One of the more difficult jobs to have in Hollywood is a child entertainer, whether it’s in the movies, television or the music industry. Children would rather play video games, do sports, go to the mall with friends, and have any semblance of a normal childhood. But the fact of the matter is, many kids in Hollywood don’t get to do all of that. They’re too busy taking acting classes, memorizing lines, and standing for hours on end in front of the cameras and klieg lights. And many don’t get to attend regular school, usually taking classes and studying on set.
By the time child actors hit adulthood, they’re either fed up with Hollywood or they’ve been sucked into superstardom and realize that acting is indeed their passion. And of course, it also all depends if Hollywood still wants them, as not all child actors are able to successfully transition into serious adult actors. Those who were famously able to taste the same kind of success as adults are the likes of Natalie Portman, Jodie Foster, and Drew Barrymore. Did you know that these famous actors started their careers at a very young age?
16 Naya Rivera
While Naya Rivera is popular today for her role as cheerleader Santana in the TV hit show Glee, not very many people know that this actress of Puerto Rican, African American, and German descent has been acting since the tender age of four. According to tv.com, she appeared as Hillary Winston in the sitcom The Royal Family back in 1991, even receiving a Young Artist Award nomination for her laudable performance on the show. She also had guest roles in other TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, and Baywatch as a child and pre-teen.
15 Katherine Heigl
She may have started as a model at nine years old, but it wasn’t long before Katherine Heigl transitioned to becoming an actress when she made her acting debut in the film That Night when she was 14 years old. Two years later, she was given her first lead role in the comedy film My Father, The Hero opposite Gerard Depardieu, who played her father in the film. According to IMDb, she has come a long way since then and her breakthrough role as an adult will always be that of Dr. Izzie Stevens in the long-running drama show Grey’s Anatomy.
14 Jake Gyllenhaal
Given the fact that he was born into a family whose ties to Hollywood ran deep, it was no surprise that Jake Gyllenhaal found his way into the industry at a young age. In an article in The Guardian, it was stated that Gyllenhaal made his acting debut at the age of 11 years old in the movie City Slickers, where he starred as Billy Crystal’s young son. He was also supposed to appear in The Mighty Ducks, but was forbidden by his protective parents because filming would have taken him away from home for two whole months.
Before Fergie made it big in the music industry, she was but a child aspiring to get into the entertainment world. According to her Wikipedia page, Fergie started out doing voice overs for Peanuts cartoons before starring in the kiddie TV show Kids Incorporated at the age of nine. She became the longest running cast member of the show, starring in six out of its nine seasons. After her stint on TV, she eventually made her way over to the music scene.
12 Elisabeth Moss
Before she came into prominence as an adult actress in her critically-acclaimed role of Peggy Olson in the recently-concluded hit TV show Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss actually appeared in some roles as a child actor. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Moss was in an NBC miniseries called Lucky/Chances when she was seven years old and she had to play the role of a then-relatively-unknown Sandra Bullock’s young daughter. Of her role, Moss quipped that her young character had to find Bullock’s character’s body floating in the pool, prompting her character to scream.
11 Mila Kunis
Famous for her role on That '70s Show, Mila Kunis won hearts with her role as Jackie Burkhart, a spoiled rich girl who was an obvious misfit within her group of friends. More recently, Kunis has starred in films such as Ted, Black Swan and Friends With Benefits. But many of you may not know that Kunis made her first television show appearance at the age of 11. Kunis began acting at age 9 and was able to star in two episodes on the popular show Baywatch. In 1994 she played the role of a schoolgirl called Annie and in 1995 she played the role of a blind girl called Bonnie.
10 Hayden Panettiere
Hayden Panettiere struts the red carpet with tons of confidence and flare, probably because she has been in the spotlight for more than half her life. According to People, she had her first acting role as a four-year-old in the TV soap opera One Life To Live and she also played Calista Flockhart’s daughter in the comedy TV show Ally McBeal. But it wasn’t until she starred in the film Remember the Titans that Panettiere really came into prominence. At 11 years old, she took home the Young Artist Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Young Actress for her role in the film.
9 Jennifer Love Hewitt
Those who are familiar with Jennifer Love Hewitt’s works probably think that she started out in the business as a teenager when she starred as Sarah Reeves Merrin in the hit teen show Party of Five, then went on to star in the film I Know What You Did Last Summer. But not very many are aware that she started acting far younger than that. As a ten-year-old child, she joined the cast of the Disney Channel Show, Kids Incorporated, according to Huffington Post, along with fellow alums, Fergie and Mario Lopez.
8 Alyson Hannigan
Remember the late 1980s when Kim Basinger was one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars and she played a sexy alien in human form in the comedy film My Stepmother Is An Alien? Dan Aykroyd starred opposite her as the awkward widowed scientist with a young daughter. If you watch the film again, you’ll find that the little girl who played his daughter looks startlingly familiar. It happens to be Alyson Hannigan, who had her first major film role in this movie. So according to Moviefone, before she became Willow on the TV hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lily in the comedy series How I Met Your Mother, she was the stepdaughter of a sexy alien.
7 Seth Green
Alyson Hannigan was not the only familiar young face in the film My Stepmother Is An Alien. The young lad who played her love interest in the movie was none other than Seth Green, himself 14 years old. But even before this movie, Green appeared in the film The Hotel New Hampshire with Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe when Green was just ten years old and in Woody Allen’s film Radio Days when he was 13. Of course, we all know him today as Scott Evil in all three Austin Powers films.
6 Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette has definitely earned her stars as a multi-awarded singer and songwriter with a myriad of awards to her name. But not very many people know that the Canadian-American also had her stints in film and on television. According to her Wikipedia page, she appeared in the Nickelodeon kiddie show You Can’t Do That On Television as herself when she was but 12 years old. She was also seen in the straight-to-video teen flick Anything For Love when she was 19, though her appearance was uncredited.
5 Jerry O’Connell
He’s been around Hollywood for far longer than the public realizes. Though Jerry O’Connell is most known for his roles in TV shows such as Sliders and movies like Jerry Maguire, Scream 2, and Can’t Hardly Wait, his career actually reached its peak when he was a mere child actor. He had his first feature film role as Vern Tessio in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Stand By Me, for which he garnered rave reviews and won an award, according to his IMDb page.
4 Scarlett Johansson
She wasn’t always the sultry actress we know today. Scarlett Johansson actually got her start in Hollywood as a child actress, making her film debut at the age of nine in the Rob Reiner film North. She received rave reviews for her performance in the film Manny & Lo, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, according to People. She successfully transitioned to adult roles in critically acclaimed films such as Lost In Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring, both of which earned her Golden Globe nominations.
3 Jennifer Morrison
She’s been a fixture on television for almost a decade in her role as Dr. Allison Cameron in the hit medical show House, a recurring role as Zoey Pierson in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and her most popular role to date, Emma Swan in the fantasy TV show Once Upon a Time. According to Hollywood Outbreak, Jennifer Morrison actually got her acting start in movies, appearing when she was only 15 years old in her first film, Intersection. In it, she played the daughter of Richard Gere and Sharon Stone and at that time, she went by the name Jenny Morrison in the credits.
2 Anna Kendrick
Not very many child actors can claim that they started their acting careers on stage, but Anna Kendrick is one of the ones who can boast of this feat. As reported in Vanity Fair, she had her first prominent acting role at the age of 12, when she played Dinah Lord in the play High Society on Broadway. The young Kendrick was nominated for a Tony, the highest award in American theatre. She also appeared on another stage musical called A Little Night Music before finally making her film debut at 18 years old.
1 Paul Walker
With his sun-kissed blonde hair and bright blue eyes, it’s no surprise that the late Paul Walker had always been a looker. His looks brought him in front of the cameras at a young age, appearing in TV shows such as Highway To Heaven and Throb as an adolescent. He made his film debut at 13 years of age in the film Monster In The Closet, according to The New York Times. The rest, as we know, is history.