The Wonder Years reboot from Lee Daniels announces its cast

ABC has ordered a one season reboot of the late 80s/early 90s sitcom, The Wonder Years. It will be co-produced and directed by Lee Daniels. Elijah “EJ” Williams will play the lead, Dean Williams, based on the original character Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage). Dulé Hill will play the father, Bill. Milan Ray will also star as Dean’s love interest. The reboot has a twist as it will follow the Williams, a Black family living in segregated Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960s. Of course this is during the height of the civil rights movement which was centered in Montgomery through the activism of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other key Black figures in history. Fred Savage will direct the first episode and also co-produce the show. Below are a few more details from ET:

The Wonder Years is getting the reboot treatment at ABC, and filmmaker Lee Daniels has shared the first look at the new cast. The upcoming series, which received a pilot order from the network, will star Elisha “EJ” Williams as Dean Williams, taking over for Fred Savage, who played the central character, Kevin Arnold, in the original run.

Rounding out the rest of the Williams family is Dulé Hill as Bill, the patriarch who is a music professor by day and a funk musician by night, Saycon Sengbloh as his perceptive and good-humored wife, Lillian, with Laura Kariuki as Kim, Dean’s confident and popular teenage sister.

The new version written by comedy and TV veteran Saladin K. Patterson will focus on this middle-class family living in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1960s as Dean is trying to figure out his place at home and the world at large. Described by ABC as “a little insecure, a tad awkward and a bit self-conscious, he is determined to make his mark on the world around him.”

Additionally, Don Cheadle will serve as the narrator, aka “Adult Dean,” who reflects back on his younger years as he embarks on the next stage of his life as a new grandfather, while Julian Lerner and Amari O’Neil have been added as Dean’s childhood friends.

The original series, starring Savage, McKellar, Josh Saviano, Jason Hervey, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills and Olivia d’Abo, aired on ABC from 1988 to 1993. Savage is set to direct the pilot and executive produce the new project, along with Daniels, Patterson and Marc Velez, with original series co-creator Neal Marlens as a consultant.

[From ET]

I’m tired of all the reboots, however as a fan of the original Wonder Years I am actually looking forward to this. I love that the original cast of the Wonder Years is involved. It’s exciting that Fred Savage will be an executive producer. It was also super sweet that Danica McKellar reached out to Milan Ray.

I’m interested in seeing a suburban Black family during the civil rights movement in Montgomery as the story is unfortunately still relevant today. I am ambivalent about Daniels’s involvement. He sometimes has a ham-fisted approach and I think this needs a more nuanced take. Don Cheadle could add comedic levity as the narrator though. I didn’t know who Saladin K Patterson was before reading this article (he was a writer on Psych and Two and a Half Men) but I’m interested to see how he handles a dramedy.

I hope the writers don’t try to create a Black version of a cookie cutter suburban white family. Hopefully they’ll address those issues head-on while also showing the audience things haven’t changed much for Black people. At the same time, I hope that the series doesn’t dissolve into trauma porn but mainly focuses on the joy of a Black family living in the 60s. I am tired of seeing the suffering and pain of Black people as the main narrative on screen.

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13 Responses to “The Wonder Years reboot from Lee Daniels announces its cast”

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  1. Levans says:

    I’m not sure the time period was the right choice. Maybe early 80s would have been better. 60sera civil rights movement has lots of rich stories to mine but d*%n they are exhausting to constantly watch.

    • Watson says:

      Loved the wonder years. Normally I’m Not interested at all in reboots but to take this on from the perspective of a black family is super interesting to me. The 60’s was painful but it also had an optimism to it. This coupled with a normal loving black family, and a protagonist who is just an average kid trying to figure out life and love? Sign me up!!

      • Levans says:

        My suspicion is that it will not just focus on coming of age but coming of age and reckoning with the trauma of the 60s. Now we are still dealing with many of those same issues but for many of us who grew up watching the original Wonder years are more nostalgic for the 80s and 90s compared to the 60s.

      • Watson says:

        Levans: that makes sense. But i grew up in the 80s/ 90’s and I still remember the Rodney King/LA riots. Were things really better or different back then?

      • Levans says:

        I agree Watson! It is still there but not as ham fisted as the 60s with the obvious racism. To me would be a more interesting story to deal with the insidious way racism affects coming of age.

  2. OriginalLala says:

    oh wow, this is one reboot that I may actually watch

  3. pottymouth pup says:

    I don’t think this can have the wonder & naivete of the original wonder years because even with the social changes of the time period in which it took place, things were still pretty idyllic for working class/middle class white suburban families. A black boy in Montgomery, AL , even a middle class one, of the same age as Kevin was at the beginning of the Wonder Years would have been more acutely aware of what was going on and, of course, as this is told in flashback the reality of today looking back on then would definitely color the tone of the narrative. I don’t see there’s an older brother cast in the IMDB listing (there is an older sister) – if there were an older brother, I think that character would be in the mold of the Michael Evans character from Good Times – it’s possible the older sister in this could be that sort of character which would enable the Dean character to be a little more naive at the beginning. Of course, this is billed as a TV movie so I’m guessing it’s been written to stand on it’s own as a one off with the possibility of it standing to develop series based on ratings, so the Dean character if naive at the start won’t stay that way long?

  4. Eenie Googles says:

    I’d love to see a coming of age story about a black child that is just that. Why does it have to always be tied up in black trauma.
    And that’s what they are doing with their choice of the 60s.
    What was wrong with the 90s, here?

    • Sid says:

      Because Black trauma, especially Black female trauma, is what Daniels loves to put onscreen. I have no interest in anything he is involved in.

  5. Cait says:

    Anything Lee Daniels makes me cringe ? Lee Daniel’s clearly has a lot of hostility towards black women and it shows in every one of his projects. I just cannot with him .

  6. Renee says:

    I loved The Wonder Years and am so looking forward to watching the new ones.

  7. Jezebel's Lacefront says:

    Lee Daniels.