One Of Your Favorite '90s Child Stars Now Writes Romance Novels With His Wife


If you grew up in the ‘90s, you knew Danny Tamberelli. One of the biggest names on Nickelodeon at the time, he filtered through our screens on cult classics like The Adventures of Pete & Pete and All That. You probably remember him as Tammy’s little brother, Tommy, in The Mighty Ducks. He even voiced Arnold on The Magic School Bus. And while many child stars have become cautionary tales, Tamberelli isn’t one of them. Now 42, he’s a comedian, podcaster, husband, and dad of two. Oh, and he just published the second romance novel he co-wrote with his wife, literary agent and YA author Kate Tamberelli.

Yes, you read that right — snarky “Little Pete” now writes romance novels.

He and Kate officially became co-authors last June with their debut adult rom-com, The First Date Prophecy. Their second, The Road Trip Rewind, was just released on May 21 and is described as “Back to the Future meets 10 Things I Hate About You.”

Dedicated to all those who are “forever ‘90s kids at heart,” the nostalgic story follows screenwriter Beatrix Noel, who has a ‘90s-era script in production, and Rocco Riziero, the A-list pretty boy actor cast in her script’s starring role. When the duo’s bickering leads to a car crash outside of the famed Roxy Theatre on West Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, they somehow end up transported back to 1999.

West Hollywood in the ‘90s? Time-travel? Witty banter and sexual tension? Sign us up. It also doesn’t hurt that one of the authors is a ‘90s icon, and the other is, well, his wife, but also someone who is every bit as charming and funny as her recognizable husband.

When Scary Mommy caught up with the pair via Zoom, they very relatably revealed they schedule writing sessions and interviews when their 4-year-old son Alfie and almost 2-year-old daughter Penelope take naps.

So, while the kids snoozed, we covered all the important ground: their new book, crushing on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tinder fails, and why the ‘90s will always be the best decade.

Scary Mommy: If the studios came calling to turn Road Trip Rewind into a movie or TV series, who would play Beatrix and Rocco?

Danny Tamberelli: We were just talking last night and said Sara Bareilles would be great as Beatrix.

Kate Tamberelli: No reason other than just loving Girls5eva. And Rocco-wise, gosh, he was like a hunky… Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

DT: OK, I’ll let that one slide. I think that’s good for the nostalgia. Kate had a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the ’90s. It wasn’t me; it was him. So thereby, I am already just immediately standoffish towards him. I have nothing against him. I know he plays music too — guitarists, bassists, we’re cool. But that ‘90s crush…

KT: I didn’t say it because I had a crush, but I do think it’d be fun if it was someone who had been president of the ’90s in that way.

DT: And he has the abs for it. I’ll just say what everybody’s thinking.

SM: Let’s be real, who didn’t have a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the ’90s?

KT: Thank you.

SM: Kate, what else about the ’90s made you want to revisit the era for this book?

KT: I feel like it’s partly just being a kid and thinking of the simpler time — all those good feelings of being a kid that transcend any time and place. But specific to the ’90s, I was a total school nerd. I was usually doing homework. If I wasn’t doing homework, I was reading Goosebumps or The Babysitter’s Club.

DT: Didn’t you say that you didn’t like going on field trips because you’d rather be in school?

KT: I did not say that. I think you’re conflating me with Janine on Abbott Elementary, and I don’t know how I feel about that. (laughs)

DT: I’m sorry; you’re right. You’re absolutely right.

KT: I was also just totally obsessed with TV, and thinking back to my favorite shows at the time, like Sabrina or Clarissa, it felt like those were your friends. Obviously, I was a Melissa Joan Hart girl. Whatever else was going on, you had these shows that everyone else you knew was watching too and could relate to you on them, and it just felt so much a part of your everyday world where these were things you were all experiencing together.

Danny Tamberelli

DT: There are too many people watching too many different things now. But back in the ’90s, you were able to all watch the same things and have that water fountain talk at school. You could continue to discuss that world, immerse yourself in it, and, therefore, blow your fandom up.

KT: Yeah, everyone on a Sunday morning talking about that cute redhead on All That the night before.

DT: I see; you’re greasing my wheel. I was over here thinking, Joseph Gordon-Levitt? If my name was Daniel Paul Tamberelli, would you have cared about me more?

SM: Danny, as someone who’s synonymous with the ’90s for so many of us, what are some of your favorite peak ’90s memories?

DT: Seeing the New Radicals play “You Get What You Give” on All That. I feel like that song was just so huge.

Also, sitting next to Steve from Blues Clues during the 1994 MTV Music Awards when Oasis came out. Everyone was screaming, ‘O-asis!’ And Liam Gallagher was like, ‘No, it’s Oasis,’ and he spits on the stage. It was so punk rock for this 12-year-old kid sitting in the stands right next to Steve from Blues Clues, who’s also just totally zoned in on what’s going on.

SM: Oh my god. So fun.

KT: It’s very Danny that his answer was music-related, and mine were books and TV. That is us in our relationship in a nutshell. I was probably listening to Disney soundtrack albums while he was doing that.

danny tamberelli in 1999
Danny Tamberelli

SM: Both are very valid, but that’s wild. You’re like a living, breathing ’90s time capsule, Danny.

DT: That’s true, but please don’t dig me up at the end. Let me stay down there, OK? It’s not worth it — ‘Look at these bones from 1982. He left bones.’

SM: On the topic of ’90s icons, I noticed that Melissa Joan Hart and Mara Wilson both gave y’all’s first book glowing reviews.

DT: They did. Mara did the audiobook for the first book, and she’s doing the audiobook for Road Trip Rewind, too … We’re so happy that she liked our books enough to want to read them. And I do the other half.

KT: He was Rocco for this book, and he did Rudy for First Date Prophecy. So it’s every other chapter.

SM: Kate, what has it been like to meet these people who personify ’90s childhoods?

KT: I don’t think I really had words. I met Melissa Joan Hart at ’90s Con last year and was all, ‘Thank you for reading the book.’ Being at ’90s Con, in general, was really wild. Danny had gone the year before that, too, and I was at home pregnant. He was texting me, ‘Oh, there’s the Boy Meets World cast.’ I’m just like, What is this world, and why am I at home with a tiny human in my belly that I’m not there?

When I went last year, it was very hard to be even remotely cool. Alicia Silverstone was there, and she complimented our 4-year-old’s long hair. I don’t know that a better compliment could have been received. It’ll forever live on as one of my best memories.

SM: I want to go back to your first book, The First Date Prophecy. It’s based on your actual love story, and it’s almost a meet-cute that didn’t happen, right?

DT: Yes, it is. Also, because I was over half an hour late, she could have just left, and it would’ve been my fault entirely. But I know what you’re talking about.

KT: I went on a lot of Tinder dates, and I was genuinely looking to date someone. Danny says he was on for comedic fodder. Who knows? But you swipe quickly. I was left, left, left, and I did a left, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I think that was Danny Tamberelli.’ I had briefly dated someone before who’d mentioned him living in Brooklyn and doing comedy, so it was on my brain that he existed and he existed in Brooklyn. And I cannot describe the overwhelming regret I had when I swiped left.

I mean this with no offense, but I never had a crush on him — he’s told you who my crush was. I’d watch his shows. I thought he was funny. But I was like, I have to meet him. Why did I do that?! So I deleted Tinder just so I could start again and swiped left for a week until I found him. We didn’t match. I thought I had just wasted a week of my life. Then, a few hours later, we matched.

Danny’s first message to me was the exact one in First Date Prophecy, where the character Rudy sends a very random intro message asking, ‘If you go to a psychic and she’s surprised to see you, do you turn around? Because obviously, she’s not psychic if she didn’t know you were coming.’

DT: It’s very polarizing. Someone either responded or blocked me — one or the other.

SM: Look at that effort you put in, Kate!

KT: I can’t explain it. I remember my friends at the time were like, ‘Do not tell him this unless you’re getting married because it’s so creepy.’ I think I lasted a month, and I just couldn’t keep it in. I don’t know why you weren’t scared.

DT: Well, because I was driving in a car with you sitting next to me, and I feared for my life.

danny kate kids 2023
The Tamberellis

SM: Bold move, indeed. Now you two are out here writing books together. And you’re doing it with two kids under 5 in an apartment. How do you manage this without wanting to throttle each other?

DT: We just used every naptime.

KT: It was late 2020 when we started, so we were not going anywhere or doing anything. It was really our bright light during the pandemic to have this cool thing we were doing together that wasn’t just watching TV when our son was sleeping.

DT: I could have put shelves up. Instead, we wrote a book.

KT: He’s still talking about putting shelves up four years later.

SM: Have you found that writing romance together specifically has perhaps even… spiced things up some?

DT: To be quite honest, anything I tried to write that was spicy was heavily fixed and edited by Kate. That was my biggest hurdle. I wasn’t very well-versed in it.

KT: I feel like you were very sweet about it. Not that I wanted the total spice factor, but I feel like Danny was a little nervous.

DT: I was tip-toeing the line. What is too much? I don’t know.

SM: That’s fair. Well, we talked about your kids and Danny growing up on Nickelodeon sets. What was it like being in the industry from such a young age?

DT: Growing up as a kid on set, there are different kinds of parents, and they let you do different kinds of things. My mom was someone who always had a bag of toys if we were at an audition. You figure out what you need to do for the audition, but then my mom was always very quick to let me be a kid and go, ‘Here’s some Legos; here’s your cars.

maren morris childrens book
The Tamberellis

They took the pressure aspect out of things for me. What I noticed the most was I felt that I was able to just have fun. It was never a job to me. My parents did a really good job of keeping me connected to the world at large. I went to New Jersey Public School my whole life; I was only tutored on sets.

SM: How do you think that experience informs your parenting?

DT: I guess I just am as present as possible. I’m daddy daycare at home. I took care of Alfie until he started pre-K this year, and Penelope is still at home. So, I am just very immersed in being a dad and trying to be as present as I can be.

KT: I think it’s giving them the freedom to do what they want to do, but also being there and being supportive and present during it. It’s like independence but with checks and balances.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.



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