Danica McKellar reacts to 'amazing' reboot of 'The Wonder Years' with a Black cast: 'We did not deal with the idea of race'

Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper on TV’s The Wonder Years from 1988 to 1993, has some definite thoughts about the planned reboot of the show.

“I think it’s an amazing idea,” McKellar tells Yahoo Entertainment of the news she heard straight from her former leading man — or rather, boy — Fred Savage.

The original version of the alternately funny and heartbreaking series followed Savage’s character Kevin Arnold as he navigated boyhood amidst significant events in the country’s history, such as the Moon landing in 1969. McKellar’s character learns that her brother was killed in the Vietnam War in the very first episode. Woodstock and the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were included, too.

As announced Wednesday, Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels will executive produce and Savage will direct the new version of the coming-of-age story. This time, instead of focusing on the Arnolds, the family of Savage’s character, the show will tell the story of a Black family in Montgomery, Ala., during the Civil Rights Movement. It’s an especially timely concept, as Americans nationwide protest racial injustice and inequality in all facets of life, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

“One of the things that we did not deal with on The Wonder Years so much is the idea of race and what it was like to be Black in America in the 1960s,” McKellar says. “And now they’re going to have an opportunity to handle this straight on, head on. So I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they create. Fred’s very talented as a director. Lee Daniels, obviously, [is] super talented. I’m sure they’re gonna create an amazing cast and amazing story. Both honoring our show as it was originally, and also doing justice to the struggles of Black America in the 1960s.”

Fred Savage and Danica McKellar co-starred in "The Wonder Years." (Photo: Everett Collection)
Fred Savage and Danica McKellar co-starred in The Wonder Years. (Photo: Everett Collection)

McKellar, now 45, says it was probably a “missed opportunity” that the original didn’t spend much time on the subject.

“I always thought the show should go on for another extra year, at least to let the characters graduate from high school,” she says. “And it would’ve been great to take an opportunity to get some more of those issues that were going on in the 1960s.”

McKellar has continued to act, often in Hallmark movies, but says she doesn’t expect characters from the original show to appear on the revival. It wouldn’t make sense, mostly because the Arnolds live in the suburbs of a city that’s never disclosed, although it’s likely several states away in California.

Since the Wonder Years went off the air, McKellar’s also written several math books for kids and teens, including her latest, The Times Machine!: Learn Multiplication and Division... Like, Yesterday!, which was released on June 30.

— Video produced by Gisselle Bances

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