30 Child Stars Who Were Totally Okay with Losing the Spotlight
Child actors sometimes achieve phenomenal success at young ages and then transition that success into lifelong careers. Others can’t wait to retire once they reach adulthood. Ever wondered where some of your favorite child stars are today? Many have left Hollywood far behind.
Some had strong reasons for leaving Tinseltown, while others live on the edge of fame, occasionally still appearing in something new. Many have careers today that are even more impressive than acting. Regardless of where they are now, these 30 child stars were totally okay with losing the spotlight as adults.
Although his Twilight fans may not realize he started as a much younger child star, Taylor Lautner began his acting career at six years old. In his early days, he made guest appearances as a neighborhood kid on The Bernie Mac Show and My Wife and Kids. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl gave Lautner his big break.
Jamie Lynn Spears
Jamie Lynn Spears, the little sister of pop star Britney Spears, found fame of her own when she starred as the title character in Zoey 101, a highly-rated Nickelodeon drama. Fans were disappointed when the show ended on a cliffhanger after only four seasons.
Macaulay Culkin chose peace of mind over a piece of the Hollywood pie. By the time he hit puberty, Culkin had already built an impressive resume. He will always be renowned for making audiences laugh in his iconic role in Home Alone, but no one can forget his character's untimely death in My Girl, which still inspires a lot of reaching for a Kleenex.
Most people view acting as a lifelong career, but if you start at a young age, you could grow tired of it, just as you would any other career. Brandon Call was only two years old when he started acting. He is well known for playing T.J. on Step by Step, but he has way too many acting credits to mention.
When Jason Zimbler played Ferguson in Clarissa Explains It All, he seemed destined for a long career in Hollywood. Many of the other young actors of his time, including co-star Melissa Joan Hart, translated Nickelodeon and Disney fame into lucrative adult careers.
Ariana Richards will forever be ingrained in millions of viewers’ memories for the shaking green jello in Jurassic Park. Before that iconic role, she had appeared in shows like Golden Girls and the Switched at Birth miniseries. Since 1998, she has only acted in two projects.
Starring alongside Ariana Richards as one of the lovable kids in Jurassic Park, Joseph Mazzello seemed to be destined for greatness. After all, being in a successful Steven Spielberg movie can be a catalyst to a great career, but Mazzello's acting career seemed to stall out after appearing in two Jurassic Park movies. Why?
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas was handsome, and he appeared on millions of TV screens every week as one of the sons in Home Improvement. This success led to voicing Simba in The Lion King. With all the attention he received, he could have easily been a Ryan Gosling if he wanted, but he left Hollywood soon after his hit show.
By the time they hit 20, many child actors assert their adulthood by taking on more edgy roles. At the age of 22, Lisa Jakub, who was the go-to teenage girl on countless movies for much of the ‘90s, left Hollywood once and for all. She moved to Virginia and got married. Unlike many of the other child actors on this list, Jakub has yet to return to Tinseltown for a movie or even a guest appearance.
Peter Ostrum is indelibly etched into the minds and hearts of many generations for his legendary role as Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original with Gene Wilder). After the movie's success, Ostrum was offered a lucrative contract, but that contact offer put the nail in the coffin of his acting career.
Jeff Cohen's landmark role as Chunk, the adorable boy with plenty of personality in The Goonies, will likely always overshadow the rest of his career. Before The Goonies, Cohen starred on television shows like Family Ties and Amazing Stories. He was one of the biggest child stars of the 80s.
In a matter of years, Amanda Bynes went from playing a small role on All That to starring in her own sketch show, The Amanda Show. She was Nickelodeon's main starlet for many years. After she left the teen scene, she starred in plenty of movies, including She's the Man.
As a child, Mara Wilson was the smallest supporting actress on many ‘90’s blockbusters. She played the cute little girl on Mrs. Doubtfire and Melrose Place, but with her starring role in Matilda, she showed that she was more than just a cute kid. In her heyday, casting directors sent scripts to Wilson and hired her without auditions. As she grew older, however, it became harder and harder to get leading roles.
While Danielle Spencer's name may not immediately ring a bell, one look at her is all it takes to remember exactly who she is. She played Dee, Rog's annoying little sister on the ‘70s sitcom What's Happenin'?. After the original iteration of the show was canceled, Danielle went to college, but she later left school to play on the show's reboot, What's Happenin' Now?.
Frankie Muniz was one of the hottest child stars of his generation. He starred in the Cody Banks movie series, and he played Malcolm in the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. He was a talented actor, and he seemed to land great roles that appealed to adults just as much as children.
Charlie Korsmo blasted onto the Hollywood scene at just the right time, when the industry was ripe with great roles for young talent. Audiences likely remember him most for his integral role in the Peter Pan spinoff Hook, but he was also in What About Bob? and Dick Tracy.
Michael Fishman will always be known as D.J. Conner from Roseanne. The show gave him his first big break, although Fishman has had small roles on other television shows since then. He was even a voice actor for an episode of Hey Arnold!.
Daniel Tay is most known for his role as Michael, the half brother of Buddy in Elf, Will Ferrell's widely-acclaimed Christmas movie. Since then, Tay has played in a movie called American Splendor and has appeared on a few short-lived television shows, including Beer League.
Ross Malinger was the most adorable face in Hollywood for years. He acted alongside award-winning adults in movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Toothless and Kindergarten Cop. He went on to play in Peter and the Wolf and Little Big Foot. One of his later claims to fame is voice acting as the character T.J. in the Recess cartoon series.
Ross Bagley played Buckwheat in the modern version of The Little Rascals. After the movie, Bagley was in a movie every year for a while. His adorable face became even more well known when he landed the role of Nicky Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and then went on to play alongside his Fresh Prince co-star, Will Smith, in Independence Day.
Nineties television show producers had a weird habit of axing characters — or replacing them with other actors — and just pretending it never happened. That's exactly what happened to Jaimee Foxworth when her character, Judy Winslow, was abruptly cut out of the hit sitcom Family Matters.
Angus T. Jones
Two and a Half Men isn't really fit for children, but Angus T. Jones starred on the long-running sitcom as Jake Harper, the son of Jon Cryer's Alan Harper anyway. Before that, Jones played James in City of Angels. As he grew up, he became interested in religion and finally began to understand the more adult themes of his hit show.
Karyn Parsons is best known for her role as Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. On the show, she played an older teenager who became an adult, but Parsons has been an actress since she was 13. Her first role was in a movie called Bronx Zoo.
Most child stars are known for innocent roles. Phoebe Cates' acting career started when she was well into her teen years, and her roles were a little edgier. In fact, her claim to fame is starring as Linda in the controversial rated-R Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Although most people remember Matthew Labyorteaux as Albert Ingalls, he was actually first on Little House on the Prairie as a younger Charles Ingalls when Charles has flashbacks to his childhood. Labyorteaux comes from a family of actors, so he had scored guest appearances on a number of shows before he got his big break.
Shirley Temple was America's original sweetheart — and that was part of the problem. After years of playing dozens and dozens of adorable, innocent characters, Temple struggled to find roles as an adult. She was typecasted into a persona that no twenty-something would ever be hired to play.
The Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen proved just how far the careers of child actors can go. The twins starred as Michelle Tanner in Full House. As they grew older, they made a laundry list of movies, books and shows of their own, where they both had separate roles instead of playing the same person.
Success in Hollywood often has more to do with looks than anything else. That's why many expected a hugely successful career for Clayton Snyder (AKA all-brawn, no-brains hunk Ethan in Lizzie McGuire), even though he only played a minor role.
Jake Lloyd is known for a role so iconic that his career can reasonably be divided into two eras — before Star Wars and after Star Wars. Before Star Wars, little Lloyd acted alongside the likes of Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way. He also had plenty of smaller roles on TV and in movies.
You've probably only seen Vincent Martella as Greg, young Chris Rock's goofy friend in Everybody Hates Chris, but you may not know that you hear his trademark squeaky voice on dozens of cartoons. His most iconic role as a voice actor is certainly the title character Phineas in Disney's Phineas and Ferb.