Acting is a tough business for children. Roles grow scarce as they grow older. What appears to be a fun and glamorous job is actually a difficult grind with long hours. Many kids start acting before they are old enough to decide their own career path. It is little surprise some abandon entertainment to pursue everyday jobs to pay the bills and gain personal fulfillment.
It’s true that adulthood has many potential paths for child stars. Some parlay childhood success into long-term careers in entertainment: these are the Jodie Fosters and the Scarlett Johanssons. Some are tragic and cautionary tales: these are the Dana Platos and Corey Haims. Those that exit the spotlight might enter academia, learn a trade or take a behind-the-scenes role in the industry that made them famous.
Mara Wilson, star of Matilda, called child actors “veal,” responding to famed director Alfred Hitchcock’s description of actors as “cattle.” She said kids are often seen as objects, and that’s one reason why many go down a dangerous road. Wilson told NPR she suffered an injury on-set as a child but remained composed until the take was over, when she burst into tears.
For many of these stars, it can be satisfying to have a job that does not require mugging before the camera or hiding physical pain in order to remain professional. They can live like normal people, pursue personal interests and still make note of their long-ago acting gig on their resume. Like normal people, the community of former child stars choose jobs that fall into a variety of industries and professions.
10. Dylan and Cole Sprouse
Dylan and Cole Sprouse started acting when they were eight months old, sharing roles on the sitcom Grace Under Fire and in Adam Sandler’s movie Big Daddy. A 9-year-old Cole still appears in Friends reruns as Ross Gellar’s son Ben. The twins became childhood sensations when they starred in the hit series The Suite Life With Zack and Cody.
Word got out in 2013 that Dylan was working as a restaurant server in New York. Not one to hide from what might have otherwise been an embarrassing headline, Dylan posted on his Tumblr page that he was indeed delivering food to patrons. He described it as a new experience and a way to socialize and get out of the house. He also flatly denied he had any money problems.
In May 2015 Dylan and Cole graduated from New York University. Cole’s major was archaeology and Dylan concentrated on video game design.
9. Maia Brewton
The young star of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and the Thor-obsessed charge of Elisabeth Shue in the 80s hit Adventures in Babysitting took a long road out of the entertainment industry. Maia Brewton was a theater major at Yale, and had ambitions to stick with acting. She ended up tending bar after graduation.
Mixing drinks was apparently not her calling either, as Brewton ditched the bar and went to law school. She made strides in her personal life, eventually marrying her partner Lara. She became a mom when Lara gave birth to twin boys four weeks before Maia got her call to the bar and became an attorney.
8. Josh Saviano
Josh Saviano is best known to television audiences as Paul Pfeiffer, the geeky companion to Fred Savage’s character Kevin on The Wonder Years. Paul was a bit of a brain and as the finale of The Wonder Years revealed, went on study law at Harvard University. In a case of life-almost-imitates art, Saviano went to Yale. He studied Political Science as an undergraduate and went on to Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School.
After some years as a corporate attorney, Saviano made a return to the entertainment industry. He told Yahoo TV in 2013 he works in celebrity and artist branding.
7. Nikki Blonsky
Born in 1988, Nikki Blonsky was discovered in a New York ice cream parlor while still in her teens. She got the lead in the 2007 film Hairspray, alongside Hollywood heavyweights John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer. She later appeared in episodes of Ugly Betty and Smash.
In 2011 it was revealed that Blonsky became a licensed cosmetologist and was working at a salon in her hometown on Long Island. Her part-time work as a makeup artist was to keep her busy between acting jobs. She tweeted at the time that she was proud to be working and supporting herself.
6. Leanna Creel
Leanna Creel is best known to fans of Saved By The Bell as Tori, the leather-jacket wearing tough girl that appeared in the show’s fourth season. Creel is a triplet, and had earlier roles with sisters Monica and Joy in two late-1980s installments of the Disney classic Parent Trap franchise.
Creel’s acting credits after Saved include the Jennifer Lopez movie The Cell in 2000. But her main work has been off-screen. She started Ignite Entertainment, which was later acquired by Lionsgate. She now runs Creel Studio, a photography and video production company with high-profile clients such as Disney and The Food Network.
5. Jason Zimbler
Before Melissa Joan Hart was Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, she was Clarissa on Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All. She was constantly antagonized by her money-loving, Republican younger brother Ferguson, played by Jason Zimbler. His acting credits before Clarissa included a childhood role on the classic soap opera The Edge of Night.
Zimbler was 17 when Clarissa wrapped in 1994 after five seasons. He pursued higher education and would graduate in 1998 from the University of Notre Dame. In another example of on-screen actors finding success behind the scenes of entertainment, Zimbler took on the role of software designer at HBO.
4. Karyn Parsons
Will Smith is one of those child stars who went on to become entertainment powerhouses. His Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star, Karyn Parsons, wasn’t sure the show would be a success. She kept her job as a restaurant hostess after filming the pilot, only quitting when the comedy was picked up. After 6 seasons playing Will’s cousin Hilary Banks, she went back to school to take courses in writing and film.
Parsons eventually found Sweet Blackberry, a non-profit organization that produces films for children that highlight little-known people in black history. As of May 2015, her Fresh Prince co-star, Tatyana Ali, also serves on the organizaton’s board.
3. Charlie Korsmo
Charlie Korsmo starred alongside Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy, Robin Williams in Hook, and Bill Murray in What About Bob? But after working steadily as a pre-teen Korsmo decided he’d had enough of working and doing courses on set. At age 13 he put away the scripts and went back to school. After another acting job as a teenager, alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt in Can’t Hardly Wait, Korsmo pursued an academic career.
Charlie, now known as Charles, got a degree in Physics from M.I.T. and went to Yale Law School. He practiced law with a prominent firm in New York and eventually became a professor of law at Case Western Reserve University. In a 2014 interview he denied reports that he ever worked on a missile defense program.
2. Andrea Barber
Full House fans will remember the annoying Kimmy Gibbler, who seemed to get on the nerves of everyone except her best friend D.J. Andrea Barber was already a seasoned actor before taking on the role of Gibbler in 1987. She spent four years on Days of Our Lives as Carrie Brady in the mid-1980s.
Barber went on to graduate from Whittier College with an English degree. She received a Master of Arts in Women’s Studies from the University of York in the United Kingdom. She then worked at Whittier in its Office of International Programs. Barber is set to bring back Kimmy Gibbler on the Full House reboot scheduled for 2016.
1. Dylan and Blake Tuomy-Wilhoit
The twins who played Nicky and Alex, Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky’s sons near the end of Full House‘s eight-year run, have all grown up and became regular Joes. Blake is an Atlanta-based firefighter. Dylan is still in the television industry, but working behind-the-scenes as a sound technician. He’s worked on one of television’s current hits, Game of Thrones.
It’s not yet known whether Dylan and Blake will make it back for the Full House reboot on Netflix. Their television dad, John Stamos, is producing and their television Mom, Lori Loughlin, also announced she’ll be back. There could surely be a plotline or two where the twins could show up.