Making the transition from child actor to adult actor has proved to be incredibly difficult for so many talented kids. We’ve seen some great examples of the two extremes, the Macaulay Culkins of the world who vanished from the spotlight and the Leonardo DiCaprios who stay firmly entrenched within it. The actors we always seem to talk about are the ones that make it big and grow up in front of us on camera and the ones that fizzle out and disappear completely.
But what about the ones stuck somewhere in between? Not every actor can remain a household name. Not every actor can star in massively successful movies throughout their entire careers. We want to talk about the child actors who have stayed in the industry, acting but not necessarily starring in box-office smashes. After all, if they were still in massive movies, we would know much more about them. On this list, you won’t find child actors who are still big names. No Freddie Highmore. No Natalie Portman. You know these people are obviously still around; you don’t need us to point it out.
Whatever happened to [insert child actor’s name here]? That’s a question we all ask ourselves at some point. Sometimes we don’t even know their names. We just know them as that kid who was in that movie or show. Maybe you’re watching a movie or a TV show, and you think to yourself, “That person looks familiar. Where do I know them from?” This is how it started for us. We went on a scavenger hunt looking for lost child actors only to discover that many of them are still working.
They may not be making that Robert Downey Jr. money, but they’ve survived in an industry that eats child actors for breakfast. That’s admirable. Give yourself a pat on the back. Not you, the actors. You did nothing. Let’s learn something today. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see where these kid actors have been hiding. Here are 15 child actors you didn’t know are still acting.
15. Jonathan Lipnicky
It was 20 years ago that Jonathan Lipnicky stole everyone’s heart in Jerry Maguire. He played the kid that said all that cute stuff about the weight of the human brain and the zoo and whatever else he said. Nowadays he’s posting pictures of himself on the Internet, pictures of him shirtless and flexing. He’s also still acting. Actually, he’s really busy. He’s not in anything super popular, unless Interns of F.I.E.L.D. is popular and we just haven’t heard of it. But he’s got about eight movies coming out in the next couple of years. Maybe this kid is going to be famous again.
14. Aly Michalka
There are probably a number of you who knew Aly Michalka was still acting. She’s been in some reasonably high profile roles and she has a very recognizable look. Early in her career, Michalka was best known as Keely on Phil of the Future. She also got into music and had a few well-known songs. Not very good songs, but they were popular with some people. Michalka fell off the map a bit after that, which is saying a lot because she is very hard to miss—not saying she’s a big girl or anything like that, just that she’s hot, super hot. She did play some smaller roles in decent films, most notably Emma Stone’s pal in Easy A, but nothing too major. She also took on a role on Two and a Half men that lasted for several episodes, but for the most part, she was merely blending into the scenery. Lately, she landed a full-time gig on iZombie as Peyton, and she looks to be moving into more central roles. In a few years, it’s unlikely that Michalka will fit in on a list like this because everyone will know that she’s still acting.
13. Spencer Treat Clark
Remember the kid from Gladiator, the one that idolizes Russell Crowe‘s character, Maximus? He also played Bruce Willis‘ kid in Unbreakable and Silent Ray Harris in Mystic River, the mute kid. Yeah, him. This one-time little guy is still acting and carving out a career for himself. He may not be in the biggest films, but they’re not horrible. Well, The Last Exorcism II is pretty bad, but The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014) is actually pretty good. He also had recurring roles on the TV shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Animal Kingdom. Treat Clark has been acting since he was about 11 years old, so the fact that he’s still around 17 years later is a testament to his talent. He still looks the same just bigger, something that happens often with kids that turn into adults.
12. Joseph Mazzello
Joseph Mazzello got his first big break next to Elijah Wood in Radio Flyer, but it would be his role as Tim in Jurassic Park, in 1993, that made him so recognizable for an entire generation of film fans. After that, his roles became less frequent and less noticeable until he seemed to totally disappear, but he was around, just not a major star and really grown up. He had a recurring role in the TV show Justified, and he also played Mouse in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. In film, he was in the 2016 film Undrafted, though it wasn’t a big time movie. He was, however, in The Social Network, playing Dustin Moskovitz, so maybe you saw him there. This guy is a pretty solid actor. He might just have what it takes to stick around as an adult. If not, we’ll always have Isla Nublar.
11. Tahj Mowry
Best known for his work as the kid genius, T.J. Henderson in the Disney TV show, Smart Guy, as well as the show it spun off, Sister, Sister, Tahj Mowry is no longer a kid. He’s all grown up and looks almost nothing like he once did. After his gig ran dry with Smart Guy, Mowry moved over to voice acting for a while, voicing Wade Load on the hit cartoon, Kim Possible. Now, as a fully grown human, Mowry’s full body is back on TV playing Tucker Dobbs on Baby Daddy. This is a show that has Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Shrader from Trick r’ Treat) trying to raise a baby and hijinks ensue. It’s not like he’s just background noise either; Mowry is the right-hand man of the star in this show.
10. Madeline Zima
It was 24 years ago that Madeline Zima started her acting career playing Emma Bartel in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, but it was her role as Grace Sheffield in The Nanny, that made her a recognizable child star. She sort of hung around the industry from that point on, appearing in Heroes season four as Gretchen, Claire’s (Hayden Panettiere) friend and roommate at college. You know, the one that kisses her. She also played Mia Lewis in Californication and is set to play a role in the upcoming Twin Peaks TV show, which is bound to draw in quite an audience. Perhaps more people have kept track of Zima throughout her career, but we admit that we lost track of her. That being said, a 24-year career and counting is impressive.
9. Trevor Einhorn
Trevor Einhorn was best known as the kid who played Frederick Gaylord Crane, Frasier’s and Lillith’s son on Frasier. Though his role was only minor on the show, he made several appearances over the course of seven years and had a recognizable face. He also had roles in the movie BASEketball and the TV show Sons and Daughters. In his later life, Einhorn would land the role of John Mathis on Mad Men (season six through seven), and that would be his biggest part as a grownup. Even though Einhorn doesn’t have much listed in the near future, he is set to star in a Christmas movie called Holly, Jingles and Clyde 3D, which is probably going to be awesome, so get yourself pumped up. We are.
8. Marguerite Moreau
In the 1992 classic, The Mighty Ducks, Marguerite Moreau played Connie Moreau (convenient last name) and became insanely recognizable for kids everywhere. Then in 2001, we saw her play Katie in the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. While an incredible percentage of her co-stars from that film went on to become megastars, Moreau did not, but that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t working. She’s been around in film, with a role in The Uninvited, and on TV, with roles in The O.C., Shameless and Grey’s Anatomy. Last year, she reprised her role as Katie in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and now has several movie roles coming down the pipeline. We can’t wait to see her in the Mighty Ducks sequel that they will definitely make at some point in time.
7. Daveigh Chase
Daveigh Chase was very recognizable in the early 2000s. Starring as Samantha Darko in Donnie Darko in 2001, Samara in The Ring in 2002 and even voicing Lilo in Lilo & Stitch in 2002, Chase was headed for major fame, but it wouldn’t exactly work out that way. She would continue to voice Lilo in the animated TV show, as well as land a recurring role in the TV show, Big Love, as Rhonda Volmer. She would, however, never really become a star as an adult. There was a chance if the role of Samantha Darko in the Donnie Darko sequel S. Darko was more successful, but that movie underwhelmed in every way, to put it kindly. Chase has kept trucking though, acting in a few lesser known films over the last few years and doesn’t look to be slowing down. While she may never become the star in big films, expect to see her in the background. When you do, you’ll never have to wonder, “How do I know her”?
6. Tina Majorino
Another one of those stars who has remained in the spotlight for some time, but people still forget about her, Tina Majorino first blew up playing Molly Singer in the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina. She was also the little girl in Waterworld, that amazingly terrible Kevin Costner movie from 1995. Majorino would virtually disappear for about nine years until she returned in 2004 as Deb in Napoleon Dynamite. From that point on, she’s done fairly well in TV with recurring roles in Veronica Mars, Big Love, True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy. You could probably argue that the adult actress Majorino has become a bigger star than the child actress Majorino, but she’s not on this list because people didn’t know she was still acting; she’s on this list because many people don’t recognize that her child and adult versions were the same people.
5. Shawna Waldron
Remember Becky O’Shea, the tough little girl in the kid’s football movie, Little Giants? She’s the one that puts Spike in his place. Ahh, what a good movie. Rick Moranis at his best. Ok, maybe not his best, but close. Alright fine. Not close, but good. Decent… Either way, that’s Shawna Waldron. She also played Lucy in The American President. Yep, she’s an adult now and is still acting. Not major movies, mind you, but she was in the recent films Stitch and Night Lights and she’s about to be in another movie, Dead Man Rising. She was even in some softcore p*rn stuff too, which is a bit weird, all things considered.
4. Bug Hall
Alfalfa from The Little Rascals (1994), Newt Shaw in The Big Green, Adam in Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, do you remember this kid? Of course you do. He’s actually still around. Since about 2004, he’s been getting small bit parts in a number of movies and shows, such as Charmed, The O.C., CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds, a bunch of other CSI shows (how many CSI shows are there? Are there people who actually watch all the different incarnations?) and Castle. Scattered in there were a few movies as well and he’s set to do a few more in the near future. He doesn’t really look anything like he did back when he played Alfalfa, but I guess that was 20 years ago. Things change.
3. Miko Hughes
This kid is a wonder. He started his film career at three years old as the amazing Gage Creed in Pet Sematary. The next year he did Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger and, a few years after that, he played Nancy’s son in Wes Cravens: A New Nightmare. That’s a pretty impressive resume. He then started doing some quality voice work on shows like Life with Louie. Even though he doesn’t really star in anything huge nowadays, he still acts in some random movies. Over the next couple of years, he’ll be in William Froste, A City of Shoulders and Noses and The Untold Story. These movies will probably not be seen by very many people, but, if you’re one of the few to see them, you’ll know exactly who the star is.
2. Abigail Breslin
Abigail Breslin is easily the most successful film star on this list. Breslin has never really left the spotlight for very long, but, if you don’t watch Scream Queens, maybe you haven’t seen her in a while. Starting her career with a bang, Breslin played Bo in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs in 2002. From there she would do major hits like Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Nim’s Island (2008) and Zombieland (2009). The last seven years or so haven’t led to the highest of profile roles for Breslin but she’s been working and bringing home paychecks. In 2015, she started Scream Queens as Chanel #5, part of The Chanels—basically the plastics from Mean Girls. Breslin also has a few movies on the docket, so keep your eyes out for her return to the big screen.
1. Anna Chlumsky
You might have seen her on the TV show Hannibal or Veep and wondered, “Why does she look so familiar?” We’ll tell you why. That’s Vada from My Girl. Remember, MaCaulay Culkin’s little girlfriend who is fully responsible for the death of Culkin’s character? Yeah, so she sort of lingered in Hollywood for years until she popped up again with a regular role on Veep as Amy Brookheimer. With all the positive press that Veep has received we should expect that Chlumsky will be around more regularly over the next several years. But, if the careers of child actors has taught us anything, Hollywood is an unpredictable place.
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