Van Der Beek and his castmates Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson and Michelle Williams launched their careers in the teenage drama, and each of them later found success in Hollywood films.
But Van Der Beek insists they would have struggled with fame if the series had been filmed in Los Angeles.
He tells PopEater.com, "I think part of (why the cast is successful) was the fact that we were in North Carolina and we were more or less raised by a really good crew of people down there in a really great community. I think, had we been in L.A., we probably would have fallen under some different influences at a very crucial time in our lives.
"The fact that we were so far away means that we made the mistakes that all kinds of kids make, especially when you're on a TV show, but we were doing it without having it all over the cover of Us (Weekly) magazine. So we could afford to not be perfect and learn from our mistakes and not have to pay for them for the rest of our lives."
And he sympathises with the new generation of young actors who are thrust into the spotlight: "I feel so bad for these kids now who are on these shows, and they make one misstep and they're labelled and branded and they're just followed and stalked. And it's just really unhealthy.
"I don't know how anyone can come out of that unscathed... I think we were just very fortunate. We were around some good people and kudos to (Dawson's Creek creator) Kevin Williamson for casting some really talented people who were able to make a career out of this. Not just casting some hot model type in every role."