In the late 1980s, a television show captured the heart of America, painting a nostalgic picture of the 1960s through the eyes of Kevin Arnold, a young boy in suburban America. Among the show’s beloved characters was Winnie Cooper, portrayed by Danica McKellar, who became the quintessential girl-next-door and a teenage crush for an entire generation. But as the final episode of “The Wonder Years” faded to black, many fans were left wondering: what happened to the actress who so charmingly filled Winnie’s shoes?
Born on January 3, 1975, in La Jolla, California, Danica McKellar showed an early affinity for acting. She began her career in commercials before landing the role that would make her a household name.
The Wonder Years
“The Wonder Years” aired from 1988 to 1993 and was as much a coming-of-age story for McKellar as it was for her character. Winnie Cooper, with her intelligent eyes and kind heart, was not just Kevin Arnold’s love interest; she was a representation of young love and the trials of growing up. McKellar’s performance earned her a Young Artist Award, and the show itself received a Peabody Award, among other accolades.
Life After ‘The Wonder Years’
After the series ended, she enrolled at UCLA, aiming to study film, but it was the challenge of a math class that redefined her path. Despite initial doubts, McKellar excelled, achieving the highest score in her class, which sparked a profound realization: her value extended far beyond her childhood stardom. This epiphany was solidified when she was recognized for her academic prowess rather than her TV persona, leading her to pursue and obtain a degree in mathematics.
She even co-authored a scientific paper that resulted in a new mathematical theorem, the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem.
Post-UCLA, McKellar became a champion for math education, especially for young women, driven by her own transformative experience. McKellar has written several books aimed at encouraging middle school and high school girls to have confidence in their math abilities. Titles like “Math Doesn’t Suck” and “Kiss My Math” showcase her dedication to making math accessible and fun.
Danica McKellar Now
Danica McKellar has continued to flourish in her multifaceted career well beyond her iconic role as Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years.” She was a prominent figure on the Hallmark Channel. However, she transitioned from Hallmark to GAC Family, signing a four-picture deal in October 2021 to both act in and produce original films for GAC Family and GAC Living. This move was a departure from her established presence on Hallmark, where she had become synonymous with heartwarming titles such as “Perfect Match,” “Crown for Christmas,” and “Wedding Bells.”
In her new chapter with GAC Family, McKellar has already seen the premiere of her films “The Winter Palace” and “Christmas at the Drive-In” in late 2022. Her third film, “Swing into Romance,” which credits her husband Scott Sveslosky for the original concept, premiered on cable in October 2023.
Additionally, she expanded her television presence by taking on the role of a judge in Fox’s “Domino Masters,” which aired in early 2022, which aligned with her personal interest in the game as she mentions playing dominoes with her son.
McKellar continues to be a prominent advocate for math education, speaking at events and schools, and she remains active on social media, where she encourages students with math tips and insights into her life. In 2022 she released a book entitled, “Double Puppy Trouble” which teaches exponential growth using puppies.
Danica McKellar experienced both joys and challenges in her personal life. She married composer Mike Verta in 2009 after eight years of dating and welcomed a son in 2010, but the marriage ended in divorce in 2012.
She found love again with Scott Sveslosky and married him in 2014. McKellar’s Christian faith is a significant aspect of her life, with actress Candace Cameron Bure playing a pivotal role in her religious journey.