Hollywood is a tough place to grow up – especially when you consider that the commodity child actors are selling is really childhood itself. If an actor is hired because of their ability to exude innocence, then the normal process of maturation can make it hard for them to do their job.
Frankly, producers and directors are asking a lot of children. Even with union laws in place, the hours on set can be grueling. Some roles can even take an emotional toll on the actors. When you think about it, the very concept of child actors is rather cruel. But anyone who watched the original Beverly Hills 90210 knows how the alternative of hiring adults to play kids can lend a certain insincerity to the project.
Many of the kids on this list got the boot from their jobs simply because their bodies were following the course of nature. Others were sacked because they picked up adult vices in their off time. A scant few made the personal choice to move on in order to live normal lives and salvage what remained of their childhood. In a couple of tragic cases, losing their jobs utterly destroyed their careers and even their lives.
Here are 15 Child Actors Who Lost Their Jobs For Growing Up Too Fast.
15. Shirley Temple
In the early days of Hollywood, Shirley Temple was the quintessential child star. She could sing, tap dance, knew her lines, and looked adorable in a sailor suit. By the age of 6, she was already a veteran with over twenty titles under her tiny belt. She continued to work steadily until around 1940, when the public decided her act wasn’t quite so novel on a 12-year-old.
Her two films that year, The Blue Bird, and Young People, flopped at the box office. 20th Century Fox sold what remained of Temple’s contract to her parents and the “Good Ship Lollipop” singer enrolled in Westlake School for Girls, in an attempt to salvage what remained of her childhood. Temple went on to become a successful politician and UN delegate.
14. Malcolm David Kelley – Lost
In the first season of supernatural drama Lost, the youngest survivor of the Oceanic 815 plane crash appeared to have some sort of psychic connection to the mysterious island on which they were stranded. But hints of 10-year-old Walt’s abilities never paid off because puberty overtook the actor who portrayed him – Michael David Kelley. Walt and Michael puttered away from the island in Season 2. A much-matured Walt appeared a handful of times before the end of the series.
In 2007, executive producer Damon Lindelof said, “We’ve always known Malcolm was going to grow faster than we could shoot the show. And we planned for it.” But he later told a 2011 ComicCon audience that when they first cast Walt, they didn’t expect the show to go beyond 13 episodes, so they assumed Kelley’s puberty would never be a factor.
13. Jamie Lynn Spears – Zoey 101
As the star of her own Emmy-winning Nickelodeon series, Zoey 101, Britney’s younger sibling was poised to rival her success. The show was a hit, running for four seasons and making Jamie Lynn a household name.
But in 2007, 16-year-old Jamie Lynn learned that she had gotten pregnant. Spears decided to keep the baby and raise it on her own. Unfortunately, that decision stopped the rising star’s career in its tracks. Producers of the Zoey 101 didn’t want to work a teen pregnancy into the narrative. Since Jamie Lynn was the face of the series, they also felt it couldn’t go on without her. Ultimately, they decided to give both Zoey 101 and Jamie Lynn the axe.
12. Lisa Bonet – The Cosby Show/A Different World
Right out of the gate, fans of The Cosby Show adored the oldest Huxtable daughter – the wry, bohemian Denise. But Cosby was furious when 23-year-old Bonet shot a steamy love scene in the Mickey Rourke drama Angel Heart. Cosby shipped Denise off to the college-set spinoff, A Different World.
When Bonet made the decision to start a family with her then-husband Lenny Kravitz, it was the last straw for the controlling Cosby patriarch. He thought a pregnant Denise would further tarnish The Cosby Show’s wholesome family image. Though A Different World showrunner Debbie Allen thought fans might be able to relate to a pregnancy story arc for Denise, Cosby disagreed. Bonet’s character dropped out of college and “went to Africa.”
11. Jessica Biel – 7th Heaven
The world first took notice of the teenaged actress when she played Mary Camden on the Christian-themed drama 7th Heaven. As the sporty oldest daughter of Reverend Eric, Biel cultivated a squeaky-clean image.
But in 2000, Biel shook things up with a racy photo shoot in Gear Magazine. Her TV father, actor Stephen Collins, was as outraged as a Protestant minister. Because Biel was only 17, Collins branded it inappropriate – ironic, considering he’d later admit to abusing underage girls himself.
In the show’s fifth season, Mary went to live with her grandmother. A year later, Biel expressed regret to Entertainment Weekly over the pictures. “That photo shoot was just a really bad decision on my part and I got myself involved with people who weren’t thinking about me and were instead thinking about what kind of a story they could get out of it.”
10. Jamie Waylett – Harry Potter
Waylett played one of Draco Malfoy’s lackeys, Vincent Crabbe, in the first six Harry Potter films. Though Crabbe has an important role in the final book of the series, Golye took over his nefarious duties in the first installment of the film adaptation of The Deathly Hallows. That’s because Waylett pled guilty to possession after he was busted for growing illegal substances in his mother’s London home. His sentence included a fine and six weeks in juvenile lock-up.
In 2011’s Part 2, Blaise Zabini (Louis Cordis) joined Malfoy’s gang against Ron, Hermione, and Harry in the Room of Requirement battle while Waylett was arrested a second time for his participation in the London riots. The charges included violent disorder (for holding a petrol bomb) and handling stolen goods (for drinking looted champagne). The 22-year-old received 2 years imprisonment and has yet to return to acting.
9. Ella & Jaden Hiller – Modern Family
Doug and Michelle Hiller were excited about getting their twins into show business. As is often the case with babies, Modern Family cast both girls to play the role of Cam and Mitchell’s adopted daughter, Lily Tucker-Pritchett. Michelle told Women’s Day, “The girls were in 36 episodes throughout seasons 1 and 2… They got $200 per girl per day. All the money they earned went into their college funds.”
This arrangement went well at first, but soon, Ella and Jaden were over it. “Halfway through season 2 their personalities had started to develop, and it was really clear to us that they weren’t enjoying their time on set.” Though producers offered them more money (reportedly $34,000 per episode) to stick it out, Doug and Michelle did the responsible thing and retired their unhappy daughters from acting.
8. Anna Popplewell and William Moseley – The Chronicles of Narnia
Okay, so Anna Popplewell and William Moseley weren’t technically fired from the Chronicles of Narnia film series – but their characters were basically fired from the story! At the end of 2008’s Prince Caspian, Narnia’s head honcho Aslan pulls aside the two eldest Pevensie children and gives them a rude awakening. Though Lucy and Edmond will see the lion king again, Peter and Susan have officially aged out of having magical adventures in Narnia.
As a result, Popplewell and Moseley weren’t invited back for the 2010 installment of the series based on the classic novels by C. S. Lewis. Though they have yet to film any books beyond The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it’s likely that Moseley and Popplewell will be missing in action from here on out.
7. Liam James – Psych
On a show that’s as flashback-heavy as Psych, Liam James had to know that eventually he could no longer pass for a frozen-in-time younger version of Shawn. After 4 seasons on the USA crime comedy, manhood was finally catching up to the 14-year-old actor. For the first 5 episodes of season 5, you can actually watch The Way Way Back actor grow up before your eyes. He last appears in “Shawn and Gus in Drag (Racing)”.
In season 5’s seventh episode “Ferry Tale”, Skyler Gisondo stepped into the role. Though he is the same as James, he looked much younger. Fortunately, nature held off on making any huge leaps until the end of season 6, at which point the writers abandoned the flashback motif.
6. Keeva Jane Denisof – How I Met Your Mother
The writers of How I Met Your Mother worked Alyson Hannigan’s first pregnancy into the script by having Lily win a hot dog-eating contest. T he second time around, they decided to give Lily and Marshall a baby. And who better to play that baby than the one growing in Hannigan’s womb? Unfortunately, by the time production resumed on the sitcom, Hannigan’s second daughter with actor Alexis Denisof already looked too old to play a newborn.
Hannigan jokingly lamented, “They fired my kid from that role. She was gonna be the baby, but [producer] Carter Bays was like, ‘Nope. She’s too old,’ and she got replaced… I was like, ‘You fired my child. First of all, that’s ageism. I don’t think you’re allowed to fire her because she’s too old.’”
5. Alicia Goranson – Roseanne
Fans of the hit ’90s sitcom Roseanne are well aware of the Tale of Two Beckys. Alicia Goranson played the oldest Connor child, for the first 5 seasons. But when she was accepted to Vassar College, she realized she had to make a choice. Both parties really hoped to make it work, with producers offering Goranson a raise, but it wasn’t sustainable.
Goranson told HuffPost Live, “At the time, I wanted normalcy… wanted to be in an intellectual environment… I would have, like, five English papers due on Monday, and they’d want me to fly to Disney World and shoot a show there over the weekend.”
Sarah Chalke played Becky for the remainder of the original series’ run. For the upcoming revival, Goranson will reprise her role with Chalke returning as a woman who wants to hire Becky as a surrogate.
4. Mitchel Musso – Pair of Kings
From 2006 to 2010, Mitchel Musso’s mug was all over the Disney Channel, but the House of Mouse doesn’t take kindly to substance abuse. When the 20-year-old star of Pair of Kings and Hannah Montana was arrested for a DUI in October 2011, it was all over for him.
Just prior to his arrest, Musso had signed a deal with Disney that would have granted him one more season on Pair of Kings before they transitioned him into projects targeting an older demographic. His fateful mistake cost him his contract and he was fired immediately from Pair of Kings. The show replaced him with Adam Hicks.
3. Ben Hyland – The Strain
12-year-old Ben Hyland played Dr. Eph Goodweather’s son on the Guillermo Del Toro horror series, The Strain. But in season 2, they replaced him with American Sniper’s Max Charles.
In a statement to Deadline, showrunner Carlton Cuse explained that they believed Hyland wouldn’t be able to meet “specific story needs” later in the season. “We are sad to see Ben go. He is a very talented actor and a wonderful person. We will all miss him and thank him for his great work.”
Curiously, since the series is based on pre-existing books, one would assume they already knew where they planned to take the story. Because of this, the prevailing rumor is that Hyland was actually let go because his acting wasn’t up to snuff.
2. Bobby Driscoll – Disney
Best known as the voice and animation reference for Peter Pan, Driscoll was one of the first actors Disney placed under contract. He appeared in the live-action movies Song of the South and Treasure Island, and received a Juvenile Oscar for his roles in So Dear to My Heart and The Window.
But at 16, puberty hit Driscoll and he developed severe acne. Disney terminated his contract on the grounds that he now required too much makeup to cover his blemishes. Driscoll continued working as a bit-player for another 12 years, while struggling with substance abuse.
Just shy of his 31st birthday, a group of children discovered Driscoll’s body in an abandoned building. Before his death, Driscoll told press, “I was carried on a silver platter— and then dumped into the garbage.”
1. Soleil Moon Frye – Punky Brewster
Puberty is no joke. Just ask the star of Punky Brewster, who was the subject of much bust-related humor after being diagnosed with Gigantomastia – a rare condition that causes massive breast growth in young girls. At the height of the show’s success, 12-year-old Frye’s changing shape stood in contrast to the child-like image they wanted for Punky. Recognizing Frye’s performance as instrumental to the show’s success, they elected to hang up the pig tails after season 4.
Suddenly, Frye couldn’t land age-appropriate roles, unless the characters were “wild girls”. At 16, she got a new lease on life when she underwent breast reduction surgery. She told People, “I’m finally free to be the teenager that I am.”
Frye has since seen success as a voiceover actress on such shows as Robot Chicken and Bratz.
Do you know of any other child actors who lost their jobs for growing up too fast? Let us know in the comments!
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