Child actors are a tricky subject—their first appearances can be the start of a successful career or their one and only shining star moment. And while some actors might drift away in the long run, the roles they took once will forever be immortalized on the silver screen, leaving us with fond memories that we can look back on. This time, let’s take a look at some of the all-grown-up actors and how their career developed after their more-famous appearances. The focus will be placed on shows and movies from the 1990s to mid-2000s, taking a look at the iconic roles (who knows, maybe it’s time for a marathon of oldie-but-goodie movies).
Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Tommy Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001). Gordon-Levitt struck gold with the role of an extraterrestrial living on Earth, and after that, he successfully transitioned to more mature roles. He displayed leanings towards music, with several singles under his belt, and currently he owns HitRecord, an online collaborative media platform.
Mara Wilson played Matilda Wormwood, a curious and talented young girl, in Matilda (1996). Wilson became well-known for this role, but in 2000, she retired from acting for a while. After she finished university, she made a slow comeback, lending her voice to variety of projects.
Daryl Sabara played Juni Cortez in Spy Kids (2001). He made several appearances in various movies and TV shows, but never reached the same level as his role in Spy Kids. Sabara even starred in some plays (most notably, an off-Broadway play The Library). He provided his voice for some animated characters as well.
Nicholle Tom played Ryce in Beethoven (1992) and its sequel, as well as lent her voice to the animated series. She also played Maggie Sheffield in The Nanny (1993-1999). Tom also had some episodic appearances in variety of shows and movies.
Matthew Lawrence played Chris Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) alongside Robin Williams. Lawrence played the son of a father who pretended to be a nanny in order to fix his family situation. The actor was also known for this role in the TV series Boy Meets World.
Macaulay Culkin played Kevin McCallister in Home Alone (1990) and its sequel. The Christmas franchise was the big break for Culkin, after which he also appeared in the comedy-drama My Girl (1991). In 1994, Culkin retired from acting, but over the years, had small or episodic appearances in variety of projects and even tried out singing. Currently, he’s a CEO of Bunny Ears, a satirical pop culture website and podcast.
Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser in Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989–1993). The role of a young doctor that earned him a nomination for a Golden Globe was Harris’ road to wider fame, such as being a main cast member on How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014). He also has experience in Broadway plays and musicals. Harris wrote his first novel, which was released in 2017, and even had time to release a single-player board game named Box One in 2020.
Jonathan Lipnicki played Ray Boyd in Jerry Maguire (1996). He also appeared in Stuart Little and its sequel. The actor has a few more roles under his belt, but he should be equally as known for his philanthropy. He is involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and works with various animal rights groups.
Christina Ricci played Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel. The gloomy, loveable character was her breakout role and she proceeded towards more mature films, such as Sleepy Hollow (1999). She won plenty of awards for her roles as a child actress, and she’s known to lend her voice to various animated projects.
Anna Chlumsky played Vada Sultenfus in My Girl (1991) and its sequel. She took some time off to attend university and returned with a prominent role of Amy Brookheimer in Veep (2012-2019), where she was a main cast member.
Alexa PenaVega played Carmen Cortez in Spy Kids (2001) and it’s sequels. Her acting career was steady after that, but there weren’t many notable portrayals (at least not something that reached Spy Kids levels).
Lisa Jakub played Lydia Hillard, a daughter of Robin Williams’s character in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). In 2001, Jakub retired from acting, she took up writing, and currently has two books under her belt. Additionally, she is a qualified Kripalu yoga teacher.
Noah Hathaway played Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story (1984). The NeverEnding Story is a classic in which Hathaway portrayed one of the protagonists who was destined to save the land from evil. He performed some of his own stunts and even won an award for his performance, and while he continued acting, the actor never reached his previous level of fame.
Ivyann Schwan played Trixie Young in Problem Child 2 (1991), where she was a mischievous child that kept the adults on their toes (as the title would suggest). Schwan had various appearances in many other shows, including a role on Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Lindsay Lohan played Annie and Hallie in The Parent Trap (1998). Lohan played two separate characters, the separated twins who try to reunite their parents. After her breakthrough, the actress had a steady list of appearances in movies and shows, and even released several albums in early 2000’s. Lohan didn’t have a smooth transition to more mature roles and had to deal with health problems, but currently, the actress seem to be making a steady comeback.
Haley Joel Osment played Cole Sear, a boy who could see ghosts, in The Sixth Sense (1999). This role was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards, and established Osment as a credible actor. He later appeared in more well-known movies such as Pay It Forward (2000) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Osment lends his voice to the video game character Sora from Kingdom Hearts in its English dub.
Edward Furlong played John Connor, the world-saving teen in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). After his adventure with the Terminator, Furlong made appearances in other movies and shows. He dabbled in music too, releasing an album in Japan. Unfortunately, the actor had some run-ins with the law due to substance abuse.
Raven-Symoné played Olivia Kendall in The Cosby Show (1989-1992). Her career may have started with the TV show, but she eventually branched out into movies and other media, she is now a singer, songwriter, and director. One of her well-known shows is That’s So Raven (2004) and its sequel.
Ariana Richards played Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park (1993), for which she won several awards. She had several minor and episodic appearances in various movies and shows, but nothing that gave her the same recognition. Richards put her acting career on pause and focused on other artistic endeavors. Currently, she’s a recognized artist with the first place in the National Professional Oil Painting Competition under her belt.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen played Michelle Tanner in Full House (1987-1995). The twins actually played a single girl, mostly to comply with the child labor laws regarding working hours because they started filming at 9 months old. They appeared in their own show later on, and now are prominent names in the fashion industry.
Jeremy Dunn Jackson played Hobie Buchannon, son of the famous Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch (1991-1999). He appeared in more than 150+ episodes and even dipped a toe into the music industry. However, the former child star also had some unfortunate run-ins with the law, most notably a jail sentence for stabbing someone.
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