Usually, when we talk about former child actors, there’s some sad story. Maybe, after the actor grew up, they couldn’t handle all the fame. Maybe they gave in to the pressure to do drugs and get wasted at every opportunity. In many cases, these child actors failed to crawl out from under this trouble, and their lives were cut short.
But, for every Lindsay Lohan, there’s a child actor that stayed out of trouble. We, as a movie-going, celebrity-loving public often focus way too much on the train wrecks. Contrary to popular belief, not all child actors get into trouble. Some have a good head on their shoulders, ignore the peer pressure and remain good people well into adulthood. It’s time to give those actors some publicity!
Today, we’re talking about former child actors who came out on top. Read on or our list of 6 actors who didn’t follow the negative path that so many others tread before them.
6. Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling is so well known as an adult actor now, that many people forgot that he got his start in the industry as a child actor. While he started acting at eight, his first important role was in 1993 at 13 in the cast of the Disney Channel’s reboot of The Mickey Mouse Club. Along with fellow cast members Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, Ryan performed in sketches and musical numbers for the audience. Around this time, he was in other shows, including Are You Afraid of the Dark and Goosebumps.
It wasn’t until his starring role in The Notebook in 2004 that he started to get lots of recognition for his acting as an adult. Since then, he’s starred in many hit movies, including Blue Valentine and Drive. All this time, though, he’s managed to stay out of trouble. Ryan said in an interview, “I don’t know what to say about fame. I’ve been doing this since I was eight, so I can’t really say that it came out of nowhere. But I can’t say that I saw it coming either.”
5. Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson was one of the youngest actors on this list. She started acting at the young age of six. In fact, her very first role was a big one: she played Robin Williams’ youngest daughter, Nattie, in Mrs. Doubtfire. From there, she played large roles in Matilda and Miracle on 34th Street. She won multiple awards for her acting work during that time, including a ShoWest Award in 1995 for Young Star of the Year. Because she started so young, you might expect that the fame would get to her head and cause all sorts of personal problems.
Mara seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, which probably helped keep her on track. Her last big movie role was in 2000, after which she quit acting to pursue her education. While she’s acted in theater productions in recent years, she had this to say of film: “I don’t have any plans to pursue film acting. It’s not my ‘thing’ anymore, if it ever was.” In a recent article on Cracked.com, Mara said of child acting, “The next time a former child star is in the news, look at the age at which he or she started performing. Then imagine making a life-changing decision at that age. Chances are good he or she wasn’t the one who made it.”
4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt started his acting career in 1988 at the young age of seven. While he had many small roles in commercials and movies, it was his role in 3rd Rock From the Sun that made the general public finally take notice. He started on the show in 1996 at 15 and the show lasted for six seasons. For that role, he won a 1999 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actor.
Unlike many of the actors on this list, Joseph never really took a huge break from acting. While his roles were definitely sparser after the series finale of 3rd Rock From the Sun, he still kept busy with film and television roles. In recent years, he’s gotten back in the limelight with roles in Brick, (500) Days of Summer, Inception and Looper. He’s also gotten into writing and directing, releasing Don Jon in 2013. Perhaps the reason he never got off track was his great attitude toward celebrity. He said in an interview, “The whole concept of celebrity pisses me off. While I’m not a celebrity, it’s such a weird concept that society has cooked up for us. Astronauts and teachers are much more amazing than actors.”
3. Hilary Duff
Hilary Duff came into fame as the titular character of the Disney Channel show Lizzie McGuire. The show started in 2001 when Hilary was just 14 years old. The show ran for three years and earned a number of awards, including a 2003 Kid’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Show.
Hilary started her acting career around the same time as a lot of other Disney Channel actresses–and most of the others are more famous now for their crazy antics than their acting careers. But, Hilary has strayed from the child actor stereotype. She said in an interview about gossip magazines, “I’m not scandalous. I think it’s actually embarrassing to be in those, yet some people will do anything to be in those magazines. I’m happy with who I am, and I’m happy with the way people portray me. If it’s too normal, than that’s their opinion.” Instead, she’s been focusing more on motherhood than on personal drama and scandal.
2. Mayim Bialik
In the early 1990s, Mayim Bialik was known to the TV-watching world as the title character of the NBC TV Show Blossom. But, even before the success of that sitcom, Mayim had been enbroiled in acting. She got her first gig, a role in the horror movie Pumpkinhead, in 1988 at the age of 13. She was nominated for several awards for her work on Blossom. The show ended in 1995.
Much like the other entries in this list, Mayim seemed to take a break from acting in the middle of her career. Perhaps that’s the recipe for success when it comes to avoiding misfortune as a former child actor? After Blossom ended, Mayim decided to do voice acting instead while putting much of her focus on her education. She eventually became a neuroscientist, earning a PhD from UCLA. Now Mayim is back acting and her main role is imitating her life. She plays a neuroscientist, Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS show Big Bang Theory.
1. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris started very young. Not only did he get into acting at 15, he quickly became the headliner and main character of his very own television show. He was the title character in the ABC TV show Doogie Howser, M.D from 1989 to 1993. The show–a medical drama about a young man who becomes a doctor in his teens–was so popular that few people could think of NPH without thinking of the show. Many people would call him Doogie Howser even decades later.
While Neil had a few other TV and film roles after his show, he mostly shied from that kind of limelight for a while. He became big on the Broadway scene in the ’90s and early ’00s. However, two events propelled his career back into the limelight: a cameo as a fictionalized version of himself in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and a starring role in the wildly successful TV show, How I Met Your Mother. While he’s been in the spotlight many times throughout his long career, there’s one thing we’ve never seen: negative stories about his breakdown or drug addictions. That’s because they haven’t happened, and we’re happy for that.