It’s back and better than ever! The Wonder Years reboot premiered via ABC on September 22, with Milan Ray as Keisa Clemmons.

“She’s strong-willed, she’s confident, she’s a great friend, but I think the thing I love most about her is that she’s not afraid to speak her mind,” the actress, 13, tells J-14 exclusively about her character. “Once I really processed that I booked [the role]. I was like, ‘I’m just going to do what I did in the audition.’ Hope it works out well.”

The new series — also starring Elisha “EJ” Williams as Dean Williams — is a reimagined version of the 1990s show of the same name, which ran for six seasons on ABC. In the 2021 version, Milan’s character, Keisa, was inspired by Winnie Cooper (played by Danica McKellar). While Milan has yet to hear from the OG actress personally, Danica did share some well-wishes on social media.

“She did make an Instagram post that I hold dear to my heart,” the young star gushes. “Kind of, you know, passing [on the torch], wishing me good luck. And I very much appreciated it.”

Because she’s so young, Milan never watched the original The Wonder Years. But once she started auditioning for the show, she took it upon herself to go back and check out the believed series.

“I was like, ‘OK, I should kind of know what I’m doing.’ So, I watched the first few episodes and I can definitely see why this show is so loved and appreciated by so many,” she shares.

When it came to actually nabbing the role, Milan remembers the entire audition process as “repetitive.”

“It was the first self-tape, and then, a callback self-tape. Then, like, two Zoom auditions with [producers] Fred [Savage] and Saladin [K. Patterson], and then, a whole bunch of other people on the call, and then the chemistry read with EJ.”

exclusive: The Wonder Years
ABC/Erika Doss

With her role as main character Dean’s love interest, of course, there’s bound to be some kisses involved between her and costar EJ. Milan reveals that she had her first onscreen smooch while filming The Wonder Years pilot episode, but she doesn’t really get the jitters before shooting her scenes.

“Honestly I’ve never really find myself too, too nervous,” Milan explains. “I mean, on my first movie too, of course, I was really nervous, but then once I, you know, really started working, it just kind of felt like second nature being on set.”

New episodes of The Wonder Years premiere via ABC on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET. 

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