The Untold Truth Of Danica McKellar

If you are a child of the late 1980s/early 1990s, then Danica McKellar was either the girl that you desperately wanted to make friends with or even more desperately wanted to hold hands with. Indeed, the actor became something of a young national sweetheart in her early teens thanks to her performance as the object of Kevin Arnold's doe-eyed affections, Winnie Cooper, in "The Wonder Years."

Of course, just to make every older millennial feel that little bit more ancient, McKellar now has a child who's older than she was while starting out in the nostalgic ABC dramedy. However, her more recent screen career has proven that she is still very much as inherently charming as she was back in the day.

Yes, although she might not be as prominent on our screens these days, McKellar has undoubtedly been keeping busy since waving goodbye to her most beloved character. And that's not just in Hollywood, either. From math books to marriages, here's a look at the star's untold truth.

Danica McKellar created a theorem

Just like Natalie Portman, Emma Watson and Jodie Foster, Danica McKellar didn't let her child stardom get in the way of her college education. In 1998, five years after "The Wonder Years" had wrapped, the actor graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Mathematics degree. And she appeared to have been the teacher's pet, too.

Indeed, during her studies there, McKellar and fellow collegegoer Brandy Winn teamed up with Professor Lincoln Chayes to work on a scientific paper dubbed "Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin–Teller models on Z²." Yes, us neither. The results of their studies produced a theorem which was named after all three involved parties, with Chayes later telling The New York Times, "I thought that the two were really, really first-rate."

McKellar has said that she initially found college life hard to deal with as she didn't look like your average math genius. But the star told CNBC's "On the Money" that she's always been good with numbers. "I took the AP Calculus BC exam at the end of high school and scored a five which the highest score you could get," she said.

Danica McKellar wants to get girls into math

"You don't have to choose between being fabulous and fun and being smart," Danica McKellar told CNBC show "On the Money" in 2020 before adding, "They go hand in hand." And the former Hallmark Channel regular has done her best to prove this throughout her career, balancing both the worlds of academia and acting with apparent ease.

McKellar has often used such words to inspire the next generation of fun-loving female brainboxes. In the '00s, she spoke about how to reach more women into math and science while testifying in front of a Congressional subcommittee. The star has also written several New York Times best-selling books targeted toward teenage girls with attention-grabbing titles such as "Kiss My Math" and "Math Doesn't Suck."

The "Project MC2" actor explained, "You don't have to be limited by the stereotypes in your head about who's going to be good at math ... It exercises the problem-solving part of your brain, which will help you better able to pursue your dreams, whatever they might be." In 2003, the star was able to pursue both of her dreams in one go when she took on the role of a young mathematician in a staging of David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Proof."

Danica McKellar is a keen collaborator

Danica McKellar surprised fans of the Hallmark Channel's seasonal programming in 2021 when she jumped ship to a rival TV movie channel. The actor had previously appeared in more than a half-dozen different (well, slightly different) festive films before deciding to embrace the world of chocolate box, Canadian-shot Christmas efforts at GAC Family instead. However, she insisted to Heavy that a bigger pay packet wasn't the reason but a greater team spirit. McKellar, who reunited with former Hallmark Channel boss Bill Abbott with the move, told the outlet, "It's a smaller network right now, and we're building something together. And that in itself is this great feeling of collaboration and teamwork."

And the star doesn't just mean in front of the screen, either. McKellar also served as executive producer on her first project, "The Winter Palace," a snow-bound tale about a romance writer who stays at a chalet owned by a royal (Stop us if you've heard this one before). And this was far more than just a vanity credit. "I was involved in the rewrites," she explained to Heavy. "As a producer [I was involved with] tons of notes, tons of changes and adjustments. And really felt like ... my input was so welcomed ... I was just included and I felt like a part of the team."

Danica McKellar has married twice

Danica McKellar and composer Michael Verta waited eight years to get married, having first started dating in 2001. But their walk down the aisle appeared to jinx things as the pair, who share a son named Draco, ended up heading for the divorce courts in 2012 with Verta telling TMZ, "I am saddened by the end of my marriage. However, we are committed to raising our son together and we are focused on remaining the best parents we can be."

But this didn't deter McKellar from getting hitched again. In fact, she said "I do" a second time just two years later, on this occasion to attorney Scott Sveslosky at a beachside ceremony in the Hawaiian resort of Kauai. The pair invited just 25 of their nearest and dearest to the event. And "The Wonder Years" star gushed to People that the day couldn't have gone any better. "It was absolutely magical," she said. "The forecast predicted rain, but there was not a drop of water in the clear sky. The sun came peeking up over the mountains just as I was walking down the aisle, alongside both my parents." McKellar told the magazine that her son as well as Sveslosky's son played big roles in the ceremony, participating in both the vows and sand pouring ceremony. 

Danica McKellar is open to a The Wonder Years return

Danica McKellar has already graced the acclaimed reboot of "The Wonder Years," albeit via a photo of her younger self as Winnie Cooper. But the actor is also open to returning to the show that launched her to worldwide fame in person.

When asked about the prospect by The List, McKellar replied, "If it's appropriate for it. I mean, I wouldn't want to be a distraction, but sure. I mean, if they wanted me to do something, I would absolutely be on board." Of course, with the remake still set in the same time period of the 1960s, the California native would no doubt have to assume an entirely different character unless there's a sudden flash-forward or clever use of de-aging CGI.

McKellar also sang the newer version's praises, adding, "I think they're doing an amazing job. It's a very different show, but it's a great show. It's that take on a 12-year-old's perspective on the world, that innocent perspective when so many big things are going on and the priorities for the 12-year-old-boy are very different ... And to take it into a totally different environment with different types of issues is brilliant." The reboot was, of course, initially directed and executive produced by her former screen partner Fred Savage before he was dismissed over inappropriate conduct allegations.

Danica McKellar had her first ever kiss on screen

The writers for "The Wonder Years" didn't make Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper wait too long to share their first kiss. The young lovebirds embraced in the 1988 pilot episode after the latter learns that her brother has died while serving in Vietnam. It's a moment that remains memorable for Danica McKellar as it was the first time she had ever locked lips with someone else in real life.

Luckily, the star, who was only in her early teens at the time, was more than happy to pucker up to Fred Savage in front of the cameras. As she told People more than three decades later, "I was so excited, jumping out of my skin. I was trying to remain calm and play the scene correctly, but I was about to have my first kiss ever." Unfortunately, the milestone was slightly ruined by the whoops and hollers that followed. McKellar recalled, "And it was just so humiliating. Like, I'm trying to have a private moment here!" And the fact that both McKellar and Savage's mothers were also watching the kiss being filmed probably didn't help, either.

Danica McKellar has Lori Loughlin's back

"Full House" star Lori Loughlin was famously sentenced to a two-month jail term in 2020 for her involvement in the college admissions scandal known as "Operation Varsity Blues." But another actor who found fame on a late '80s family show, Danica McKellar, believes that such a punishment was unjust.

Speaking to Insider on the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Awards' red carpet, the math genius leapt to the defense of Loughlin, who'd also made the move from the Hallmark Channel to GAC Family. "She's a wonderful person, she always has been, and it would be challenging to find a person who hasn't made a mistake in their life," McKellar told the outlet. "She served her time. I'm not going to speak to whether or not she deserved that, personally I don't think so — but she served the time."

Alongside husband Mossimo Giannulli, Loughlin was found guilty of bribing officials to guarantee that their daughters would be accepted into the University of Southern California. But McKellar believes that her friend has now made amends for her crimes, telling Insider, "She has donated so much money since that time to fund the education for many kids. I couldn't love her more, and I've always thought that way."

A very merry Wonder Years reunion

Given the allegations that have surfaced about Fred Savage, it seems unlikely that the actors who played Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper will get back together on the small screen in the future. However, as regular Hallmark Channel viewers may already know, Danica McKellar has already been involved in at least one other on-screen "The Wonder Years" reunion.

In 2021, McKellar shared the screen with Jason Hervey, aka Kevin's older brother Wayne, in festive movie "You, Me and the Christmas Trees." She told Us Weekly the pair instantly picked up where they'd left off when they were back on set together so many years later. "It was like Déjà vu, she said. "It just brought [me] right back." 

Now a producer, Hervey hadn't acted on screen since playing Jimmy in kids movie "The Last Great Ride" way back at the turn of the century. But he was more than happy to make an unlikely comeback after being courted by his former co-star. McKellar added, "I was like, 'He'd be perfect for this role. And I think it would be so much fun.' And he was game ... He made time in his schedule for it, and it happened. It was great. It's funny when you have a crazy idea [and then] suddenly it's happening. It was awesome."

Candace Cameron Bure inspired her spiritual journey

In a 2022 Instagram video post, Danica McKellar admitted that despite having a practising Christian father, she'd previously closed herself off spiritually because of certain preconceptions. "In my life, starting in childhood, I had been made aware of all the hypocrisy in the various religions of Christianity, it being used for evil, power and control throughout history, and that had definitely biased me," she said.

However, McKellar's beliefs changed significantly after she was given a Bible by another former child star-turned-Hallmark Channel regular. "Fuller House" star Candace Cameron Bure, who is a practicing Christian, gifted her with the scripture to help deal with a personal issue before offering an invitation to church.

"The Wonder Years" alum told her followers that she's since developed a "miraculous" relationship with God. "I'm not here to preach, but I have so much love in my heart," she said. "I just had to share what I'm experiencing and to share a little why I believe it's taken me up to this point to begin this journey." According to The Christian Post, Bure jumped into the post's comment section and wrote, "God's love is bigger than any human love and when He sweeps you up in understanding how powerful it is, because He is, it's undeniable."

Danica McKellar became friends with an Impractical Joker

One of the most memorable "punishments" on the long-running TBS comedy series "Impractical Jokers" was when poor James "Murr" Murray had to interview his childhood crush Danica McKellar... as an oiled-up, speedo-wearing, bodybuilder competitor. "The Wonder Years" star may have looked perturbed during the stunt but that just proves her strong acting credentials as she was actually in on the joke, too. And remarkably, she's since become pals with her not-so-secret admirer.

Yes, some forced half-naked squatting in a conference room might not sound like a solid basis for a friendship. But in a 2016 chat with Channel Guide, Murr revealed he'd recently enjoyed a New York picnic with McKellar, adding, "As her and I were walking through Central Park, fans kept coming up and they'd see me and then they'd see her, and their minds were blown that the two of us were hanging out outside of that punishment."

The funnyman also recalled the moment when he learned he was about to meet his one-time pin-up in the most embarrassing of circumstances. "I was very proud of [the other "Impractical Jokers" stars for orchestrating the prank], but I was absolutely mortified and in shock," he said. "I couldn't believe that they actually got her there, or that she knew the show, or was a fan of the show." Not only did they actually get her there, but they made sure he was in a pair of American flag briefs. That's life as an impractical joker for you.

Danica McKellar has been seduced by Avril Lavigne

We might still be waiting to see Winnie Cooper return to "The Wonder Years" in person, but Danica McKellar has already reprised her most famous role in more unexpected circumstances: in a "Tank Girl"-inspired music promo for Avril Lavigne.

Yes, in 2013, the actor played an edgy, grownup version of the teenage sweetheart in the video for "Rock N Roll." And she even got to kiss the Canadian singer in a scene blatantly inspired by the nostalgic family dramedy. Indeed, echoing Daniel Stern's original narration, Lavigne provides a voiceover for the smooch, remarking, "It was the first kiss for both of us. We never really talked about it afterward, but I think about the events of that day again and again. And somehow I know that Winnie does, too."

The over-the-top video, which also includes a bear shark and "Titanic" star Billy Zane on a flying Segway, inevitably attracted its fair share of attention. In response, McKellar tweeted, "Never had so many people say they're jealous of me! All I can say is ... 'I kissed a girl and I liked it ..." Of course, this wasn't the first time she had graced the music channels. She can also be seen playing the cello in the 1988 video for Debbie Gibson's "No More Rhyme."

Danica McKellar is a prolific voiceover artist

Even if you haven't seen Danica McKellar on screen since her days in "The Wonder Years," chances are you've still heard her familiar voice. For the actor has built up an impressive body of work as a voiceover artist.

McKellar first went into the recording booth in 1992 for an episode of cartoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers" and has since guested on the likes of "King of the Hill," "Shimmer and Shine" and "Generator Rex," land recurring roles on "Static Shock," "Game Over" and "DC Super Hero Girls," and lend her voice to feature films including "Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo" and "Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam." And then in 2017 she took over from the late Janet Waldo as the voice of Judy Jetson.

But McKellar's most cherished behind-the-scenes role appears to be the narrator on "The Library That Dolly Built," a documentary on country legend Dolly Parton's children's literacy initiative. In an enthusiastic Facebook post, McKellar wrote, "I got to meet Dolly Parton last month and it absolutely blew my mind. I was given the honor of narrating her upcoming documentary, and the producers SURPRISED me at the recording studio with a visit from Dolly herself!! I've loved her since I was a child, watching her on TV with my grandmother ... and I know my Grammy is watching down on me, so excited about this."

She compared Dancing with the Stars to childbirth

In 2014, Danica McKellar finished in a respectable sixth place on "Dancing with the Stars" behind the likes of winner Meryl Davis, Paralympian Amy Purdy, and another Hallmark Channel regular, Candace Cameron Bure. 

In an interview with Forbes six years after doing the cha-cha-cha to Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" in front of millions of viewers, McKellar recalled her experiences of the show. "It was the most crazy, challenging thing physically I've ever done, aside from childbirth [laughs]," she said. "It's like training to be an Olympic athlete, but you're thrown into it. It was five or six hours a day, seven days a week. Your butt — I'd come home and not be able to walk up the stairs. I learned the technique of using my arm strength to pull my way up steps holding onto the banister."

Aside from enduring grueling workouts, McKellar also learned that she'd been the catalyst for fellow contestant Bure's breakup. Back when they were all still teen stars, McKellar agreed to start going out with "Growing Pains" actor Jeremy Miller without knowing that he was already seeing the "Full House" star. As McKellar told The Girlfriend from AARP, producers capitalized on this bombshell by asking the pair to stage an arm wrestle.

Danica McKellar has no problem growing old

Don't expect Danica McKellar to start pretending she's still the twenty-something you saw in the fourth season of "The West Wing." In an interview with The Girlfriend from AARP, she revealed that she truly does believe that life begins at 40. McKellar said, "In your 20s, it's cliché to say, but you don't know who you are. You don't really know what you like, where your personal boundaries are, how to stand up for yourself. You're insecure. You start figuring that all out in your 30s and then by the time you hit your 40s, it's amazing. I legitimately don't care as much what other people think or if other people agree with me."

"The Wonder Years" star may feel like her journey has only just begun four decades in, but thanks to her years-long career, she started raking in money long before she hit the big 4-0 in 2015. Per Celebrity Net Worth, McKellar's work as a television star and author has contributed to her net worth of $6 million. As she said on the "HerMoney" podcast, she's been mindful about money and putting cash away ever since she was a kid playing Monopoly with her family. "And I still to this day, if I'm making extra movies one year, I have a separate account that I just put money into and I pretend that it's not there," she said. No wonder she's been doing well for years.