For six seasons, Jerry Mathers played Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, the most adorable kid getting into trouble on television. “When we first went on the air, we didn’t even know if it would last two weeks,” the Leave It to Beaver star tells Closer exclusively. “It was phenomenal because it hasn’t ever left the air since.”

Although the show stopped making new episodes in 1963, it became even more popular in syndication. In fact, Jerry, 75, has been told by several generations of fans how much they related to the adventures of the Beaver. “I have a lot of people, especially young boys that say, ‘I did that same thing as Beaver, but I got in a lot more trouble!’ Or the people that say that Beaver kept them out of trouble because they realized what they shouldn’t be doing.”

How did you become a child actor?

“My mom happened to be at a department store, and a lady came up to her and said, ‘Is this your little boy? We have a fashion show — could he be one of our models?’ That’s how I got started. At the time, live TV was just getting started, so I started doing live TV because I was used to walking out in front of an audience [from the fashion shows].”

How Jerry Mathers Landed Iconic Leave It to Beaver Role
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Did you enjoy starring on ‘Leave It to Beaver’?

“Yes, it was so much fun. I had so many friends on the set, not only the people that were the actors, but all the sound and camera people and the crew. It was a really nice way to grow up. I met a lot of nice people that I would never have known if I’d been in a regular school situation.”

So, you don’t feel like you missed anything not being in a normal school?

“No, I had a wonderful education. On the set, I had a private tutor to myself. She would come every day. [The show] had eight hours to work with me. After that time, even if we were in the middle of a scene, she would walk on and take me and say, ‘Jerry has to leave now.’ They took good care of me.”

Did you get to meet any of your idols while working on the show?

“Sure, [Beaver was taped] at Universal. There were probably 12 to 15 soundstages, and you’d see these people. There was also a certain place in the commissary where the actors would go and have their lunch or dinner. It was really fun for me as a kid. I got to meet Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Hope. I actually did a couple of movies with Bob Hope. Those were just really fun times for me.”

How Jerry Mathers Landed Iconic Leave It to Beaver Role
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Who were some of the people you enjoyed working with the most?

“I did a movie with Alfred Hitchcock called The Trouble With Harry. I used to sit on his lap and run lines with him. Most of the adult actors were very afraid of him because he had a quick tongue. [But to me] he was just a very nice man and a very good friend.”

Do you feel like you had to make any sacrifices for your career?

“Actually, I don’t think I made any. After Leave It to Beaver, I went up to Berkeley — I’m a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. I hold a degree in philosophy. So, you know, my life has been very, very good, and I’m still having a wonderful time.”

When you returned to a regular school, was it easy to fit in?

“Really easy. I went to Notre Dame High School, an all-boys school. I was on the football team and the track team. I had a lot of friends, and nobody messed with me.”

In 1983, you returned to the role of Beaver as an adult on ‘Still the Beaver.’ What was that like?

“That was really nice because I got to move into the part of the father. We got a lot of the original crew back, too.”

Are you still open to working as an actor?

“If somebody came to me with some project that I thought was really good, I would do it. But you know I’ve been working since I was a child, so I need a little rest.”

What do you do for fun these days?

“I go to a lot of autograph shows and meet fans. It’s just really nice to have people come up and tell you how much they enjoyed your work. Also, my wife is in the American Rose Society, so we grow a lot of roses.”

You married your wife Teresa in 2011. How did you meet?

“Our sisters were best friends. My sister had been saying she wanted to introduce me to someone, but I thought that anyone my sister wanted to introduce me to probably wouldn’t be anyone I would be interested in. Boy, was I wrong!”

What’s your recipe for a happy marriage?

“Laughter, having a good time together, and trust. We both trust each other.”

You have five grandchildren. What do you like to do with them?

“We play all sorts of games. We also take them places like the park. They’re very happy to do anything with their grandparents, so it’s really fun. The nice part is that you can get them all riled up and then send them home!”

How Jerry Mathers Landed Iconic Leave It to Beaver Role
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Did any of your children follow you into the business?

“My oldest son is behind the scenes. He’s a sound person, and he’s doing very, very well. But he’s the only one.”

Is there anything left on your bucket list?

“No, things come up all the time that I’d like to do, but there is nothing that I have craved to do since I was a small child. I love spending time with my kids and grandkids.”

What are you most proud of?

“Probably Leave It to Beaver. It’s a show that started in 1957 and is still on the air. It’s not only in the United States, but all over the world. I think it’s in 15 languages. It really is kind of interesting when people come from out of town and they don’t understand why when I’m on their television I can speak their language and now I can’t!”

That’s funny! What do you like best about being the age you are today?

“I think I like best that I don’t really have to do a lot. I’ve earned my wings, so to speak”