No one ever said that acting was easy. We’ve seen just how difficult it is to thrive in this industry. Not only is it hard to shine once; it’s almost impossible to stay shining. Yet, every year, we are introduced to a young actor who impresses us beyond measure. We see their youth and their talent and we think, this one’s gonna be a big star. Sometimes it works out that way. Sometimes they last. Sometimes it goes the other way. The actor shines in a role but can never recapture that type of performance ever again. Some actors get older and their allure fades. Other times it’s the studios who decide that the actor has lost their appeal. These are the people we’re interested in today.
When dealing with the film industry, you hear the term “rising star” a lot. It usually refers to a young actor, but it doesn’t have to. In some cases, a rising star got their break at an advanced age. In this list, most of the actors are under 30, so we are dealing with young actors, but really the focus is on actors who were pegged as up-and-comers. We want to look at actors who had big roles or great performances, which led everyone to think they would become megastars, but it never played out like that. We say that these actors are “out of work” but really we’re looking at popular films. Most still dabble with acting here and there or have moved into another facet of the industry, but they’re no longer in the massive films and TV shows we expected. Here are 15 Rising Stars Who Are Already Out of Work… or about to be.
15. Jaden Smith
We waited for Jaden Smith for a while when he was growing up. With famous parents and an early start in the industry in The Pursuit of Happyness, it was only a matter of time before he blew up. His first big role was in The Karate Kid and it was a good start. He was comfortable and talented and looked to be on the verge of being really good. During all this, Smith was making music as well and became somewhat of a social media celebrity, but not really for the right reasons. In film, his latest effort was in After Earth with his dad and the movie was not good at all. It was garbage actually. Both Smiths seemed out of place in the film and we began to question if Jaden was really the sure thing we once thought he was. Lately, he has done some work on a TV movie and a small role on the Get Down television show, but it’s not what we expected. There’s still a good chance that Smith will regroup and become a powerhouse like his parents, but we won’t be holding our breath.
14. Craig Roberts
We’re going to step out and say we really hope this young man’s career isn’t going to go by the wayside the way it looks like it is. Craig Roberts was in a few movies early on but in smaller roles, like Neighbors and 22 Jump Street. The last couple of years he was in Red Oaks and the film the Fundamentals of Caring, which he was really quite good in, but his career hasn’t taken off. Perhaps Roberts is one of those actors who never really gets noticed when he’s at his best and is relegated to lesser roles in big films or just sticks with smaller films for love of the craft. Either way, 2017 and 2018 aren’t shaping up to be calendar years for the actor with nothing of note on the docket.
13. Hunter Parrish
Hunter Parrish burst onto the scene with a really great performance year over year in Weeds. He was promising in 17 Again, had recurring roles in huge hits like The Good Wife and The Following, and he was excellent in Still Alice a few years ago. The last couple of years, Parrish has been in some lesser known shows, Hand of God and Good Girls Revolt, but he seems to have peaked already, as awful as that is to say for a guy who’s just 30. Still, his career hit such high heights early on and everything lately has been rather lackluster. We’ll see if he can’t regain control and land some bigger roles, but, for now, it looks that won’t be the case.
12. Taylor Lautner
Since his Twilight days, Taylor Lautner’s career has seen major ups and downs. He first jumped into the TV series Cuckoo and signed a two-year contract. During that time he also did the much-maligned films, Tracers and The Ridiculous 6. After that, most would have predicted that Lautner’s acting fame was all but gone, but then he landed a recurring gig on the popular Scream Queens. Ever since, Lautner’s been in a limbo of sorts. He has nothing lined up for the future and it doesn’t look good for him. We have no doubt that Lautner will continue to act. Even though we like to have a laugh at his expense sometimes, he’s actually quite talented and we hope to see him in more. We just don’t think he’ll ever become the star that Hollywood tried forcing down our throats for all those years.
11. Ed Sanders
If you ever watched Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, you would instantly recognize Ed Sanders as the young Toby. Sanders was a scene stealer in the film, showcasing his incredible acting and singing abilities at such a young age. A few years later, Sanders was in a small part in Hugo. Since then, he’s only been in one other small film and his acting career looks to be all but over. What happened? Well, Sanders turned to music. These days he writes and produces music for several artists. That’s all good for him, but we’re sad that he doesn’t act anymore. He seemed like he had a real future ahead of him in the industry.
10. Mae Whitman
Maybe Mae Whitman likes where she is and wants to remain one of the better voice actors in the game. That would be totally respectable, but if she’s being held out of films by external forces, that’s a load of garbage. Whitman’s been around since she was a kid. She nailed it in Independence Day, had a great run of success in live-action films and started up her huge voice-acting career. Between 2004 and 2010, Whitman did mainly voice work and some small live-action gigs, but then she came back to being front and center. She was one of the highlights of Parenthood, Perks of Being a Wallflower and had a great recurring role in Arrested Development. In 2015, Whitman proved she could be the leading lady in The DUFF, which surprised a lot of people. Yet, when they went to cast for the older version of the character Whitman played in Independence Day for the sequel, they overlooked Whitman and recast it with Maika Monroe in the part. Now, Whitman is back to pretty much straight voice work where she does truly excel, but we desperately hope to see her back acting in live-action films again.
9. Daniel Sharman
The big moment for Daniel Sharman was when he was cast as Ares in Immortals. After that, there was a flurry of activity for the young actor, landing a role in The Collection and recurring roles on Teen Wolf and The Originals. In each of these parts, Sharman was convincing. Add to that the fact that he has the look that Hollywood loves and he’s young. You would think he would be a shoo-in for success, but that’s not the way it went down. Over the last few years, Sharman has been relegated primarily to shorts. This is much different than what most critics had in store for him. He was considered one of the young actors to look out for. Now we don’t even know where to look if we wanted to find him.
8. Nelsan Ellis
Even though Nelsan Ellis is currently working in Elementary, the massive surge in his career has died down considerably. After blowing up in his roles in The Inside, True Blood, Secretariat, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Get on Up, Ellis has yet to become what everyone believed he would. In most of his roles during that busy period, he was a stand out. Now, he’s become an afterthought and it’s questionable whether or not he can ever get back to where he was. After his part on Elementary ends, we’ll be curious to see if Ellis can make a return to the huge productions he was once a part of. At this point, it looks like that might be a long shot.
7. Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Everyone loved Thomas Brodie Sangster in Love, Actually, but we never got to see him become what we hoped he would. He would end up voicing several huge cartoon characters, so it’s not like he’s not working at all, he’s just not acting in the way we want. In 2014, Brodie-Sangster landed the role of Newt in the Maze Runner series, which guaranteed him some work for the next few years. He also got a role in Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Since then, however, he’s been in little else. Maybe this flurry of activity a few years ago tired him out or maybe, like Mae Whitman, Brodie-Sangster is happy doing voice work instead of acting.
6. Thomas Dekker
Between 2008 and 2012, Thomas Dekker was everywhere. He was really good too. He had roles in A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and The Secret Circle to name a few. Word on the streets had Dekker pegged as one of the best actors under 30. He was featured on nearly every news outlet discussing young talent. Since then, his career has tapered off. Yeah, he’s been getting work somewhat recently, but they’ve been small roles in small movies, not exactly what people were expecting from the young star. Now, it looks like he’s taking a break from acting, whether it’s by his choice or not is another matter entirely. There’s a good chance he’ll remain working in those smaller films, but we’re thinking his time in the limelight is done.
5. Richard Madden
Now, the last couple of years were big years for Richard Madden, but he’s still coming down from his Game of Thrones surge. In 2015, Madden landed the huge role in the Disney remake of Cinderella. He also had roles in Medici: Masters of Florence and The Take. So how can we claim his career has run dry? Well, take a look at 2017 and beyond. Sure, plenty could get announced between now and the end of the year, but it’s not like people are beating down the door for Robb Stark like they were a few years ago. The guy is a talented actor, so we expect he will live happily in the industry for a while, but don’t expect to see him in major movies over the next few years.
4. David Henrie
Forget the Wizards of Waverly Place for a minute. Even though David Henrie was pretty decent in that, he didn’t really get any major acclaim for it. But this guy has been acting for a really long time and he’s shown he’s got what it takes. He was on How I Met Your Mother for years and, of course, who could forget Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2? Over the last few years, Henrie was in a few films, but nothing too huge. Now it seems like he’s just drifting with nothing except for a voice role set up for his future. The Disney Channel alumni won’t totally disappear, but if you were holding out hope that Henrie was going to be the next big thing you can stop now. It ain’t happening,
3. Max Records
Max Records, with a name like that, you just know he’s going to be a massive star. But is that still the case? It started out great. He was in The Brothers Bloom, Where the Wild Things Are and The Sitter, all within a couple of years. People were pegging him as one of the biggest child stars and one that could stick around for the long haul. But child stars have it rough. They have to grow up and change and Hollywood doesn’t like change. It messes with familiarity and we all love familiarity. Last year, the somewhat grown-up Records was in I Am Not a Serial Killer, which was pretty good. It was also probably in line with where Records will remain for the foreseeable future, small indie films. It’s unlikely he ever meets the high standards that we set for him when he was a young actor, but he’s young. He could still carve out a decent career.
2. Penn Badgley
With the huge success that Gossip Girl was, the fact that women everywhere were in love with him, and knowing that he’s a pretty good actor, we all expected more from Penn Badgley. Since Gossip Girl went off the air in 2012, Badgley has done a few movies and couple of TV episodes, but they’ve all be low key. His films last year were both super indie films, even doing Adam Green’s Aladdin, which looks like the weirdest film ever, as all Adam Green projects are. Badgley looks to have nothing set up for this year or next and his acting career, for all intents and purposes, looks to have dried up. It’s probably safe to say at this point that he will never become the sensation Gossip Girls fans thought he was.
1. Quvenzhané Wallis
After we saw Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild, the question on everyone’s mind wasn’t, what will she do next? It was, how long until this girl wins an Oscar? The conversation has changed since then. After that massive debut, Wallis had a role in 12 Years a Slave and then went on to star in the remake of Annie. Neither role was particularly memorable, for different reasons. Last year we saw Wallis voice a character in Trolls, which is a significant role to be sure, but she has little else on the table. Perhaps this is a personal choice for the young woman to not take on too much, but we expected her to blow the roof of the industry. She does have an announced film that will likely come out in 2018, but one film every two years for one of the youngest Academy Award nominees ever is a far cry from what we were expecting from Wallis.