Similar to the nostalgia-heavy origin12al, Dean narrates the events that shaped him in 1968, when, as a shy but inquisitive 12-year-old (played by Elisha “EJ” Williams, also 12), his problems range from asking crush Keisa (Milan Ray) to go steady to getting Black and white Little League teams to play each other.
Focusing on a Black family in Alabama this time around is a chance to show different experiences and check in on the progress that has — or hasn’t — been made, says Dulé Hill, who costars as Dean’s supportive father, Bill, a music professor by day and a funk musician by night.
The patriarch’s “be cool” mantra is tested in the premiere when a national tragedy unfolds. “How do you keep joy, love, and light inside of your home while there’s so much turbulence outside of the doors? That’s something a lot of families will be able to relate to today,” Hill says.
Fred Savage, who played the original’s tween protagonist, Kevin Arnold, is an exec producer on the reboot and directed its first episode. “It was great to have him around,” says Williams. “He’s always in my ear. He told me how much [this show] means to him.”
The Wonder Years, Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22, 8:30/7:30c, ABC
This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s 2021 Fall Preview issue. For more inside scoop on the new fall TV season, pick up the issue, on newsstands Thursday, August 26.