Most of us watch television. It’s a great way to kill a few hours and when we find a show that we like, we will tune in religiously for however long it’s on the air. What we become attached to is not just the storylines, but the characters as well. Maybe some of them hit home or maybe some of the characters are more relatable to us based on our real-life experiences.
While watching these shows it’s inevitable that some of them are going to have kids in them. These child stars round out a storyline sometimes, but mostly they finish off a television family. The good ones stick around for a long time and we actually get to see them grow up on screen. The ones that make good careers for themselves, we follow them through adulthood and in a lot of cases, we forget what they actually looked like when they were first starting out on screen.
That’s what we are doing here today. We are taking a look back at what some of the best child stars ever looked like back when they got their first big break. Whoever thought Ariel Winter was going to turn out like she has? Who thought that Christina Applegate was actually smart and a great actress? Who knew that when Mila Kunis lied about her age that it would be the beginning of an awesome career?
Read on to relive the days when these now stars, were just getting started.
15. Ariel Winter (Alex Dunphy)
Ariel Winter was just eleven years old when she got her big break on Modern Family. Playing the role of Alex Dunphy has given her the chance to grow up in front of our eyes on camera. The now nineteen-year-old is one of the sexiest women on television and one of the most popular online. Whenever she posts new photos she almost breaks the internet.
She and her cast mates from the show have been a part of four Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
14. Christina Applegate (Kelly Bundy)
Christina Applegate is a very talented actress who got her big break on the show Married… with Children. She was sixteen years old when she landed the role of the ditzy Kelly Bundy and she has carved out a very successful career for herself on screen. She played that breakout role for ten years so she literally grew up right on our television screen.
The now 45-year-old has played major roles in movies in her adult life like Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, The Sweetest Thing, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Hall Pass, Vacation, Bad Moms and plenty of others.
13. Jennie Garth (Kelly Taylor)
Jennie Garth was really eighteen years old when she first got the role of Kelly Taylor on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 show. She played a young high school student who went through several issues as she made the trek through high school and then into adult life. Garth nailed the role and has put together a very nice career on screen since then.
That original show was on for ten years and in real life, she was 18 years old to 28 years old during the shows run. On screen, though the role of Kelly was a freshman in high school and it went up until adulthood when it finally ended, so we watched her grow up right in front of us.
12. Sarah Hyland (Haley Dunphy)
Sarah Hyland got her start on screen in the Howard Stern movie Private Parts in 1997 at the age of only seven years old. She had a lot of small roles until she was lucky enough to land her breakout role of Haley Dunphy on Modern Family. In real life, she was nineteen when she got that role, although on screen when the show started, the role was much younger.
The now 26-year-old has turned her television success into several roles on the silver screen as well. You’ve seen her in Struck by Lightning, Scary Movie 5, Vampire Academy and XOXO.
11. Alyssa Milano (Samantha Micelli)
Alyssa Milano is another woman who once she hit the screen as a kid, she was there to stay. She first appeared in an episode of Old Enough at the age of twelve years old and shortly after that she landed the role of Samantha Micelli on Who’s the Boss?
She became a teen idol on that show and she used it as a stepping stone to the fame she continues to enjoy today. She showed the world the wide range of her acting talents in the television movie Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story, based on the story of Joey and Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Milano nailed the role of Amy Fisher and was on her way to a very successful career.
10. Kaley Cuoco (Bridget Hennessy)
Kaley is most known for her current awesome role of Penny on The Big Bang Theory, which she landed at the age of 22, but that wasn’t her first major role. She was 17 years old when she got the role of Bridget Hennessy on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules. She played the daughter of John Ritter and Katey Sagal on the show, before Ritter’s death. After he died the ratings declined and the show was eventually canceled, paving the way for Penny to come to life.
Cuoco is now 31 years old and she has played several roles on both television and in the movies. One useless note of information is that on 8 Simple Rules she was the oldest daughter of the family on screen, despite the fact she was actually six years younger than her on-screen younger sister, Amy Davidson.
9. Robert Iler (AJ Soprano)
Robert Iler is best known for his role on the HBO smash hit show The Sopranos. Growing up he nabbed several small roles in commercials and videos but nothing seemed to stick. When he was fourteen he was able to land the role of A.J. Soprano and he grew up on camera in front of us over the next eight years.
He has done several roles since the show ended but once again, nothing memorable. He has seen his share of trouble though as he was arrested in 2001 for armed robbery and in 2005 when the underground poker club, Ace Point, was raided by law enforcement, Iler was there, on the wrong side of the table.
8. Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano)
Jamie-Lynn Sigler got her major acting break on the HBO smash hit The Sopranos. She joined the cast at the beginning of the show to play the role of Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow. She was sixteen years old when she got this break and she held the role until the series ended in 2007.
Since the show ended she has stayed active with several roles both on screen and on and off-Broadway. She made several appearances in another HBO series, Entourage, playing herself on the show. Her big movie break came with the role of Heidi Fleiss in the USA Network movie Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss.
7. Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Lily Tucker-Pritchett)
Aubrey Anderson-Emmons is a ten-year-old better known for her role of Lily Tucker-Pritchett on the smash hit show Modern Family. She has literally grown up on our television screen as she was only four years old when she first started playing the adopted daughter of gay couple Cam and Mitch.
In 2012 and 2013 Aubrey was the youngest star to appear on the red carpet at the Primetime Emmy Awards, at the age of five and six years old. Before she joined the cast as a speaking role, Ella and Jaden Hiller played the infant role of Lily. Once she was old enough to start talking Aubrey was brought in.
6. Mila Kunis (Jackie Burkhart)
Kunis got started in acting school at the age of eight and by the time she was fourteen she had landed the role of Jackie Burkhart on That ‘70s Show. She was so good in her audition that directors didn’t even realize that she had lied to them. They wanted actors who were over eighteen years old but Kunis lied and said that she would be eighteen soon. Once they found out her real age she had already solidified the role and made it hers. She was on the show during its entire run so she is another who grew up in front of us on our television screen.
5. Nolan Gould (Luke Dunphy)
Nolan Gould got his first acting role at just three years old. He was doing commercials and finally got the great role of Luke Dunphy when he was eleven years old. On screen, the character still has a lot of issues which leads to plenty of funny scenes but off-screen Gould is actually a pretty smart guy. Now at eighteen years old, he is starting to branch out into other roles and you may have seen him in Ghoul, Space Buddies, Eleventh Hour and Sweet Nothing in My Ear.
For the 2015 season of Modern Family Gould brought in $70,000 per episode. That’s not a bad payday at all, especially when he gets to be on the set with some of the greats in the business like Ed O’Neill.
4. David Faustino (Bud Bundy)
David Faustino reached fame at the age of thirteen years old when he got the role of Bud Bundy on one of FOX’s first hit shows, Married… with Children. He is considered an actor and rapper although his rap career has been nothing to make a note about.
Now that he is 43 years old his acting career actually has seen him have roles in countless shows over the years but nothing as memorable as his role as the only son of Al Bundy.
He made his on-screen debut when he was only three months old and when he was six he started getting small roles on television shows. He hit the big time though with the FOX hit and he was in 259 episodes of the show.
3. Shannen Doherty (Brenda Walsh)
Doherty got her big break on screen with the role of Brenda Walsh on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 at the age of nineteen. The role, however, was a high school freshman and she lasted four seasons before being booted from the show. She had made her mark though and after that appeared on countless shows, growing up in front of us.
The now 46-year-old had a bad reputation back then for being very difficult to work with. She has admitted that she wasn’t perfect back in her younger days, saying that the fame and personal life was a little hard for her to handle at that age.
2. Rico Rodriguez (Manny Delgado)
You know Rico better as Manny Delgado in Modern Family. He never had any thoughts of becoming an actor until his sister started trying her hand at it in 2006. It was a good decision as he was just eleven years old when he was cast as Manny and now at nineteen years old he has owned the role and nobody can picture anyone else playing the part.
Much like the character he plays on screen, he is a pretty smart kid. He even wrote a book that was published in 2012 called Reel Life Lessons… So Far.
1. Valerie Bertinelli (Barbara Cooper)
Valerie Bertinelli has had a very successful career as an actress but she will always be remembered for her breakout role of Barbara Cooper on the sitcom One Day at a Time, back in 1975. She was fifteen years old when she landed the role and it didn’t take long for the world to know who she was. She appeared on the show for its entire nine-year run and then carved out a pretty good career for herself on television.
The now 57-year-old had a key role in Touched by an Angel and more recently she had a great role alongside Betty White and others in Hot in Cleveland. She has also had numerous roles on shows and made for television movies over the years.
You may also remember that she was married to guitar hero Eddie Van Halen for quite a long time.
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