Danica McKellar Talks Crushing On Fred Savage During Wonder Years Era, And Why Winnie And Kevin’s Break Up Was So Emotional

 Kevin and Winnie in school bus in The Wonder Years
Kevin and Winnie in school bus in The Wonder Years

When it comes to fan-favorite TV couples from the ‘80s and ‘90s, many viewers would likely first mention such pairings as Friends’ Ross and Rachel, Cheers’ Sam and Diane, or Roseanne’s titular matriarch and Dan. But for the most nostalgic sector of the audience, The Wonder Years’ Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper are a paradigm for young, innocent love. And so it shall always be. And many within that audience would be especially pleased to hear that stars Danica McKellar and Fred Savage did fancy each other a bit early on in the the run, which the ever-youthful actress recently discussed at ‘90s Con while also sharing how a major real-life coincidence helped strengthen the characters’ big break-up episode.

Danica McKellar took the stage for ‘90s Con opposite former co-star Olivia D’Abo, who portrayed Kevin’s rebellious older sister Karen Arnold, and the two talked all about their years both on and after the ABC dramedy. After discussing the always-popular topic of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss, and how many takes they filmed for it — six, with the sixth take being the one that was used in the episode — McKellar explained why it was a bit mortifying for her as a tween actress crushing on her co-star.

I have to mention: after the first kiss, the first take, the entire crew and our parents and everyone applauded. Imagine that. Imagine being 12 and having your first kiss. And I was so nervous. And I was so excited. I had a huge crush on Fred at the time.

To which Olivia D'Abo was surprised, saying she wasn't even aware of that. Which is kind of wild, all things considered. In any case, McKellar continued, saying:

Oh, yeah. He actually wrote me a love letter that first week. . . . So we both had a crush on each other at the time. So it was very nerve-wracking. And then to have that moment, which suddenly feels very private, and then everyone's like, 'Yayyy!' You're mortified. absolutely mortified. And, 'Okay, let's do it again.' [Laughs.] So that was my first kiss.

To note, the Hallmark-turned-GAF star had her mother in the crowd recording the panel. And after the love letter came up, the actress asked her mom if she still had the letter somewhere, and it was determined she didn't, but that it was likely in storage somewhere. And while it wasn't directly stated, I'm pretty sure it would scientifically be the cutest love letter to ever exist.

Danica McKellar On Kevin And Winnie's Break-Up

During a later portion of the panel, a fan asked Danica McKellar about the process of being a teenager and coping with that while simultaneously portraying a teenager on TV who’s going through similar issues. And while she’s talked about this coincidence previously, the actress discussed filming Kevin and Winnie’s big break-up in Season 6 soon after ending a relationship with her off-screen boyfriend. In her words:

I was dating someone, and then broke up with him. And then like the next week, broke up with Kevin. It was a very emotional scene. It was after the school field trip, and it was very easy for me to channel that, because I had been so sad about breaking up with my boyfriend. I always take things very seriously, and I take someone's heart very seriously. So it wasn't like, 'Ah, I don't like him anymore.'

Rewatching Kevin and Winnie’s break-up, like many on TV and otherwise, was all the more heart-shattering given the fact that we know they get together again not too far down the line, and was sparked by distance more so than genuine break-up-worthy reasons. And the genuine emotional discomfort from that awfulness can be attributed to how McKellar was truly feeling during the filming for Season 4’s “Heartbreak,” which she’s come to be somewhat grateful for in retrospect. She continued:

So there was that, and that was impactful. What made me think about that, the amazing thing about acting, and something that I've gone through is there can be so much authenticity to it. Authenticity always touches people in such a deep way, because when you recognize that something's real, then that helps us all process what we're really dealing with. So it's amazing to me that that timing worked out. And then so many millions of people watching that scene can be like, 'Yes, I connect to that, and I now can process what I've been going through in some other way.'

No matter where Danica McKellar’s career takes her in the future, her connection to The Wonder Years and millions of viewers’ hearts can never be reversed. Her appreciation for the Emmy-winning series has been evident even beyond ‘90s Con appearances, such as celebrating the show’s 35th anniversary last year and taking part in promoting the arrival of ABC’s second iteration of The Wonder Years, for which Winnie Cooper was referenced, which is set to return for Season 2 later this year.