Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
April 12, 1947
1986 - Present
Currently Known For:
The Wonder Years, Independence Day, Big Momma's House 2
A lot of us can identify with having a tough nose father that had experiences in the military. One show that perfectly encapsulated the experience of having a military dad in a suburban setting was “The Wonder Years”. While he wasn’t even considered for the role as Arnold family patriarch Jack at first, Dan Lauria would land the role of a lifetime, and the veteran (in more ways than one) actor is still working frequently today.
Lauria was born in Brooklyn on April 12, 1947, and was a standout football player during his teenage years that allowed him to get a college scholarship. Lauria became interested in drama classes while in college, and like many actors got his first role on a soap opera by making an appearance on a 1968 episode of “One Life to Live”. However, Lauria would have to put his acting career on hold for more than a decade afterward.
In 1970, Lauria would join the United States Marine Corps, taking part in the Vietnam War. He served for four years in the Marines, achieving the rank of Captain that would become instrumental in landing him his biggest gig. When the 1980s started, Lauria got back into acting on a full-time basis, and appeared on many different shows in guest role appearances that included “Simon & Simon” and “Growing Pains”.
Then, in 1988, Lauria finally got the part of Jack Arnold in his first gig that would last for more than just a handful of episodes. His character was much like Lauria in the fact that he had served in the war, and was a Marine himself. Lauria held onto the main role for the series’s entire duration, with more than 100 episodes under his belt.
According to Lauria, he got into “The Wonder Years” purely from his brief stint on “Growing Pains” that lasted for two episodes. While working on the show, he met producer Neal Marlens, and the two quickly became good friends as they had grown up quite close to each other. At the time, Lauria had been dating Joanna Kerns, who played the mother on “Growing Pains”, and advised Lauria to call his friend when “The Wonder Years” was in development. Kerns called Marlens herself, and got Lauria an audition. “If Joanna Kerns didn’t make that call, I probably never even would’ve gotten to audition,” Lauria said.
Members of the cast of “The Wonder Years” have had their opinions on why the show was cancelled abruptly in 1993 despite having good ratings. According to Lauria, he believes that it was Ron Perelman, who had a feud with Ted Turner at the time, messed up the contract that involved music on the show. The show’s theme, a Joe Cocker cover of The Beatles’ hit “With a Little Help from My Friends”. Lauria added that the series was supposed to end with Savage’s character graduating from high school, but that the battle between billionaires ended the series that Lauria said had an entire endgame planned.
“The oldest son was supposed to become pretty good at the business; (Kevin) becomes an uncle because the daughter has a baby and she’s married to David Schwimmer(‘s character). And the mother is doing well at the executive job, and of course the series was going to end that (Kevin) finally gets accepted to college and graduates and comes home they find me dead on the floor. It was also supposed to be the day Nixon resigned from what I heard.”
Many years following his days as Jack Arnold, after having been seen on Broadway by producers Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley, Lauria had been offered another role on a series where he’d play a father named Jack. This time it was in 2012, and on the sitcom “Sullivan & Son” that aired on TBS for three seasons. When asked to compare that gig to his one on “The Wonder Years”, Lauria said the more recent one was “a much easier job.”
Since “Sullivan & Son” came to an end in 2014, Lauria has certainly been keeping busy. After taking a regular role as Al Luongo on the short-lived Fox show “Pitch”, Lauria has been filling his time with many, many guest roles. This includes having appearances on hit series such as “NCIS”, “Elementary” and “This is Us”. In 2018, Lauria would appear on “Man with a Plan” and “Shameless”, while also taking a regular role on “Fly” as CFO Clayton Millbanks.
Coming up, Lauria still has a lot of work that’s set to be released, with three films and a couple of short films that will be releasing as late as 2020. Needless to say, while he might not be in the forefront on network television like he was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lauria is far from being retired or desperate for a job.
Even a quarter century after “The Wonder Years” was cancelled, Lauria says most of the castmates are still in touch. This includes the likes of Jason Hervey, who played his son, Josh Saviano, who played his other son’s friend, and Danica McKellar, who played his son’s love interest. Lauria said he even babysits for McKellar sometimes, and that he wishes the media would promote the “85 percent” of people that work on set as they are “just the best people in the world. They work hard, they put their all into what they’re creating.”