Will Ferrell Reveals Why He Was 'So Embarrassed' By His Legal Name Growing Up

Will Ferrell's legal first name is not Will. It bothered him at the start of every school year as a kid.

Ferrell, 56, appeared on Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler's MeSsy podcast on Tuesday, July 9. They discussed the 20th anniversary of their comedy classic Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. He confessed to Applegate, 52, that he felt embarrassed when people addressed him as John, his legal first name, growing up.

Applegate asked if he always liked being part of groups growing up. Ferrell, who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live, recalled using humor to make friends. Then, he brought up his real name.

"This is a minor thing in terms of — it's not really even trauma," he said. "But I remember feeling so embarrassed because my real name is John, John William Ferrell. So, first day of school, I'd be John. The teacher would be like 'John Ferrell?' and it was so embarrassing to say, 'Here, but I go by Will, I don't go by John.'"

Ferrell described the first week of school as "excruciating" before teachers remembered he went by Will. "It wasn't my choice," he said when Applegate asked about his disdain for the name John. "My parents named [me] John but called me Will. I grew up as Will, but on a rule sheet, my legal name is John Ferrell."

"I don't know why that was so embarrassing to me to have to explain 'I'm actually Will,'" he added. Other children would ask about his name after hearing him correct teachers each year.

"People are probably going to be listening to this going 'That is the lamest thing ever,'" Ferrell joked. Applegate responded, "We just lost anyone named John."

Ferrell and Applegate famously co-starred in 2004's Anchorman. It’s a satirical comedy about a fictional news station in 1970s San Diego. Ferrell starred as Ron Burgundy, while Applegate played Veronica Corningstone, a new addition to the team and eventual love interest.

"At the end of the day, Christina just checked all the boxes — between funny, smart, tough," Ferrell said of casting Applegate. "We needed Veronica to stand up to these doofuses, and she was the smartest person in the room."

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