Jason Hervey may be best recognized as bully Wayne Arnold in “The Wonder Years,” but these days, the proud father of two aims to share a serious story on the small screen.
The 45-year-old former child actor is behind the cameras as producer for A&E’s documentary “Dope Man,” which follows Tim Ryan, an ex-con and former addict whose 20-year-old son Nick died from a heroin overdose in 2014.
When Hervey was asked to help work on the special, the decision was a no-brainer.
“[I] met [Ryan] through a mutual friend about 18 months ago. And we hit it off right away,” Hervey told Fox News. “It hit me very hard. Above all, I am a parent first. I’m a father... And it scared me to death, quite honestly, just being totally honest with you. It scared me to death that [heroin] is easy to get, it’s cheap, and I guess the cool thing to do… That’s honestly one of the main things that got me involved. Being a father, being a parent. It’s the worst nightmare. No parent should have to bury their kid.”
Ryan's history with drug abuse is chronicled in "Dope Man." The 48-year-old described doing drugs with his son Nick.
While Hervey’s upbringing as a Hollywood star was vastly different from Ryan’s Crystal Lake in Illinois, he was inspired by Ryan's very public crusade to take other addicts “from dope to hope” by running recovery groups, performing interventions, and even sharing advice on social media.
“If I could describe the one word that attracted me to Tim, it's 'authentic,'” said Hervey. “Tim is absolutely authentic and I do a lot of meetings like this were I’ll get told ideas for a show. Tim was all about the opportunity for all the right reasons. Tim puts in the work 24/7 and is an unstoppable force of nature because this is personal to him. Whether cameras are rolling or not, his crusade does not stop.”
“Dope Man” aired on July 31 and an encore is scheduled for August 7, but Hervey’s work as a producer isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He said working behind-the-scenes is in his blood.
“Actually, most of everybody in my family are in the entertainment business, but on the business side of things,” he explained. “And I was the only one who went off to become an actor. If anything, being within the business side of show business, that’s more natural than being an actor… If you know my family, then you would know it’s not surprising to end up on the other side of the camera.”
Still, he doesn’t mind when viewers still bring up his famous role as a big brother on “The Wonder Years,” which aired from 1988 until 1993.
“No, not at all!” he said. “It was a great honor to be part of such an amazing show with great writers and great fellow cast-members. Not only winning all the Emmys, but being inducted into the Smithsonian Institute a couple of years ago. Nothing could get better than that. I love it. I’m very proud of it.”
While Hervery insisted he has “a great relationship” with his former cast mates and still talks to them frequently, fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a possible reboot. Fred Savage, who starred as Kevin Arnold, recently declared it wouldn’t happen and Hervey shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s hard enough to capture lightning in a bottle once,” he said. “And I think that’s as perfect as you can get. And I think we just want to leave it alone and respect that.”
"Dope Man" airs August 7 at 2 p.m. on A&E.