Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
The Wonder Years, Poltergeist II, How High
Currently Known For:
1988 - 2005
Many of us remember our first crush, and for those that were born in the late 1970s, there’s a chance that it might have been Kathy Wagner. In the first season of “The Wonder Years” (which many growing up around the late 1980s and early 1990s watched), Wagner would portray one of the many girls that became involved in the life of Kevin Arnold during the show’s run, and had already been acting before that.
Wagner was born on July 1, 1977, and wanted to get into entertainment as soon as possible. When she was just a few years old, Wagner would get her first gig when she appeared in several advertisements as a child model, including for McDonald’s. Her first role on TV would come in the series “Gimme a Break!” having a brief cameo in a 1981 episode. Two years later, she would then pop up in an episode of “Trauma Center” followed by “Glitter”.
Throughout the middle part of the 1980s, Wagner started to get involved with film, having roles in “Iron Eagle”, as well as “The Ladies Club” and “Poltergeist II: The Other Side”. That didn’t mean she was done with television, however, as she made a couple more appearances that included “Silver Spoons” before landing what was perhaps her most notable role when she was cast as Lisa Berlini in a pair of episodes in the first season of “The Wonder Years” with “Dance with Me” and “The Phone Call”.
In her brief role on the series, Wagner played the girl that main character Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) had a crush on at the beginning of the series. To get the role, Wagner says that she was 10 years old and “went on auditions everyday,” adding that “When I got the audition for ‘The Wonder Years’ it was a little different – exciting because it was the new hit show. I don’t remember much about the audition process, except that at my third callback they actually brought Fed Savage into the room to read with me and I was nervous about that.”
Like many that have appeared on “The Wonder Years”, Wagner pointed out just how friendly and professional the cast and crew were, perhaps more than any other show. “Everyone was really nice and it was very fun having to take 60s dance lessons,” Wagner said. “After the first show aired I was really afraid to go back to school. I guess because it was such a big show and everyone watched it so I was nervous about what people were going to think of me. It’s not easy being a love interest at age 10.”
The rest of the early 1990s would continue to present recurring roles for Wagner, who also showed up on “Sisters” and “Billy”. By 1993, she had taken a role in an after school special, but then decided to take a hiatus from acting so that she could attend college at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In 1999, Wagner would graduate from college and had her return to acting in the 1999 TV film “Come On, Get Happy” about the Partridge Family.
To kick off the 2000s, Wagner continued to act, guest starring in the TV series “Undressed”. In 2001, she had perhaps her most notable film role when she was in the comedy “How High”. Though she wasn’t a main character, it did give her quite a bit of exposure, and would be her last appearance on the big screen to this point.
Asked if she’d like to go back to that time where she would appear on “The Wonder Years”, Wagner said that her memories back then mostly consisted of “boys and playground drama” and that “I don’t think I’d want to be 11 again – but if I was I’d want to be more confident and not care what other people thought so much.”
She even said that she was more nervous to work with the likes of Fred Savage instead of veteran actors that she appeared with, and knows that many young boys that watched the series had a bit of a crush on her. “That’s very flattering…(but) I’m kind of a shy person so I’m not always good at being recognized,” she said.
With that in mind, Wagner is more focused on staying away from the spotlight these days, and says that her two children are her primary focus, though she won’t rule out a return to acting at some point. It’s now been more than a decade since Wagner’s appeared as an actress, having made her last appearance in 2006’s “You Did What?”, which followed up her roles in “Hoosiers II: Senior Year” and “Half-Caste”, both of which were short video features.
As for “The Wonder Years”, Wagner added that “All in all it was a great experience and although I have had much bigger roles throughout my career…this was the show that gave me the most exposure. I got tons of fan mail for years after those shows first aired and, funny enough, 23 years later I still get recognized all the time as Lisa Berlini.”