There’s a stereotype that child actors desperately cling on to fame and if they don’t succeed in show business as adults, they will simply self-destruct. The Lindsay Lohans of the world don’t exactly help shake this stereotype. Other child actors do manage to succeed in transitioning acting careers into adulthood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Drew Barrymore have proven. However, there are also plenty of child actors who grew up in the spotlight but decided to take a break, or a permanent hiatus, from the limelight as soon as they got a bit older.
These former child stars went on to lead relatively “normal” lives, working in fields like graphic design or software engineering. Some even found second careers that may not have been in Hollywood, but were extraordinary nonetheless: one of the most famous child actors had a career as an influential diplomat. It’s definitely a far cry from Hollywood.
Dylan and Cole Sprouse from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody – Students
Brothers Dylan and Cole Sprouse starred in the 2005 Disney Channel show, “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” The show was a big hit and the boys were labelled heartthrobs by the media. For a few years, the two had a franchise that included clothing, a book series and a magazine. By 2007, they were the highest-paid teenage Disney television actors and became the richest teenage twins in the world. But in 2011, they walked away from the cameras and enrolled in New York University and turned their attention to other endeavours.
In 2013, they traveled to Japan with a foundation to help empower Japanese youth and deepen relationships between Japanese and American youth. In 2013, it was also reported that Dylan was working as a host at a New York City restaurant, something he confirmed online. It definitely seems that the two boys have taken a break from the “suite life.”
The children from “The Sound of Music” – Interior design, software design and skiing
One of the most well-known family movies of all time, the young actors and actresses who played the VonTrapp children from the Sound of Music became instant stars when the movie was released back in 1965. Although the ongoing popularity of the movie has meant that the media has continued to track them throughout their lives, several of these musical kids did not continue to work in the spotlight after the movie wrapped. The eldest Von Trapp child Louisa, “16 going on 17” in the film, played by Charmian Carr, became a mother of two and an interior designer in California.
Duane Chase, who was known for his role of Kurt, left acting behind shortly after “The Sound Of Music” to pursue a career in geology and computer software design. Finally, Debbie Turner, known as Marta in the movie, became a professional skier after she finished high school.
Karen Dotrice – Mother
The woman who played Jane, the young daughter in Disney’s classic movie about a nanny who turns the lives of the Banks family around, left Hollywood behind when she was a teenager.
Not only that, she has even spoken to the media about how she does not think she should have gone to work as a child. After turning her back on show business, she ended up being a mother.
Mayim Bialik – Neuroscientist
The star of the 1990s coming of age series “Blossom” largely dropped out of the spotlight after the show wrapped. Although she has gone back into acting as a supporting actress on the hit show “The Big Bang Theory,” and was even nominated for an Emmy for that role, Mayim Bialik took many years off from working on screen, opting instead to pursue academic studies. She went far in academia: in 2007, she got a PhD in neuroscience. She said that after getting her PhD, she realized that acting would be a better career for balancing a family life than being a researcher.
That’s apparently what prompted her to go back to television. She currently plays a brainy scientist on the hit sitcom, a role that is closer to her reality than many might realize.
Paul Peterson – Author
Peterson began his acting career in the Mickey Mouse Club, and achieved stardom as a teenager on the “The Donna Reed Show.” He was even honored in 1997 with a Lifetime Achievement award for his role in the series. Yet, after spending his childhood as an actor, Peterson decided to go to university and he obtained a degree in literature.
He then wrote sixteen adventure novels. He is also still involved behind the scenes in Hollywood, notably founding a child actor support group in the 1990s to help improve working conditions for child actors.
Taran Noah Smith – Vegan restaurant/farm owner
Taran Noah Smith played the youngest son on the 1990s television sitcom “Home Improvement.” He began acting on the show when he was 7. When the show ended nearly a decade later, he decided he no longer wanted to act.
In the mid-2000s, he and his wife at the time formed a non-dairy cheese manufacturing plant and restaurant, which specializes in vegan and organic foods.
Jon Provost – Real Estate
Jon Provost is best known for his role as Timmy Martin, the star of the classic CBS series, “Lassie.” He began acting at age of 4, and joined the iconic show at the age of 7. “Lassie” was on television for seven seasons.
He worked in television and film for a while after the show ended, but he finally left for college at Sonoma State. He later sold real estate in Sonoma County. Since then, he has also worked behind the camera in the film industry, as well as appeared on television to speak about television, animal rights causes and American culture.
Susan Olsen – Animal welfare activist, graphic designer
After her time playing the Brady’s youngest on-screen daughter, Cindy, Susan Olsen shrugged off fame and instead pursued a career in graphic design. She also worked as a radio host for a while.
Olsen now works as an animal welfare advocate and cares for homeless kittens until they are old enough to be adopted. She has also sold her art, with proceeds going towards assisting animals at rescue organizations.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas – Ivy League student
Jonathan Taylor Thomas decided that acting wasn’t for him after several years as a main role on “Home Improvement” and after starring in a number of films, including “Tom and Huck,” and voicing Simba in Disney’s “The Lion King.” Although he was a quickly rising star and teenage heartthrob in the 1990s, in 1998, he left the show to focus on school. He graduated from high school in 2000 and enrolled in Harvard University and spent a year abroad in Scotland.
In 2010, he graduated from the Columbia University School of General Studies. Aside from a few guest-starring roles from time to time, for the most part he continues to stay away from acting.
Shirley Temple – Diplomat
Perhaps it is surprising that the woman whose name has become synonymous with child stardom actually led an adult life that was outside of Hollywood. The popular movie star retired from a Hollywood career at the age of 22 and spent her adult life as an influential diplomat. In 1967, Temple embarked upon her political career by running (unsuccessfully) as the Republican candidate in a special election in California’s 11th congressional district. She was also a part of the Commonwealth Club of California, which was a public-affairs forum. In the 1970s, she was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana by president Ford, then was appointed the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States, and finally, served as the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. She was in Czechoslovakia when Soviet-backed forces invaded the country, observing a key moment in the country’s history.
In fact, Temple herself played a critical role in hastening the end of the Communist regime by sympathizing with anti-Communist dissidents and establishing formal diplomatic relations with the new government. From an incredibly famous child star to a diplomat who had an impact in politics, Temple’s career was probably not “normal,” but she certainly squeezed in a lot more than just show business in her lifetime.