The Wonder Years is one of the most beloved coming-of-age sitcoms. The show ran from 1988-1993 and showed the Arnold family navigating life, love, and family in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At the head of the family was matriarch Norma Arnold. Norma had to be the steady voice of reason between her hot-headed husband Jack Arnold and her emotional kids, Wayne, Karen, and Kevin (via IMDb).
Today, Norma Arnold continues to be one of actress Alley Mills’ most iconic roles. Mills also was the first cast member to reveal that the show’s end in 1993 came, in part, because of a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fred Savage, who played Kevin Arnold. “When we shot the series finale … nobody knew whether or not The Wonder Years was going to be renewed,” Mills told Yahoo! Entertainment. “And that’s because of a completely ridiculous sexual harassment suit that was going on against Fred Savage — who is, like, the least offensive, most wonderful, sweet human being that ever walked the face of the Earth.”
She also shared that the cast wasn’t aware it would be the end when they shot the finale. “We had no idea as the camera goes over us, for the last episode of the Wonder Years, what they were going to say. And I just said, ‘This is wrong.’ I was always kind of the loudmouth, because I was the grownup… But I was very, very upset, and they all knew it.”
Alley has worked extensively in TV and film since the show's end
Mills has enjoyed a very successful TV career in the decades since The Wonder Years ended. Right after the show, she landed the role of Marjorie Quinn on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She played Majorie in 11 episodes on the successful series from 1993-1997, per IMDb. She bounced around in appearances on a number of sitcoms in the years following. Then, Mills found her home on a beloved soap opera.
In 2006, Mills began portraying Pamela Douglas on The Bold & The Beautiful (per Soap Central). She loved how her character was welcomed into a close-knit family and found her place in it, as she shared in an interview with Soap Opera Digest.
“Pam was an outsider for so long but when she was welcomed into such a warm and large group, and she became Aunt Pammy, it was life-changing for her,” she said of the character. “My favorite physical part of being a part of the Forrester family is that because she’s the receptionist, Pam gets to know everything, and Pam loves gossip, although she wouldn’t call it gossip. She’d call it concern, but she loves to know what everybody is doing and she gets the front desk, so she sees people storm in and out.”
Alley suffered a heartbreaking loss in 2020
2020 was a difficult year for many people, and Mills was no exception. She suffered the heartbreaking loss of her husband of 27 years, fellow actor Orson Bean. The Los Angeles Times reports the 91-year-old was struck by two vehicles in Venice Beach, California outside of Pacific Resident Theatre. Bean and Mills were both company members of that theatre. Sadly, he died on the scene.
The couple had just finished a run of Bad Habits a week prior to Bean’s death. “Mills and Bean seem to know how to push each other’s buttons as they circle around each other during the Mother Superior and Bishop’s scenes together as she begs (offering loaves of the convent’s delicious bread) to get him to fund the needed renovations to save her convent,” the Broadway World review of the show reads.
“Several scenes between these two are totally entertaining and no doubt will continue to be a real draw to bring audiences in to see them together onstage. But it their real affinity for their characters, as well as each other, that shines through during each of their dialogues and/or arguments.”
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