First, Christina Ricci, who starred in movies like The Addams Family, Casper, and Now and Then as a child, turned to being a stay-at-home mom and making money from fan conventions after she hit a “dry [spell]” and found it hard to find work. Talking about her recent resurgence and newfound success on TV, she explained, “It’s a little panic-inducing. You don’t want it to be a fluke, for people to be like, ‘Oh, actually, she’s lost it.'”
Dakota Fanning, who found success with roles in I Am Sam, Uptown Girls, and War of the Worlds all before the age of 10, said it has been hard to find the perfect roles as an adult: “It’s definitely not as easy of a road when you start out younger because people do develop a lot of preconceived notions about who you are.”
Ke Huy Quan, who starred in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies before he’d even turned 15 years old, could not find work despite appearing in these blockbuster films. With a lack of roles for Asian actors, Ke ultimately took jobs as a stunt coordinator when he couldn’t find work as an actor.
Hilary Duff said that having trouble finding work was something she “definitely dealt with a lot” after Lizzie McGuire and her Disney Channel days. Even now, she said, she’ll audition for movie roles and won’t get a job because there is “a stereotype because of [her] past, starting so young and people growing up with [her].”
Jonathan Lipnicki, who famously starred in Jerry Maguire and other movies when he was a child, spoke candidly about how difficult it has been to find work as an adult, saying, “The transition, it’s rough.” Like other child stars, he’s found that casting directors still only see him as a child, and taking any sort of break from acting while he was growing up didn’t work in his favor.
Tyler James Williams, who starred in Everybody Hates Chris, said a producer on the hit TV show once told him, “I’ll never see you as anything else, and you’ll probably never work again,” which he internalized, even though it may have been a joke. This caused Tyler to find a really good acting coach and “turn down every single thing” he was offered right after the series ended until he was ready to make the leap to being an adult actor.
After starring on Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Devon Werkheiser took acting lessons to try to prepare to audition for more dramatic and adult roles. However, by age 25, his savings had run out and he still couldn’t find a steady job as an actor, and was getting paid less and less for supporting roles.
Christy Carlson Romano, who starred on Even Stevens and Kim Possible, revealed that she lost all of the savings she’d earned as a child actor because she was spending it on expensive purchases, and no one had prepared her for how hard it would be to find a job after her steady work as a Disney star stopped.
Following the success of Hocus Pocus, American Beauty, and more, Thora Birch said she never “stepped back” from acting but, rather, “no one was paying attention.” In 2001, she was nominated for a Golden Globe, but in 2014 she revealed that she was “currently looking for an agent.”
Following the success of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, and other Disney projects, Brenda Song explained that she wanted to audition for Crazy Rich Asians but was told that her “image was basically not Asian enough,” with the casting department still seeing her only in relation to her roles as a teen on Disney Channel.
Following That’s So Raven and several Broadway roles, Anneliese van der Pol found herself working in restaurants in New York City because finding work after her initial Disney success was hard. She explained, “The disappointment, the look, the drop of faces when [people] recognized me, was truly gut wrenching. It’s almost like I had to say, ‘I’m okay. I’m actually really happy that I don’t have to audition and am doing something I know I’m good at.'”
Jaleel White, who is best known for playing Steve Urkel in Family Matters, struggled to shed the character that made him famous, with none of his post–Family Matters projects taking off. He recalled, “In my 20s, that was tough to deal with, because I had people asking me, ‘Well, what are you up to these days?'”
Alyson Stoner, who is known for their work in Cheaper by the Dozen and Camp Rock and starring in Missy Elliott’s “Work It” music video, has discussed how hard the transition from child star to adult working actor is, writing in an op-ed, “Unless I have elite representation, millions of dollars and major networks pouring into a strategic debut into adulthood, my younger work will not amount to much in the eyes of ‘serious’ film and television casting directors.”
Daniel Benson, who played Zeke on Wizards of Waverly Place, said that after the series ended in 2012, he found it hard to find another job. He said that after nude photos of himself that he’d sent to women leaked online, he “ended up almost losing [his] job later in life because of that, after [he] kind of retired from acting.” Recently, Daniel has opened up on TikTok about joining OnlyFans and starting a new career in adult entertainment.
And finally, Ron Howard, whose first role was Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, said that trying to make the transition from child star to director was challenging because no one was taking him seriously. He explained, “I was getting an awful lot of patronizing kind of pats on the head and ‘Hey, hang in there.’ And, you know, ‘In another 10 or 15 years, I’m sure somebody will give you a chance to direct.’ And that’s not what I wanted to hear at all.”