‘The Wonder Years’: Finding a Child Actor Like Fred Savage Was ‘Rare,’ Said Series Co-Creator

The Wonder Years aired in the late ’80s and formed the basis for various actors’ careers. This coming-of-age movie might have wrapped up in the ’90s, but it quickly became one of the most significant influences of American television to date.

The sitcom starring Fred Savage and Danica McKellar was way ahead of its time and was one of the first sitcoms to lack a laugh track. Today shows like The Goldbergs and Modern Family have incorporated the same format into their shows.

Savage was the breakout star of The Wonder Years, and for a good reason. According to the series’ co-creators, Savage had a rare quality to him that made him the best Kevin Arnold out of other actors.

Savage had a small role in a beloved film

Fred Savage
Fred Savage | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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Before landing his iconic role on The Wonder Years, Savage had a small role in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. This seemingly small yet crucial role helped lay the base for his most remembered role to date. 

Before that, he had appeared in the television show Morningstar/ Eveningstar when he was nine years old. He also appeared in Dinosaurs! A Fun-Filled Trip Back In Time and The Boy Who Couldn’t Fly. In 1988, Savage landed his iconic role on The Wonder Years as Kevin Arnold.

For six years, he played the relatable boy who tries to figure out how to survive teenage hood and relationships. Savage got nominated twice for an Emmy and twice for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Kevin, thus becoming the youngest actor to have ever received such honors.

Savage was so good at playing the friendly teenage boy that other people had difficulty associating him with other characters. Although he was typecast as the go-to boy-next-door. The actor-turned-director tried his hand at different roles on tv and film, including some commercials.

Breaking the mold

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It took Savage a long time to break out of his boy-next-door persona associated with appearing on The Wonder Years. The star worked on Little Monsters immediately after wrapping up work on The Wonder Years. He also appeared on the NBC sitcom Working and Boy Meets World.

According to his IMDb profile, Savage has 74 directorial credits under his name. He has been involved with popular shows such as It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Two Broke Girls. He also directed some episodes for the hit sitcom Modern Family.

In 2017, Savage joined the cast of the Netflix dramedy Friends From College. The show featured an all-star cast consisting of How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders, Comedy Central’s Keegan Michael, and Annie Parisse. The Netflix show followed a group of friends who had a complex relationship.

The series, however, got canceled due to poor ratings. The star has also done voice work for commercials. Savage partnered with Honda in 2015 to become the voice behind the car manufacturer’s commercials.

‘The Wonder Years’ co-creator said Savage had a unique quality to him, which led to his casting

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When The Wonder Years creators Carol Black and Neal Marlens wanted to cast a child actor to play Kevin Arnold, they talked to five casting directors asking them for their recommendations. Interestingly, all of the five directors interviewed suggested the showrunners go with Savage.

Mental Floss reports that Marlens and Black knew nothing of Savage at the time, so they arranged to view some of his unedited material from another film he’d been working on. Marlens said that they saw a wonderful actor who had a natural quality which meant that his best quality was being a child. The show’s co-creator commented, “it sounds funny, but it’s a rare thing to find in a child actor.”