Making it big by landing a role on a popular TV series is the ultimate dream of many actors. And much of making it big has little to do with luck. These actors attend audition after audition, and get one rejection after another. But they keep trying until they land a decent gig. Working in a TV series provides them a regular routine, a stable income, a large fanbase and sometimes the opportunity to move on to the big screen.
But sometimes, after all their hard work, persistence and determination, an actor decides enough is enough. It’s a bit perplexing when one of our favorite TV actors seems to disappear from the spotlight. Many of them leave because they were forced into the business as kids by their parents. Then once they reach a certain age they realize they'd rather pursue a different career. Other actors want an increased sense of privacy, maybe to attend college, have a normal dating life, or start a family. For whatever reason, they left the business and this list will tell you why. Here are 15 once-famous TV stars who now live normal lives.
15 Jonathon Taylor Thomas
Jonathon Taylor Thomas is best known for his role in the ‘90s sitcom, Home Improvement. He played Randy, the middle child who loved acting and cracking jokes, for eight years. He also did the voices of Pinocchio in The Adventures of Pinocchio and young Simba in The Lion King. But, the actor fell off the radar, despite all his potential. So, what happened? Well, he decided to quit Hollywood. He told People magazine, “I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break."
After he graduated high school in 2000, the actor went on to attend some of the world’s finest universities. He studied philosophy and history at Harvard University and also attended Columbia University and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he’s focusing on directing and writing. He also likes to hike and watch movies. The former actor says he has “no regrets” about his time off. He added, “I never took the fame too seriously. It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me.”
14 Edward “Teddy” Dunn
You may remember Teddy Dunn for his role as Duncan Kane in the teen series, Veronica Mars. You know the one—he was Veronica’s ex-boyfriend who seemed to have disappeared after season two. Teddy went on to act in a few films, such as Jumper and Kill Theory, but we really never heard from him after that. Where did he disappear off to? Well, Teddy left show business because he realized it was more of a business than anything else (that’s why it’s called show business, dude, come on). He had wanted to pursue it as an art form. He said in an interview, “I had the realization that if it's going to be just a business, there are a ton of other things I could do and a ton of other things that maybe interest me more as a business than the entertainment business.” So, he decided to head to school and graduated from Boston College with a law degree. He now works at a New York City law firm. So, if you were a Veronica Mars fan and you’re lucky enough to live in the Big Apple, you may want to visit Dechert, LLP the next time you need legal advice.
13 Frankie Muniz
If you were a child (or even an adult) in the ‘90s or early 2000s, you know who Frankie Muniz is. How could you not? The actor was everywhere! He starred in Malcolm in the Middle, My Dog Skip, Agent Cody Banks and so many other films. He seemed to be on a roll, so what happened? Well, Frankie pretty much retired from acting back in 2005, at age 19. That must be the life, huh? We’d probably retire at 19, too, if we had his net worth of $40 million! Since 2005, the actor did make a few cameos in shows like Criminal Minds and Last Man Standing, but for the most part, it seems like he is done with acting. What’s the former child star been doing, then? Muniz actually became a professional race car driver! He told People magazine, "I'm truly the happiest I've ever been in my life… As an actor, it's all what people think of you. You can do your best job possible but if someone says it sucks, it sucks. Whereas here, if I'm good, it will show."
12 Jack Gleeson
Jack Gleeson had a pretty big role in Game of Thrones. For the first four seasons of the show, he played King Joffrey Baratheon. He played the part so well that he was nominated for multiple awards and even won some (including the IGN People’s Choice Award for Best TV Villain). But, his character died in season four and Jack has been laying low ever since. The reason for this is that he actually quit acting (well, on television, that is). He said in an interview, “I’ve been acting since age 8. I just stopped enjoying it as much as I used to. And now there’s the prospect of doing it for a living… when you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It’s not like I hate it, it’s just not what I want to do.” In the interview, he hinted that he might go back to school (as of 2012, he was studying at Trinity College in Dublin) and pursue a career in academia, but seems to have changed his mind about that. In 2015, he starred in a live play called Bears in Space at the Soho Theater in New York.
11 Taylor Momsen
If you watched the teen drama series, Gossip Girl, you’ll know that Taylor Momsen played the character Jenny Humphrey. In the show, she was the younger sister of Dan Humphrey and at first, she was a good girl, but later got sucked into the world of gossip and popularity. Thankfully, she came around by the end of the series. You may have noticed that throughout the series, her character’s appearances became more and more sporadic, until she left for good after season four. So, why’d she leave? Well, Taylor wanted to pursue her music career instead, saying that, “Acting is easy. I've been doing it for so long and I totally love it. But you're playing a character instead of yourself. Music is more personal.” She is currently a singer in the rock band, The Pretty Reckless. The band was signed to Interscope Records and has performed well on rock charts. They even performed at The Warped Tour in 2010. Okay, it may not be a totally normal life, but she’s definitely not as famous as she once was.
10 Karyn Parsons
Karyn Parsons played the ditzy and self-absorbed Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. One of her most popular lines was, “Daddy, can I have $300?” Though she was a typical Valley Girl, you couldn’t help but love her. She made the show even funnier (and if it wasn’t for her, there would be none of those scenes where Uncle Phil threw Jazz out of the house). After Fresh Prince, she was in a few shows and movies, but nothing major. Her last acting credit was in the early 2000s. So, what’s she been up to? Well, Karyn is now married and has four kids. She also founded the company Sweet Blackberry, whose mission is to bring stories of African American achievement to kids everywhere. The company has released their animated films and DVDs, which were critically acclaimed.
9 Cole and Dylan Sprouse
We all know Cole and Dylan Sprouse; the twins dominated the Disney channel with their Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Suite Life on Deck series. Prior to that, they had appeared in Big Daddy and Friends. It seemed like the adorable twins would go on to have a successful acting career after their Suite Life series ended. However, they ended up leaving show business. The main reason they left was to pursue their education. They ended up graduating in 2015 from individual studies at NYU. But, there was also another reason they left. Apparently, the twins had pitched an idea to Disney, which was rejected, but later spun around and offered to the brothers as Disney’s idea. That’s enough to annoy anyone.
Since he finished acting, Dylan has been seen working as a host at a New York City restaurant, which he says was purely for the experience. He was also the commentator for a few Super Smash Bros. tournaments (which makes sense because he studied video game design and has a bit of an addiction to the games). The two said they would return to acting once they could be seen as two people, which they have. Dylan starred in a film called Dismissed, shot earlier this year, and Cole is currently starring as Jughead in Riverdale, a TV series based on the Archie comics, premiering in January.
8 Kellie Shanygne Williams
Kellie Williams is recognized for acting as Laura Winslow in the classic sitcom, Family Matters. She was the object of Steve Urkel’s affections for nine seasons on the show. But, after the show wrapped, she wasn’t seen much. Kellie is now an entrepreneur. In 2006, she created the Kellie Williams Program in the Washington D.C. area. The program provides youth an opportunity to produce a television show to air on Comcast Cable Local On-Demand. She says, "I wanted to create a program similar to the one I grew up with, [Howard University Children's Theatre] started by Kelsey Collie," Williams said. "I wanted to bring it to the masses, not to just people who were familiar with the arts but to people who had never experienced any art." The former actress is also happily married and is the mother of two children.
7 Christy Carlson Romano
You remember Even Stevens, right? The funny Disney show starred the now-infamous Shia LaBeouf as Louis Stevens. The show followed the immature Louis as he annoyed his well-behaved and intelligent sister, Ren (played by Christy Carlson Romano). Since then, Shia went on to star in blockbusters (and in Sia’s music video, Elastic Heart) but what happened to Christy? Well, after going very nude in 2010's Mirrors 2, she got back in line with the good-natured character she played, and went on to graduate college and get married (to Brendan Rooney). She appears in movies once in a while (many times as a voice actor), but is nowhere near the level of fame she once was.
6 Lark Voorhies
Lark Voorhies played the fashionable Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell. Her character will always be remembered for constantly rejecting Screech. After the series ended, the actress made a few appearances on sitcoms, but no role could have matched the one she played for four years on Saved by the Bell.
Sadly, her mother reported in 2012 that the former star had bipolar disorder. Even her former co-star, Dustin Diamond, revealed that she would "stare into space" and that "it wasn't the Lark I knew.” It was also brought to attention that she had written three self-published books: Reciprocity, Trek of the Cheshire, and A True Light. The books are extremely strange, being filled with more commas than you can imagine. Lark has also married twice but recently filed for divorce from her second marriage. We can only hope that things will soon get better for the former actress.
5 Tony Danza
Tony Danza is well-known for his roles on the TV series Taxi and Who's the Boss? He also appeared in several other TV shows and movies. He has been nominated for several awards and has also won a People’s Choice Award. For the past several years, though, Tony Danza has been missing in action. What’s he been doing, if not filming? Well, he actually spent the year 2009 teaching English at a high school in Philadelphia. How cool would it have been to have Tony Danza as a teacher? Those kids are really lucky, but to be fair, they probably didn’t even know who he was. Danza wrote a book about the experience and also wrote a cookbook.
4 Ashlie Brillault
Ashlie Brillault is probably a name you haven’t seen since it flashed on your television screen during Lizzie McGuire. Yes, Brillault played the typical mean girl, Kate, whose mission was to make Lizzie’s days in school a nightmare. After The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Ashlie proved herself to be quite the opposite of her airhead character. She ended up earning her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from California State University and then moved to Colorado where she got her J.D and Certificate in law school. Ashlie is now happily married and is a mother. She says, “At the moment I'm focusing on being a mom to this amazing little human being and in the next few months I plan on looking for a job as a lawyer in the civil rights or criminal defense field.”
3 Adam Lamberg
Speaking of Lizzie McGuire, who could forget Gordo? He was Lizzie’s curly-haired best friend (who also happened to have a huge crush on her, obviously). He was always smart and had a good heart. It’s just too bad he had to compete with Ethan Craft. Nevertheless, things worked out for him in the end. So, what’s up with Adam Lamberg, the actor who played Gordo? His last acting credit was in 2008 and he actually lives a pretty normal life now. Lamberg graduated from UC Berkley with a bachelor's degree in Geography. He also attended Baruch College, where he got an MPA. He currently works as a developmental associate at the Irish Arts Center in New York City.
2 Taran Noah Smith
Taran Noah Smith played the part of the youngest child, Mark Taylor, on Home Improvement. He was just a little kid when he started the show, but was 16 by the time the series had ended. Since then, he’s retired from acting (like many child stars often do). He says, “I never had the chance to decide what I wanted to do with my life. When I was 16, I knew that I didn't want to act anymore.” However, he made the news in 2001 (at age 17), when he sued his parents over the $1.5 million he had saved in a trust fund, saying they used it to buy a mansion. That year, he married Heidi Van Pelt, who was 16 years his senior. The pair opened a vegan restaurant called "PlayFood," in California, had a son, and then got divorced.
1 Amanda Bynes
Though Amanda Bynes starred in some blockbusters, like She’s The Man and What a Girl Wants, she actually got her start on the small screen. Amanda starred on All That, The Amanda Show, and What I Like About You, up until the early 2000s. The actress seemed to be launching into superstardom, when suddenly, she fell from grace. By 2008, the actress had parted ways with her talent agency and was frustrated by the roles she was getting. In 2010, she retired as an actress and planned to launch a career in fashion.
But, as you’re probably aware, the actress has suffered a meltdown and seemed to be going down a path of self-destruction like so many child stars before her. She was arrested for driving under the influence and criminal possession of marijuana. She also infamously Tweeted several insults at fellow celebrities, including Rihanna. Unfortunately, multiple sources reported that she also suffered mental illness. In 2015, People magazine reported that she returned to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. We’re glad that things seem to be getting better for the former actress.