Child stars get a bad rap. Once they’re no longer small and cute, many of them have a hard time holding onto their careers and often fade into obscurity. Others descend into a life of partying and substance abuse, leading many people to think that childhood fame is a sort of curse. While being a child star certainly has disadvantages, like having to go to school on set instead of to a regular school, it’s not a given that early success will set up a child star for a future of misery.
Child stars have been a topic of public fascination since the early days of Hollywood. We get to see these kids grow up before our very eyes, but what happens to them once the cameras stop rolling? These child stars from the 2000s are all grown up now, and their adult lives are just as fascinating as their childhood careers. Let’s catch up with some of our favorite child stars from the turn of the millennium.
Jake Thomas may have been Lizzie McGuire’s annoying younger brother, but he was more than just a sidekick. After Lizzie McGuire wrapped in 2004, Thomas appeared in another Disney Channel show, Cory in the House. He’s gotten pretty steady acting work since his child star days, but he’s also developed quite a talent for working behind the camera. A gifted photographer, Thomas has built up an impressive photography portfolio.
Thomas is still acting, and has also continued pursuing his educational goals, graduating from college in 2018. "I’m in an interesting position, in that I’m already working in my career, so my goal with education has always been that of self improvement," he wrote on Instagram. Thomas also offered up some advice to those who are still in school: "If you’re currently in school, hang in there!" he wrote. "Keep at it! If you’re thinking about going back, do it!"
There are some child stars who have a certain gravitas that you know will serve them well in their adult careers. Even as a child, it was clear that Freddie Highmore was going to grow into a powerful adult actor. He’s been racking up awards and nominations since he was a little kid and built up a reputation for himself starring in movies like Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His role in Bates Hotel as a young adult showed the depth of his range, and his latest hit show, The Good Doctor, proves that Highmore is truly one of the great actors of his generation.
In spite of his early fame, Highmore has managed to stay grounded and took time away from the industry to focus on school. "I took the time away from acting so if and when I got back into it, it would be by dint of actually wanting to do it and it being a conscious decision," he told The Telegraph in 2016.
The adorable Taylor Momsen captured hearts everywhere as little Cindy Lou Who in 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Her rendition of "Christmas, Why Can’t I Find You?" has become a Christmas classic. From there, Momsen kept acting, landing a major role on the teen drama Gossip Girl in 2007. Fans thought that her future acting career was set in stone, but as Gossip Girl continued, Momsen appeared in fewer and fewer episodes.
The reason for her absence in the show’s later seasons was because she was exploring the singing talent she displayed in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Her band, The Pretty Reckless, took off and soon Momsen was a bona fide rock star. These days, her focus is all on her music and she’s uncomfortable when people bring up her Gossip Girl days. "It feels like someone asking you about junior high," she told People in 2016. "It literally was my junior high, so that’s what it feels like to me. It’s such a past life that it’s a strange question to continue to get asked."
Jake T. Austin
Wizards of Waverly Place star Jake T. Austin might still be most famous for his magical role, but the actor had been in show business for years before landing on the show. Some of his early roles were voiceover parts. Austin voiced a character in 2006’s The Ant Bully and was the voice of Diego on Dora the Explorer and its spinoff, Go, Diego, Go!
After Wizards of Waverly Place wrapped, Austin starred on The Fosters and continued voice acting with a role in The Emoji Movie, but he still remains close with his wizarding family. "Everyone is great about keeping in touch and checking in on each other, making sure that everyone’s where they need to be in their life," he told Chica. Aside from acting and keeping up with his Wizards of Waverly Place fam, Austin spends his time getting totally ripped and posting pictures of his muscles on Instagram, proving that he is all grown up.
The adorable and vivacious Madison Pettis was the Shirley Temple of the 2000s, captivating audiences with her curly locks and winning smile. She starred on the Disney Channel show Cory in the House and appeared alongside The Rock in The Game Plan in 2007. A series of steady acting gigs followed, and today the cute little girl has grown into a beautiful young woman.
She’s shown her willingness to try new things by joining the cast of Five Points, a Facebook Watch web series. Getting involved in a new platform like Facebook Watch could be seen as a risky venture for someone just beginning to transition from her child star days. She hasn’t completely left her childhood behind, though. In a 2018 interview with Access Online, she revealed that she still talks to her on-screen dad, The Rock. The biggest difference in their relationship now that she’s an adult? "It’s pretty crazy," she said. "I’ve grown a lot. I used to think he was so much taller!"
Haley Joel Osment
Who can forget Haley Joel Osment’s spooky and captivating role in The Sixth Sense? Osment earned a 2000 Oscar nomination for his role in the chilling flick, but his acting career started long before that. Osment has been acting since the 90s – you may recall that he played Forrest Gump’s son in Forrest Gump. The Sixth Sense sealed his fate as one of the biggest stars of the 00s, but for a while his career seemed to be at a standstill. He’s been the victim of more than one death hoax, but the kid who saw dead people is very much alive, and still acting.
Osment never really left the industry, he just took time away to hone his craft. "I went to New York University to study experimental theatre in 2006 and was there pretty consistently until 2011," he told The Telegraph in 2015. "I lived in New York for about eight years and I did a play on Broadway in 2008… and made two independent films but it was hard to be in college and do films, too. So for about five years I was basically just in college."
David Henrie was everywhere in the 2000s, but some of his most memorable roles were on Disney Channel shows. From playing Larry on That’s So Raven to portraying the nerdy but loveable oldest Russo kid on Wizards of Waverly Place, Henrie was one of the more recognizable faces of the decade. He also played Ted’s son on How I Met Your Mother, so even if you who were too old for the Disney Channel in the 2000s, this actor’s face may ring a bell.
Henrie has been acting since he was nine years old, and he isn’t stopping any time soon, but acting is not his only love. In 2017, he married former Miss Delaware Maria Cahill, and his former Wizards of Waverly Place castmates were there to witness the event. "Marriage is the best, being married is like the greatest thing ever. I’ve had a blast at my wedding and my wife is absolutely awesome," he told The Game of Nerds. "My life now is great, I’m having a really good time."
It doesn’t seem like that long ago since Tyler Posey played Jennifer Lopez’s adorable son in 2002’s Maid in Manhattan. While most kids go through an awkward phase in adolescence, Posey never stopped being cute. He just got cuter with age, and kept acting steadily until he landed a role on the show Teen Wolf, which debuted in 2011, established him as a bona fide leading man. The heartthrob reunited with his movie mom in 2014 at the Teen Choice Awards where he introduced her as a presenter. Even J.Lo was shocked at how much Posey had grown up. "It’s crazy… he’s so big!" she said as he left the stage, as reported by Us Weekly. "Oh my god."
The star has some big plans for the future. "I want to be the director that I would want to have," he told Collider in 2018. "Sometimes directors don’t really know how to talk to actors. There’s ego that gets in the way. I want to be the director that everyone wants to be directed by."
Jennette McCurdy has been acting since she was a little girl. The former iCarly and Sam and Cat star was a mainstay of Nickelodeon for years, but McCurdy’s child star days are far behind her. The 20-something actress is still in show business, although her career has been a bit quieter than it was when she was a kid.
Now that she’s an adult, she’s determined to live life on her own terms. She has been vocal about the downfalls of the industry and the false ideals it creates. "I am not a role model," she wrote on Reddit in 2015. "To remove myself from the role model battle, the falsified standard set by the bubblegum industry, is — in my eyes — to remove myself from the counterintuitive battle of attempting to be something perfect while being glaringly aware of my imperfections. … I encourage you to find role models in the people around you… to base your idea of a role model off of someone you know well enough to see purely, not in the light, cameras, and actions of Hollywood."
Child star Kiernan Shipka rose to fame on the late-2000s AMC hit Mad Men. Even though she was a superstar at a young age, she was kept largely inoculated from her fame. "I didn’t watch Mad Men until I was 13 — when I was home sick and watched all the seasons on Netflix," she told W. "It was a lovely treat."
The actress is coming into her own and has landed lots of roles since her Mad Men days, in spite of a lack of formal training. She said that she learned how to act from observing her co-stars. "Just watching and learning from the best is insane," she told The A.V. Club. "It’s like having an internship and watching all these amazing people doing their work. You just soak it up like a sponge, hopefully."
Shipka is staying busy, and is next taking on the iconic role of Sabrina Spellman in the Netflix show The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which will reportedly be a darker and more mature take on the Archie Comics character than Melissa Joan Hart’s teeny bopper version on TGIF’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch.