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The Wonder Years’ Danica McKellar Quit Acting to Start a Different Career

Danica McKellar has had an incredible career as an actress, a mathematician, an author, and more. She started out as a youngster, winning over audiences everywhere with her sweet and confident portrayal of Winnie Cooper on the seminal show, “The Wonder Years.” And yet as she reached college age, she discovered that she wanted to take a different path. She quit acting and focused strictly on her goals of being a world class mathematician. And she soon succeeded at that as well. Later on, she returned to acting, and has added things like writing into her bag of tricks as well. She’s a published author, a mom, a fitness instructor, and even has a famous math theorem named after her. She can do it all! So join us, as Facts Verse presents: The Wonder Years’ Danica McKellar Quit Acting to Start a Different Career.

Danica’s son got the scoop

Recently Danica was interviewed by ET on the topic of why she left Hollywood as a youngster and focused her career on mathematics. This wouldn’t have been that notable of an interview, had it not been for one small tweak… the interviewer was none other than Danica’s son, Draco. Draco, at age 11, is curious as to why his mom gave up the spotlight to focus on her education. He also wondered what it was like being around his same age and being on the set of a major TV show every day. And, since her son was the one asking, Danica was very forthcoming about both topics.

She told him that her biggest memory of being on set was the complexity of trying act everyday, yet also complete her schoolwork at the same time. She remembers having to constantly jump back and forth from the set to the school trailer. It wasn’t an easy thing to balance, but she managed.

Why she left Hollywood

McKellar told her son Draco that her experience at UCLA played a big role in why she decided to stop acting and focus on math. She said that since she was so famous because of her role on The Wonder Years, she was constantly getting recognized on campus. People would come up to her many times a day and remark on how they liked her character, or to simply shout “Hey Winnie!” And while she appreciated the fandom, she felt like she couldn’t avoid it. And since she was at school to learn and study, it was getting in the way of her academic goals. She told Draco that she decided it was important to find value in her life that was separate from her role as Winnie Cooper. And since she has discovered that she was basically a math genius, it made sense to shift her focus to that.

This decision was certainly the right one for Danica. But at the same time, she told Draco that she’ll respect and support any career decisions he makes. And that includes following in her footsteps and becoming an actor.

Her childhood crush was Michael J Fox

There were certainly many kids who watched The Wonder Years growing up and had a crush on Danica McKellar. Of course, most of those kids likely thought of her strictly as Winnie Cooper. And the odds of any of those kids actually seeing McKellar in real life was pretty slim. But apparently Danica’s childhood crush was on none other than 1980’s heartthrob Michael J. Fox. She once told US Weekly that she was completely in love with Fox when she was a kid. But growing up in the LA area can have its perks, as McKellar found out one morning on the way to school. She said that as her mom took she and her sister to school, a Mercedes pulled up behind them at a light. Her mom told the two girls to turn around and look who was in the car, and the girls squealed with delight as they realized it was Alex P. Keaton himself – Michael J Fox. Even today, this event remains a core memory for Danica, and she says she can still remember precisely how he looked in that moment. She also said he was very polite, despite the gawking and screaming girls in front of him. Reportedly Michael simply smiled and waved, but also looked down like he was a little shy and embarrassed about being recognized.

Her First Kiss

Everyone remembers their first kiss. And for most people, it’s a private moment, shared with only one other person. But this wasn’t the case for Danica McKellar. At age 11, Danica’s character, Winnie, was tasked with kissing Kevin Arnold, aka Fred Savage, on the pilot episode of The Wonder Years. While this wouldn’t have been a big deal for veteran and older actors, it was certainly a big moment for McKellar. Up until that point she’d never kissed anyone romantically. And instead of being a private moment, it happened in front of a huge film crew, and then was shown to millions of people across the country. McKellar admits to being very nervous about the whole situation. She pointed out that having a first kiss is already stress provoking as is, let alone having to do it under those circumstances. She also says she assumes she wasn’t very good at it back then. Though who could blame her, especially in that scenario?

Danica recalls that the crew tried to make the situation better by being supportive. After they got several takes of the kiss, they all erupted into applause for the two young actors. But Danica didn’t feel the warmth of the moment – instead she felt even more embarrassed and reminded that a huge group of adults was watching her first kiss.

Before we tell you more about Danica, be sure to give this video a like and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already!

Dancing With The Stars

Danica was a fan favorite when she competed in Dancing With The Stars’ 18th season. But her time on the show was cut short due to an injury she received in rehearsal. At one point during filming, she posted a tweet with some unfortunate news. She told her followers that she had had a mishap during rehearsal for the show, and had broken her ribs. She asked her fans for their support and prayers.

You might expect that Danica immediately told the producers that she’d be unavailable to continue appearing on the show. It certainly would have been an understandable move, given her painful broken rib. Yet, she decided to keep competing. She and her dance partner on the show, Val Chmerkovskiy, rearranged some of their choreography to compensate for her rib injury. Yet McKellar insisted that Val not dial things back too much. They had come so far on the show that she didn’t want to simplify their dance moves to the point where they didn’t impress the judges at all. Yet they couldn’t keep the choreography too intense, or she’d be in too much pain to continue. Ultimately, they did their best, but were eliminated from the show soon after her injury. McKellar took the elimination in stride though, claiming that it was an intensely fun and rewarding experience, regardless of how it ended. She also pointed out that, on the show, you don’t know when you’ll be let go, so you have to live in the moment – something she said was a good lesson for life as well.

She’s a highly successful author

Danica is known for being a talented actress and a brilliant mathematician, but did you know that she’s also a successful, published author? She’s authored several books aimed at kids, that seek to make studying math more accessible and fun. Some of these books are geared towards the younger sets, such as “Goodnight, Numbers” and “Bathtime Mathtime.” Others skew a little older and try to convince tweens and teens that math is cool and worthwhile. These include titles like “Kiss My Math” and “Math Doesn’t Suck.”

A big part of her goal with these books is to get rid of the stigma that math is somehow a scary topic, or too hard for the average kid. She particularly aims her writing at young girls, hoping to reverse the long history of girls being taught that math was more of a ‘male’ subject. McKellar likes the fact that, with books, she can potentially reach a huge audience of kids all around the world.

And her writing ended up getting her an acting and executive producing gig. This happened after one of her books was chosen to be a part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. It’s a program started by the legendary country music star that gives away free books to kids. When they chose one of Danica’s books for the program, she decided she’d pitch Dolly on a movie idea. It was called “Christmas at Dollywood.” Dolly loved the concept, and the movie was made for Hallmark not long after. Both women starred in it, with Danica playing the lead, and Dolly appearing as herself.

Now it’s time to hear from you. Can you think of other famous actors who have also achieved success in completely different fields, like Danica McKellar has? Let us know in the comments section below. And before you go, be sure to give this video a like, and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. Click the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest content. 

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