Danica McKellar: Are You the Girl from “The Wonder Years”?


Interviewer: Danica, how are you? Good, good. Interviewer: Nice to see you, what are you studying right now? I’m studying geometry. Interviewer: Holy Cow, look at that. When I was in the ninth grade, I remember studying geometry theorems and saying, “wouldn’t it be cool to have a theorem named after me?” and I had no idea that one day, that would happen. Intro Winnie Cooper (character): Hey Kevin, Hi Paul! Paul (character): Winnie Cooper?! Winnie Cooper was the girl next door. Winnie Cooper (character): My real name is Gwendolyn. She was the love interest, on again and off again of Kevin Arnold Kevin Arnold (character): Winnie will you go to the dance with me? Winnie Cooper (character): Dance? …I can’t Her parents had a lot of issues. They’re separated and Winnie had to move. It was a sort of deep sadness to Winnie Cooper. And it kind of helped Kevin to appreciate his own family sometimes. Winnie Cooper was very smart. She scored better than –Kevin Arnold on the SATs. Kevin Arnold (character): What exactly did you do get on your SATs? Winnie Cooper (character): 725 verbal, 757 math. Yeah. She was smart. Clip: “You fell in love with them five years ago. And you watched them grow up. –The Wonder Years, a special one hour final episode.” Any child whose been on a very popular series knows that when it’s over, there’s a difficult period, where there’s a lot of insecurity. You’re so recognized for this one role. And then when that’s over, you start to wonder well, who else would I be if I didn’t have this role? So, I then went to UCLA and in my mind I thought, okay, new chapter of my life, I’m moving on. And of course, I got to the UCLA campus and everybody was like “Hey Winnie, where’s Kevin?” It happened over and over and over again and I really just wanted to move on and figure out who I was. I was like, God you guys, this is hard enough, stop. I was going to be a film major. But I decided to take this math class. I was like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” I was afraid of it. I was afraid of it. I’d gotten a five on the AP Calculus BC exam, which is the highest score you can get on the most difficult calculus exam offered in high school. And I didn’t think I’d do well? Who did I think would do well? Somebody who looked the part more than me. When I took my first multivariable Calculus class, I scored at the top of the class. A hundred and sixty three people. The professor actually graphed the scores on the chalkboard. I’ll never forget it. My score was the twenty two and then two fifteens and then it was nine and below. And I was stunned, I was floored, I could not believe that I’d done so well. The professor came up to me and said, “you have a gift in math. –You should really pursue this. You should be a math major.” ….What? A math major?” I thought that a math class in college would be hard enough. A couple days later, in that class, this kid tapped me on the shoulder and said “Excuse me are you that girl?” And that question always ends with, “From TV?” or “Who played Winnie?” He goes, “Excuse me, aren’t you that girl who got the 22? I was like… “Yes…That is me.” I became a calculus tutor in the department, I excelled in my classes and I loved it. I had the opportunity to co-author a research paper. We proved a new theorem. Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z two. Also known now as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem. I discovered that I could be smart and capable and valuable for something that had nothing to do with Hollywood. This is me. And it felt great.

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