In her youth, Danica McKellar played the quintessential girl next door Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. After the series finale, McKellar was faced with the same question that many young people in Hollywood have to answer at the end of such an iconic role: What next?
As she explains in PBS NOVA's Secret Life Of Scientists, her first step to finding what to do with the rest of her life was similar to what a lot of other people her age do; she went to college. While she initially planned to major in Film, her life was changed when she took her first math class at UCLA.
Despite excelling in the math in high school, McKellar says she was intimidated at the thought of taking a college-level class, unsure of whether she'd be able to keep up with her classmates. After her first exam, however, it became clear that keeping up wasn't going to be a problem: she scored the highest grade in the class by a very wide margin.
"You have a gift in math," she recalls her professor telling her. "You should really pursue this. You should be a math major."
After that, her classmates didn't only notice her as the girl who played Winnie Cooper, but as the girl who was extremely talented at math, too.
As her studies went on, McKellar felt more at home in the math department, not only helping her classmates with their studies but even making a permanent mark on the field of mathematics itself.
"I discovered I could be smart and capable and valuable for something that had nothing to do with Hollywood," she says in the video. "This is me and it felt great."
Learn more about McKellar's incredible journey here:
McKellar has also become an outspoken advocate for girls in STEM and has authored four math books, meant to get teens and adolescents excited about math.
McKellar still has steady work as an actress and although she will probably always be recognized as the girl who stole Kevin Arnold's heart, her story is incredibly inspiring and proves that a person's true talents might not always be obvious, but in order to find them, the most important thing to do is try.