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15 Oct 2021

COVER STORY: Philadelphia actor Nakia Dillard talks role in ABC’s The Wonder Years and his Aikan Performing Arts School

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October 15, 2021 Category: Entertainment, Week In Review Posted by:

By Moni-Rose Jones

Actor Nakia Dillard is making his latest splash on television with a role on ABC’s reboot of “The Wonder Years.”

“It’s amazing right now, the show is a hit,” said Dillard. “Everybody is loving it!”

The North Philadelphia native is not new to starring in high profile films and television shows. 

Dillard has been in the industry for decades, including as an owner of his own theater school in Philadelphia called Aikan Performing Arts. (continued below video)

Dillard has already starred in many film and television roles, including a starring role as Terrence Long in CW’s “Black Lightning,” working alongside some of the greats like Bill Duke (“Cover”), Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie (“Night Catches Us”) and “The Wire,” to name a few.

Dillard’s track record has been noticed in and outside of Hollywood.

“His work ethic speaks for itself with over 25 years in the industry between theater, TV & film,” internationally renowned motivational speaker Les Brown said about Dillard. 

Dillard with his Wonder Years castmates, Milan Ray and Timeca M. Seretti.

“Someone with this much dedication to their craft deserves to portray me in my upcoming biopic,” Brown added about the talented actor, who will portray him in the highly anticipated film.

The new comedy reboot of “The Wonder Years,” is a coming-of-age story that takes place in the 1960s through the point of view of 12-year-old Dean Williams, who comes from a middle-class Black family in Montgomery, Alabama.  

Actor Don Cheadle narrates as the adult Dean Williams. Dean’s father, Bill Williams, is played by Dulé Hill.

The show is produced by Lee Daniels and Saladin K. Patterson. 

“I play Theo on the show,” Dillard said. “I’m the father of Keisa Clemmons, who is the love interest of Dean.

The original hit series, which featured a white family, aired for six seasons from 1988 to 1993 on ABC.

 It starred Fred Savage, who is now the director of the reboot.

I’m excited just to be a part of this amazing project,” Dillard said. “[In] a few of the episodes, we’re touching on the effect of Martin Luther King’s death.”

“The other things you want to stay tuned for,” Dillard joked about the reboot that debuted on Sep. 22.

Lee Daniels, who co-produces the reboot, shared some of his reasoning in a recent USA Today interview as to why the new “The Wonder Years” features a middle-class Black family.

“A lot of Black families were lower middle class and middle class, and they have not been depicted in this era properly,” Daniels said, referring to the turbulent 1960’s era. 

Dillard, a Freedom Theater alum, continues fulfilling his dream of investing in his community via the arts. 

He founded Aikan Performing Arts in 2009, which has trained over 1,000 students in the Philadelphia region, providing instruction to youth and adults.

The pandemic hasn’t slowed down the mission either.

Dillard as Theo in a scene from the new reboot of the TV comedy series “The Wonder Years”.

“We went virtual since COVID, and it’s been great, because now we can actually reach out to so many people,” Dillard said. Overall, Aikan teaches students the real deal. 

“I put them [students] around actors [where they] can actually ask questions. All of my teachers are working actors,” continued Dillard, noting that he has also brought some of his friends from “Black Lightning” and “The Wire” to speak with students. “We have a financial literacy workshop to help them with their understanding of the finance part. It’s not just about the art,” he said. 

“The stories of people sleeping in their cars and having two dollars to their name, you don’t have to do that. You can make money off of other things that you can do. We have a lot of gifts, don’t just utilize one, you got to have multiple streams of income coming through.”

In addition to acting classes, Aikan also offers screenwriting classes.

Top three tips Dillard has for those pursuing an acting career are:

1. Don’t give up or let others fears deter you from pursuing your acting dreams. 

2. Be persistent. You are not going to get every role you audition for and that’s ok.

3. Sharpen yourself and read as much as you can.  Even when you have success with something, there’s still something more to learn. 

“The Wonder Years” airs Wednesday evenings 8:30 p.m. EST.  To learn about Aikan Performing Arts, visit:

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