Danica McKellar will always be Winnie Cooper to many people — which is precisely why The Wonder Years star needed a hiatus from Hollywood. The 47-year-old actress sat down with her son, Draco, for Entertainment Tonight and opened up about her decision to pursue a career in mathematics.
“When and why did you decide to take a break from acting and become a mathematician?” Draco, who turns 12 next month, asked.
“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!’ [or] ‘Hey, loved you on The Wonder Years!” The actress replied. “I couldn’t get away from it.”
McKellar played Winnie Cooper on the beloved series from 1988 to 1993.
“So I needed to find out how I was valuable outside of Winnie Cooper, and math was challenging and I did well at it,” she continued. “And I love this feeling that my value, the important stuff had nothing to do with how I looked or television.”
McKellar is also an advocate for math education and is the co-author of the mathematical physics theorem: the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem. She has written numerous math books aimed at middle school and high school readers.
After graduating from UCLA, McKellar returned to acting, starring as Elsie Snuffin in the The West Wing in 2002. She’s been working steadily in the industry since ending her acting break.
Draco, who’s appeared in several of his mother’s Hallmark movies, asked how she would react if he sought out an acting career.
“Draco, I will support you whatever you wanna do. I would put you in acting classes and I would help guide you through it,” McKellar replied. “I’m not gonna ever push you in that direction [though], because it’s a tough life.”