As a child actor in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Danica McKellar played the girl next door. Literally.

“Gwendolyn ‘Winnie’ Cooper” was a neighbor to “Kevin Arnold,” a fellow middle schooler played by Fred Savage.

Set in “Anytown, USA,” the nostalgic tinged show captures the exploits of kids growing up in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Narrated by Daniel Stern who gives voice to the memories of an older Kevin Arnold, it captured the charm and challenges of that period of life when we’re no longer so young – but also not yet grown-up.

The Winnie Cooper character evolved into Kevin’s love interest. She was his first crush, first kiss – and first romantic frustration.

But child actors grow up, and McKellar decided to take a break from the bright lights of Hollywood.

“I went to UCLA, but when I got to school, everywhere I went, people all over campus would shout across campus you know, ‘Hey Winnie!’ McKellar remembered. “I couldn’t get away from it, so I needed to find out how I was valuable outside of Winnie Cooper.

She decided to demonstrate that value by writing children’s books dealing with math. Titles included “Goodnight Numbers,” Ten Magic Butterflies,” and “Bathtime Mathtime.” She wrote additional math-themed books for teens.

But Danica didn’t walk away from acting altogether. Appearing in numerous Hallmark and Great American Family and Great American Pure Flix films, she forged a friendship with fellow actress Candace Cameron Bure, a strong and enthusiastic Christian.

McKellar says she knew little about Christianity, and what little she did know was tainted by negative perceptions picked up in the news about believers being either hypocritical or judgmental. Bure gave her a Bible, and then later invited Danica to attend a Passion play, which took place on Palm Sunday of 2022.

“It just hit me,” she told reporter Billy Hallowell. “Everything hit me. The Holy Spirit came to me. … It was like a wave of love and understanding hit me.”

This past week, McKellar told Fox News that her faith has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to daily Bible reading, specifically her goal of setting out to read all 66 books of Scripture in a year.

“It’s just, doing something regularly that’s always a challenge,” she reflected. “Because you get busy. And my life doesn’t have a regular schedule to it, doing movies and then not doing movies, but I found that if I did just two sessions a day for a little while, I could catch up, like after shooting a movie. That’s the most challenging.”

The 49-year-old actress added, “The most rewarding [thing about regular Bible reading] is just getting to know God better and understanding some of the patterns and going, ‘Oh, this theme of ego versus humility’ is like really strong through the whole story. Maybe we should pay attention to that.’”

When the “Wonder Years” went off the air on May 12, 1993, viewers were disappointed that script writers didn’t wrap the show with Kevin and Winnie riding off into the sunset. Instead, it ended with a now older Kevin looking back.

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat,” he says. “One day you’re in diapers; next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place…a town…a house like a lot of other houses… A yard like a lot of other yards…on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is…after all these years, I still look back…with wonder.”

Danica McKellar enjoyed her own childhood and time on the show, but it’s her days as a Christian that are now filled with the most wonder of all.


Image credit: Shutterstock and ABC.