“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!’” McKellar, 47, revealed to her 11-year-old son during a Tuesday, August 16, interview for Entertainment Tonight. “I couldn’t get away from it.”
The former Hallmark actress starred in the ABC series alongside Fred Savage from 1988 to 1993. The coming-of-age drama, which was created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black, followed Kevin Arnold (Savage), a teenager growing up in a suburban middle-class family in the late 1960s and early 1970s. McKellar portrayed Winnie, Kevin’s main love interest and neighbor.
The show was an instant hit, even earning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy in 1988. Following the series finale, however, McKellar took a step back from acting in order to figure out who she was outside of the entertainment industry — leading her to a career as a mathematician.
“I needed to find out how I was valuable outside of Winnie Cooper, and math was challenging and I did well at it,” the California native explained. “And I love this feeling that my value, the important stuff had nothing to do with how I looked or television.”
The West Wing alum has since returned to Hollywood, landing lead roles in various Lifetime and Hallmark films and voicing Judy Jetson on The Jetsons since 2017. She’s also participated in season 18 of Dancing With the Stars, where she nabbed sixth place with partner Val Chmerkovskiy. In 2014, the California native tied the knot with Scott Sveslosky after two years of dating.
McKellar’s desire to encourage young girls to investigate mathematics, however, has yet to fade. The Domino Masters judge has written 11 children’s books over the years.
“Math can be cool,” she gushed to USA Today in August 2018. “I also [include] stories of my own personal struggles with math and ordinary, everyday life, to let girls realize we’re all the same. We all have the same worries, struggles, insecurities, etcetera.”
Despite her break from Hollywood, McKellar told son Draco, whom she shares with ex-husband Mike Verta, that if he decides to follow in her footsteps, she would approve.
“I will support you whatever you wanna do,” the GAC star told her son during their ET interview. “I would put you in acting classes and I would help guide you through it.”
She added, “I’m not gonna ever push you in that direction [though], because it’s a tough life.”