Child Actors Who Are Completely Unrecognizable Today
Getting into acting can be hard for anyone. Many families get their children into the profession at a young age, and many kids have to confront different hardships than what actors go through when they’re older.
These child actors had the time of their lives soaking in knowledge from the biggest names in the game. But what happened to these once-familiar faces? They’re still out there, doing what they love today — even if you might no longer recognize them.
In Taliesin Jaffe’s acting debut, he portrayed Kenny Butler in the hit 1983 film Mr. Mom. Four years later, he landed on the cast of She’s the Sheriff, which was Suzanne Somers’ first show since Three’s Company. After the show’s cancellation following season two, Jaffe focused more on school.
Today, Jaffe is one of the more recognizable voice actors in the world. His roles include The Flash in Injustice 2 and Blanka in the Street Fighter series. To the D&D community, he’s mostly known for his work on the highly successful show Critical Role.
Soleil Moon Frye
Soleil Moon Frye competed against 3,000 young girls to land the title role of Punky Brewster. The show’s popularity helped the actress land movie roles in The St. Tammany Miracle and You Ruined My Life. In 1986, Frye won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series.
As of late, Frye has been busy taking care of her four children. Even with a full house, the actress still finds time for gigs. In 2013, she hosted TLC’s Home Made Simple. She’s reprising her Punky Brewster role for a forthcoming reboot series on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
At the age of five, Abigail Breslin starred in her first film, Signs. Five years later, she earned an Oscar nomination for her work in Little Miss Sunshine. With the nomination, she became the fourth-youngest actress to get nominated in the category.
Breslin has kept the movie roles coming with Ender’s Game, Final Girl and Zombieland: Double Tap. In 2015, she made her return to TV after nearly a decade with Scream Queens. In the same year, she unveiled her debut album The World Now from Digital Launch Records.
Fans of all things 1980s will always remember Raven-Symoné as Olivia Kendall on the hit The Cosby Show. After the show’s conclusion, the actress earned another sitcom stint on Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. Following two big series, Raven-Symoné landed her own sitcom — That’s So Raven.
In recent years, Raven-Symoné made the transition to TV host with her stint on The View. In 2017, she reprised her Raven Baxter character for Raven’s Home, which finds Raven as a divorced mother. She also landed the voice role of Valkyrie in the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series.
Before the global success of Twilight, Kristen Stewart gained buzz with her Young Artist Award-nominated work in 2002’s Panic Room. After the movie, the Los Angeles native landed noticeable roles in Zathura: A Space Adventure, In the Land of Women and Speak.
Since the end of the Twilight saga, Stewart still has an ever-growing portfolio. The actress has been in the films Lizzie, Personal Shopper and the 2019 Charlie’s Angels reboot. Stewart has also directed music videos for acts such as Sage + the Saints and Chvrches and is working on the romantic comedy Happiest Season.
At 10 years old, Daniel Radcliffe made his acting debut playing a young David Copperfield in BBC One’s David Copperfield. The following year, he landed the role of Harry Potter for 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The film’s success turned the London native into an overnight celebrity.
Although his run as Harry Potter is done, Radcliffe has been dealing with mature roles as of late. The actor has continued gracing theater screens with roles in Kill Your Darlings, Now You See Me 2 and Imperium. Radcliffe also appears in the anthology series Miracle Workers.
Haley Joel Osment
In 1994, Haley Joel Osment grabbed audiences’ attention in Forrest Gump as the title character’s son. Five years later, things went from cute to chilling with his performance in The Sixth Sense. His work landed him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
Osment’s time on the screen was shortened by the actor attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As an adult, Osment has had recurring roles on Silicon Valley and The Boys. Osment has also been reprising the role of Sora in several Kingdom Hearts video games, including 2019’s Kingdom Hearts 3.
Jonathan Lipnicki couldn’t have had a bigger film debut than 1996’s Jerry Maguire. Following the movie, the actor gained recurring roles on The Jeff Foxworthy Show and Dawson’s Creek. Lipnicki continued having film success with 1999’s Stuart Little and its 2002 sequel.
Lipnicki has turned his attention toward being an MMA fighter. The actor hasn’t been in a major film since Stuart Little 2. Instead, he’s been focusing on doing independent films such as Boone: The Bounty Hunter and A Second Chance. Lipnicki has also been on the reality show circuit with Celebs Go Dating and Worst Cooks in America.
At the age of four, Macaulay Culkin began acting in commercials and films. Following 1989’s Uncle Buck, Culkin became a hero to kids around the world in Home Alone and then dominated the box office with performances in My Girl, The Pagemaster and Richie Rich.
As an adult, Culkin hopped on the mic as vocalist for the comedy rock band The Pizza Underground. The actor is also the CEO of satirical website Bunny Ears and in 2018 reprised his role as Kevin McCallister for a Google Assistant advertisement. Culkin has even found minor acting gigs in Adam Green’s Aladdin and Changeland.
In 1960, Ron Howard got his foot in the door with his portrayal of Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Years after the show, he struck sitcom gold as a lead in Happy Days which, in 1978, earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy.
Despite Happy Days‘ popularity, Howard is known today for his directing abilities. Since 1977’s Grand Theft Auto, Howard has directed beloved films such as Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code. Howard also has a slew of other movies on his resume, including Hillbilly Elegy.
Mayim Bialik was a staple in the late ’80s with recurring roles on MacGyver and Webster. In 1990, she landed the title role on the NBC sitcom Blossom. The show became a runaway hit for NBC and helped the network solidify its sitcom dominance.
Following a slew of minor roles, Bialik returned to the spotlight as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. Her performance earned her four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She’s working on a new sitcom, Carla, on Fox.
Frankie Muniz delivered huge ratings for Fox with Malcolm in the Middle. The New Jersey native gained two Golden Globe nominations for his performance as the title character. Muniz’s talent also earned him box office dollars with Agent Cody Banks and its 2004 sequel.
After Malcolm in the Middle, Muniz dove into the worlds of auto racing and music. In 2017, he participated in the hit reality series Dancing With the Stars, which saw him taking third place. The actor is working on the films Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink 2 and Road to Capri.
At age six, Thora Birch won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age for Purple People Eater. The Los Angeles native continued making moves with Patriot Games, Hocus Pocus and Clear and Present Danger. On TV, Birch was on the cast of Day by Day and Parenthood.
Birch steered clear of taking bigger roles to focus on smaller productions. In recent years, she starred in Winter of Frozen Dreams, The Etruscan Smile and Affairs of State. In 2019, she joined AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead as Whisperers member Gamma.
Jason Bateman drew attention with his portrayal of Derek Taylor in Silver Spoons. His growing popularity resulted in his own sitcom titled It’s Your Move. Towards the end of the 1980s, Bateman became a teen idol with appearances in The Hogan Family and Teen Wolf Too.
Bateman’s career saw a resurgence thanks to Arrested Development. The show earned him a Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy. Recently, the actor continued getting accolades for his work on Netflix’s Ozark. Bateman is also an executive producer on Showtime’s hit series Kidding.
Christina Ricci brought Wednesday Addams to the big screen with 1991’s The Addams Family and its 1993 sequel. The actress kept the ghoulish fun going with a role in 1995’s Casper. Towards the end of the decade, Ricci gained fame for adult roles in The Ice Storm and Buffalo ’66.
Ricci has been focusing more on television with lead roles in The Lizzie Borden Chronicles and Z: The Beginning of Everything. She’s continuing her TV career with Showtime’s forthcoming drama series Yellowjackets. In 2017, she lent her voice to Terra in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.
At the age of 11, Anna Chlumsky’s entire world changed with My Girl. The film’s success led to the Chicago native starring in My Girl 2, Trading Mom and Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain. In 1999, she put her acting career on the side to attend the University of Chicago.
Chlumsky returned to acting in 2006 with minor roles in 30 Rock and Law & Order. In 2012, she landed the role of Amy Brookheimer on Veep. Chlumsky’s time on the series earned her six Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Tiffani Thiessen’s modeling career helped land her the role of Kelly Kapowski on teen comedy Saved by the Bell. Since being on one teen series wasn’t enough, the actress made her way to Beverly Hills, 90210 as Valerie Malone. Thiessen easily became one of the biggest teen idols of the decade.
Today, Thiessen still finds her way to various roles. For six seasons, she portrayed event planner Elizabeth Burke on USA’s White Collar. Since 2018, she’s been part of Netflix’s sitcom Alexa & Katie, which is the first multi-camera sitcom for the service.
Anna Paquin had little acting experience before starring in The Piano. Her portrayal of Flora McGrath earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. As the second-youngest Oscar winner ever, Paquin landed roles in Amistad and Hurlyburly before becoming Rogue in the X-Men film series.
Paquin made the jump to the small screen with True Blood, which lasted seven seasons on HBO. The Canadian actress followed this up with roles in The Affair and Alias Grace. Recently, Paquin was featured in Netflix’s The Irishman, which was directed by Martin Scorsese.
Coming from a family of actors, Drew Barrymore had her career path written out for her. With 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Barrymore became one of the most profitable child actors of all time. The ’80s also found the actress starring in Babes in Toyland and Firestarter.
Recently, Barrymore has been taking fewer roles to focus more on producing content. Over the years, Barrymore has produced the films Animal and Whip It. Some of her recent roles include Sheila Hammond in Netflix’s horror-comedy Santa Clarita Diet and Lauren Reynolds in the romantic comedy Blended.
Danica McKellar had to face off against her sister Crystal for the role of Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. When the show ended, McKellar gained minor roles on Babylon 5 and Walker, Texas Ranger.
McKellar continues to act today, but she’s mainly known for being a mathematics wizard. Over the years, she wrote several books about math, including 2012’s Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape. As a voice actor, McKellar also provides the voices of Judy Jetson and Miss Martian.
In the ’80s, every boy wanted to be Fred Savage. From The Princess Bride to The Wizard, the Chicago actor was a hot commodity. Most people remember him for his portrayal of Kevin Arnold on the hit TV show The Wonder Years.
Over the years, Savage has found himself back in the spotlight with notable roles. In 2015, he starred in Fox’s The Grinder, which earned him a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. In 2018, he reprised his role from The Princess Bride for Once Upon a Deadpool.
Melissa Joan Hart
Melissa Joan Hart was a trailblazer for the popular cable network Nickelodeon. Her work on the show Clarissa Explains It All paved the way for other popular series like The Amanda Show and The Secret World of Alex Mack. Before landing the role, Hart also auditioned for the role of Six on Blossom.
Hart continued to find success with the sitcoms Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Melissa & Joey. Aside from acting, she’s directed episodes of Melissa & Joey and The Goldbergs. Hart kicked off her directing career on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and starred in the Netflix series No Good Nick.
Andrea Barber will probably always be known as Kimmy Gibbler from Full House, but she got her start in the early ’80s. From 1982 to 1986, she portrayed Carrie Brady on the hit soap opera Days of Our Lives. Her time on the show earned her two Soap Opera Digest Awards for Outstanding Youth Actress in a Daytime Soap Opera.
Following Full House‘s 1995 finale, Barber temporarily retired from acting. She returned for Netflix’s Fuller House, which helped introduce Barber to a new generation of viewers. In 2016, she was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Chemistry.
Jennette McCurdy had minor roles on Malcolm in the Middle and Judging Amy before appearing on Nickelodeon’s iCarly. As Sam Puckett, McCurdy earned two Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite TV Sidekick. She reprised the role for the 2013 spinoff Sam & Cat.
Recently, McCurdy has been directing short films such as Strong Independent Women and The Grave. In 2015, she took a darker role as pregnant teenager Wiley Day in Netflix’s Between. Her portrayal of Day continued with the web series Adam and Wiley’s Lost Weekend. The actress also starred in the psychological thriller Pet and the animated movie Bling.
Mara Wilson impressed everyone with her film debut in Mrs. Doubtfire. After 1994’s Miracle on 34th Street, Wilson was given her biggest role as the title character in 1996’s Matilda. While the film didn’t make tons of money at the box office, it garnered a cult following.
Wilson has devoted most of her time as an adult to writing. One recent book is 2016’s Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. In 2018, she landed a recurring role as the voice of Liv Amara in Big Hero 6: The Series.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt cut his teeth on TV shows such as The Powers That Be and Dark Shadows before 3rd Rock From the Sun. The popular NBC series earned Gordon-Levitt his fourth Young Artist Awards nomination. During the last season, Gordon-Levitt appeared in only a few episodes because of college.
Gordon-Levitt has become one of the more heralded actors in recent years. Since 2004, he’s been working with his collaborative media platform HitRecord, which allows creators worldwide to work together. 2014’s HitRecord on TV earned an Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media.
Alisan Porter is best known by many as the title character of 1991’s Curly Sue. Starring alongside Jim Belushi, Porter was loved by many on set. Before landing Curly Sue, Porter starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom Chicken Soup in 1989.
Porter turned heads when she competed on The Voice in 2016. With the support of fans, she won the competition. The show helped spawn her Hot 100 single “Down That Road,” and in 2019, she released her third studio album Pink Cloud. Her last acting role was in 2008’s Meet Dave.
At eight years old, Dakota Fanning became the youngest SAG Award nominee ever with her work in I Am Sam. Her work in film continued with roles in Man on Fire and the Twilight series. While her work schedule was growing, school was just as important. In 2011, she graduated from Campbell Hall School.
Fanning has been busier than ever with roles in Ocean’s 8 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Fourteen years after her last TV appearance, Fanning returned to the small screen in 2018’s The Alienist. She’s also working on the show The Angel of Darkness.
In 2001, actress/singer Hilary Duff became an instant teen idol with Disney’s Lizzie McGuire. Branded Lizzie McGuire merchandise accumulated over $100 million during the show’s run. Duff was able to bring the character to the big screen with 2003’s The Lizzie McGuire Movie.
Duff has grown into a successful businesswoman with her fashion lines Stuff by Duff and Femme for DKNY. In 2015, she began another successful TV series with TV Land’s Younger. Duff is also working on the Lizzie McGuire revival for Disney+. Her last studio album was 2015’s Breathe In. Breathe Out.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen got their start as infants on the hit comedy Full House. The twin sisters learned a lot about the business from their seasoned co-stars. After the show, they embarked on a million-dollar franchise with their video series and fan club.
Over time, Mary-Kate and Ashley turned those millions into billions. Their career as fashion designers only made things better for their bank accounts. The sisters’ final acting role as a duo was in 2004’s New York Minute. Mary-Kate continued acting until the release of 2011’s fantasy drama Beastly.