Danica McKellar

Active - 1990 - 2020  |   Born - Jan 3, 1975 in La Jolla, California, United States  |   Genres - Comedy Drama, Mystery, Comedy, Action, Thriller

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Biography by Nathan Southern

While she is associated with one particular role -- that of Winnie Cooper, Kevin Arnold's (Fred Savage) childhood sweetheart, on the seminal late-'80s seriocomedy The Wonder Years -- American actress Danica McKellar sported an impressive resumé that ultimately encompassed a variety of more challenging parts and extended far beyond the confines of acting in film and television.

Born in La Jolla, McKellar was reportedly coaxed by neighbors and family friends to do commercials at an early age, but resisted until age 11, when she finally caved and secured representation. After two appearances on the '80s version of The Twilight Zone, the 12-year-old ingenue -- then a complete unknown -- auditioned for Wonder Years creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black (in 1988). She not only landed the role of Winnie, but so convinced series producers of her suitability as Cooper that they decided to change her part from that of a passing love interest to Kevin's main squeeze. McKellar would later recall that she and Savage flirted around off-camera, but that their relationship ultimately waxed far more fraternal than romantic.

After that program wrapped in 1993, McKellar trekked off to UCLA and did revolutionary work in advanced math and physics; she and a research partner had a theorem named after them -- a principle referenced in a key book on statistical mechanics -- and her senior paper graced a highly respected physics journal. The actress graduated summa cum laude in 1998, then headed back to Hollywood, diploma under her arm, and resumed film work. She appeared as Elsie Snuffin in a few 2002 episodes of the blockbuster series The West Wing, voiced Sapphire Stagg on the animated program Justice League Unlimited, and -- on a higher-profile note -- headlined a fun series of telemovies and webisodes for the Lifetime network in the mid-2000s entitled Inspector Mom. As the title suggests, those features cast McKellar as a crime-solving soccer mom.

Ever the Renaissance woman, McKellar then extended her cinematic activities into directing, by helming a number of experimental short subjects. In 2006 she made her screenwriting debut with the mystery Inspector Mom. She was also active in the theater, having appeared in such productions as The Vagina Monologues, Grease, and Proof, and authored the 2007 children's book Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail.

McKellar continued acting, appearing in guest spots on TV and in TV movies, and competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2014.

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  • Along with her sister Crystal, began acting at a young age at her mother's dance studio.
  • Her breakthrough role came at age 12 as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years; her sister had originally auditioned for the part. 
  • Graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics; co-authored a new math theorem, the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem.
  • Wrote, directed and produced the 2001 short Speechless...; the film won Best Short in the 2002 California Independent Film Festival.
  • Authored the 2007 book Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail.