The nineties weren’t that long ago, no matter how it may feel. The young actors from that era now seem to fall in one of three categories. The ‘all too rare success story’ who has made a transition to adult stardom, the former celeb who now lives a far more typical life or, worst of all, they may be yet another example of the child star gone wrong tale. One thing we know for sure though, is that a surprisingly large amount of young actors manage to be largely ignored by some of their most ardent fans, even if they still work today. So, let us remind you of a few of your former favorites, take you down memory lane, and then inform you what they are up to today.
When putting together this list we limited our choices to people who managed to attain some level of celebrity during the nineties. We didn’t look at anyone who came to prominence in 2000, even if they were born in the nineties. Also, we only looked at people who were fifteen or under at the time they worked on whatever project first made them famous. They were allowed to enjoy a significant chunk of their fame as adults, as long as they did something as a youngster to gain fame. We also avoided including nineties kid stars who are famous enough today that you’d be unlikely to not know what they are up to.
15. Michelle Trachtenberg
After she was given a recurring role on The Adventures of Pete & Pete, a popular nineties children show, Michelle got the movie role that introduced her to much of the world as the lead in Harriet the Spy. Landing film and television roles every year for the remainder of the decade, she would go on to land a major supporting role on the popular series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since then she has shown up in a bevy of films, like Euro Trip and Ice Princess, and other TV shows like Gossip Girl and Mercy. Set to star in Sister Cities alongside the likes of Amy Smart and Alfred Molina in 2016, she seems like she could have another hit at any time.
14. Kellie Shanygne Williams
When people think of Family Matters the name that instantly comes to mind is Steve Urkel, but for many people who grew up watching the show, it was Kellie’s role as Laura that truly made a mark. Playing the character for almost the entirety of the nineties, Laura went from disgust at the appearance of Steve to walking down the aisle to marry him. Cast in a short-lived sitcom starring Joan Cusack that was cancelled after a single season, she made a handful of appearances throughout the 2000s but her last credit listed on IMDb was a short released in 2011. Calling herself a wife, mother, actress, producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist on Instagram, Kellie appears to take regular public appearances through her website, kellieswilliams.com today.
13. Danielle Fishel
Forever identified with her role as Topanga, from Boy Meets World, Danielle’s character started out as an odd duck. As seasons progressed and she grew into a beautiful young woman, she became Corey’s one and only love interest until she ended the series, seven years later, as Corey’s wife and a fleshed out character. After the series came to an end, Danielle made appearances on a few shows and worked on set for six movies and even turned a lot of heads with a sexy photoshoot for Maxim magazine. Thrust back into the role that made her a star, she now plays one of the lead characters on Girl Meets World, a spin-off that centers on the daughter of Topanga and Corey.
12. Jodie Sweetin
Cast as the middle child of three young girls who are being raised by their widowed father, their uncle and one of their dad’s friends, Jodie’s character Stephanie, was arguably the most difficult of the group. A show that ran for eight seasons, coming to an end in 1995, the series was a gigantic hit that relied very heavily on its young stars to add a lot of charm. Relegated to guest shots on a series of shows in the yeas after Full House was cancelled, she was briefly seen on shows like Party of Five and Yes Dear, but it was her personal life that got a great deal of attention. A recovering drug addict who has admitted to abusing alcohol, ecstasy, crack and meth, her story became a sensation of sorts after a memoir was released in 2009. Making a return to the role that brought her to the big time in 2016; she plays one of the leads in Fuller House and then competed on Dancing with the Stars in its aftermath.
11. Larisa Oleynik
First coming to the attention of many when she was cast in the leading role of The Secret World of Alex Mack, a show that debuted in 1994, Larisa caught the eyes and hearts of many. Best remembered by many today for her role in 10 Things I Hate About You, where she worked with many famous actors, she would also go on to have a recurring role on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Her most recent high-profile roles were on the shows Pretty Little Liars and Mad Men; she made several appearances on both shows over several years and continues to get sporadic roles to this day.
10. Thora Birch
An actress whose glory years were principally in the nineties, Thora managed to receive pivotal roles in many memorable films from the decade. Parenthood, Patriot Games, Monkey Trouble, Now and Then and Alaska, were all big deals for her but her two biggest roles were in 1992’s Hocus Pocus and 1999’s American Beauty. Only able to get a role in a single film that is regarded as a classic since the turn of the millennium, Ghost World which was released in 2001, her career has hit the skids. Set to appear in two films that are planned to be released in 2017, one of which stars Emilia Clarke, these opportunities mark her first return to feature films since 2012.
9. Anna Chlumsky
There are few films that were able to make audiences empathize with its characters more than 1991’s My Girl, the film that made its lead, Anna, a star. Heartbreaking due to an unexpected death early on, as well as its stars mature beyond her year’s performance, My Girl 2 was released a mere three years later. Unfortunately for Anna, her other films weren’t nearly as successful despite the people who look back on Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain with rose coloured glasses. Stepping away from the acting world once roles began to dry up, she graduated from the University of Chicago and took a desk job before returning to the spotlight. When she was cast in the film In the Loop, a movie that lampoons modern politics, she proved that she could hold her own against formidable actors and essentially gave a full-length audition for a future role. Playing the chief of staff to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Vice Presidential character in the critically acclaimed show Veep since 2012, she is formidable and hilarious.
8. Madeline Zima
Playing the daughter of a wealthy, widowed, buttoned up Broadway producer in the hit nineties show The Nanny, Madeline brought a great deal of personality to a role that could have been forgettable. Growing into a beautiful woman and strong actress, her most notable roles since her early days came in Heroes and Californication. In the latter show, her character managed to manipulate the series’ star through her feminine appeal with relative ease which the actress pulled off in spades. Set to appear in a thriller directed by Livi Zheng, she has two other films coming out this year and will play a part in David Lynch’s continuation of Twin Peaks.
7. Tina Majorino
One of the ‘go to’ child actors of the nineties, Tina played important roles in the movies, Andre, When a Man Loves a Woman, Waterworld and Corrina, Corrina. Unlike many former child actors, roles did not disappear for her once she became a young adult as the 2000s remained fruitful on television and in films. She played an eccentric young woman in Napoleon Dynamite, and appeared in twenty-six episodes of Big Love. It seems like her fortunes have changed of late though, as she hasn’t hit our screens since the year 2014.
6. Amber Scott
It takes an adorable kid to be cast as the daughter of a grown up Peter Pan, as played by Robin Williams and Amber Scott, the person who played such a role alongside a star-studded cast in Hook fit that bill. Singing a song in the movie named “When You’re Alone”, the track was nominated for an Academy Award which meant that she hit the stage in front of millions of people. It appears that she’d had enough of the industry, as she only ever worked on one other project, a 1995 TV documentary, that was big enough to be listed on IMDb. The subject of a photo that garnered a great deal of attention in 2015 due to her obvious beauty, she is a graduate of Connecticut’s Trinity College and lives a private life today.
5. Mara Wilson
Another young actress who will forever be associated with Robin Williams, Mara played his daughter in the classic comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. Her next big role came in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, where she played a little girl who struggles with whether or not Santa is real. Moving on to the titular role in Matilda, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel, she played a precocious and brilliant child who is forced to tangle with a series of unbearable authority figures. Disappearing from the acting world since 2000, this year has been a major one for her as she came out of acting retirement for a cameo on the series Broad City, and the avid writer also has a memoir coming out.
4. Natasha Melnick
A supporting character on a series that gets cancelled after a single season isn’t the most likely route to fame but when that show is Freaks and Geeks, one of the most beloved series ever, it makes sense. A show that aired in 1999 that focused on a group of teens in high school, Natasha played the girl of series lead, Sam Weir’s dreams turned into his spurned girlfriend in ten of the show’s eighteen episodes. Working on Freaks and Geeks’ creator Judd Apatow’s next show, Undeclared, that relationship, unfortunately for her, came to an end there. She did manage to work for Seth MacFarlane on both Family Guy and American Dad, as well as the show Boston Public, and has worked on several low budget film projects.
3. Alisan Porter
The youngest winner of Star Search ever, she became a child actor who played parts in the films Parenthood, Stella, and I Love You to Death, however, she will always most be associated with Curly Sue. Playing a young scam artist with a heart of gold, her antics were undeniably cute and led to the film holding a place in the hearts of young people of her generation. Disappearing from screens for the next decade, she continued acting in high school plays but has yet to give a high-profile performance since her biggest film. That doesn’t mean she has faded away. The winner of the tenth season of The Voice under the tutelage of Christina Aguilera, the former actor won fans over with her singing skills and tales of overcome addictions.
2. Lacey Chabert
A charismatic actress from an early age, when she was cast as one of the leads in Party of Five, a series about five orphaned children, she proved she was capable of making high drama believable. An extremely important cog in the success of the series, her best moment may have come when she challenged her on-screen alcoholic brother, Bailey, to get sober. The most prolific performer on this list by a large margin, she was the first person to voice Meg Griffin on Family Guy and appeared in movies like Lost in Space and Not Another Teen Movie. Lacey’s best-known adult role has to be as Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls, which is heralded as one of the best teen films ever made.
1. Tatyana Ali
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may have been a vehicle for its star Will Smith, but there is little doubt the remainder of the series’ cast helped make the show great and Tatyana is a strong example of that. The lone family member that appreciated and looked up to her cousin Will, her character, Ashley, served as a fantastic sounding board for his antics in the beginning but blossomed into far more than that. Starting a music career as the series came to an end, her album managed to chart in the UK but she continues to mostly focus on acting. Movies like Kiss the Girls, Jawbreaker, Dorm Daze, Glory Road and most recently 2015’s November Rule, were made better by her inclusion. Her six-year run on since the turn of the millennium that ran from 2007 until 2013, is clearly her most important post-Fresh Prince role.
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