High School Crushes: Danica McKellar

Danica McKellar

“What would you do if I sang out of tune…”

Joe Cocker’s chilling warbling every week signaled the beginning of another episode of The Wonder Years, the Daniel Stern-narrated coming-of-age exploits of Kevin Arnold. As much as we enjoyed the exploits of the Arnold family, there was one reason we tuned into the show every week-after-week: Danica McKellar.

McKellar portrayed Gwendolyn “Winnie” Cooper, Kevin’s neighbour and main love interest throughout the series. She was everything you wanted in a potential girlfriend at the time, and we never understood why Frad Savage’s Kevin didn’t just lock into a long-term relationship with Winnie right off the bat. She was smart, pretty without being too into herself, and didn’t mind just hanging around watching Kevin and Paul throw the football around.

What wasn’t to love? Seriously. Stupid Kevin Arnold.

In real life, McKellar transitioned from her long-term television role into being a student at UCLA, where she studied math. Actually, saying she “studied math” does her a disservice.

To paraphrase Will Hunting’s pal Chuckie, “(Our girl’s) wicked smart!” As an undergrad, she co-authored a paper with one of her professors and another student, with their results being turned into a theorem. She then went on to author four non-fiction, math-related books, the first of which – Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail – was a New York Times bestseller.

Though her transition from “child star” to “adult actor” has been “a little bumpy” (her words, not mine), McKellar has turned up on a pair of our favourite shows in recent years, guest starring as “Trudy” on two episodes of How I Met Your Mother and making out with Raj on a great episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Do yourself a favour and go track down both of those shows and enjoy they’re thoroughly entertaining episodes of two very solid shows, plus you get to see Winnie Cooper all grown up.

Danica McKellar – we loved her way back when, and we still love her today.

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