Danica McKellar Almost Didn’t Get Iconic THE WONDER YEARS Role

Photo from Danica McKellar’s Instagram

Danica McKellar Almost Didn’t Get Iconic THE WONDER YEARS Role

By Movieguide® Contributor

Though her role as Winnie Cooper on THE WONDER YEARS is iconic, Danica McKellar recalled the story of her audition and why she almost didn’t join the show.

“Today I’m going to share the experience of auditioning for the role of Winnie Cooper…it had a few unusual twists to it,” McKellar said in a video for Great American Community. “So my mom, Mahaila McKellar, she had a rule for me and my sister because we were both doing acting at the time—my sister Crystal. [My mom] said, ‘Acting is just a hobby, so you’re never going to do a series regular role or a movie that takes you out of town; nothing that breaks up the family. It’s just a fun hobby.’”

“So, as it turns out, the role of Winnie Cooper was supposed to just be a one-time guest role on the first episode, which is the only reason that I was even allowed to audition for it,” McKellar explained.

McKellar’s audition story, however, got even more crazy as the audition went on, and she got closer and closer to landing the role.

“My sister and I both auditioned for the role of Winnie Cooper. Now, they had been auditioning all sorts of little girls who had lots of experience, had been acting for years. My sister and I were pretty new at it, and I guess they were looking for something, looking for that newness, the non-actory thing, I don’t know,” McKellar said.

“So we go, and we audition, and we both get a callback for the next day,” she continued. “So we both go, and we audition, and then they had us go to dinner, and they said that after dinner we were going to read with the little boy who was playing the main character.”

“We auditioned, and then it came down to the two of us; it came down to me and my sister, and I got the role. They liked Crystal so much that they said, you know, we’re going to write a role for her on the show if we get picked up for series, which they did. She played Becky Slater on THE WONDER YEARS for like nine or ten episodes,” she added.

At this point, however, McKellar was still just a guest actor, not playing a regular role in the series. However, the producers liked her, so it was only a matter of time before they offered her a regular role, something her mother would be uneasy about accepting.

“Midway through shooting, the producers thought, they said, ‘Look, we think Danica and Fred have this great chemistry, we really want to offer a series regular role,” McKellar said. “And my mom, like, wasn’t sure. It’s a seven-year contract; they can cancel the show at any time, but as an actor, you are committed for seven years…And so my mom was really worried, like, oh my gosh, I’m signing up my daughter’s entire childhood for something.”

McKellar is so grateful that her mom let her take the regular role, which allowed her to start her career in acting. She loved playing Winnie Cooper and never felt stifled by the commitment.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “How about that? [I] would never have auditioned for [the show] if it had been a series regular role. And my sister and I, it came down to the two of us and they ended up writing a role for her. So, it became quite the family affair… So, that was the beginning of really my whole career, was that show and I’m super grateful for it.”

Now, McKellar stars in movies for GAF, her most recent being A ROYAL DATE FOR CHRISTMAS.

“During her boutique’s busiest season, my character Bella is hired to be a newly single Duke’s stylist and official plus one the week leading up to Christmas,” McKellar said. “She takes the job against her better judgement—this is a crucial time for her business. But there’s something about Duke’s unexpectedly tender heart that makes his request irresistible to her.

“I love this movie and how it asks the question, ‘Are real-life fairy tales still possible?'”

She’s also opened up about her faith. This past Palm Sunday marked two years since she became a Christian.

“I’ve always loved spending Easter with a big family brunch, egg hunts for the kids, etc,” McKellar said. “But Easter became much more significant to me in 2022, when I had the incredible experience of becoming a believer.”

Movieguide® previously reported:

“Fast forward many years,” the WONDER YEARS actress shared. “I’m in my 40s now…my friend Candace Cameron Bure brought me into church.”

It started when McKellar messaged Bure on Instagram after seeing her friend post messages about God’s forgiveness. Bure asked if she could send McKellar a Bible. McKellar said yes but admitted she “didn’t really open it.”

“Fast forward to Palm Sunday…I went to church with her,” she continued. “We saw this Passion Play, and it…just got right in. I like to say, ‘I don’t know what happened,” but my dad says, ‘The Holy Spirit entered you, that’s what happened.’”