Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
January 22, 1969
1985 - Present
Currently Known For:
The Wonder Years, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Many of us have that one sister that just sticks out from the rest of the family, which is why so many could relate to the Arnold family from “The Wonder Years”. In the show, the role of the rebellious older sister that became fascinated with the hippie culture was known as Karen, and was played by Olivia d’Abo. d’Abo held the role for much of the show’s run on TV, and has since become a frequently busy actress.
d’Abo was born in London, England on January 22, 1969, which is why it comes as a surprise to many that she played a young woman in an American suburb. d’Abo’s parents had already found success in the entertainment industry before she was born, as her father Mike d’Abo had been the singer for Manfred Mann, while her mother Maggie had been in films such as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
d’Abo would follow in her mother’s footsteps and got into acting, making her film debut at 15 years old as Princess Jehnna in “Conan the Destroyer”. Working with Arnold Schwarzenegger would end up helping d’Abo, who said that “I was the only person on the set of Conan my age, so I had to be on another level.” For the rest of the 1980s, d’Abo would appear in many different films that included “Bullies” and “Into the Fire”, while also landing on TV in one-episode guest roles on shows such as “Tour of Duty” and “Growing Pains”. In 1988, she’d land her first regular gig on television when she took on the role of Karen in “The Wonder Years”.
d’Abo would audition for the role by learning everything she could about pop culture in the 1960s. When she showed up to audition, she d’Abo had been wearing the traditional hippie garb, and said it was the role she really wanted. “The script just had so much wonder and mysticism to it,” she said.
As part of the Arnold family, d’Abo was a main character in the series, and always seemed to be at odds with the father of the family, Jack. For the first four seasons of “The Wonder Years”, d’Abo would remain as a regular cast member, with her character moving to Alaska before the fourth season. Afterwards, she’d make a couple of guest appearances before the show came to an end in 1993.
d’Abo credits her role on “The Wonder Years” for helping her as an actress down the line, too. “We needed to know our lines,” she said. “It was just so much fun by the end of the first season once all of our characters were really established and developed that there was just fluid freedom that came with being able to really play with the material and just make it our own and just trust that we were cast because we were right for these roles…Dan Lauria (who played her father) said to me the first day, ‘Kid this show is going to go. It’s going to for many years. We’re going to get very rich, you better get ready.’ For me really, it was very, very liberating. I am still looking back.”
During the show, d’Abo had also famously struck up a relationship with singer Julian Lennon, the son of the late former Beatle John Lennon. Though the two didn’t last (she has only been married to Patrick Leonard from 2002 to 2012), it still did make headlines. At the time, she said that “I’ve never met anyone who was as much like me as Julian. He’s like a male version of me. We have the same background and influences, coming out of the 1960s from our parents.”
Once she had left “The Wonder Years”, d’Abo focused on trying to build her film career, appearing in early 1990s films such as “Point of No Return” and “Wayne’s World 2”. She’d have over a dozen film credits for the rest of the decade, as well, and went back to making guest appearances on television, while also starring in many different TV movies. Even without “The Wonder Years”, d’Abo was still remaining very busy with her career.
d’Abo has been adding a lot of voice work in recent years, having appeared on shows such as “American Dad” and video games like “Lego Batman”. In terms of appearing on camera, d’Abo has been in several TV films while landing guest roles in TV shows such as “Code Black” and “Elementary”. Coming up, d’Abo has several more roles that include more voice work with an entry in the “Invader ZIM” series upcoming.
Still, to this day, d’Abo says that her role on “The Wonder Years” was the most life-changing. “I think that’s every actor’s dream and every artist’s dream,” she said. “You want to be part of something that’s cyclical and that comes around every 20 years. That makes you feel like all of the hard work that you’ve been putting into your craft is actually paying off. Hopefully, you get into it to really have a purpose and put something out there in the world that’s going to resonate and be memorable and touch people and make them laugh. Luckily, I think we hit on all those things with our show. “