Child stars are cute, adorable, and sometimes awe-inspiring in their talent and win our hearts through their skills to act well beyond their years in the way they conduct themselves on screen. But sometimes the spotlight that shines so bright when they are fresh on the scene can fade as they grow, their features change, and they mature into adult actors.
We all know that showbiz and Hollywood are not the easiest industries to navigate at any age, but the plight of the child star can include stage parents, issues coping with fame at such a young age, and the loss of a legitimate childhood. Those are all things that successful child stars have all dealt with, and some have not been able to overcome them. Whether it’s drugs or just not being able to transition into adult acting work, the limelight can be kind and cruel to those we love at a young age.
Some of the brightest child stars from this year, including the cast of Stranger Things and the cast of It, have all blown us away with their talent and skills. They stole the screen, and command a certain amount of attention. It has skyrocketed many into the mainstream media attention, with more money and work than they probably know what to do with. But sometimes being successful before you even hit puberty can bring its own set of issues. Here are 10 child actors that will go far and 10 that might just fizzle as they get older.
20 Will Go Far: Millie Bobby Brown
Millie Bobby Brown floored us all with her portrayal of the supernatural human lab experiment Eleven in the Netflix original series Stranger Things. No one could have predicted the amount of attention she would get from her starring role, not even Millie herself. With the looks and screen presence similar to a young Natalie Portman, Millie has garnered a lot of media attention for her ability to stare a hole through you while at the same time melting you like a stick of butter. One of the only girls in the cast of pre-pubescent boys, she stole the show and it seems like she has a good head on her shoulders, to boot. She has continued to grow up and blossom into a beautiful young woman on the red carpet and in the second season of the show. It seems that she won’t have any issues finding roles like those of other young female actresses who transitioned smoothly from a child actor into a-list actor—Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Portman, Saoirse Ronan, Drew Barrymore, and others.
19 Already Peaked: Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson
Honey Boo Boo stole the show the first time we saw her on her TLC show. From her tell-it-like-it-is attitude to her ability to strut her stuff no matter who was watching, she was authentic and genuine in all the right ways. Which is why she became America’s little sweetheart. But as the show was canceled, and the interest in her faded, she is going to have a hard time transitioning into a career that will keep her relevant and loveable. Although her mom has recently had surgery to lose hundreds of pounds, Alana is going to be in for a bit of a hard time trying to find where she fits in with Hollywood. We don’t know for sure, but it looks like her transition into acting isn’t going well. But we haven’t fully counted her out. She still has a long way to go.
18 Will Go Far: Zendaya Coleman
Zendaya Coleman has already made quite the impression in her transition from Disney channel stardom into adult working actor. Originally singing and dancing in her role as Rocky Blue on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up, she has only continue to explode with even more success, including being a Cover Girl, creating her own fashion line, starring in a hit movie alongside Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman, and having a massive social media following. She has rocked the transition like a true mogul, not letting the light fade or wasting her opportunities. She has worked hard and from the looks of is not planning on stopping anytime soon. Whether she is wowing us on the red carpet with her flawless eyebrows, hair, and skin, or dazzling us on screen with a great kiss with the hunk Zac Efron, Zendaya doesn’t need our help (or even a last name) because she has tread into the single name territory with the likes of Madonna, Cher, and Adele.
17 Already Peaked: Rowan Blanchard
Rowan Blanchard warmed our hearts as the funny and quirky girl from Girl Meets World, the Boy Meets World reboot. She is charming and loveable. And while she definitely has her fair share of success and roles in the works, she may not be able to shake the confinements of her Girl Meets World persona. As we all know, child actors rely on the ability to have a breakout role and then be able to break out of that role and get work as other characters in other projects. She is trying with her recurring role in The Goldbergs, but it may not be enough. Whatever comes for Rowan, even if it isn’t acting or Hollywood, there are plenty of other opportunities for a 16-year-old with that kind of resume.
16 Will Go Far: Jaeden Lieberher
Jaeden Lieberher has slowly gained momentum by starring in great films since a very young age. From his role as the 8-year-old Alton Meyer in the Jeff Nichols critically acclaimed film Midnight Express, he wowed audiences as the boy with the supernatural abilities and piercing laser blue eyes. He acted alongside other greats like Michael Shannon, Adam Driver, and Kirsten Dunst, and he held his own. His talent is profound, not unlike that of a young Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense and Forrest Gump, and it got him his next gig as Bill Denbrough in the summer blockbuster It. He steals the screen when he acts and if his taste in film is any sign of his future success, he will definitely go far. There is no telling where his talent and skills will take him, or where his experience in film at such a young age will lead. We are excited to see.
15 Already Peaked: Max Burkholder
Max Burkholder was one of the first roles that portrayed what it was like to be a child with autism on the hit show Parenthood. He is also one of the only child actors with Asperger Syndrome in real life, and he has overcome many obstacles in his acting days. Time will tell whether he will be able to transition successfully from his cute, adorable days in Parenthood into more mature acting roles. The public is definitely cheering him on, and we hope to see him continue to shine. Hollywood is going to have to change the way they view and hire actors with learning disabilities, but it is clear that Max has done what he needs to do to prove he is fully capable of everything acting entails. We believe Hollywood can and will change for the better.
14 Will Go Far: Skai Jackson
Skai Jackson started out like a lot of other successful child actors, on the Disney Channel. First, she played Zuri Ross in the Disney Sitcom Jessie and is currently starring in the Bunk’d series on Disney. With over 3 million followers on Instagram, she knows how to use social media to her advantage, and to continue to build her brand even when she isn’t on the screen. Her iconic hair and blazing eyes set her apart and she seems to be transitioning just fine into her role as a young woman on screen. Not unlike Miley Cyrus or Hilary Duff, Skai has comedic timing and talent, which will allow her to be flexible in her career. She has an open mind and is educated on social issues that she feels passionate about. She uses her social platform to express her thoughts and to give a voice to those that are inherently marginalized, which will take her far in life.
13 Already Peaked: Gaten Matarazzo
Gaten Matarazzo won our hearts as the adorable, toothless Dustin on Stranger Things. He is so unique in his looks and acting style that we were blown away from the first moment we saw him on screen. However, that doesn’t always translate into a long-term career. If he can manage to not be typecast or pigeon-holed in his career or in the roles he plays, he may be able to transition into a solid career as an adult actor. Hopefully, this will be the case, but if he allows Hollywood to hold him back according to his looks and personality, he may be in for a rough ride. Stranger Things was his first major acting role, so time will tell whether his moment in the spotlight will fade eventually or if he will be able to keep the roles coming in for even more interesting characters.
12 Will Go Far: Jacob Tremblay
Perhaps no child actor has been photographed with more A-list celebs than Jacob Tremblay, who, during the 2017 awards season, used his adorable face to win over the hearts of every single actor he came in contact with. And then he asked them to take a picture with him (who is going to turn down that face and those adorable dimples?). It is this charisma that translates on screen and makes whatever role he is playing become one no one will forget. He was even nominated for a SAG award in 2016 for his role in Room, and in 2017 for his in Before I Wake. Being so comfortable working alongside some of the great actors in Hollywood is part of what sets him apart on screen and off. His light is sure to continue to burn bright well into the future.
11 Already Peaked: Nolan Gould
Nolan Gould has come into our living rooms every week in the hit series Modern Family. He started as the cuddly, adorable little Luke Dunphy, and we couldn’t love him more for it. However, as the years have progressed and puberty hit and his voice has changed, the character has been struggling to keep up with his maturity. This doesn’t bode well for the future of Nolan’s career. If the series can’t find a way to transition him successfully into his teenage years, then he might end up like so many other child actors who struggle to find better or different roles than the ones that made them famous. Nolan has clearly grown into a very handsome young man, and the roles he plays should reflect that appeal and growth.
10 Will Go Far: Bailee Madison
Bailee Madison has stolen our hearts so many times we’ve lost count. She has starred in more than her fair share of films since she was very little, including her role in Bridge To Terabithia. And as she has grown, so has her light. From her role in The Fosters to Wizards of Waverly Place, her toothy grin and sweet eyes will melt your heart any day of the week. She has grown and evolved in her career and is even a producer on one of her latest films A Cowgirl’s Story. These are all signs that point to future success, being able to adapt, and transition successfully no matter what the industry throws at you. She once was adorable and is now beautiful, so there is nothing standing in her way of continuing to have the career she wants.
9 Already Peaked: Noah Schnapp
Noah Schnapp is the tiny, scared little boy from Stranger Things that spent all of his time in The Upside Down, kidnapped and unable to come home. Although his role and his portrayal of Will Byers was terrifying and stunning, his bowl cut and baby face helped him land the role that we’ve all grown to love him in. However, as those features fade, it is yet to be determined whether he will be able to land roles of the same caliber as Stranger Things. He does have a few roles in the works currently, but not nearly the same kind of demand as some of his co-stars including Millie Bobby Brown. In Hollywood, things can change in a heartbeat, for better or for worse. If the roles can continue Noah may be able to escape the kind of fizzle that other child actors experience, or maybe not.
8 Will Go Far: Willow Smith
There are few child actors as controversial as Willow Smith. From her acting debut alongside her dad in I Am Legend, to her next film Kit Kittredge, she was so adorable you couldn’t not love her. And then came her next endeavor into music, with the single that made her a name around the world “Whip My Hair” which reached Number 11 on Billboard and went platinum. She was poised to become the next giant star along the lines of Beyonce, Selena Gomez, and others, but she pushed pause on all of it. She said she wanted a normal childhood, and didn’t want the same life of fame that her parents had. This shocked her family, but no one more than her dad Will, who was already making arrangements for her to be produced by Jay-Z. She was mature enough to say no, which is why we think she will go far in life.
7 Already Peaked: Jack Dylan Glazer
Jack Dylan Grazer had a breakout role this summer in the movie It as Eddie Kaspbrak, and it shows. He is working quite a bit right now in the new TV series Me Myself and I on CBS and in a few other roles in upcoming films. He seems to have all the talent necessary to be a big lead actor in his adult life, but there are a few obstacles in his way currently. He recently was caught smoking weed in a video that leaked online. He has since issued an apology saying he was remorseful and to ‘not make the same mistakes’ he did by smoking pot. Although people make mistakes and learn lessons, this is not the best way to kick off a career.
6 Will Go Far: Ty Simpkins
Ty Simpkins is a boy who knows what he wants. From starring in Iron Man 3 to his recent breakout role in Jurassic World alongside Chris Pratt, he is already making a name for himself. It is rumored he is starring in the next Avengers film in 2019, but we aren’t sure his role. However, he is definitely poised to make the transition as his looks are already evolving and he’s becoming more of a hunk and less adorable-squeeze-his-cheeks kind of thing. He may not be a household name yet, he definitely has the acting chops, and he’s funny too. All of those things are reasons he will go far in his career. We simply don’t see him fading out anytime soon, especially when you have Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. on your side.
5 Already Peaked: Jeremy Ray Taylor
Jeremy Ray Taylor is the adorably chubby child actor that blew us all away in this summer’s blockbuster hit It as Ben. He was loveable and charming in all the right ways, and we couldn’t take our eyes off of him. But will the spotlight last for this young actor? That is yet to be seen. We hope the best for him, but after also starring in the summer’s biggest disappointment in Geostorm, it isn’t looking promising for Jeremy. If the roles that are offered to him don’t typecast him or try and put him in a corner he may be able to escape the dreaded fall of child actors. However, if they only put him in certain roles he may have a hard time transitioning into the world of adult acting.
4 Will Go Far: Sunny Pawar
Sunny Pawar might just be the most unique situation in this entire list because he was simply plucked out of his home in a slum in India to star in the Oscar-nominated film Lion alongside Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel. He wasn’t a child actor, but the director believed he had the chops to bring the story to life on the big screen. And boy did he. Not only did he offer a raw and amazing performance, but he also wowed on the red carpet and at the awards ceremony. He was funny and delightful, and most of all just a normal kid. Although he doesn’t have the same pedigree, his perspective and joy will guide him as he navigates the world of Hollywood and fame.
3 Already Peaked: Rico Rodriguez
Rico Rodriguez is the adorably intelligent son Manny on Modern Family, and we’ve watched him blossom into a young man who is even dating girls on the show. All seems well in Manny’s career, except that he has experienced his fair share of ups and downs the past year. He revealed in the spring of 2017 that his father had died unexpectedly at the age of 52. This can be hard for someone of his age to have to deal with, especially while trying to balance a career in Hollywood. At such a young age, hopefully, this life-altering event won’t affect Rico’s life negatively. And he will use it as a way to push forward, even though he said that when his father died it was the ‘toughest week’ of his life.
2 Will Go Far: Levi Miller
Levi Miller flew into our lives as Pan in the 2015 movie Pan, and he’s been in our minds ever since. With such a piercing gaze and authentic acting chops, he has managed to land roles in the 2018 film A Wrinkle In Time, which will only continue to catapult him into the spotlight. His features are growing with him, and he is already a teenage heartthrob. Even though we don’t know where he will end up, it is certain he isn’t slowing down anytime soon. His acting career is only just beginning to heat up, and there is more to come for this talented young actor. Similar in his looks to a young Leonardo Dicaprio, who got his start as a child in Growing Pains, if Leo is any indication, Levi will have a very long and successful career.
1 Already Peaked: Quvenzhane Wallis
Quvenzhane Wallis made all of our jaws drop to the floor with her portrayal of Hushpuppy in the critically acclaimed film Beasts of the Southern Wild. She was even nominated for an Oscar for her role. Then in 2015, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as Annie in the remake of the classic musical. All of this seemed so promising, except since then she has all but disappeared from the big screen and from Hollywood altogether. Other than a few minor roles, there simply haven’t been the offers or roles she was expecting. Although this could change for her, the current prospects for her career don’t look promising. Hopefully, she will be able to find roles that do her acting chops justice and are deserving of her. But if not, she might be one of the child actors that fade in the near future.
SOURCES: Dailymail.co.uk, usatoday.com, imdb.com, dazeddigital.com, deseretnews.com, aol.com, aintitcool.com, vogue.com