The 1980s were a fun time in TV and movies. With lots of family-focused content in demand, many kids ended up taking center stage and grew up child stars in the spotlight — ending in both positive and negative results.
These were some of your favorite youngsters, but now they’re all grown up. See how far these ’80s celebrities have come since the decade.
Born into a showbiz family, little Drew Barrymore played a small but memorable role as Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T. in 1982. From there, her star began to rise, and she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the film Irreconcilable Differences.
Barrymore’s well-publicized teen years were clearly a struggle for the actress, but she turned things around in her 20s. These days, Barrymore is spending her time on the small screen, starring in the satirical Netflix series, Santa Clarita Diet, opposite Timothy Olyphant.
Though his patronage is something of a complicated Hollywood tale, Astin always seemed to be a well-balanced child, appearing on TV and in several films (such as The Goonies) in the 1980s. His success followed him into the ‘90s, with his role in Rudy helping to establish him as an adult in the industry.
While today’s young people may continue to think of him as Elijah Wood’s Hobbit sidekick in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Astin spends most of his time on voice work at present. But keep your eyes peeled for his supporting role in the upcoming second season of Stranger Things.
Child actor Seth Green began acting in the mid-80s, at the age of 7. He gained recognition for his roles in Can’t Buy Me Love and Woody Allen’s Radio Days.
Green has continued to act steadily, appearing in teen comedies and later starring in three seasons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At present, Green is busy behind the scenes of his animated series, Robot Chicken, and holds down several long-running voice-acting gigs.
Born in New York City, Tracey Gold was cast in her most famous role to date in 1985, as Carol Seaver in Growing Pains. Sadly, the late ‘80s and early ‘90s were a difficult time for her, as she suffered from an eating disorder, which often made the tabloid news.
After her recovery, Gold returned to acting. She has appeared in a steady stream of TV movies over the last couple of decades.
Webster, one of the most popular sitcoms of the ‘80s, would have been nothing without its star, Emmanuel Lewis. The young star was everywhere during the decade, but his clout waned as he aged.
Lewis is no longer acting and has taken a very different path in his adult life: Freemasonry. However, he did appear very briefly on an episode of Zach Galifianakis’ Funny or Die web series Between Two Ferns.
As a child star, Fred Savage became successful very quickly. Following his appearance in cult classic The Princess Bride, he won the lead role in The Wonder Years, still his most recognizable role.
Savage appeared on screen minimally after the series ended, instead choosing to stay behind the camera as a director on many aught-era TV shows. He jumped back into the spotlight more recently, starring opposite Rob Lowe in The Grinder and currently appears alongside an ensemble cast in Netflix’s Friends From College.
This actor came around in the second half of the ‘80s, starring in Spielberg’s 1987 film, Empire of the Sun. Interestingly, Christian Bale considered giving up acting due to the attention he received for his performance, but he changed his mind and went on to become a bonafide teen star in the ‘90s.
Bale’s career has only continued to improve, most notably when he took on the titular role in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. He’s an in-demand and highly praised actor to this day, with several major awards lining his shelves.
Keshia Knight Pulliam
Growing up on a TV show is a lot for any kid to handle — just ask Keisha Knight Pulliam. As Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show, the child star became the youngest actress ever nominated for an Emmy at age 6.
But making the move to more mature roles wasn’t an easy one for Pulliam. Fortunately, she scored a major win when she landed the role of Miranda on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. It’s unknown whether she’ll return in the spin-off series, The Paynes, set to air in 2018.
Soleil Moon Frye
Speaking of young breakout stars, Soleil Moon Frye marked the decade with her eponymous role in sitcom Punky Brewster. She even voiced the role of the character in its animated version.
Frye continued to appear on TV and film throughout the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until 2000 that she scored another main role — as college student Roxie King on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. After the series ended, Frye focused on other ventures, including two books, a parenting blog, and even working with a Haitian relief organization.
While her brother Kirk starred on Growing Pains, Candace Cameron (now Cameron Bure) took on the role of eldest child, D.J., in another major ABC series, Full House. This kept her busy until the show’s end in 1995.
Though she continued to act occasionally, Cameron took time off to raise her three children in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. A main role on gymnastics-focused drama Make It or Break It kept her busy for a few years, but now she’s back playing a grown-up D.J. in revival series Fuller House.
Michael J. Fox
Though he wasn’t underage at the time, Michael J. Fox played everyone’s favorite TV and movie teen in the ‘80s. His first major role at Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties jump-started his career, landing him leading man parts in Teen Wolf and Back to the Future.
His momentum lasted him through the early ‘00s, but these days, Fox spends considerably less time on screen, due to his Parkinson’s disease. However, he’s still thought of with high regard in the industry.
Hit sitcom The Facts of Life propelled young Kim Fields, only 10 years old when the show began, to stardom. The actress used this momentum to launch a mildly successful music career, but ended the decade opting to attend college and take time off from showbiz.
Other than Living Single in the ‘90s, Fields stuck to mostly behind-the-scenes work for several years, with occasional guest roles. Today, she’s known for her stint on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and her time as a Dancing With the Stars contestant.
Few young actors in the 1980s worked as hard as Jason Bateman. From Little House on the Prairie to Silver Spoons to The Hogan Family, he acted (and even directed) consistently throughout his childhood and teenage years.
Bateman continued to work throughout the ‘90s, despite suffering from drug and alcohol addictions. His major return came with Arrested Development, followed by a string of popular comedy films. He currently stars in and produces the Netflix series Ozark.
Actress Alyssa Milano spent most of her childhood on sets, specifically that of Who’s the Boss as the daughter of Tony Danza’s character. As she grew up, she achieved teen idol status, even taking the route of many of her peers and attempting a singing career.
Never a film star, Milano has made her mark on TV on series like Melrose Place and, of course, Charmed. She has remained a constant presence on the small screen, most recently appearing in Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later on Netflix.
He began acting at the start of the decade, but Wil Wheaton didn’t become a household name until he took on the role of Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The actor also appeared in a number of movies during this time, including Stand by Me, but opted to leave Hollywood in the early ‘90s.
Wheaton returned to showbiz with a vengeance and has been busy ever since. In addition to his recurring roles on shows like Leverage and The Big Bang Theory, Wheaton is a prominent voice actor, writer, comedian, and gamer.
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