Danica McKellar

Danica McKellar
Danica McKellar

at a book signing, October 2007
Born Danica Mae McKellar
January 3, 1975 (1975-01-03) (age 36)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Education Bachelor's degree (summa cum laude)
Alma mater UCLA
Occupation Actress, author, education advocate and director
Years active 1985–present
Spouse Mike Verta (2009–present)

Danica Mae McKellar (born January 3, 1975) is an American actress, academic, and education advocate. She is best known for her role as Winnie Cooper in the television show The Wonder Years,[1] and later as author of the three The New York Times bestsellers,[2][3] Math Doesn't Suck, Kiss My Math, and Hot X: Algebra Exposed, which encourage middle-school girls to have confidence and succeed in mathematics.[4]


Early life

Born in La Jolla, California, McKellar moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was eight. Her mother Mahalia is a homemaker; her father Christopher is a real estate developer.[5] Her family is "a big mix of Western Europe":[6] Her mother's ancestry is Portuguese (via the Azores and Madeira islands); her father's ancestry is Scottish, Irish, French, German and Dutch.[6] McKellar and her sister Crystal McKellar (who is loosely named after their dad) both maintained professional acting careers as children, but with a strong emphasis on education as a priority. As a result, Crystal became a corporate lawyer (her family nicknamed her "Legally Blonde" because of her hair color), while Danica majored in mathematics. Danica and Crystal also have two half-brothers, Chris Junior and Connor McKellar.

Acting career

The Wonder Years and early acting career

McKellar had a leading role in The Wonder Years, an American television comedy-drama that ran for six seasons on ABC, from 1988 to 1993.[1]

McKellar played Gwendolyn "Winnie" Cooper,[1] the main love interest of Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) on the show. In an episode entitled "The Accident" and in the final episode, it is stated that every important event in Kevin's life somehow involved Winnie. She lives on the same block as Kevin. Their first kiss plays an important part of the pilot episode, as does her older brother's death while serving as a soldier in the Vietnam War. In one episode, her parents decide to get separated because of their grief over the death of their son. According to the epilogue in the final episode, Winnie studies art history in Paris. Kevin and Winnie write one letter to each other every week for eight years until her return. Despite their life-long romance, they never marry.

McKellar's first kiss was with Fred Savage in an episode of The Wonder Years.[7] She later said, "My first kiss was a pretty nerve-wracking experience! But we never kissed off screen, and pretty quickly our feelings turned into brother/sister, and stayed that way."[8] McKellar also had a role in the film Sidekicks, directed by Aaron Norris.

Adult roles

McKellar has admitted the transition from "child actor to adult actor was a little bumpy."[8] Since leaving The Wonder Years, McKellar has had several guest roles in television series (including one with former co-star Fred Savage on Working), and has written and directed two short films. She played Kristin Guthrie in a 1994 Lifetime TV movie, Moment of Truth: Cradle of Conspiracy. In 1996, she played the character Annie Mills Carman in the Lifetime Moment of Truth movie Justice For Annie.[9] She briefly returned to regular television with a recurring role in the 2002–03 season of The West Wing, portraying Elsie Snuffin, the stepsister and assistant of Deputy White House Communications Director Will Bailey.[10]

McKellar appeared in lingerie in the July 2005 edition of Stuff magazine[11] after readers voted her the '90s star they would most like to see in lingerie. McKellar explained that she agreed to the shoot in part to obtain "grittier roles".[8]

In June 2006, Lifetime Television announced that McKellar would star in a Lifetime movie and web-based series titled Inspector Mom about a mother who solves mysteries.[12] In an interview in the November 17, 2006 issue of TV Guide, McKellar said that two TV movies and ten webisodes of Inspector Mom were being produced.[13]

McKellar has provided the voices for two characters in three video games: Jubilee in X-Men Legends (2004), and Invisible Woman in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006) and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009).

On the August 1, 2007, edition of the Don and Mike Show, a WJFK-FM radio program out of Washington, D.C., McKellar announced plans that the producers of How I Met Your Mother were planning to bring her back for a recurring role (she guest-starred on the show in late 2005 in "The Pineapple Incident"). She appeared in the October 8, 2007, episode titled "Third Wheel",[10] as well as an appearance on the show The Big Bang Theory.

In 2008, she starred in Heatstroke, a Sci-Fi Channel original movie about searching for alien life on Earth.[14]

McKellar, as of June 23, 2008 (2008 -06-23), is one of the stars commenting on the occurrences of the new millennium in VH1's I Love the New Millennium, and as of 2009 is the math correspondent for Brink, a program by the Science Channel about upcoming technology.[10]

McKellar has also become a very experienced voice actress.[citation needed]


McKellar studied mathematics at UCLA, graduating with highest honors (summa cum laude) in 1998. As an undergraduate, she coauthored a scientific paper[15] with Professor Lincoln Chayes and fellow student Brandy Winn. Their results are termed the 'Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem'.[16][17] Referring to the mathematical abilities of his student coauthors, Chayes was quoted in The New York Times[18] as saying, "I thought that the two were really, really first-rate." McKellar's Erdős number is four.[19] Her Erdős–Bacon number is 6.


McKellar is the author of The New York Times[2] bestselling book Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail,[20] that encourages girls in middle school to enjoy and succeed at mathematics.[21] The book has been favorably reviewed by Tara C. Smith, the founder of Iowa Citizens for Science and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa.[22] In an interview with Smith, McKellar said that she wrote the book "to show girls that math is accessible and relevant, and even a little glamorous" and to counteract "damaging social messages telling young girls that math and science aren't for them".[23]

McKellar was named Person of the Week[24] on World News with Charles Gibson for the week ending August 10, 2007. The news segment highlighted her book Math Doesn't Suck and her efforts to help girls develop an interest in mathematics, especially during the middle school years.

McKellar's second book, Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss,[25] was released on August 5, 2008. The book's target audience is girls in the 7th through 9th grades. Her third book, Hot X: Algebra Exposed![26][27][28] was published on August 3, 2010, and is aimed at girls in the 8th-10th grade, or even adults who want to learn algebra.

All three of McKellar's books made it to The New York Times children's bestseller list.[3][29]

Personal life

She married composer Mike Verta on March 22, 2009, in La Jolla, California; the couple had dated since 2001. They had their first child on September 7, 2010, a boy they named Draco.[30][31]


Year Title Role Notes
1985 The Twilight Zone Nola Segment: "Her Pilgrim Soul"
1987 The Twilight Zone Deidre Dobbs Episode: "Shelter Skelter"
1988 The Wonder Years Winnie Cooper 88 episodes (1988–1993)
1989 The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Patty Episode: "Day of the Orphan/King Mario of Cramalot"
1990 Camp Cucamonga Lindsey Scott TV movie
1992 Captain Planet and the Planeteers Lisa (voice) Episode: "A Formula for Hate"
Sidekicks Lauren
1994 Babylon 5 Aria Tensus Episode: "The War Prayer"
Moment of Truth: Cradle of Conspiracy Kristin Guthrie TV movie
Walker, Texas Ranger Laurie Maston Episode: "Stolen Lullaby"
Sirens Allison Trent Episode: "Victims"
1996 Justice for Annie: A Moment of Truth Movie[9] Annie Mills Carman TV movie
1998 The Love Boat: The Next Wave Mary Dutton Episode: "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
Working Jolie Episode: "As Bad as It Gets"
1999 Episode: "She Loves Me Yeah, Yeah, Yeah"
Random Play Daughter Episode: 1.4
2000 Static Shock Freida Goren (voice) 14 episodes (2000–2004)
2001 Good Neighbor Molly Wright
The Division Wendy Episode: "Don't Ask"
XCU: Extreme Close Up Sarah
Speechless... Dana Woodman
Even Stevens Sandrine Episode: "Sibling Rivalry"
2002 Black Hole Rachael
Sex and the Teenage Mind Debbie
Reality School Sexy Sally
Jane White Is Sick & Twisted Tiffany
The Year That Trembled Pam Hatch
Hip, Edgy, Sexy, Cool Sissie
Justice League Sapphire Stagg (voice) Episode: "Metamorphosis: Part 1"
Episode: "Metamorphosis: Part 2"
The West Wing Elsie Snuffin 8 episodes (2002–2003)
2004 King of the Hill Sharona (voice) Episode: "My Hair Lady"
Misty (voice) Episode: "Cheer Factor"
Raising Genius Lacy Baldwin
Game Over Elsa / Renee (voice) TV series
Century City Sally Episode: "Without a Tracer"
Intermission Sleepwalker
Quiet Kill Pet Shop Girl
Eve Claudia Episode: "Friend or Foe?"
2005 NCIS Erin Kendall Episode: "Witness"
Jack & Bobby Keirsten Episode: "And Justice for All"
NYPD Blue Rosemary Wyatt Episode: "Moving Day"
Strong Medicine Natalie Pascal Episode: "Feeling No Pain"
Path of Destruction Katherine Stern TV movie
How I Met Your Mother Trudy Episode: "The Pineapple Incident"
2006 Cyberchase Wanda Episode: "Designing Mr. Perfect"
Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm Brittany (The Flower Shop Lady)
Inspector Mom Maddie Monroe 10 episodes (2006–2007) + TV movie
2007 Inspector Mom: Kidnapped in Ten Easy Steps Maddie Monroe TV movie
Random! Cartoons Katerina "Kat" Metropoulos (voice) Episode: "Girls on the Go!"
How I Met Your Mother Trudy Episode: "Third Wheel"
Hack! Emily
2008 Heatstroke[14] Caroline
2009 21 and a Wake-Up Jenny Valentine
2010 The Big Bang Theory Abby Episode: "The Psychic Vortex"
Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo Madelyn Dinkley (voice) Video
Young Justice Miss Martian Voice
2011 G.I. Joe: Renegades Sister Leah Episode: "Brothers of Light"


  1. ^ a b c The Wonder Years (TV Series 1988–1993) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b "Children's Books". The New York Times. September 28, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/books/bestseller/bestchildren.html. Retrieved March 29, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Best Sellers: Children's Chapter Books
  4. ^ Danica McKellar
  5. ^ Danica McKellar Biography (1975-)
  6. ^ a b danicamckellar.com
  7. ^ Danica McKellar - Celebrity Girls - Maxim Magazine
  8. ^ a b c Where are they now? – Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years
  9. ^ a b Justice for Annie: A Moment of Truth Movie (TV 1996) at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ a b c Danica McKellar at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Danica McKellar pictures and bio on STUFF MAGAZINE DOT COM:
  12. ^ "Winnie Cooper Goes Digital:McKellar to star in movies, webisodes for Lifetime". Zap2it. 2006-06-12. http://www.zap2it.com/tv/news/zap-danicamckellar-lifetimewebisodes,0,5927531.story. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  13. ^ Interviews & Features|TVGuide.com
  14. ^ a b Heatstroke (2008) at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Chayes, L; McKellar, D; Winn, B (1998). "Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on \mathbb{Z}^2". Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General 31 (45): 9055–9063. Bibcode 1998JPhA...31.9055C. doi:10.1088/0305-4470/31/45/005. http://www.danicamckellar.com/math/percolation.pdf. 
  16. ^ "USNews.com: America's Best Colleges 2006: College Flashback: Danica McKellar". U.S.News & World Report. Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20080314141931/http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/student-center/flashback/flashback_090105_brief.php. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  17. ^ Blog post by mathematician Terence Tao, a former instructor of McKellar's, complimenting her book and explaining the theorem.
  18. ^ Kenneth Chang, "Between Series, an Actress Became a Superstar (in Math)", The New York Times, July 19, 2005.
  19. ^ McKellar's coauthor L. Chayes published a paper with E.H. Lieb, who in turn coauthored a paper with D.J. Kleitman, a coauthor of Paul Erdős.
  20. ^ Danica McKellar (2007). Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. Hudson Street Press. ISBN 978-1594630392. 
  21. ^ September 21, 2007, Hour Two: Women, Girls, and Math
  22. ^ Smith, Tara (2007-07-24). "Aetiology:Danica McKellar's "Math Doesn't Suck"". Aetiology. ScienceBlogs. http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/07/danica_mckelllars_math_doesnt.php. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  23. ^ Smith, Tara (2007-07-25). "Interview with math whiz, author, and actress Danica McKellar". Aetiology. ScienceBlogs. http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/07/interview_with_math_whiz_autho.php. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  24. ^ "ABC News: Person of the Week: Danica McKellar". http://abcnews.go.com/WN/PersonOfWeek/story?id=3467211&page=1. Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  25. ^ Danica McKellar (2008). Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss. Hudson Street Press. ISBN 978-1-59463-049-1. 
  26. ^ Danica McKellar (2010). Hot X: Algebra Exposed. Hudson Street Press. ISBN 978-1-59463-070-5. 
  27. ^ "Actress Danica McKellar Solves For 'X'". NPR. August 6, 2010.
  28. ^ Hot X: Algebra Exposed! - Extras
  29. ^ "Best Sellers: Children's Books". The New York Times. September 28, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/books/bestseller/bestchildren.html. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  30. ^ Danica McKellar is Married! People, March 22, 2009
  31. ^ Danica McKellar is Pregnant! People, March 17, 2010

Further reading

External links

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