25 Years Later, 'Wonder Years' Favorite Revisits Emmy Win

Yahoo! TV Emmys Blog

The glasses. Remember the glasses?

Josh Saviano played the highly allergic Paul Pfieffer on "The Wonder Years." In the years since, Saviano has kept a relatively low profile, choosing to get out of show biz and into law.

Yahoo TV recently caught up with the former child actor about his memories from the set, his trip to the Emmys, and the crush he had on Olivia d'Abo, who played Fred Savage's big sister.

"The Wonder Years" won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1988 after just six episodes aired on ABC. Saviano was there for the ceremony. "I do remember that night that I was in the building, but I was very far back on the first floor away from the stage. If you look at the footage, you'll see I was the last one to get to the stage because I was by far the furthest out."

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Backstage, Saviano recalled, he had a run-in with a legend of television. "I literally ran into Michael J. Fox," he said. "I believe he was presenting that year. I don't remember if he was presenting or was nominated. He congratulated us; it took me a beat to figure out who it was, and by then he had already left."

"The Wonder Years" was Saviano's first TV show, and he remembers the casting process quite well. "I had done a couple of movies, a bunch of commercials, a few television specials here and there. When we got the pilot [script], my family and I read it, and we all thought it was very good, and I was very excited to do a TV show. When we got the call that it had gotten picked up for a midseason, we were extraordinarily excited about it."

"It was a long audition process. I grew up on the East Coast. So I did all my auditioning in Manhattan. Interestingly enough, the three kids — Fred [Savage], Danica [McKellar], and me — were all cast in different cities. I was cast in New York, Danica was cast in L.A., and Fred was cast in Chicago. Danica's role was only supposed to be a pilot role … then, obviously, she captured the nation and her role started becoming more popular to the story line, and they said, 'No way we're not making her a regular character.'"

Saviano's character was arguably just as important. Best buddy Paul scored a lot of laughs, thanks at least in part to his sneezes. Originally, though, the character was supposed to wheeze.

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"I met with the creators in L.A., and the thing that I recall most is that in the pilot, the original allergy affliction or the manifestation of the allergy was wheezing. I couldn't wheeze. I couldn't wheeze on command. It wasn't something in my 11-year-old acting arsenal. I did know how to fake-sneeze. So I said, 'I can't really wheeze, but I can fake-sneeze.' They said, 'Go ahead,' and I did it. Then they said, 'Perfect, we can use that.'"

As a kid, Saviano said he didn't grasp how special the show was. "It was incredible the experience, the excitement that show had on the community. It really took some time at that time to really identify what was happening. And at 12, no, I didn't fully grasp what was happening. It was only very recently that I truly looked back at the whole experience, particularly the earlier years, from an adult's perspective, and sat and marveled at how special it really was. It was extremely extraordinary to have gone through what we went through."

Like many boys in junior high during the late '80s, Saviano had a crush on co-star Danica McKellar, but another cast member also caught his eye. "I can't speak for Jason [Hervey] or Fred, but I think that for me, Olivia [d'Abo] was the meter stick by which all women would ever be measured for a very, very long time. She was an absolute joy to be around."

The show ended in 1993, when Saviano was 17. "I had made a decision at some point that I was not going to actively seek out something else after the show ended. I thought I had had a great run. The business side of the industry was definitely rearing its ugly head to me, and I think I wanted a crack at being as close to a normal kid as you can be. I wanted to stop for a bit, go to college, and see where that led me. And if it led me back to the industry, I would go back."

Now married and a father, Saviano is looking forward to sharing his experiences on "The Wonder Years" with his 6-year-old daughter, once she gets a little older. "I have recently spoken to my daughter about my previous career and how I was on television and that I was an actor. She is quite dramatic in her own right. She's very much into singing and dancing and performing, so I think that she's curious that I was an actor, that I was on a TV show and played a character that a lot of people know, and she understands that people know me even though I don't know them."

And what of keepsakes and souvenirs from the set? "Sadly, I did not keep the glasses," he told us. "At the time, I think they represented something I didn't want. It was very foolish. I most definitely should have kept them."

In fact, almost all of Saviano's keepsakes from his run on "The Wonder Years" were lost during Superstorm Sandy. "None of it was salvageable. It was a shame. On the bright side, it forced me to go down into the unit and wade through the water and go through all of the stuff. I had a chance to go through it one more time."