Who is Fred Savage?
That question might leave some Gen X-ers rolling their eyes, because, duh: He’s Kevin Arnold, the star of “The Wonder Years,” who had a crush on Winnie Cooper, the girl who lived across the street, and grew up before our eyes.
But generations who weren’t glued to the TV back then might know Savage more from the misconduct accusations that were leveled against the actor-director earlier this year. They were significant enough to cost him his executive producer and director jobs on the current ABC reboot of that coming-of-age TV comedy.
On Tuesday, the women who accused 46-year-old Savage of misconduct earlier this year opened up to the Hollywood Reporter with details of their allegations. “I and the other women feel that people need to know what the wrongdoing was,” one woman told the trade publication.
In light of that article, here’s some background on the man who played Kevin Arnold — and has been dealing with accusations of inappropriate behavior on set since he was 16.
Who is Fred Savage?
The Chicago native had already been acting for years when, at age 12, he landed the lead role in the envelope-pushing 1980s family sitcom “The Wonder Years.” On the show, Savage’s Kevin Arnold and friends Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) and Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) grew up in middle-class suburbia in the late 1960s and early ’70s. When Savage was 13, he became the youngest person ever nominated for an Emmy for lead actor in a comedy series. He was nominated the next year too.
“The Wonder Years,” as former LA Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg wrote in 1989, was “the only” series about kids that seems to have been designed and written by people who actually were kids.”
Since then, notable Savage roles have included the sitcoms “Working” and “The Grinder,” where in 2015 and 2016 Savage played a lawyer with an annoying older actor brother (Rob Lowe) who thought he was qualified to work as an attorney, too , because he had played one on TV.
Savage has also voiced a number of animated roles and, more significantly, directed dozens of episodes for TV shows including “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Modern Family” and “The Conner.”
His producer and executive producer credits include “Phil of the Future,” “It’s Always Sunny,” “Garfunkel and Oates” and, of course, the Lee Daniels reboot of “Wonder Years,” developed by fellow EP Saladin K. Patterson.
What’s his personal life like?
Savage married childhood friend Jennifer Lynn Stone in 2004. Together, the Savages have three children, Lily, Oliver and Auggie.
What has he been doing since getting fired in May?
A source told People in mid-May, a week after the firing, that Savage was “taking a break” in the wake of complaints that he was mistreating crew members.
“Instead of him being like, ‘Screw you for saying this to me,’ he’s like, ‘OK, well if that’s how people are feeling, I need to figure out what I could be doing better,’” the source said, noting that Savage’s “flaw” after working in the industry for so long is that “sometimes, he gets pissed off on set and gets annoyed.”
Why was he sued previously about his alleged workplace behavior?
Savage was first sued by a costumer who worked with him during the final season of the original “Wonder Years.” The actor was 16 at the time, and Monique Long accused both him and Jason Hervey, who was 18 and played big brother Wayne Arnold on the show, of verbally and sexually harassing her daily.
Long’s attorney said at the time that Long had been fired after complaining about how she was allegedly treated. Savage’s lawyer characterized Long as a “disgruntled employee” and said the action was a “nuisance suit” aimed at publicly embarrassing Savage. The suit, filed in March 1993, was settled out of court in April 1994. Savage denied any wrongdoing.
Then in March 2018, Youngjoo Hwang, who worked in the wardrobe department on “The Grinder,” sued Savage and 20th Century Fox’s film and television divisions. The lawsuit, reviewed by The Times, alleged assault and battery by the actor and said he had displayed “aggressive behavior, intimidation and constant use of profanity aimed toward female employees” on the Fox show.
The lawsuit described a climactic incident in which Savage, after allegedly being counseled to change his behavior toward Hwang, “violently struck Ms. Hwang’s arm three times with his hand” after the show’s director asked her to brush dandruff off the shoulders of Savage’s suit.
“These accusations are completely without merit and absolutely untrue,” Savage said in a statement to Us Weekly at the time. “After concluding a thorough investigation, Fox determined that there was absolutely no evidence to support these accusations. None of her claims could be substantiated because they did not happen.”
The case was dismissed in mid-2019.
What happened on the ‘Wonder Years’ reboot?
Savage was an executive producer and director on the rebooted comedy, which premiered in September 2021 and now revolves around a Black family with kids growing up in Montgomery, Ala., in the late 1960s. The former child star directed eight episodes, including the pilot. The show’s first season wrapped on May 18 — about two weeks after Savage’s surprise firing was reported.
“Recently, we were made aware of allegations of inappropriate conduct by Fred Savage, and as is policy, an investigation was launched,” a spokesperson for 20th Television told The Times in a statement. “Upon its completion, the decision was made to terminate his employment as an executive producer and director of ‘The Wonder Years.’”
Savage reportedly cooperated fully with the investigation, which included three allegations of inappropriate behavior.
What details came out this week?
The women who spoke with THR said that in February they sent a complaint about Savage to Disney — which owns ABC — and got a fast response that included barring the director from the set of “The Wonder Years” as an investigation began. The six women interviewed said they were moved to contact THR after reading a positive Page Six article about Savage doing “a lot of self-reflection” in the wake of his firing.
The women said they saw two sides of Savage — a charismatic colleague with a darker alter ego. One questioned the “strangeness” of Savage’s relationship with a much younger woman working on the crew, which she said included gifts and a stay at his home in Atlanta, where “Wonder Years” is shot. One woman said “he proceeded to verbally harass me and belittle me” when she tried to shield the younger woman from him.
Another crew member, a woman in her 30s who others observed getting “blatant favoritism” from Savage, spoke to THR as well. She said that in 2021, when she was no longer working on the show, she ran into Savage at a bar where the crew often gathered. He was buying shots for the crew.
She alleged he followed her into the women’s bathroom and “put his mouth on mine very forcefully. He went for the top of my pants. I brushed him away. Then he put his mouth on mine again, grabbed my hand and pulled it on his groin area. I was pulling back. He stopped very angrily. I shoulder-checked him so I could get out.”
Savage continued to text and call for a couple weeks, the woman told THR, finally leaving a voice message that she played for the trade paper.
“It’s your old friend Fred,” the message said. “We worked together for a while, and then we didn’t, and then I was a huge a—hole. A huge a-hole. And I’m really sorry. And I’ve kind of owed you an apology for a minute here and so, uh, the truth is I really like you and I really want to be friends, and I’m so sorry that I f— that up.”
What does the actor have to say about it?
The Times was unable to reach Savage for comment Wednesday. However, he told the New York Post and other outlets in a statement Tuesday that for the bulk of his life he had worked on sets with thousands of people and had “always strived to contribute to an inclusive, safe and supportive work environment” during production .
“It is devastating,” Savage continued, “to learn that there are co-workers who feel I have fallen short of these goals. While there are some incidents being reported that absolutely did not and could not have happened, any one person who feels hurt or offended by my actions is one person too many.”
The actor said he would “work to address and change any behavior that has negatively affected anyone, as nothing in this world is more important to me than being a supportive co-worker, friend, husband, father and person.”