Even Danica McKellar’s own Dancing With the Stars Season 18 partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, admitted he immediately knew her as “Winnie Cooper” … but didn’t know her real name. Hopefully that’s something Danica, now 39, can put behind her on the spring 2014 season. In the meantime, here are seven things to know about the TV star every guy had a crush on in the early ‘90s (and still probably loves today).
1. Fred Savage Was Her First Kiss. Danica played dream girl Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years from 1988 to 1993. Winnie was the object of Kevin Arnold’s (Fred Savage) affection, and their characters’ first kiss was the actors’ own first kiss in real life. “I was 12, and he was 11,” Danica told Maxim. “That was only about a week after we’d met, and we totally had crushes on each other. But we never kissed offscreen, ever.” They ended up more like brother and sister.
2. Jimmy Fallon Kinda Sorta Named His Daughter After Her. Jimmy Fallon’s daughter is named Winnie Rose, but she wasn’t named after Winnie-the-Pooh. As Jimmy explained to the Today show, "My wife and I got engaged in New Hampshire at this lake house that her family's had forever, and it's on Lake Winnipesaukee. And so we went there every summer as we were dating." The full lake name was too long, so they shortened it, with extra inspiration from a certain character. "And yeah, Winnie from 'The Wonder Years' is the coolest girl in any TV show ever. And also, she's a 'win' for us."
3. She Doesn’t Want To Hear About Your Winnie Cooper Crush. Sorry, Jimmy! Maxim told Danica she must always be meeting guys who hit on her because of her famous role. “I’ve always been really cautious about guys who have a Winnie Cooper fantasy, and I’m so glad about that,” she said. “I mean, I can count on one hand the guys I’ve been with. It was really challenging, but I never gave it up too soon, if you know what I mean.”
4. She’s a Math Whiz. Danica graduated summa cum laude from UCLA, focusing on math even though that’s not what she signed up to do. “When I got to college, I was intending to study film,” she told Maxim. “But I found that my brain was feeling mushy, so I took a few math classes. I started doing really well at them, and solving equations was this, like, drug rush.” She’s a math junkie! She actually has a theorem named after her, along with Professor Lincoln Chayes and fellow student Brandy Winn, called the Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem. Danica has also written several math-related books, aimed at getting young women interested in the subject, including Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail; Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss; and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.
5. Her Son Is Named After a Dragon (And a Constellation). In September 2010, Danica gave birth to her son Draco Verta, her only child with now ex-husband Michael Verta. She told People the name Draco — Latin for dragon as well as a constellation — was her husband’s idea at first. “He’d heard the name and loved it,” she explained. “He said, ‘Once we’re gone, the constellation will keep looking out for him.’ It makes me cry every time I hear it. So of course that made it a winner! I love it. It’s a cool, strong name.” Speaking of names, on her website, Danica explained that her name “seems to be natively found in Denmark and also in most Slavic countries (although in Slavic nations, it's pronounced ‘Don'-eetz-sa’) and it means, ‘Morning Star.’ That's why I named my production company ‘Morning Starlight Productions, ‘ since I guess a morning star would ‘produce’ morning starlight.”
6. She Isn’t Asian, Even Though Some People Think She Looks Asian. That may sound random, but apparently Danica is often asked about her ethnic background. On her website, Danica answers the question, “What is your nationality? I've heard that you are part Asian, either Korean or Japanese, or both. Is that true?” Danica said this person was not the first to ask her if she’s Asian, Hawaiian, Greek, etc. “The truth is, I'm a big mix of Western Europe. I'm mostly Portuguese (this is my mom's side), via the Azores and Madeira Islands,” Danica said. “These are both groups of islands in the Atlantic ocean settled by the Portuguese in 1418. This means that my mom's side is probably a fair mix of Portuguese and native Islander! On my dad's side, I'm part Scottish (hence ‘McKellar’), and a little each of: German, Spanish, French, and Dutch. No Asian, I'm afraid. Although you should see baby pictures, I really do look Asian!”
7. She Has Some Ballroom Dance Experience. According to IMDb, Danica and her younger sister Crystal began acting at a young age in their mother’s dance studio. They probably did a lot of dancing in that studio, too. On Nerd Girls, they listed some of Danica’s passions besides acting, including “her love of ballroom dancing and yoga.” In an interview with ABC News 20/20 from a few years back, Danica said what was next for her was "ballroom dancing." She loves it, and you can see her dancing in the network’s interview. She looks good!