What These Major '80s Child Stars Are Doing Today

This article features allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, child abuse, and homophobia and discusses eating disorders.

Growing up as a child actor isn't for the faint of heart. Being thrust into the spotlight at an early age can take its toll on any person, no matter how beloved these actors were on popular sitcoms. Many child stars remained in the limelight and continued acting, while several others went on to lead normal lives. No matter what career they chose to embark on, the characters they played as young stars remain a part of their life story. Whether their former roles launched them to new heights, or whether they chose to leave the spotlight behind, there's a certain fascination around those who grew up famous.  

Some former child actors become plagued by the darker side of Hollywood — it's a tale the public knows all too well. Whether it be substance misuse issues, sexual assault allegations, or the pressure to be accepted, some celebrities seemingly struggle with having experienced fame at such a young age. But not all child stars have dealt with the crueler side of fame and fortune. Many former sitcom stars have built separate lives away from the public eye. Others have used their early launch in life to build successful acting careers as an adult. From mathematicians to politicians (the late Gary Coleman's run for Governor, anyone?) we've got the scoop on what these major child stars of the '80s are doing today.

Soleil Moon Frye revived her Punky Brewster character

Soleil Moon Fyre is most famous for her lead role in the NBC sitcom "Punky Brewster" which ran for four seasons in the 1980s. The series follows a quirky young girl who finds herself abandoned in a supermarket only to discover a new family of her own. Fyre was practically born into the spotlight — after all, her father, Virgil Fyre, was a successful character actor. She subsequently made her first on-screen appearance aged 6. However, her mother insisted to The Washington Post that her shy daughter wasn't pushed into the industry.

Regardless, growing up as the face of a popular sitcom took its toll on Fyre. The star directed and produced her own 2021 documentary "Kid 90", which documented her struggles with growing up in public life. Footage pulled from Fyre's personal archives depicted drug use, mental health issues, and how her first sexual experience was with an older Charlie Sheen. "I think it's fascinating to be able to go back and have a true chronological blueprint of what it was to grow up as a teenager in the '90s," Fyre told People regarding the film. 

That same year, she made a return to television in a "Punky Brewster" revival series on Peacock. The series followed the former orphan years later as she tackled the day-to-day challenges of being a single mom to three children. It was ultimately canceled by the streaming service after Season 1, despite Frye and the show's executive producers being down for more seasons.

Melissa Gilbert ran for U.S. Congress

Melissa Gilbert may have made her mark on the acting world in her starring role in the NBC series "Little House on the Prairie," but her impressive resume also includes being a television director, producer, and politician. The former Screen Actors Guild president is most recognized for playing the character of Laura Ingalls from 1974 to 1983. Sadly, Hollywood proved to be a difficult place for Gilbert to have roots. In a 2022 interview with "Good Morning America" (via ABC News), she admitted, "I had to get out of Los Angeles to actually age, which I wanted to do."

Additionally, Gilbert told Page Six that her 2011 divorce from ex-husband Bruce Boxleitner was a major wake-up call. "It was like I lost my mind," she said. The actor ultimately met her now husband Timothy Busfield a year later and the pair moved to rural Michigan. 

Since leaving her Hollywood life behind, Gilbert took up politics. In 2015, the Los Angeles native ran for Congress in Michigan, saying in a statement published by The Washington Post, "I believe building a new economy is a team effort, and we need to bring fresh voices to the table to get the job done." She eventually withdrew her bid, on the advice of doctors after concurrently sustaining two serious head and spinal injuries, four years earlier. The actor has kept herself busy by releasing her second memoir, "Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered" in 2022.

Corey Feldman supports his former Goonies co-star

Corey Feldman grew up onscreen — getting his start at acting at just three years old. He subsequently became one of the most prolific child stars of his time, starring in projects like "The Bad News Bears," "Gremlins," "Stand By Me," and "The Lost Boys," all before the age of 18. As an adult, Feldman has continued to fill his resume with dozens of television and film credits during his decades in the industry. The former star of the beloved 1985 film, "The Goonies," still supports his former cast mates. On Instagram in 2023, he shared his delighted live reaction to Ke Huy Quan winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Quan returned the love by giving a shoutout to his Goonies family during his post-win interviews, per Entertainment Tonight.

Showbiz gigs aside, the star has used his platform to shine a light on the rampant abuse he claims exists within the industry. In 2020, Feldman made bombshell claims that he and the late Corey Haim both experienced sexual abuse as child actors in his documentary, "My Truth: The Rape of Two Coreys" (via Entertainment Weekly). The actor additionally accused Charlie Sheen of raping a 13-year-old Haim while filming "Lucas" in 1985 (Sheen vehemently denied the allegations). Feldman himself has been accused of sexual assault by former members of his band, leading to his resignation from the SAG-AFTRA Sexual Harassment Committee in 2020. The actor denied the allegations and claimed they were part of "a covert operation" to defame and discredit him, per Variety

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Danica McKellar booked a multi-picture deal

Danica McKellar made a name for herself as a child star with her role as Winnie Cooper in the sitcom "The Wonder Years" which debuted in 1988 and ran for six seasons. The actor went on to appear in several television and film projects during her career, including a variety of voice-over work for animated shows like "DC Super Hero Girls" as well as "Young Justice." The star even went on to have a stint on Season 18 of "Dancing With The Stars." 

McKellar not only shines on-screen but academically as well. The actor went on to earn her degree in mathematics from the University of California Los Angeles, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her prowess in mathematics even led to her proving her own mathematical theorem, which bears her name alongside those of her fellow research team – the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem. She released her first book, "Math Doesn't Suck" around 2007, which was followed up by 10 more books aimed at helping children and teens succeed in math. 

But the mathematician hasn't left her acting chops behind. In 2021 the star landed a multi-film deal with Great American Family, which includes the 2023 installment of the film "Royal Christmas Ball." McKellar not only stars in the film, but she also co-wrote and executive produced the project. "I'm feeling so grateful for this experience of shooting my latest [Great American Family] movie. One week down, two to go. Hard work but just so gratifying," McKellar wrote on Instagram in May 2023.

Tracey Gold opened up about her eating disorder

Tracey Gold became a household name in 1985 when she first appeared as Carol Seaver in the television series "Growing Pains." Since her debut as a child star, she has starred in several television series and films, including the 2004 revival movie "Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers." The actor didn't have an easy road growing up in Hollywood, and she's been open about her past experiences with disordered eating. The "Growing Pains" star hosted the Lifetime series "Starving Secrets" in 2011 which featured women receiving treatment for their respective eating disorders.

"I always look at the first season of a TV show and see an actress one way, and then in the second season you see her 10 pounds lighter — it's a cycle," Gold told the The Hollywood Reporter. "I think there's an ongoing problem — not just Hollywood, but also society. It's a widespread problem across the country." Her own journey with anorexia started at age 19, and it forced her to seek treatment. "It interrupted my life, it changed my life," Gold told Dr. Drew on HLN. "I was on a hit TV series, everything was going great for me, and it really put a stop to it."

Gold has continued to act over the years, with her latest film to date being "All Hallow's Eve" In 2016. The actor also showed off her cooking skills when she went on to win Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition" in 2022.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Joey Lawrence welcomed his third child

Joey Lawrence skyrocketed to fame with his role on NBC's "Gimme a Break!" from 1983 to 1987. In the early '90s he went on to play the character of Joey Russo in the television series, "Blossom," and he also starred in "Brotherly Love" alongside his real-life brothers Matthew Lawrence, and Andrew Lawrence.

He continued to act as an adult, starring in the ABC series "Melissa & Joey" for five years before trying his hand at reality television in shows like "Cupcake Wars," "Celebrity Big Brother," as well as "The Masked Singer." Joey found love with his wife Samantha after the two both starred in the Lifetime film "My Husband's Secret Brother" in 2021. The two tied the knot in California one year later. "When you meet the right person, if you're lucky enough, it cuts to the chase so quick," Joey told People before the wedding. "I have somebody who is like-minded and has the same love language and we communicate the same way. That's super important. And I am so thankful."

The happy couple welcomed their first child together, daughter Dylan Rose, in January 2023. In an Instagram post, Joey celebrated her arrival, writing, "Mom, Dad, and big sisters are all so smitten with you sweet girl! We welcomed her into this world with the most amazing midwife, everyone is happy and healthy and we are overjoyed with gratitude." The actor has two other daughters, Charleston and Liberty, with his ex-wife Chandie Yawn-Nelson.

Rick Schroder's right wing controversies

Rick Schroder starred in several television series and films in the early 1980s before his role as Ricky Stratton in "Silver Spoons" landed him on the map. He's continued to act over the years, with notable roles in "NYPD Blue" as well as the 2004 film "Black Cloud." Aside from his presence on screen, Schroder is known for his controversial political opinions. 

In 2020, during the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Schroder helped contribute to the bail fund for Kyle Rittenhouse. During a protest in Wisconsin, Rittenhouse infamously shot three men, killing two and injuring the third. He claimed he was defending businesses from being looted by protestors and that the shots were in self-defense. Ultimately a jury cleared Rittenhouse of all charges, per AP. "It made me mad," Schroder told the New York Post about the charges against Rittenhouse. "This boy is innocent and he will be proven innocent. I did what any father should've done, and that's get a kid out of jail that doesn't deserve to be there."

It wasn't the only time Schroder's controversial views made headlines. In May 2021, he urged customers to boycott Costco for their mask policy. On social media, Schroder shared a tense encounter between himself and a store employee where he asked, "Why aren't you letting me in?"  The employee cited regulations in place by the state of California that required staff and customers to abide by pandemic protocol and continue wearing face masks.

Fred Savage was fired over misconduct allegations

Fred Savage is best known for playing Kevin Arnold in "The Wonder Years" in the late 80s. The actor also starred in "The Princess Bride," "The Boy Who Could Fly," and "Austin Powers in Goldmember." In 2022, while directing the ABC reboot of "The Wonder Years," several women accused him of misconduct, alleging he verbally harassed women on set and even assaulted a crew member. Savage was let go by the network following the claims. 

He addressed the allegations in a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter, in which he said, "While there are some incidents being reported that absolutely did not and could not have happened, any one person who feels hurt or offended by my actions is one person too many. I will work to address and change any behavior that has negatively affected anyone."

It isn't the first time Savage has been under fire for such allegations. In 1993, a crew member in costume design on "The Wonder Years" sued the actor for sexual harassment in a case that was later settled. He was also accused of verbal assault by a woman working on Fox's "The Grinder," which aired from 2015 to 2016, but the case was also settled. Crew members of "The Wonder Years" alleged that Savage had two sides to him — a likable director who got along well with cast members, and an angrier side that was often shown to crew members in lower-level positions, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Kirk Cameron is a born again Christian

Kirk Cameron's acting career took off when he starred in "Growing Pains" in the late 1980s as Mike Seaver. His success on the sitcom lead to his own spin-off show in 1995, "Kirk," which lasted two seasons. He's continued to act throughout the years, but has mostly stuck to religious-based projects. The actor was an atheist for years before becoming a Christian. "If there was a heaven, I wouldn't be going there because of my attitude and my self-centered, conceded, 'I'm all that, I'm the GOAT,' celebrity Mike Seaver guy [attitude]," he said of his atheist years, in an interview with PragerU.

In 2023, Cameron made headlines ahead of Pride Month when he went on a nationwide tour promoting his book, "Pride Comes Before the Fall," telling Fox News, "With a nation that is so saturated with the idea that pride is a good thing, the Bible warns us that pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins." In previous years, he denied being homophobic despite making controversial statements condemning homosexuality, per the Daily Beast.

Cameron told Fox News that his role in "Growing Pains" became a huge wake-up call in his life and caused him to change directions. "I had a problem with pride — and there's no wonder, when you're 17, 18 years old, you're on a popular Hollywood television program, and you have an amount of money and popularity and influence — it's easy to become prideful. And that it almost took me out," he said.

Lisa Bonet split with Jason Mamoa

Lisa Bonet is often remembered for being a child star on "The Cosby Show," depicting Denise Huxtable from 1984 to 1991. She continued to act throughout her adult career, appearing in "Drunk History," "New Girl," "Girls," and "Ray Donovan." In 1987, Bonet went on to marry world-renowned musician Lenny Kravitz in 1987 and they later welcomed a child together, Zoe Kravitz. Their daughter inherited their star power, as she went on to have a successful acting career herself, starring in "The Batman," "Big Little Lies," and "Divergent."

Bonet and Kravitz went their separate ways in 1991 and finalized their divorce in 1993. Bonet later met her future husband Jason Mamoa at a jazz club in 2005, and the two share two children together, Lola Lolani and Nakoa-Wolf. The two actors tied the knot in 2017, but their 17-year-long relationship ended in 2022. In a since-deleted Instagram post, Momoa shared a joint statement regarding the split, writing, "We have all felt the squeeze and changes of these transformational times ... A revolution is unfolding and our family is of no exception ... feeling and growing from the seismic shifts occurring."

A source revealed to People that the reason for the breakup may have been due to Mamoa's busy acting career, which has him on location in different sets across the world, potentially putting a strain on their marriage. Later that year, Momoa shot down rumors of a reconciliation, telling Access Hollywood, "We're not back together, we're family. You know?"

Jenny Lewis became a musician

Jenny Lewis is widely recognized for her acting work as a child, appearing in "The Golden Girls," "Growing Pains," as well as the 1989 film "Troop Beverly Hills." Her claim to fame nowadays is her music career, which she started in the early 2000s as a part of the band Rilo Kiley. Lewis has gone on to have a noteworthy solo career, with her 2014 album "Voyager" and her 2019 album "On the Line" both earning praise from critics. 

The indie-rock artist announced the release of her fifth LP, "Joy'All," in 2023. Lewis told Rolling Stone that some of the songs were written on the road before the coronavirus pandemic. "And then from my home in Nashville in early 2021, I joined a week-long virtual songwriting workshop with a handful of amazing artists, hosted by Beck," the artist said. She revealed that the workshop involved submitting music that followed specific guidelines and prompts, which led to her 2021 single, "Puppy and a Truck."

Lewis told the Recording Academy that her transition from acting into music was anything but seamless. "Being a musician coming out of show biz, growing up as a child actor, growing up within a family of performers ... When I started playing music, I think people were like, 'You can't do that. You're an actor. You're a kid actor. You're not allowed to do that,'" she admitted. The artist still dabbles in acting, appearing in Sofia Coppola's 2015 film "A Very Murray Christmas."

Lukas Haas continues to be a successful actor

Lukas Haas got his break as an actor when he was just a child with roles in the 1983 film "Testament" and the 1985 film "Witness." The star has never stepped away from the industry, building a hefty resume throughout the 90s and 2000s with dozens of roles in television series and movies. The 2010s saw Haas take on more noteworthy projects, including roles in critically acclaimed movies like "Inception," and "The Revenant."

Haas' lifelong career has paid off, and the actor enjoyed prominent performances in two Oscar-nominated films in 2018. "First Man" and "Widows" both saw the actor step into very different character roles with some of the industry's greatest filmmakers — Damien Chazelle and Steve McQueen, respectively. At the time, he spoke to Collider about the films, saying, "It's been a great feeling this year. It's pretty amazing because it's hard, these days, to find a single film that you're gonna be proud of, let alone to get cast in it. It's hard to search out those really beautiful movies. And so, I'm just incredibly blessed."