The Wonder Years featured a moving story about a young man dealing with growing up, and here are a few details about the main characters of the show.
The Wonder Years took us on a wholesome, all-American yet deeply personal journey alongside a young Kevin Arnold as he navigates school life in the early sixties, narrated from the perspective of his older self, who offers poignant insights from time to time on that time of uncertainty and painful self-awareness in a teen’s life.
The show was filled with complex, well-rounded characters who all had a part to play in teaching young Kevin wisdom and what it means to be an empathetic human being who will one day grow up to be a good man. Here are 10 details about the main characters from the show that you might not have been aware of.
Winnie’s Full Name
Winnie Cooper was the quintessential girl-next-door for an entire generation of boys who grew up with the show. Everything about the character, from the dressed-down clothing to the fresh face unmarked by excessive makeup added to her wholesome appeal. Even her name, Winnie Cooper, seemed designed to be the most generic, non-fancy name the writers could give to the young girl. But Winnie is not actually her name. Little Miss Cooper’s full first name was Gwendolyn, which was shortened to Winnie by her near and dear ones.
Karen Wore Hair Extensions
The actor who played Kevin’s older sister Karen was a Briton pretending to be a sixties flower child from America. To add authenticity to the part, played by Olivia d’Abo, the actress wore hair extensions. Since one of the most noticeable features of the hippie movement that had been gaining strength at the time had been their long, unbrushed hair decorated with flowers and feathers, the extensions aided enormously in solidifying Karen’s personality as an anti-war, feminist hippie constantly at war with her parent’s ideas and beliefs.
The Chemistry Was Real
Fred Savage and Danica McKellar played Kevin and Winnie on the show, and the two had great chemistry right from the first episode. The first kiss the two share on the show is considered one of the greatest in television history, and that was at least partly because it wasn’t all acting on the part of the actors.
Savage and McKellar have both confessed to having a crush on each other during the filming of that first kiss, which would also be their first kiss in real life as well. All those pent-up feelings combined to produce a great scene about the two kid’s first kiss.
Kevin Lived In Burbank, California
It was never made clear which part of America Kevin’s friends and family belonged to. But fans have carefully combed through the show for clues and determined that the Arnold family lived in Burbank, California. That’s where most of the external shots for the show were filmed, and so it is logical to assume that is where Kevin grew up as well.
Ralphie Inspired Kevin’s Story
One of the inspirations behind the show was the recent hit film A Christmas Story. Two key aspects of the film, the coming-of-age aspect and the use of a personal narration plot device, prompted the show’s makers to create something along similar lines.
The connection was acknowledged in the final season when the lead of A Christmas Story, Peter Billingsley, appeared on the show’s final two episodes as one of Kevin’s roommates Ralphie.
The Teen Dialogues Were True-To-life
One of the best things about the show was how natural and unaffected the interactions between the child actors on the show were. The dialogues between Kevin and Winnie were just what real kids their age would talk like. And a large part of that was a result of the fact that the writers of the show would often eavesdrop on the conversations between Fred Savage and Danica McKellar and use the way the two would talk to each other and often entire lines verbatim in the script.
The Reason For The Split
Before Ross and Rachel, there were Kevin and Winnie, and the frequent break-ups and makeups between the two throughout the series. But as it turns out, the first breakup between the two was more a matter of practical concerns than a purposeful narrative. At that time, puberty hit McKellar before Fred Savage, causing her to shoot up past him by several inches.
The breakup was designed to avoid putting the two together in the same frame for the time being and allow Kevin time to catch up with Winnie in terms of height. The next time the two got together onscreen, the height disparity was no longer as noticeable.
The Actor Informed The Character
The character of Kevin’s father was not very fleshed out initially, and the fact that he was depicted as a veteran of the Korean war was because of the actor who played him, instead of the writers. Dan Lauria played Kevin’s dad, John, and since Lauria was an actual army veteran and marine in real life, he suggested making John a former army man as well. The writers liked the idea, and Dan’s natural build and carriage helped make John Arnold’s veteran status easily believable.
Many Scenes Were Filmed Separately
The kids on the show had to juggle their studies and shorter working hours as compared to adult actors. One side effect of this arrangement was that many scenes involving the actors had to be filmed separately since one of the actors in the scene was unavailable at the time.
The most famous example of such a scene was the one where Kevin and Winnie say ‘I love you’ to one another for the first time. It was a bittersweet, deeply moving moment, despite the fact that both young actors were reacting to pre-recorded lines being played on a cassette player, and were not even on set at the same time.
Kevin’s Real-Life Son
Daniel Stern, best known as one of the burglars in Home Alone, voiced the character of the adult Kevin who provides narration throughout the series. In the final episode, we hear Kevin’s son calling for his father to come play catch. The voice of the son is provided by Stern’s real-life son, so that was literally Kevin’s son calling out to him at the end of the series instead of a random young actor.