Some of our first encounters with actors on screen is by watching kids TV shows on popular children’s networks like Disney and Nickelodeon. Indeed, Nickelodeon has produced some of the most iconic kids' shows in TV history, and many have come to define our early years as young people.
However, although we might have watched these TV shows as kids and become enamored with the actors we saw, it’s easy to forget that the young actors we see on screen grow up just as we do, and eventually, have to forge ahead with their careers outside of children's television programs. It can often be hard for young actors to transition from their early roles to more serious, grow-up acting, and as we’ll see, some have been more successful than others in this regard.
From rising stars to absolute career flops, here are 20 Nickelodeon stars who either made it or completely fizzled out from the scene after their big Nick TV breaks. Some of the actors here will surprise you with the fact that they were once on Nickelodeon shows, and others here will have you scratching your head trying to remember them.
20 Ariana Grande Soared To Greatness
There are few child stars from Nickelodeon who have taken fame by storm quite like Ariana Grande, whose success post-Nick has seen her become one of the biggest names in the music industry. Grande starred in 35 episodes of Sam & Cat between 2013 and 2014 before the show was finally canceled in 2014.
The show was a hit with fans, but luckily for those who loved the show, Ariana didn’t disappear from the scene as she emerged as a talented pop princess with slayer vocal skills.
The singer has had some huge hits, with many staying for weeks at the top of the music charts, including “Side to Side”, “Dangerous Woman”, and “Problem”. Long gone is her squeaky clean Nick image which has made way for an edgy artist with a unique sense of self-expression.
19 Jamie Lynn Spears Tried To Make It Big Like Her Sis
Jamie Lynn Spears will, for most of us, remain in our memories as Britney Spears’ little sister. However, despite getting second-hand fame from her big sis, Jamie Lynn did try to strike out on her own in order to make a name for herself away from Britney’s spotlight. However, her attempts to make it big didn’t exactly go to plan. She landed a role in Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 as the lead character Zoey Brooks, but in one of the most scandalous events to happen in Nick history, was forced to leave the show when she became pregnant at the age of 16. This causes quite a bit of controversy with fans of the show, as Jamie Lynn’s public life clearly did not match up with the good girl image she had promoted for herself on the show. After giving birth to her daughter and subsequently leaving Zoey 101, Jamie Lynn tried to take up music as a career but unfortunately was not successful.
18 Melissa Joan Hart Keeps Bewitching Us
Melissa Joan Hart was definitely a 1990s and early 2000s It Girl. With gorgeous looks, a magnetic charm, and a sweet, comedic persona, she was one of the hottest young stars who found fame in nick shows such as Clarissa Explains It All and of course, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
While many child stars fail to make it big after the end of their successful TV shows, Melissa Joan Hart continued to be successful even after she turned in her witch’s hat.
With a number of TV shows and appearances under her belt, she went on to star in the TV show Melissa & Joey that was on air for five years between 2010 and 2015. She continues to make guest appearances on a number of shows, and her name is still very much a household name.
17 Nate Richert Left The Limelight
Nate Richert is best known for his role as Harvey Kinkle in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which remains many people’s favorite Nickelodeon show ever. What wasn’t there to like? Magic, a sassy talking cat, great, relatable high school storylines? Sabrina had it all. However, while some of the show’s cast went on to do great things, sadly Nate Richert withered away from fame and has hardly been in the limelight since his teenage TV days ended. In fact, Richert has completely given up the acting life and has instead been concentrating on a music career. He plays mainly bluegrass tunes and appears to have released just one album called Halogen Moon. His looks and career now are a far cry from how we remember him, but he’ll always be floppy-haired, goofy Harvey to us.
16 Kenan Thompson Continues To Keep Us Laughing
Who doesn’t remember the orange-soda loving duo who starred in Kenan & Kel? For many of us, this show defined our childhood, and it was most definitely a fan-favorite of the Nick era. The theme song alone, performed by Coolio, was one of the greatest things about it, not to mention the hilarious antics Kenan and Kel got up to.
Since those early days on Nickelodeon, Kenan Thompson has continued to have a successful career, most notably with his long-lived status as a Saturday Night Live cast member.
In fact, Thompson not only made history when he joined the SNL team, becoming the first cast member to join who was born after the show’s debut in 1975, but he’s also broken the record for being the longest-lasting cast member in the show’s history.
15 Kel Mitchell Got Left Behind
While Kenan & Kel may have been a much-beloved show with its own cult-following and Kenan Thompson found fame in his own right, not everyone from the classic Nick show had equal success after the show ended in 2000. Although Kenan went on to become a long-serving member of SNL, his co-star Kel Mitchell failed to seize the limelight quite like his TV partner did. Although Kel has been keeping himself busy with a number of projects since his Nickelodeon departure, they’re mainly things most of us probably have never heard of. In fact, there was even a time pre-Twitter, when rumors were circulating around old social media platform MySpace that Kel had passed away. Ouch. That’s got to be pretty hurtful for someone whose career was once as great as Kel’s.
14 Emma Roberts Became A Star
Emma Roberts is a big Hollywood name, but she actually first rose to fame as a cast member in the Nickelodeon show Unfabulous. Roberts starred Addie Singer, the lead character, who writes songs and music about her time as a high school student.
Unfabulous ended in 2007, and since it finished, Emma Roberts went on to make a huge name for herself in the film world.
She has featured in a number of notable films, including Wild Child, Scream 4, and We’re the Millers among many others, and she has also had a fantastically successful TV career, with roles in Scream Queens and American Horror Story to name just a few. Clearly, Emma Roberts got it right when making her transition from child star to full-blown screen queen, and she has multiple projects in the works that will be released over the next few years.
13 Drake Bell Needs To Keep Tuning His Career
Drake Bell was famously part of the Nickelodeon duo that was Drake & Josh, and it’s safe to say that in the early 2000s, he was a major teen heartthrob. In the show, Bell plays a character who has aspirations of becoming a musician, and in real life, that’s exactly what he became. However, his success isn’t as great as he probably hoped. Although Drake Bell has pretty much all but traded in his acting hat for a career in music, his dreams of becoming a leading name in the music world haven’t panned out. His album Ready Steady Go failed to make a splash in the US music charts, and although he recently released a very risqué video for his song “Rewind”, it shocked more people seeing their former fave Nick star in such a raunchy way rather than impressing them.
12 Ryan Reynolds Became A Hollywood Heartthrob
Who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds? Known for his lovable rom-com personas and his hilariously edgy role in Deadpool, it seems like there’s no stopping Reynolds these days. He’s one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the moment, and when he’s not impressing us with his incredible acting skills on screen, he’s making us laugh hysterically with his funny social media posts, most often involving his wife, actress Blake Lively.
But what you might not know about this superstar actor is that he got his start in a Canadian teen show called Hillside that was then bought and rebranded as Fifteen.
Reynolds has certainly come a long way since then, but it’s refreshing to see that despite his immense fame, Ryan is still the friendly, down-to-earth guy we’ve always enjoyed watching.
11 Christopher Massey Made Some Big Mistakes
Christopher Massey is the older brother of Kyle Massey, who starred as Raven Symone’s little brother Cory Baxter in the Disney hit TV series That’s So Raven. Despite his little brother garnering fame, however, Christopher Massey was also a star in his own right. He featured in Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 as Michael Barret and has won a number of awards for his acting, including an Emmy for the “One To Watch-Male” category. However, despite looking like he was going to be a young star on the rise, Christopher Massey dashed his chances of climbing the ladder of success by getting involved in some pretty serious personal problems, which include being arrested. Ever since not much has been happening for Massey, and his last major acting credit was in 2012 for a TV series called Switched at Birth.
10 Alanis Morissette Sang Her Way To Fame
Alanis Morissette is one of the most iconic singers out there, whose songs were the backdrop to many a teen and adult growing up in the 1990s. With songs like “Ironic”, “You Oughta Know”, and “Thank You”has become legendary tunes we all know and love, it’s safe to say that Alanis is a household name that will live on forever in history.
However, before she became the iconic songstress we know her to be, she actually featured in a Nickelodeon show called You Can’t Do That On Television, and from her earnings acting on it, she was able to cut her first ever album in 1995, Jagged Little Pill.
Nowadays, Alanis is still working in music, but she has also done a lot of TV work too, and naturally, her songs are frequently used in the soundtrack for film and TV, most recently in the Oscar-nominated movie Lady Bird.
9 Matthew Underwood Disappeared From Our Screens
Another star of Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 to fall from grace is Matthew Underwood, who played Logan Reese on the show. Underwood is another one of the more scandalous actors to be associated with the kids’ channel, and unfortunately, in 2012 he had a run-in with the police for various crimes.
He hasn’t done very much since his Zoey 101 days, with his most recent acting credit apparently being for a show in 2009 called Reality Horror Night.
Maybe it’s the curse of Zoey 101 that no one has looked into, but it seems very odd that multiple actors from the show have ended up dropping off the face of the fame universe. Who knows if Underwood might one day bounce back from the bottom, but until then we hope he’s staying out of trouble.
8 Victoria Justice Is A Victorious Talent
Surprise, surprise, here’s another Zoey 101 alumnus, but don’t worry, this one somehow managed to avoid the dreadful fate of many of her co-stars who fizzled out of fame. Victoria Justice starred as Lola Martinez on the show and also appeared in other big Nickelodeon shows, including iCarly and of course, Victorious.
Since leaving Nickelodeon, Victoria Justice has continued to act and also attempted a singing career, but was clear that acting is where her strength was.
She starred in the teen movie Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List and has recently acted in the TV movie remake of the famous cult-classic film The Rocky Horror Picture Show alongside Laverne Cox and Tim Curry himself. Clearly, Victoria has a lot of talent, and she’ll no doubt have a bright future ahead of her.
7 Miranda Cosgrove May Have Already Peaked
For a lot of us, Miranda Cosgrove will be best remembered as sassy, strong-willed Summer Hathaway in School of Rock, but many will also know her from her roles in Drake & Josh, and of course her lead role as Carly Shay in teen sitcom iCarly. iCarly was a big Nickelodeon hit and was hugely successful for Cosgrove as in 2010, she became the Guinness World Record holder for being the highest earning child star. However, despite her huge fame and success early on, Cosgrove has since faded from the limelight and isn’t exactly as relevant as she once was. She tried to get into the music industry, releasing a few hits, but unfortunately, her songs never quite saw the success that her contemporary child star peers like Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato did. Cosgrove is responsible for voicing Margo in the Despicable Me films, the third installment having been released last year.
6 Christine Taylor Went From Small Screen To Big Screen
Christine Taylor is the gorgeous, talented actress best known for her role as Marcia in The Brady Bunch Movie, as well as for her main parts in Zoolander, Dodgeball, and for being Phoebe's friend Bonnie in Friends.
Well, before she rose to big fame, Christine Taylor starred in the Nickelodeon sitcom Hey Dude that aired on the network in the late 80s and early 90s.
It’s funny to think that Taylor got her start in a show set o a dude ranch, but clearly she showed that with a lot of hard work, talent, and determination, she could make it to bigger and better things. Christine Taylor is a very recognizable person in TV and film, and she continues to do a lot of work in these areas.
5 Tadhg Kelly Busied Himself With A Llama
Tadhg Kelly starred as Addie Singer’s older brother Ben who worked at the juice shop in Unfabulous alongside Emma Roberts, and he was a much-loved character who delivered funny lines to a tee. He acted in the show for over 40 episodes, but when Unfabulous ended in 2007, it seems like his career did too. Although Kelly has continued to act, his roles have mainly been in very small projects such as short films and in minor parts. In 2014, he appeared in a bizarre TV show called Llama Cop, which is strangely about a detective who pairs up with a llama in order to crack cases. Ok...It’s a shame that Kelly didn’t find the kind of success that some of his peers and co-stars did, as he clearly was a competent actor. It seems, however, that somewhere along the line, he’s simply been relegated to being a background. How unfabulous for him.
4 Keke Palmer Became An Icon
Keke Palmer took the tween market by storm with her great acting and amazing singing voice. She starred in the Nickelodeon program True Jackson, VP after rising to fame in the movie Akeelah and the Bee.
She showed herself to be talented in so many respects, and she even had a fashion line developed, inspired by her role on True Jackson, VP. Since leaving the Nick show, Keke has continued to have success both in her acting and in her musical career.
She’s released multiple albums and has appeared in a whole range of different TV shows, including Scream Queens, Berlin Station, and Grey’s Anatomy. Keke Palmer is truly a force of nature, and she’s sure to be wowing us with her various different projects for a long time to come.
3 Danny Tamberelli And Michael Maronna Will Always Just Be Pete & Pete
Many of you might remember Danny Tamberelli and Michael Maronna as huge stars of Nickelodeon. They were the duo who starred in The Adventures of Pete & Pete that aired from 1992 to 1996. The show was incredibly successful and fans loved the quirky music it had and the fun performances by the two young leads. However, as is the case with many child stars who become famous thanks in large part to their cuteness, they eventually grow up and find that they’re not as employable in the acting business as they once were. Well, this seems to have been the case with Tamberelli and Maronna, as they haven’t done anything all that big since leaving their childhood show. They both do a podcast together though, so if you’re really missing them, you can tune in to hear them chat away.
2 Jessica Alba Seized Fame
Jessica Alba is a well-known name in Hollywood, and it might come as a surprise to you that this gorgeous A-lister was once the star of a Nickelodeon show called The Secret World of Alex Mack.
She has definitely been one of the biggest success stories Nick can claim, and her rise to fame after being on the kids’ channel was phenomenal.
Alba has starred in huge Hollywood blockbuster movies including Sin City, Fantastic Four, and Valentine’s Day among many others. Although Alba’s acting career has slowed down slightly in recent years, she is still one of the biggest names in the acting business, and clearly, she went on to do amazing things after leaving Nickelodeon. Hopefully, we can see her return to big films soon as she really is a stunning talent.
1 Amanda Bynes Is A Complicated One
Amanda Bynes straddles the fine line between success and failure, as for quite a long time she was a star on the rise. Having gotten her fame from Nickelodeon with shows All That and The Amanda Show, the actress seemed like she would be a great success, landing movies after leaving Nick, including What A Girl Wants, She’s The Man, Hairspray, Sydney White, and Easy A. Her good girl persona made her a lovable persona with her fans, and everyone assumed she would go on to take Hollywood by storm. However, sadly, as happens with many young actors put under the pressures of fame, Bynes went off the rails and suffered from a mental breakdown that caused her to act erratically and bizarrely. Her very public meltdown meant that she disappeared from the limelight for many years, but she has recently gone public to say that she has recovered and is looking forward to getting back into acting.