Child Stars That Made A Name For Themselves Beyond Hollywood

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"Why do some child stars implode?" USA Today asked readers in 2013. According to the newspaper, the answer is complicated; some blame the pressure, some blame the parents, and some blame the impact of having so much power at a tender age. So, what's the difference between those who flame out and those who go on to live a successful, happy life? Per USA Today, "Experts say the key to a long, healthy career and a stable personal life is to be surrounded by positive influences and make smart choices. And not let greed or an inflated sense of self dictate your choices."

Of course, we can't say for sure what the deciding element was for the following former-child actors, but all of them not only succeeded during their younger days but have gone on to deliver a professional one-two punch by finding success in totally different fields. Sure, some of the may have returned to acting eventually, but they took the time to develop their skills and make a name for themselves outside of Hollywood. What did these child stars get up to?

The Olsen Twins proved twosies are better than onesies when it comes to clothes

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's star-making turns as Michelle, the youngest Tanner daughter on Full Housewhen they were just babies is the stuff of 90s child star legend. The twin sisters amassed a fortune playing the role and performing in various movies and TV shows, and also provoked some major tabloid drama during their late teens and early 20s. However, they both successfully pulled a career 180 and started their own high-end fashion line, The Row, in 2006, along with a more casual line, Elizabeth and James, in 2007, both of which are still going strong today. 

The Olsen sisters have gone on to win numerous prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America awards (including one in 2018 for accessories designer of the year) for their lines, and are a regular presence at high-profile fashion events like the Met Gala. Mary Kate explained to Porter in 2017 that finding a balance between work and relaxation has been key to her and her sister's success, saying, "I think we're lucky [working hard] comes quite naturally for us. We don't need so much time to sit and think and ponder ... I ride horses on the weekends. You find the thing that helps you relax and if you don't have it, look for it. Or you get burned out and then you're not productive."

Mara Wilson left Matilda behind for the writing life

Mara Wilson was just 6 years old when she appeared as an actress in Mrs. Doubtfire, followed by a star-making turn in 1996's Matilda at the tender age of 9. In 2013, she penned an article for, titled "7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy." In her piece, Wilson explored the downsides of child acting and offered advice to other child actors: "If I were to talk to Lindsay Lohan, I'd encourage her to get the hell out of acting and into something soothing. Take up botany or something ... Child stars who are best off as adults usually do one or two projects, then get the hell out of Hollywood, at least for the next few years. They go to Harvard or Yale (or my alma mater, NYU, which has been called 'Where Child Stars Come to Die') and learn to do something besides act."

Wilson took her own advice and transitioned from acting to writing professionally, publishing a memoir with Penguin Random House in 2016 titled Where Am I Now?  She also regularly blogs, and has written plays, telling NPR's "Morning Edition", "I started writing dialogue, and I started doing performance pieces — like 10-minute solo performance pieces — and eventually I did a one-woman show, and that felt so much more real than being on a set every day."

Mayim Bialik blossomed into a neuroscientist

Mayim Bialik made a name for herself playing the titular character in Blossom as a child, and you may also recognize her for her current role in The Big Bang Theory. But after her stint as a child actress, she took time off to attend UCLA, where, according to, she earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish studies. She then completed a Ph.D. in neuroscience, focusing on, per CNN, "obsessive compulsive disorder among people with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare condition in which the hypothalamus malfunctions ... Her research ... helped her understand biological mechanisms involved in parenting." She also designed a neuroscience curriculum for homeschooled students, and taught biology and chemistry. Wow.

Bialik published a book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, informed by her Ph.D. research in 2012. And along with continuing to act on The Big Bang Theory, she founded the website,  "an online community for people of all ages and backgrounds to dive deep into conversations on contemporary issues."

The law won for Josh Saviano (and so did consulting)

Remember the pervasive rumor that Paul from The Wonder Years was actually played by a young Marilyn Manson? We're going to go ahead and burst your middle school bubble: Paul was in fact played by child actor Josh Saviano, who subsequently dropped out of the child actor spotlight when the show was through in 1993.

So what happened to Josh?  He ended up attending Yale, and then went to law school at Cardozo School of Law. Per his LinkedIn page, he became a partner at a law firm before founding his own consulting company to "partner with artists and entrepreneurs who are looking to make the transition from individual artist to branded business. Over the past decade plus, I have advised on issues surrounding the convergence of the entertainment, media and branded business worlds." You can check him out on Instagram and Twitter, where he occasionally posts The Wonder Years-related content. 

Of the Manson rumors, he told Yahoo in 2013 that it was a "progressively more entertaining storyline amongst me and my friends at [college]."

Shirley Temple danced her way into diplomacy and Republican politics

Shirley Temple was the OG child star; she even won an honorary Academy Award at just 6 years old. Per her official site, her first film appearance was in 1931 at age 3, and she went on to star in "14 short films, 43 feature films and over 25 storybook movies." Temple then basically jettisoned her acting career, and per her site, became "a U.S. Representative to the United Nations, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, the first woman to be U.S. Chief of Protocol, during Gerald Ford's administration, and the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia."

According to, Temple became interested in Republican politics through her 1950 marriage to California businessman Charles Alden Black; the two campaigned for the Eisenhower/Nixon presidential bid and Temple herself ran for Congress in 1967 (though she lost to a more moderate Republican). When then-President Bill Clinton introduced her in 1998 at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception, he noted, "[Temple] did a masterful job as ambassador, from Ghana to Czechoslovakia ... In fact, she has to be the only person who both saved an entire movie studio from failure and contributed to the fall of communism. From her childhood to the present day, Shirley has always been an ambassador for what is best about America."

Temple died in 2014, and her obituary in The New York Times noted that Henry Kissinger had once called her "very intelligent, very tough-minded, very disciplined."

Jenny Lewis heard the music

These days Jenny Lewis is best-recognized as a solo musician, the lead singer for the band Rilo Kiley, and a member of The Postal Service. However, in her younger years and teens, she acted in numerous TV shows and movies, including Roseanne, Growing Pains, Foxfire, and The Twilight Zone

By the time Leiws hit her 20s, she'd started her band and turned to making music full time with Rilo Kiley. Lewis explained to the Chicago Tribune that "I retired from acting at 19 or 20. I had worked long enough to get my pension and that was cool ... My mom was on welfare. The acting was a way to make money. It was my life and job. I was up for it."

But Lewis hasn't totally turned her back on her past career. In 2015, the music video for her song "She's Not Me" poked fun at her past as a child actress; she told BuzzFeed, "The video is about former identities and incarnations of one's self ... It's a super meta retrospective on my career."

Drake takes flight from Degrassi to Hip Hop

With mainstream mega-hits like "Hotline Bling" and "One Dance," Drake is so ubiquitous as a rapper that it's easy to forget he was once a child actor. Yep, that's right. Drake, who was born Aubrey Drake Graham in 1986, was once a starring cast member of Canadian teen soap opera Degrassi: The Next Generation. Starting in 2001, he starred as Jimmy, a character who would eventually end up wheelchair-bound. 

In 2007, Drake's music career started heating up when he released his mixtape "Comeback Season;" he left Degrassi soon after in 2009, and went on to find major success as a musician and rapper, with albums debuting at #1 on the charts and winning multiple awards. 

In June 2018, he pulled a Jenny Lewis and embraced his child acting past; his music video for his song "I'm Upset" featured cast members from Degrassi: The Next Generation uniting for a "high school reunion." Drake's former co-star Shane Kippel told Variety of shooting the video, "It was the most incredible and layered experience ... An homage to the show that shaped all of our careers ... Unforgettable."

Jeff Cohen a.k.a. Chunk, Esq.

For anyone who has seen the "Truffle Shuffle," it might be difficult to believe that Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk in the 1985 film The Goonies when he was 11, ended up as a successful entertainment lawyer. But, become a successful entertainment lawyer he did, and per his firm's site, Cohen co-founded Cohen Gardner LLP in 2002 and "focuses on transactional representation for clients in the entertainment, media and technology verticals." He attended UCLA law school and Variety put him on its Dealmakers Impact List and Legal Impact List.

In an interview with law website Chambers Associate, Cohen said he decided to become a lawyer "as an undergrad at Berkeley, [when] I developed interests in politics and business as well... Puberty forced me into early retirement from my first [career] as a child actor." He also wrote in a blog post for his book's website about his decision to pursue law that "Acting was my first love and I was completely blindsided when it abruptly ended ... I feel very fortunate to have been rewarded economically and to have been lauded by my peers for doing something I am passionate about. Best of all, I get to help creative people create. That feels fantastic."

Danica McKellar did the math... and became a math expert

Like her The Wonder Years co-star Josh Saviano, Danica McKellar branched out from her career as a child actress after the show ended its run in 1993. For McKellar, she diversified by pursuing an undergraduate degree in mathematics. In a blog post on her site, she explained that her path changed after taking a Multivariable Calculus class, realizing "I was having fun. I abandoned the film major plan, and switched to math. I became a calculus tutor in the department, and at least in the halls of the UCLA math department, I went from that girl on TV to that girl who helped me pass calculus." McKellar told The Washington Post in 2012 that when she was studying math, "I felt valued for something that had nothing to do with Hollywood ... It had everything to do with my mind and my brain."

McKellar ended up taking to the page and authoring numerous books about math intended for younger readers, including 2008's New York Times best seller Math Doesn't Suck, a guide for middle school girls intended to "show that math can be easy, relevant, and even glamorous." Along with making math fun, McKellar has continued to act over the years, appearing in Phineas and Ferb, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Big Bang Theory, and more.