For fans of a certain age, The Wonder Years was must-watch TV. The story of an American family growing up in the late 1960s resonated with older viewers and younger viewers alike. ABC’s new reboot of the series follows young Dean Williams and his family in turbulent 1960s Montgomery, Alabama. Like the original series, there’s an unseen cast member narrating the story. Who is narrating Dean’s story in the 2021 version of The Wonder Years?
Don Cheadle (Ocean’s Eleven, Hotel Rwanda, Avengers: Infinity War) serves as the narrator of The Wonder Years, voicing older Dean Williams.
Cheadle provides insight into Dean’s thoughts and actions, which is one of the reasons that the concept behind the series (both old and new) was so endearing to viewers.
Don Cheadle stars as the narrator in The Wonder Years
Showrunner Saladin K. Patterson knew that The Wonder Years was a great vehicle for telling stories about life in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a pivotal era for the country and for Black families in America.
Cheadle’s presence is like an anchor, providing narration of the events as young Dean lives through them.
In the original series it was Daniel Stern providing the narration for young Kevin Arnold, played by Fred Savage. (Savage’s younger brother, Ben, would grow up to star in the seminal adolescent hit Boy Meets World)
The use of a narrator isn’t unique to The Wonder Years, of course, but there’s something endearing about having some insight into what the younger version of the character is thinking. In this case, it’s a powerful tool to provide commentary about the state of the country and the world in the late 1960s, something that would be difficult for a young boy to explain to the audience.
The new version of The Wonder Years arrives as a pivotal moment as today’s Black families struggle with some of the same forms of racism that their 1960s counterparts dealt with, making The Wonder Years a very powerful tool to start important and powerful conversations about race in America.