Fred Savage Looks Back on Landing ‘Wonder Years’ Role

The Wonder Years — which returns to ABC on Sept. 22 in a version that follows a Black family in the late 1960s living in Montgomery, Alabama — was nominated for 28 Emmy Awards during its 1988-92 run. Among them was one for star Fred Savage, who at 13 became the youngest male actor ever nominated for outstanding lead in a comedy series (a record that still stands).

The show won four Emmys, including outstanding comedy series in 1988. One of a wave of shows that capitalized on aging Baby Boomer audiences’ fascination with themselves (NBC’s Family Ties and ABC’s thirtysomething among them), Wonder Years was a less-jaded take on the theme. Each season was set exactly 20 years before its air date and followed the all-American Arnold family as the events of the era (the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Space Race) played out around them. Savage — who portrayed Kevin Arnold (his adult musings were provided in voiceover by Daniel Stern) — was recommended to creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black by five separate casting directors on the strength of his work as the grandson in 1987’s The Princess Bride and the 1988 body-swap comedy Vice Versa.

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THR’s May 1993 review of the series’ finale said it “revealed much about our national passions while intimately telling of one child’s growing up.”
The Hollywood Reporter

“I remember coming into Los Angeles from Chicago with my dad to meet Neal and Carol,” recalls Savage, now 45 and serving as executive producer on the reboot. “We stayed at the Century Park Hotel in Century City. They told me that’s where President Reagan stayed when he came to Los Angeles. I was very excited about that.” After the meeting, which went very well, Savage and his father celebrated with a seafood lunch at Killer Shrimp. Then came the network test: “I remember standing in this stone and marble conference room doing my scenes in front of a conference table that was a mile long.”

Savage learned of his Emmy nomination during a sleepover, from a note left by his friend’s mother on the dishwasher: “Good morning, guys,” it read. “There’s breakfast in the fridge. And congratulations, Fred. You were nominated for an Emmy.”

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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