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The Wonder Years, which ran from 1988-1993, brought the nostalgia of the ’60s and ’70s into modern-day living rooms. The series followed Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he navigates life as a teenage boy. The show also stars Dan Lauria as father Jack, Alley Mills as mother Norma, Jason Hervey as brother Wayne, Olivia d’Abo as sister Karen, Josh Saviano as best friend Paul Pfeiffer and Danica McKellar as girlfriend Winnie Cooper.
Here are 10 fun facts that you might not have known about The Wonder Years:
Savage aced his audition for Kevin
The show’s creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black had auditioned a lot of kids, but five casting directors insisted they had to see this kid named Fred Savage. At the time, Savage was living in Chicago and had just finished work on the movie Vice Versa. He got a letter from the creators that he still has to this day. And while he liked the pilot after he read it, he says it was his parents who thought it was really special.
McKellar auditioned Against her sister for the role of Winnie
The producers saw hundreds of girls for the role of Winnie Cooper, and it was down to McKeller and her sister, Crystal, on the Friday before the pilot began shooting. McKellar says that she landed the role for two reasons: 1) she was older and there was a kiss involved, so the producers felt more comfortable with her in the role; and 2) her hair was brown, while her sister was blonde, and the producers liked the match of her hair color with Savage. When the role, which was originally a guest-star part in the pilot, became a series regular, her mother was hesitant to let her continue. “My mom wanted us to stay kids so [we weren’t allowed to audition for] pilots or feature films,” she says. “Acting was just a hobby.”
Mills and D’Abo dramatically changed their hair for the show
Mills had her hair dyed three times to get just the right shade of blonde. “They took such care of every single thing that we wore on those first episodes,” she recalls.
Also, D’Abo had short hair in real life, so she had extensions put in to look like a flower child.
Scenes were often shot separately and pieced together
Because so many of the cast were minors, who had restricted work hours and had to complete three hours of school per day, many scenes in the show were “assembled” in post-production. Mills jokes that any scene where she was in the kitchen and the kids were at the table, she was actually acting with a piece of tape with a smiley face, or with a hanging tennis ball.
But Savage and McKellar also had instances where they worked alone. In fact, despite the fact that for emotional scenes, the producers tried to have the actors together, McKellar reveals that when Winnie and Kevin said “I love you” for the first time, each was alone.
It won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy with only six episodes
The first season of The Wonder Years was only six episodes. ABC wanted 13, but Marlens and Black knew they couldn’t deliver that many, especially since they were busy fighting to film the half-hour comedy with a single camera and adding voice-over narration, which was almost unheard of at the time. But those unique qualities paid off.
Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss was Savage and McKellar’s first kiss, too
Savage was just 11 and McKellar was 12 when they shot the pilot, which required them to kiss. McKellar recalls, “I will never forget what it felt like to be there in that moment, the anticipation.”
“In the early days, we had a real-life crush on each other,” McKellar says. “But then it turned to a brother-sister relationship.
The Arnold’s home was actually a house in Burbank
Marlens originally wanted to set The Wonder Years in Long Island, which is where he grew up, but the network wanted to keep it more generic, so the name of the city is never mentioned. But the house that was used for the series was located on a small street in Burbank, California, and the interior was replicated on a soundstage.
“The street looked new because a disease had killed all the trees and they had to be replanted, so it looked like a new neighborhood,” Marlens says of why they selected that particular house.
Many famous faces were guest stars
Juliette Lewis, Jim Caviezel, Alicia Silverstone, Giovanni Ribisi, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, David Schwimmer, Carla Gugino, Robin Thicke, Breckin Meyer, Soleil Moon Frye and John Corbett were all guest stars.
“The Wonder Years didn’t make these careers,” Savage says. “The show was able to identify the best actors in L.A. and put them on the show.”
Crystal McKellar eventually got a role
Even though the producers hired Danica for the role of Winnie, they never forgot Crystal’s audition. They later hired her to play Becky Slater, who Kevin dated to make Winnie jealous. When Becky discovers that Kevin still has feelings for Winnie, she turns on Kevin. Crystal says, “I absolutely loved the part. This is a little girl who stands up for herself and doesn’t let herself get pushed around.”
Real-life friendships were formed
Yes, several members of the cast are still friends to this day. But more surprising, so are the real-life moms, who were on set all the time as guardians for their kids. Even today, Joanne Savage, Mahalia McKellar, Marsha Hervey and Jane Saviano still get together. “The moms get together more than the kids do. They really hit it off,” Savage says.
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