Danica Mae McKellar (born January 3, 1975, La Jolla, California) 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, and later as author of the three The New York Times bestsellers, Math Doesn't Suck, Kiss My Math, and Hot X: Algebra Exposed, which encourage middle-school girls to have confidence and succeed in mathematics. She played the role of Abby in The Big Bang Theory.
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. Her family is "a big mix of Western Europe": Her mother's ancestry is Portuguese (via the Azores and Madeira islands); her father's ancestry is Scottish, Irish, French, German and Dutch. 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.
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 the ABC network, from 1988 to 1993.
McKellar played Gwendolyn "Winnie" Cooper 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. 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." 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." 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. 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. McKellar appeared in lingerie in the July 2005 edition of Stuff magazine after readers voted her the 90's star they would most like to see in lingerie. McKellar explained that she agreed to the shoot in part to obtain "grittier roles".
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.
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. 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", as well as an appearance on the show The Big Bang Theory.
In 2008, she starred in Heatstroke (television series), a SyFy Channel original movie about searching for alien life on Earth.
McKellar, as of June 23, 2008, 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.
In 2014, appearing on "Dancing with the Stars".
McKellar has also become a very experienced voice actress.
McKellar studied mathematics at UCLA, graduating with highest honors (summa cum laude) in 1998. As an undergraduate, she coauthored a scientific paper with Professor Lincoln Chayes and fellow student Brandy Winn. Their results are termed the 'Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem'.