Fondly remembered by millions of viewers, TV comedy drama The Wonder Years was one of the most popular shows of its time. Stretching the limits of the sitcom formula, this award-winning series created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black was set in the 1960s – a decade of flower power, civil rights movement and Vietnam War.
From 1988 until 1993, The Wonder Years followed Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), an ordinary suburban teenager. Together with his friends Paul (Josh Saviano) and Winnie (Danica McKellar), Kevin deals with the challenges of growing up while living in one of the most turbulent times in the modern American history. Where Are They Now? The cast of The Wonder Years takes a look at this show’s numerous and talented cast.
15. Robin Thicke – Boy #3
Who would have guessed that singer Robin Thicke, internationally famous for his 2013 hit single Blurred Lines, began his road to stardom on The Wonder Years? In 1989, 12-year old Thicke appeared in the show’s second season where he played the hugely important role of Boy #3. For example, in the opening of the episode Steady as She Goes, Thicke gets to demonstrate all the painful awkwardness of boys approaching girls in an age before online dating.
Young Robin Thicke appeared in small roles on TV shows such as Growing Pains, Just the Ten of Us and The New Lassie. He then concentrated on music. Today he’s a successful singer, songwriter and record producer who has released seven studio albums. Over the years, Thicke has worked with artists like Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Pharrell Williams. In 2014, he appeared opposite Jaime Pressly in a romantic drama Making the Rules (current IMDB rating: 3.2/10).
14. Alley Mills – Norma Arnold
Despite being a part of the same generation as Kevin’s father Jack, Kevin’s mother Norma (Alley Mills) is far more cheerful, optimistic and progressive in her attitudes than her husband. Although Norma left college to become a housewife and raise her three children, later in the show she decides to resume her college studies. Eventually, she not only graduates but starts working for a software company, finally rising to a level of a corporate board chairwoman.
A daughter of the TV executive Ted Mills, Alley Mills began acting on TV in early 1980s, mostly in TV shows and made-for-TV movies. Over the next two decades, she played supporting roles on shows such as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. Aside from her role on The Wonder Years, Alley Mills is best known for her regular role of Pamela Douglas on the long-running soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.
13. Jason Hervey – Wayne Arnold
Completely unlike his brother Kevin, Wayne (Jason Hervey) is a jock who loves to humiliate his baby brother and his friends. However, Wayne matures during the course of the show after going through a series of not-so-happy relationships. He eventually takes over his father’s homemade furniture job after the latter’s death in 1975.
Jason Hervey used to be a child actor who, throughout the 1980s, appeared in a number of supporting roles, both in movies such as Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Back to the Future (all released in 1985) as well as on TV shows like Diff’rent Strokes, Fast Times and Wildside. Since The Wonder Years ended, Hervey has mostly been working in the entertainment industry as a reality show participant, TV producer of the various sports events (mostly related to World Championship Wrestling organization) and a public relations agent. Occasionally, he also worked as voice actor, like on the children’s TV show 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd.
12. Josh Saviano – Paul Pfeiffer
Paul is an archetypical nerd: a tall, gangly, near-sighted kid, he’s beset by allergies and hates gym class but he also excels in schoolwork. In later seasons, Paul and Kevin begin to drift apart as Paul gets sent to a private prep school while Kevin starts hanging out more with his other friends.
As a kid, Josh Saviano appeared in a couple of TV ads as well as in movies The Wrong Guys (1988) and Camp Cucamonga (1990).He then left the acting business and concentrated on his education. He graduated in Political Science at Yale University and worked as a paralegal before entering Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Although Josh Saviano currently works as a lawyer, he recently played Counselor Don Taft on the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
11. Ben Stein – Mr. Cantwell
To call Ben Stein’s acting career unusual would be an understatement. A lawyer and a former speech writer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Stein appeared in John Hughes’s 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the small role of a droning economics teacher. Such was his performance that Stein afterwards received numerous offers to reprise his role pretty much everywhere. He appeared in ads and movies as well as on shows such as Family Guy, Full House, MacGyver, Married… with Children and Seinfeld.
In The Wonder Years, Stein plays Mr. Cantwell, Kevin’s junior high school science teacher notorious for his boring lectures. In real life though, there’s nothing boring about Stein, whose attitudes regarding US domestic and foreign policy as well as broader subjects such as evolution have often stirred controversy. Ben Stein regularly appears on political talk shows and writes about politics and economics for publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
10. Lindsay Sloane – Alice Pedermeir
Lindsay Sloane’s first TV performance was that of Alice Pedermeir in the The Wonder Years penultimate season. A high school friend of Kevin and Winnie, Alice breaks up her relationship with Kevin’s friend and openly admits she always had a crush on Kevin. She starts dating him only to then immediately dump him and return to her old boyfriend.
Since her appearance on The Wonder Years, Sloane appeared in a number of supporting roles. Over the last decade and a half, she specialized in comedic roles. Sloane appeared on numerous sitcoms, including Dharma & Greg, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, That ’70s Show, Playing House, Psych, Childrens Hospital and How I Met Your Mother as well as in movies like Bring It On (2004), The Other Guys (2010), She’s Out of My League (2010), Horrible Bosses (2011) and Horrible Bosses 2 (2014). Currently, Lindsay Sloane plays the role of Emily on The Odd Couple.
9. Daniel Stern – Narrator
Although a regular cast member of The Wonder Years‘ cast, Daniel Stern never really appears in front of the camera. Instead, he provides a voice-over throughout all of the show’s six seasons. As an older and wiser Kevin Arnold, he looks back on his childhood, pondering the lessons he learned. Stern also directed ten episodes of the show.
Daniel Stern is one of those character actors everyone recognizes as “that guy from that thing”. He is by far most well-known for his role of Marv Merchants, one of the hapless “Wet Bandits” suffering Kevin McAllister’s (Macaulay Culkin) traps in the first two Home Alone movies. Throughout his career, Stern mostly appeared in supporting roles, both in movies such as Breaking Away (1979), C.H.U.D. (1984), City Slickers (1991), Very Bad Things (1998) and Whip It (2009), as well as on TV shows like the comedy TV series House of Lies and the period drama Manhattan.
8. Robert Picardo – Coach Cutslip
To his students, gym teacher Ed Cutslip (Robert Picardo) is a terrifying bully. To the TV viewers, he’s a laughable petty tyrant. Kevin assumes that Coach Cutslip must be suffering from an inferiority complex, but is surprised to discover that dreaded Coach has a softer side too, working part-time as a department store Santa Clause.
Robert Picardo is a veteran actor who, throughout the 40 years of his career, appeared in over 200 roles, both in movies and on TV. He is by far best known for his portrayal of an Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek: Voyager, but he also guest-starred on sci-fi and supernatural shows like Stargate SG-1, Supernatural and Smallville. One of director Joe Dante’s favorite actors, Picardo appeared in a number of his movies, among them The Howling (1981), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).
7. Giovanni Ribisi – Jeff Billings
Yet another movie actor who began his Hollywood career on TV, Giovanni Ribisi played Kevin’s friend Jeff Billings in the last season of The Wonder Years. Jeff is a child whose parents divorced. As his mother moves to a new town, Jeff is forced to change his home and leave his girlfriend.
Ribisi appeared in a number of other TV shows like Married… with Children, Walker, Texas Ranger, NYPD Blue and Ellen. He played Phoebe’s (Lisa Kudrow) brother Frank on Friends and got critically praised for his performance in The X-Files episode D.P.O. He appeared in David Lynch’s surreal drama Lost Highway (1997), Steven Spielberg’s WW2 epic Saving Private Ryan (1998), Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) and John Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster Avatar (2009). Nowadays, Giovanni Ribisi works both in movies and on television, appearing on sitcom Dads as well as in movies like Ted (2012) and Ted 2 (2015).
6. David Schwimmer – Michael
As a young struggling actor, David Schwimmer’s first break came with his role in a 1989 made-for-TV movie titled A Deadly Silence. This role got him cast in a number of small roles on several then-popular shows such as L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and – most importantly for this list – The Wonder Years. Schwimmer played Michael, Karen Arnold’s boyfriend who, although a hippie himself, manages to earn respect of Karen’s father by proving himself as a level-headed hard worker.
Schwimmer became famous worldwide with his role of the nerdy paleontologist Ross Geller on the hit sitcom Friends. He was cast in movies like Six Days Seven Nights (1998) and Apt Pupil (1998) and in the miniseries Band of Brothers. In 2016, David Schwimmer received his second Emmy nomination for his role of the lawyer Robert Kardashian in the anthology TV series American Crime Story. Currently, he plays a lead on AMC’s TV show Feed the Beast.
5. Juliette Lewis – Delores
Throughout the late 1980s, actress and singer Juliette Lewis played a number of supporting roles in movies such as My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988) and on TV shows like The Facts of Life. During this time, she also appeared in the third season of The Wonder Years playing Delores, a permanently annoyed, gum-chewing girlfriend of Kevin’s brother Wayne.
Just a year later, Lewis was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of Cape Fear, starring Robert de Niro and Nick Nolte. Throughout the 1990s, she appeared in a number of well-received movies: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), Strange Days (1995) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996). Lewis also played supporting roles on TV shows such as The Firm, Secrets and Lies and Wayward Pines. For her work on television, Juliette Lewis was nominated for a number of awards, including two Emmys.
4. Dan Lauria – Jack Arnold
Throughout the six seasons of The Wonder Years, Dan Lauria portrayed Kevin’s father, Jack, a WW2 veteran who grew up during the Great Depression. Gruff and practical, Jack is a conservative who finds himself often alarmed and occasionally even angered by the changing social climate of the 1960s.
Lauria himself belongs to the Baby Boomer generation. He has served in Vietnam as a Marine Corps lieutenant and turned to acting after he returned from the war. Appearing on TV, stage as well as in the movies, Lauria often portrayed police detectives, soldiers and similar no no-nonsense characters and authority figures throughout more than 40 years of his career. The list of the Dan Lauria’s TV appearances is long: only in the last decade or so, he guest starred on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Harry’s Law, Person of Interest, Perception, Royal Pains, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife and NCIS: Los Angeles.
3. Olivia d’Abo – Karen Arnold
This English-born American actress and singer made her movie debut in 1984 by playing opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan in Conan the Destroyer (1984). From 1988 until 1993, Oliviad’Abo portrayed Kevin Arnold’s older sister Karen – a rebellious teenager whose hippie lifestyle and a string of less-than-perfect boyfriends exasperate her conservative father. She eventually settles down in Alaska with her husband Michael, played by David Schwimmer.
Over the years, d’Abo appeared in a number of movies and guest-starred on TV shows such as Eureka, Psych and Elementary. On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, d’Abo played a recurring villain – a sociopathic serial killer Nicole Wallace. Olivia D’Abo regularly works as a voice artist, lending her voice to characters in animated movies such as Pom Poko (1994) and Animatrix (2003) as well as on cartoon TV shows like Batman Beyond, Invader Zim, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
2. Danica McKellar – Winnie Cooper
Gwendolyn “Winnie” Cooper (Danica McKellar) is Kevin Arnold’s best friend, neighbor and on-and-off girlfriend. Danica had to compete for the role of Winnie against her own sister, Crystal McKellar. However, Crystal later also appeared on The Wonder Years in the recurring role of Becky Slater, Kevin’s one-time love interest.
After the show ended, McKellar appeared in a number of Hallmark TV movies and played supporting roles on numerous TV shows like How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. She also worked as a voice artist on cartoon shows such as Justice League and Young Justice. Voted by the readers of the Stuff magazine as a 1990s star they would most like to see in lingerie, McKellar also earned a Bachelor’s degree of Science in Mathematics summa cum laude at UCLA, wrote several kid-friendly books about mathematics and co-authored a scientific paper titled “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin–Teller models on Ζ²”.
1. Fred Savage – Kevin Arnold
Fred Savage was a familiar face even before The Wonder Years due to his role in Rob Reiner’s 1987 fantasy adventure comedy The Princess Bride. Savage was only 12 years old when he was cast as a lead in The Wonder Years. Despite his youth, he proved himself to be up to the task with his seemingly effortless, natural style of acting. His performance as Kevin Arnold made him one of the youngest actors ever nominated for both the Golden Globe and the Emmy awards.
Savage later appeared in several movies such as Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) and Welcome to Mooseport (2004). He guest-starred on a string of TV shows and directed a number of them. Fred Savage occasionally works as a voice artist on shows such as Family Guy and BoJack Horseman. His most recent TV appearance was on the HBO’s sitcom The Grinder where he played small-town lawyer Stewart Sanderson.
What were your favorite cast member on The Wonder Years? What were your favorite moments of the show? Share your thoughts with the others in the comments!