Throughout television history, there are always stars that stand out. We all have our favorite characters that are played by talented actors and actresses from that era. But some of the most impressive stars are the child actors, who made their debuts when they were still in kindergarten. These young stars will always hold a place in the viewers hearts.
But child actors grow up. And they grow up fast. Some may grow up to look exactly like we imagined them too, while others end up looking completely different. Regardless, it is always fun and entertaining to see who and what they morph into as adults.
There are noteworthy child thespians from our favorite shows and movies—Friends, The Cosby Show, My Girl, Matilda, The Adam’s Family, and many more! Most of us grew up alongside the actors but lost track of them over the years. What happened to them? Where did their lives lead them?
Worry not, friends. We have pulled together a list of our favorite child stars and tracked them down to see what they've been up to. We even have their photos so that we can collectively gasp with wonder at how much these iconic kids have grown. And who they have become…
15 Cole Sprouse
You may not recognize the name Cole Sprouse, but you will most definitely recognize his face! Remember the little boy from Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy? Or Ben, Ross’s son, from Friends? Have you ever heard of a little show on the Disney Channel called The Suite Life of Zach and Cody? All of those sitcoms are played by Cole Sprouse and sometimes his identical twin brother, Dylan.
Cole was a shockingly adorable child but that does not necessarily mean that he would grow up to be a handsome adult. Except in this case it does.
Cole is now 25 years old, so it is not creepy that I call him a hunk. He is currently on the show Riverdale, proving to the world that he is more than just a cute child actor.
14 Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Most of us will remember Jurnee Smollett-Bell from her first stint on Full House in 1992. Or perhaps you remember her from Cosby (1998-1999). Maybe even from Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, or Friday Night Lights. Jurnee has played many famous child roles that her face is more like a throwback to the 90’s/early 2000’s than to one particular show.
Jurnee was the cutest as a small child. Even at the age of four, she was a stunning and brilliant child actress. So where has life taken her as an adult? And did she grow up to be the gorgeous star we always envisioned she would be?
Great news, gals and gents! She absolutely did! Jurnee has had an incredible career, adding more television shows and movies under her belt every year. She has also blossomed into a smart and beautiful woman in her own right.
13 Jake Matthew Lloyd
Jake Matthew Lloyd played Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. He was only ten years old when he made it big. The star wars movies have created such a cult-following that it is no surprise that Jake's role gave him instant star credit.
Although he dipped his toes into small movie rolls afterwards, Jake ultimately left acting. Unfortunately, he did not make headlines again until 2014, when he led police on a car chase through South Carolina. He incurred ten months in jail for that stint. In 2016, Jake sought help for schizophrenia, allegedly checking in to a psychiatric center for treatment.
In a 2012 interview, Lloyd attested, “My entire school life was really a living hell – and I had to do up to 60 interviews a day.”
Not all Hollywood stories have a happy ending…
12 Christina Ricci
I don’t know if I am the only one, but I was obsessed with the Addams' Family. I loved how dark their family was and how unconventional they were. But, somehow, they still pulled together this warm, loving atmosphere. I was especially intrigued by the character of Wednesday, played by, none other, the beautiful Christina Ricci.
Christina grew up to be a household name everyone knew. She also grew up to be extremely successful. She 73 credits for acting on IMDB—including both film and television. She has played an array of characters that have made her a well-rounded and bona fide star. However, Christina has had a hard time landing a major role.
One of her most iconic performances was the character of Selby, alongside Charlize Theron in Monster. She was almost unrecognizable and rocked a wicked mullet.
Fun fact: in real life, she is besties with another child actress—Gaby Hoffman, from Sleepless In Seattle.
11 Haley Joel Osment
Haley Joel Osment started his career by acting in a commercial for Pizza Hut. His little face appeared in blockbuster movies like Forest Gump and the Sixth Sense. He was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, though he lost to Michael Caine. He cemented his role as an incredible child actor of his time and was recognized by his peers and national audiences as someone to watch out for.
Although clearly a talented actor, Osment has only held small roles since the early 2000’s. He fell back into the spotlight in 2006, when he was involved in car accident. Authorities alleged that his blood alcohol level was .16% at the time—over twice the legal limit. He pled no contest and was sentenced to probation.
10 Macaulay Culkin
My heart has never beat like it did for anyone like Macaulay Culkin. If I had to pick one actor from my childhood who shined, it would be him. He was, after all, in one of the best movies of all time: Home Alone. (If you haven’t seen this film than I shall stick you with a fork.)
Macaulay went on to make a ton of movies in the 90’s—including My Girl, which he starred alongside Anna Chlumsky—another actor on our list.
But what is Macaulay Culkin doing now?
He recently told The Guardian, “Home is where my boots are. I’m a big fan of jumping on people’s tour buses, making myself useful, doing load-ins and outs. I do everything except the merch table. I tried that, but ... we didn’t sell anything.”
9 Abigail Breslin
Abigail Breslin made it big when she starred in the Indie favorite, Little Miss Sunshine. She was adorable. She was charming. And she was crazy talented. But then we lost track of her for a while. She would pop every once in a while in a small TV role, or a preview for a movie.
And then BAM. Abigail was all grown up. She is currently still acting, while also pursuing writing. In fall of 2015, Breslin’s first book entitled, “This May Sound Crazy” was published. It’s supposed to be a humorous look on her young adult life.
This gifted young actress does not seem to be losing any momentum in her acting career. She will probably end up being a face we get to watch throughout our entire lives…
8 Ariana Grande
I’m not going to lie to you—I did not even know that Ariana Grande was an actress until about a year ago. I heard her music and thought, “This girl is crazy talented”. But, I never thought about where she appeared from.
However, it turns out that Ariana is a bona fide child star! Her first gig was on Broadway which led her to snag the role of Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon. Apparently, Ariana is the real deal—she can sing, act, and her signature hair makes me envious. (What is the deal with her hair? That has to be a hair piece, right? No one can have hair that long and perfect…)
Little Ari is all grown up. She is performing on stages across the nation and has curated a lifetime of music fans.
7 Amber Scott
One of my favorite childhood movies is Hook, which came out in 1991. Oh my god I am old. (Have you ever tried chanting “RU-FI-O” in crowd of people? It catches on like fire. Hook fans are die-hard.)
Moving on. The darling little girl that played Maggie, and daughter to Robin Williams, was played by none other than Amber Scott. She made an impression on anyone who watched the film.
But Amber did not really act much after Hook. She went back to normal life, and graduated from college in 2006. She also grew up to be absolutely gorgeous. There is no specific information out there as to what Amber is doing now, but this picture is suggestive. It looks like a head shot! Could our favorite childhood star be making a comeback?!
6 Mayim Bialik
The show Blossom created one of the most iconic fashion trends of 1990’s; denim overalls coupled with a floppy hat with a flower-adorned to the top. Mayim Bialik starred as the show’s protagonist; a spirited, funny kid who lived life to the fullest. For those of us who grew up in the 90’s, she was our queen. I think of her every time I see a sunflower.
Mayim took a break from acting and went to college. She earned herself a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007, the same year that her hit show The Big Bang Theory premiered. Mayim has grown into a beautiful, and incredibly bright woman, who is now enchanting a whole other generation of folks into worshipping her.
Fun fact: Mayim’s character on BBT, Amy, is also a neuroscientist as well!
5 Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris was famous as a child for his role as Dr. Doogie Howser, child prodigy. The show ran from 1989-1993, so for some of us we never knew him as kid actor—we were too young to watch him. Neil Patrick went on to play, the hilarious Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother.
Neil Patrick has grown into an extremely handsome man. He has done positive work within the LGBTQ community. In regards to coming out, he told Variety, “I do the best job that I can do in any given role. I’ve been fortunate in getting to play against type while people know what my actual type is. That’s been empowering to others, and certainly to me, that I can tweet pictures of my husband and my kids…”
4 Zac Efron
I’m going to be a little bit of a creep here and state what we are all thinking: you could tell that Zac Efron was going to be a smoking hot adult-- even when he was eight-years-old. There. I said it.
Zac became a symbol of young lust when he landed his break when he was cast in the Disney Chanel movie High School Musical. I’m not going to lie—I was too old for Disney at this point. And even I knew who he was because he was gorgeous.
But Zac is more than just a (really, really) beautiful face; he is a talented actor. He has starred in everything from comedies to dramas and still leaves the ladies (and some men) crooning. His career, though over a decade old, is still vamping up.
Raven- Symoné was so cute and so gifted, that she blew Bill Cosby away when she was only three-years-old. She auditioned for a movie that he starred in but was too young. Instead, he went on to cast her as the character we all loved, Olivia Kendall, in the hit program, The Cosby Show.
Raven- Symoné graduated from The Cosby Show and starred in a range of movies. She then landed her own TV show called That’s So Raven, and joined a movie/band called The Cheetah Girls, and went on to co-host The View.
Raven- Symoné has come a long way from the little girl that graced the set of The Cosby Show. She is now a 32-years-old woman, a proud member of the LGBTQ community, and still surprising fans with the range of her professional choices. It is pretty clear that this woman has a long career ahead of her.
2 Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson entertaining fans as a young actress in Hollywood. She was in hit movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, A Time To Heal, Miracle of 34th Street, and everyone's all time favorite, Matilda. She was so talented that everyone was sure her career would be long and illustrious. But Mara had other plans.
Mara quit acting and focused on her schooling. She graduated from New York University and has become a voice actress and a playwright. She has also come out as bisexual and is trying to pave the way for her peers.
In a 2017 interview she said, “I don’t see myself as anybody’s savior, but I’d rather it were me — who can afford therapy and afford this platform — getting harassed for being who I am than a young LGBTQ kid. I think it’s important.”
1 Anna Chlumsky
Like many children of the 90’s, I was heartbroken by the movie My Girl. But, over time I sort of forgot that the movie ever existed. And then there I was, laughing uproariously at the amazing show Veep, when I realized that one of the actresses looked hauntingly familiar. After some quick Googling, I figured out why—it was Anna.
Anna Chlumsky, aka Vada from My Girl, was now an adult woman. Apparently she never completely dropped out of acting; I just had never noticed her presence until it was right in front of my face. And guys—she’s still got it.
This child performer has grown into an incredibly talented comedic actress. She is a hilarious mix of cold and swarthy, and steals the stage in Veep. She is also incredible hot.
Sources: IMDB, Wikipedia, Biography, NY Daily News, Independent, Variety