First, Anna Chlumsky has talked about how important it was for her to take a break from acting following My Girl and My Girl 2 in the ’90s, in order to pursue her education. She became a fact checker for Zagat and an editorial assistant at an imprint at Harper Collins before she eventually returned to acting, most notably with Veep. Her work as Amy on Veep earned her six Emmy nominations.
Ke Huy Quan has been very transparent about how he struggled to find acting roles after his early success in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. After moving to working behind the scenes as a stunt coordinator and stepping back from acting, he made a big return by playing Waymond in Everything Everywhere All at Once in 2022.
Josh Hutcherson starred in around 27 movies between 2004 and 2015, becoming one of the most recognizable young actors thanks to The Hunger Games movies, Bridge to Terabithia, and more. Following Mockingjay – Part 2, Josh largely took smaller roles in a few movies here and there and he starred in the TV series Future Man. In 2023, he made a comeback by playing Mike Schmidt in Five Nights at Freddy’s, which earned $133 million worldwide opening weekend.
When he was younger, Jason Bateman notably starred in Little House on the Prairie, The Hogan Family, and Teen Wolf Too until he largely took a break from acting in the ’90s. Jason said he consciously took a break “to catch up with all these inabilities [he] had as a kid, because [he] was always working.” Then, Jason really returned with Arrested Development in 2003 and went on to win an Emmy Award for directing Ozark, which he also starred in.
After acting consistently on Disney Channel while she was growing up, Selena Gomez hit pause on her acting career to focus on music, executive producing, her beauty line, her health, and more. Aside from some voice acting roles, Selena didn’t return to TV until 2021 when she began starring as Mabel Mora on Only Murders in the Building.
After starring in Blossom for five seasons, Mayim Bialik largely did voice acting and small TV roles but kind of stepped back from Hollywood and earned her PhD in neuroscience. Fifteen years after Blossom ended, Mayim landed her notable role as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory.
After starring in movies like Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and more all before he was 16 years old, Freddie Highmore took some time off to study. He even worked in a law firm at one point. His choice to take a small break from Hollywood was his way of making “acting as an adult an active decision, one chosen out of a desire to perform.” In 2013, Freddie returned with his critically acclaimed role in Bates Motel, and he’s been starring in The Good Doctor since 2017.
When he was just 13 years old, Alfred Enoch began starring as Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films. After the movies wrapped in 2011, he took a short break and attended Queen’s College, Oxford, where he studied Spanish and Portuguese. In 2014, Alfred notably landed the role of Wes on How to Get Away with Murder opposite Viola Davis.
Natasha Lyonne starred in Pee-wee’s Playhouse in 1986 when she was seven years old. She went on to star in the American Pie movies, Slums of Beverly Hills, But I’m A Cheerleader, and more before she took a break from acting after a series of arrests and a mandate to complete court-appointed rehab in 2006. After her recovery, Natasha landed a role on Orange Is the New Black, Russian Doll, and Poker Face, with all three roles earning her Emmy Award nominations.
Tyler James Williams landed his breakout role on Everybody Hates Chris when he was 13 years old. After the series ended, he consciously made the decision to step back from acting after he realized he “didn’t like the road [he] was on.” He said, “I decided to stop and pivot. I got with a really good acting coach and I turned down every single thing I was offered.” Tyler returned with appearances in The Walking Dead and Dear White People before landing the role of Gregory on Abbott Elementary.
Cole Sprouse worked consistently throughout his childhood in projects like Friends, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and more, then attended NYU and took a break from acting alongside his brother Dylan Sprouse. Cole called the break a “conscious decision to distance” himself from the industry. Following graduating with a degree in archaeology, Cole returned to acting two years later with his role as Jughead on Riverdale.
Jodie Foster rose to fame as a child appearing in numerous Disney movies, before landing her breakout role in Taxi Driver at 14 years old. Then, in 1981, Jodie put her acting career on hold to attend Yale, with many saying it was a “bizarre interruption” to her promising career. When Jodie returned to Hollywood she earned two Academy Awards for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs.
Robert Downey Jr. started his career appearing in his father’s films, “Brat Pack” movies, and more before receiving critical acclaim for Chaplin, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Shortly after, Robert faced multiple drug charges, went to jail, was fired from Ally McBeal, and entered court-appointed rehab. Robert’s big acting comeback came in 2008 when he starred as Tony Stark in Iron Man, a movie that kicked off the MCU. He’s also been drug-free since 2003.
Brooke Shields reached widespread notoriety as a child model and for starring in Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon. However, in the early ’80s, she took a break from Hollywood and attended Princeton University, which she said, “changed the entire trajectory of the way [she] looked at [her life].” After returning to acting with minor roles, she eventually landed Lipstick Jungle, a short-lived show that earned her two Golden Globe nominations.
Miranda Cosgrove made a name for herself at a young age by starring in School of Rock, Drake & Josh, and iCarly, and then she decided to go to college, where she majored in film. While she notably continued to do voice work for the Despicable Me films, Miranda didn’t do much live-action work until she reprised her role as Carly Shay in the recent iCarly revival series.
Quvenzhané Wallis was nominated for an Academy Award at just nine years old for starring in Beats of the Southern Wild. After starring in Annie in 2014, Quvenzhané didn’t appear in much and she said she spent “a lot of time just living and being young.” Then, in 2021, she began starring in Swagger, with many people praising her performance on the show, which is loosely inspired by Kevin Durant’s life.
And finally, Haley Joel Osment received critical acclaim for his breakout role as Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense. Following the movie, he appeared in several movies and shows before he took a break to pursue a college degree in acting. Since graduating in 2011, he’s landed consistent roles in shows like Silicon Valley, Future Man, and The Boys.