The Real Reasons You Don't Hear Much From These '00s Teen Show Actors Anymore

In the 2000s, there were countless teen shows all over our televisions, but the really memorable ones sure still felt special. From action-packed classics like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Smallville" to dramatic teen soaps like "One Tree Hill" and "The O.C.," a slew of stars made names for themselves every weeknight during the aughts. The decade-plus of TV fodder also made way for its fair share of scandals, with some of these young actors moving away from Hollywood altogether afterward.

But even the more than occasional off-set drama couldn't stop a wave of 2000s shows from becoming iconic in the eyes of millions. "[T]here is something about how — as outlandish it got at times — there was also a lot that felt honest [about our show]," Hillarie Burton, who portrayed Peyton Sawyer on "One Tree Hill," once told Interview Magazine. "People write to us about how they feel seen, how they feel represented, how they see their own struggles in our show. When I meet new people who are just discovering it and I think, 'You could be watching anything! Why? Thank you?'"

Michelle Trachtenberg missed out on some major projects

Many millennials know Michelle Trachtenberg from her child actor days on Nickelodeon staples like "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" and "Harriet the Spy," but it was her turn as Dawn Summers on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that solidified her as a 2000s icon. She added to that legacy with her role as the sneaky Georgina Sparks on "Gossip Girl" later on in the decade. "Georgina is actually my favorite character that I've played because she's such an evil B-I-T-C-H," she told Entertainment Tonight. "That was fun." (The actor later returned to the character in the short-lived "Gossip Girl" reboot in 2022.)

But apart from occasional appearances such as her hosting gig on the 2021 season of "Meet, Marry, Murder," Trachtenberg has been less active on the Hollywood scene as of late. Some have likened her fading star to missed opportunities and lackluster reviews. She reportedly turned down the role of Bella Swan in the "Twilight" movies: "There was definitely interest here and there because there's only so few pale girls in Hollywood," she told Us Weekly. But Trachtenberg hasn't fully left the industry behind; she's still an active creator, writing and producing new series consistently. "I'm fully WGA [Writers Guild of America] and a writer and have sold several projects," she shared with Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "I feel like [I'm living] a Hollywood version of Harriet's life."

Amanda Bynes has faced many mental health issues

2000s comedy darling Amanda Bynes had a considerable fall from grace throughout the 2010s and 2020s. But in her heyday, she was a beloved presence on Nickelodeon shows like "All That" and "The Amanda Show." She also starred in iconic teen rom-coms including "She's the Man." Bynes was a top teen actors of her time and was even featured in the now legendary 2003 Vanity Fair "It's Totally Raining Teens" issue alongside Hilary Duff, Mandy Moore, and Lindsay Lohan. Her popularity at a young age kick-started a fame-fueled ride that has lasted for two decades, until her last credited role in 2010's "Easy A." "The first time [paparazzi caught me] I was like, 'They're calling my name!'" she told E! News. "They do it to whoever once they find out your name."

Public scrutiny has played a large role in Bynes' life amid several well-publicized mental health crises and a contentious relationship with her parents, who had been her conservators. "In the last several years, I have been working hard to improve my health so that I can live and work independently, and I will continue to prioritize my well-being in this next chapter," Bynes said to People in 2022 after filing to end the conservatorship. "I am excited about my upcoming endeavors ... and look forward to sharing more when I can." In July 2023, Bynes checked herself into a California mental health facility to focus on her health.

Frankie Muniz focuses on hobbies and business ventures

Frankie Muniz has multiple (albeit fictional) aliases that any millennial would recognize, particularly Malcolm from "Malcolm in the Middle" and Agent Cody Banks from the eponymous film series. After "Malcolm in the Middle" finished its run in 2006, Muniz followed it up with a handful of guest appearances, including a stint on "Dancing With the Stars" in 2017. "Growing up has never scared me until [the show ended]," Muniz told People. "I started thinking about getting older, being an adult, and it scared me. Hopefully things will work out in my career. If they don't, then it was never meant to be."

Muniz's career ended up taking a hard turn (literally) into another career field: race car driving. Muniz dabbled in racing starting in 2006 before a crash led him to take a break for more than a decade. But in 2021, he stepped back into a car in the ARCA Menards Series, which is one of the lower "feeder" groups for NASCAR racers. "I love my past. I love everything I've done, but I don't remember ever saying I wanted to be an actor," Muniz told AP. "[But] here I am. I chose this. And when I put my helmet on and leave pit land, as much as I don't know, I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be."

Danneel Ackles made the switch to producer

Danneel Ackles (née Harris) starred as sultry (and scheming) Rachel Gatina on "One Tree Hill." After she made her last appearance on the show in 2009, the actor married "Supernatural" star Jensen Ackles and changed her stage name. She later guest starred on her husband's show as Sister Jo. "I didn't want to go on 'Supernatural' and be a love interest of the week or have the guys kill me in some horrific way," the actor shared with Entertainment Weekly. "But [my] character, she's just a badass. And where else can you go and bring your kids to work and hand them off to A camera while you're shooting? So it was a no-brainer for me."

Other than a few recurring roles and the occasional Lifetime film (which reunited her with her "One Tree Hill" co-stars Hillarie Burton and Robert Buckley), Ackles has stayed behind the scenes as of late. In 2020, she and her husband formed their own production company, Chaos Machine Productions, and signed an exclusive deal with Warner Bros. Television Group. In 2023, it was announced that their company exited the Warner Bros. agreement and moved to Amazon. "We are thrilled to begin this journey with the incredibly smart and creative team at Amazon," they said to Variety. "We loved being part of the Amazon family with 'The Boys' [which Jensen starred in] and look forward to our continued relationship as we develop exciting and interesting projects together."

Steven Anthony Lawrence became a teacher

Many know Steven Anthony Lawrence as the bacon-loving Beans from the Disney Channel show "Even Stevens." He reprised his role in 2003's "The Even Stevens Movie" and made appearances in other 2000s staples like "That's So Raven" and the remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen." "It was so fun [on "Even Stevens"]," Lawrence shared with The Huffington Post. "Every day, it honestly was. It was like a family. You know, you see the same people 12 hours a day, five days a week, for years. You're gonna get a little close to people, you know."

In the years after "Even Stevens" wrapped, Lawrence made some appearances in other major 2000s productions including "Kicking & Screaming" alongside Will Ferrell and "Rebound" starring Martin Lawrence. But he eventually slowed down with his acting career to focus on something he felt was more important. "Both of my parents actually got cancer and passed [due] to that," Lawrence revealed on "Kendall Talks TV." "For me, you know, family comes before everything. I stopped working to take care of my dad."

Lawrence has since returned to the business in some form, including a new "Even Stevens" recap podcast, but he has mainly pivoted his career in another direction. "What I'm doing now is actually teaching, mainly," he shared with The Huffington Post. "I get a really big kick out of it. ... It's almost like working the stage, It's instant gratification when something clicks for a student."

Jennifer Stone traded witchcraft for nursing

On Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place," Jennifer Stone played Harper Finkle, the best friend of Selena Gomez's character Alex Russo, until the show's finale in 2012. Stone also appeared in the 2009 "Wizards of Waverly Place" TV movie, along with a number of other films like "Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars" and "The In-Between," which she co-wrote.

But in between the end of "Wizards" and her foray back into the entertainment business, Stone pursued a different career path altogether. In 2013, the actor went to college and eventually got a nursing degree. "I didn't want to be the only one [in my family] who hadn't gotten a degree," she told Beyond Type 1, a non-profit platform founded by Nick Jonas aimed at "changing what it means to live with diabetes" (Stone has diabetes). "I also wanted to know if acting was something I really wanted to keep doing because it's all I've known." By 2020, Stone had become a resident nurse and was actively fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines. But the draw of performing kept calling her back; Stone has continued to appear in features and shorts, all while balancing her nursing career. "Leaving acting reaffirmed my love for it, and I decided to return," she told Beyond Type 1.

In 2023, Stone reunited with her "Wizards" co-star David DeLuise to host the "Wizards of Waverly Pod," which featured a number of its stars stopping by to wax nostalgic.

Adam Lamberg moved into arts development

Fans of "Lizzie McGuire" know Adam Lamberg as the lovable David "Gordo" Gordon, Lizzie's (Hilary Duff's) best friend turned love interest. He reprised his role in 2003's "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" but has only appeared in a small number of films since then. After "Lizzie McGuire's" finale in 2004, Lamberg continued with his studies at University of California, Berkeley, which he started during filming. He ended up with a bachelor's degree in geography before later pursuing a master's degree in public administration from Baruch College in New York City. He picked up a job as a development associate at the Irish Arts Center in New York, where fans have spotted him at local festivals and events.

Lamberg was set to make his grand return to acting in 2019 with the announcement of a revival series of "Lizzie McGuire." "Gordo was an essential piece of the puzzle to what made the original 'Lizzie McGuire' so authentic and beloved," star Hilary Duff told "Good Morning America." "I couldn't imagine the series without him. I can't wait for fans to see what he's up to 15 years later and how he fits into Lizzie's adult world." Alas, the series wasn't meant to be, as production was canceled in 2020.

AnnaLynne McCord went viral for all the wrong reasons

AnnaLynne McCord is known for portraying vixen Naomi Clark on the reboot of "90210." The actor also appeared in films like "Fired Up" and "The Haunting of Molly Hartley" during her run on the show and guested on several shows including "The Night Shift" and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" after "90210" ended in 2013. McCord has since been public about her dissociative identity disorder (DID) diagnosis, which stemmed from years of sexual abuse. "You think that you'll be shamed and there will be even more degradation, humiliation. And the opposite has been apparent," McCord said to People about fans' reactions. "But what's even more important than that to me has been the outreach from survivors who are telling me their stories."

McCord has also experienced public image setbacks in the years since "90210." In 2022, McCord went viral for performing a poem addressed to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. "I'm so sorry that I was not your mother," she stated in a Twitter video. "If I was your mother, you would have been so loved, held in the arms of joyous light. Never would this story's plight. The world unfurled before our eyes. A pure demise." The internet didn't take kindly to the piece, which some likened to Gal Gadot's misguided "Imagine" sing-along video. As one Twitter user wrote, "[McCord] binge-watched every Karen video before declaring — 'Hold My Kombucha!' A true white woman masterpiece."

Kyle Massey has faced serious legal difficulties

Kyle Massey (who is the younger brother of Christopher Massey aka Michael Barret on "Zoey 101") is best known for his role as Cory Baxter, Raven's younger brother, on both "That's So Raven" and spinoff "Cory in the House." The actor and rapper is also an experienced voice-over actor, starring on shows like "Fish Hooks" and "American Dragon: Jake Long."

Massey faced a huge public setback in 2021 when he was charged with allegedly sending inappropriate messages to a minor. "I've made a career off of working in children's television, creating opportunities for African Americans to be in these big league moments," Massey shared with Law & Crime of the charges. "So [this] hit me like a ton of bricks." 

The ordeal, which included an arrest warrant for Massey after he missed his court date, became more complicated when he revealed that the mother of the accuser was reportedly a predator herself. "The truth about my relationship with that mother is that that mother had an inappropriate sexual relationship with me since I was a kid when I was 15," Massey told Law & Crime. "This was one of the hardest moments in my life because the person that molested, raped, took advantage of me when I was a child is now painting me as the predator." The lawsuit was later dropped and Massey has since stuck to voice-over work in Hollywood.

Kristin Kreuk was almost in a cult

Fans of "Smallville" will recognize CW staple Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang, one of Clark's love interests. The actor and former Neutrogena spokesperson was a fixture of teen magazines in the early aughts and also starred in the 2004 comedy "Eurotrip" (remember "Scotty Doesn't Know?"). She's starred in other WB (now CW) shows including "Beauty and the Beast" from 2012 to 2016 and "Burden of Truth" in the late 2010s.

During her time on "Smallville," Kreuk was reportedly involved with NXIVM, which was later revealed to be a sex-trafficking cult alongside her co-star (and future NXIVM leader) Allison Mack. When the cult (and Mack) were eventually arrested in 2018, Kreuk took to Twitter to clarify her role in the scandal (thereof). "When I was about 23, I took an Executive Success Programs/NXIVM 'intensive,' what I understood to be a self-help/personal growth course that helped me handle my previous shyness, which is why I continued with the program," she explained. "I [have since] left ... and had minimal contact with those who were still involved. The accusations that I was in the 'inner circle' or recruited women as 'sex slaves' are blatantly false. During my time, I never experienced any illegal or nefarious activity. I am horrified and disgusted by what has come out about [NXIVM]." 

Kreuk has since played a couple of TV guest star roles and even started her own production company, Parvati Creative Inc.

Jake T. Austin's reputation may have stalled his career

Jake T. Austin made audiences laugh as Max Russo, Alex's (Selena Gomez's) youngest brother, on "Wizards of Waverly Place." He was also the voice of Diego on Nickelodeon's "Go, Diego! Go!" for five seasons. Later on, in the 2010s, he was the first actor to portray Jesus Adams Foster on "The Fosters." But during his time on the Freeform show, Austin's reputation got the best of him, causing his career to stall afterward.

After the Season 2 finale of "The Fosters" aired in 2015, Austin took to Twitter to say that he was leaving the show. "I'm honored to have been a part of such a groundbreaking series, but I personally want to let you know that my time on the show ... has come to an end," the posts read. The role was recast with Noah Centineo, while rumors of questionable behavior circulated around Austin. He went online to clarify this, claiming in since-deleted posts that his role was being reduced for Season 3 and he wanted to explore other opportunities. He has only made a few high-profile appearances since, including a lead voice-over role in "The Emoji Movie" in 2017. The actor later claimed the recasting was a blessing in disguise. "[The recasting] was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, because it prevented me from getting too big for my britches and really prevented my behavior from getting worse," he told Flaunt Magazine.

Kay Panabaker is a zoologist now

Kay Panabaker, the younger sister of Danielle Panabaker ("The Flash"), made a splash in the 2000s as Nikki Westerly on "Summerland." On the show, she played Jesse McCartney's character's little sister, and even shared her first on-screen kiss with Zac Efron! She also appeared in the Disney Channel's "Phil of the Future" and featured in the Disney Channel Original Movie "Read It and Weep" alongside her sister.

But after a while, Panabaker lost interest in Hollywood. "I no longer had that love, that passion," she told Naperville Magazine. "With 'Summerland,' I loved going to work. I guess my discontentment started several years later on another TV show I was on. By contrast, it wasn't a good experience." Her last appearance before she made a career change was a voice-over role in 2012's "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta!"

After that, she pursued a different side of the Disney platform: zoology. She attended an 18-month program on the subject at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, before accepting an internship at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park. "Looking back, finding my true passion was worth all of the extra time," she told Naperville Magazine. "I work with some of the most incredible people, who inspire me to work harder and make a bigger difference in the world. That aspect was missing in my previous career ... I don't earn a fraction of what I used to, and yet, I couldn't be happier."

Ben McKenzie became a cryptocurrency critic

Millennials will recognize Ben McKenzie as the brooding Ryan Atwood on "The O.C." opposite Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, and Rachel Bilson. The actor has had several prominent television roles since the iconic teen show wrapped in 2007, including the NBC drama "Southland" and Fox's "Gotham." "[Being famous at a young age] was a really fun experience, one I could never have imagined having, but a learning experience as well, let's say," McKenzie told The Guardian. "You talk about the parabolic rise and fall. You're never the hottest thing forever."

McKenzie has continued to act into the 2020s but has shifted his career a bit to become a critic of the cryptocurrency trend. He and writer Jacob Silverman teamed up to write select print articles in publications including Slate and The Washington Post. He has even co-authored a book alongside Silverman, "Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud," which was released in 2023. "[C]rypto had gathered up so much momentum with the help of lots of people pouring money into it, that it was drowning out other voices," he told Time. "If there's one thing I felt like I knew how to do, it was to make a little splash — quite frankly because I'm a public person — but also explain economic concepts relatively simply."

Eliza Dushku took a stand against a co-star

To many, Eliza Dushku is synonymous with some of the 2000s' most beloved series, including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Tru Calling." "[Being on 'Buffy'] was fun to come in and be the one that shakes things up," the actor told Marc Andrew in an interview. "When I got 'Buffy,' I was just out of high school. I learned so much and I learned a lot from Sarah [Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy herself]." In her post-vampire-slayer years, she also appeared on "Dollhouse," as well as in various films and other TV guest spots.

Dushku has been open about her struggles with addiction and alcoholism, but this hasn't stopped her from charity work, going back to school, and standing up for herself and other women. In 2018, Dushku called out two instances of harassment that she experienced in Hollywood. 

The first was on the set of 1994's "True Lies," where a stunt coordinator molested her. The second was on the set of "Bull," where her co-star and lead actor Michael Weatherly verbally harassed her. For the latter, she was awarded a $9.5 million settlement almost equal to what she would have been paid had she remained a series regular on the show (she had been written off early in the first season). "It's liberating, and it shows that when we speak our truths — as terrifying as that might be — we afford ourselves a chance to heal," she told Boston magazine.