actress, Phillips was a college student at Loyola Marymount University. In fact, she studied there at the same time as her Freaks and Geeks costar Linda Cardellini and Tom Hanks’ son, Colin. Phillips and Hanks were college friends and even dated for a few years after they graduated from school.
Phillip’s performance on Dawson’s Creek earned her a nomination for TV Choice Sidekick on the Teen Choice Awards. After the show wrapped, Phillips went on to star in the film White Chicks and the TV show Cougar Town. From 2018 to 2019, the actress hosted her own talk show, Busy Tonight, on E!
After the network canceled her talk show, she moved on with her own podcast called Busy Phillips is Doing Her Best. Phillips is also known for her friendship with Michelle Williams. “I love her as deeply as I love almost anyone,” Phillips told The Advocate.
Yes, 2000s heartthrob Chad Michael Murray was on Dawson’s Creek. In fact, he left his role on Gilmore Girls to join the cast of Dawson’s Creek. He appeared in 12 episodes as Charlie Todd, the character who dated both Jen and Joey in Season Five.
The actor, who is now 39 years old and a father of two, says that he’s a bit embarrassed about his former teen heartthrob status. “I look at my photos of myself and think, ‘What a dweeb. He thought he was so cool!'” the actor told Vanity Fair in 2020.
After working as a model and eventually being cast in Gilmore Girls and Dawson’s Creek, Murray went on to star in the hit show One Tree Hill. He also had roles in Cinderella Story and Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. He went on to star in House of Wax with Paris Hilton.
While the film received mainly negative reviews, it grossed nearly $70 million worldwide. Murray has since written a few books and is currently married to model and actress Sarah Roemer. The pair have two children.