Danica McKellar, who won and broke hearts with her portrayal of Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years,” graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a bachelor of science in mathematics. She has published papers and written numerous books on the world of numbers.
She took time away from the math world to star in the new Hallmark Channel film, “Very, Very Valentine.” McKellar’s character, Helen, is a flower shop employee, and her best friend, Henry (Cameron Mathison), works at the botanical gardens. Helen falls for a mystery man at a fancy ball and enlists Henry’s help in finding him. How this mystery man will play into the tale of romance and roses is part of Hallmark Channel’s annual ode to love through the “Countdown to Valentine’s Day.”
Because McKellar is an internationally recognized mathematician, it only makes sense to ask her to discuss in math terms the romantic connection between the characters in her new film.
“Their relationship is an obtuse triangle because Henry and Helen have been best friends and they are both too obtuse to see that they belong together,” McKellar said.
McKellar has made multiple movies for the cable channel themes to major holidays but is particularly happy to be part of the Valentine’s Day presentations. If you have any doubts McKellar is big fan of Valentine’s Day, she will show you all the drawings and doodles she’s made since she was little. Doing the Valentine’s movie for her was like having a big childhood fantasy come to life.
“The projects done by Hallmark are such feel-good movies,” McKellar said. “I love being a part of them because they are happy nice films that will make you feel better after watching them than you did before.
“I love being able to tell people to tune in and you’re going to have a great time.”
Right after “The Wonder Years,” McKellar, 43, pursued darker roles to break out of the wholesome image she had from the TV family comedy, but eventually decided she wanted to be involved with upbeat projects. McKellar’s reached a point in her career where she can pick a project that appeals to her in a variety of ways. There are movies like “Very, Very Valentine” where she knows the work will make her and the viewers feel good, or the voice work in “DC Super Hero Girls” as the voice of Frost, a superhero who is good at math and science, where she can have another outlet to push learning.
She doesn’t mind when people still want to talk to her about “The Wonder Years” despite it going off the air 25 years ago.
“When I was about 14 and in the middle of the show, I got a little tired of it. I was a teenager and I wanted to be known for me and not just this one character,” McKellar said. “When I got into college, I realized that this was a really loved show. What a wonderful thing to be a part of.
“People come up to me and tell me that I was their first crush. What a beautiful and honored position to be in someone’s mind. I have learned to be grateful because it’s given me such a wonderful platform to do things that matter to me.”
High on that list of things that matter to her are the math books she’s written to help inspire girls in math and to get young people to embrace being smart. She knows mckellarmath.com would have never gotten the attention it gets had she not been able to lure fans of her work to the website.
While working on “Very, Very Valentine,” McKellar learned a little about flowers, but she quickly points out that friends looking for advice about romance or flowers will get far more help from her when it comes to matters of the heart.
“I love flowers but I’m no expert,” McKellar said. She paused, laughed, and then added, “Not that I’m an expert on romance, but I have more experience with it. So far, I’m just a flower admirer.” She finds romance far more complicated that flowers because with flowers “you can arrange them how you want and they stay.”
Along with being a mom, a busy film and TV actress plus a voice performer, the California native manages to find time to write books, such as “Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss” and “Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.” She’s tied together her latest book, “Ten Magic Butterflies” (Crown Books for Young Readers, $17.99), being released Tuesday, with the telecast of “Very, Very Valentine.” She urges viewers to go to mckellarmath.com for details connecting the projects.
McKellar loves making movies like “Very, Very Valentine” but her true passion comes out when she talks about education, especially when it comes to math.
“The whole point is that math is for anyone. It’s a great brain exerciser and will make your brainer stronger no matter what you want to do,” McKellar said. “It will build you into the smart young person you want to be.
“I love math and part of the reason I write my math books is to help other kids find their love of math. If they don’t love math, that’s OK. I want to show them that they can do it. They might not love math but they can say ‘Yes, I can do this.’”