Forgotten Child Stars From the 80s – Where Are They Now?

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The 1980s brought the world to a slew of exceptional child stars who wowed viewers with their charisma and acting abilities. These youthful performers swiftly climbed to prominence and became household names, gracing magazine covers and appearing in hit TV shows and films. However, as years passed, several of these young stars faded from view, leaving fans to wonder what happened to them. Let’s travel back in time to look into the lives of these forgotten child stars from the 1980s, discovering where they are now and what they’ve been up to since their peak. Prepare to reminisce about the past and learn what your favorite kid stars are up to nowadays!

1. Soleil Moon Frye

Soleil Moon Frye’s career as a child actor began with minor appearances in TV movies until earning the lead role of Punky Brewster in 1984, which proved to be a watershed moment in her career. Frye rapidly became a household figure and an inspiration to many young viewers as the charming and energetic Punky.

Following her popularity on Punky Brewster, Frye went on to work in Hollywood, appearing on shows such as The Wonder Years and Saved by the Bell. However, as she grew older, Frye’s interests changed to other areas, such as writing and directing. She wrote a book called Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures in Between, in which she detailed her experiences as a child star and as a mother. Frye has directed numerous episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, a popular children’s show.

Frye has remained active in the entertainment sector in recent years, albeit her focus has switched more toward voice acting. She became a voice actress for different characters in several animated programs, including Planet Sheen, Robot Chicken, and The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. In 2021, Frye returned to her role as Punky Brewster in a Peacock revival series that continued the character’s journey as an adult. The series, however, was discontinued after one season.

Soleil Moon Frye

2. Corey Feldman

Corey Feldman is one of the most well-known child stars of the 1980s, having acted in several notable films and television shows. Following his breakthrough performance in The Bad News Bears TV series, he went on to star in classic films such as The Goonies and Stand by Me. Feldman’s acting career lasted into the 1990s, appearing in movies like The Lost Boys and television episodes such as The Crow: Stairway to Heaven.

Feldman attempted to begin a music career in the late 1980s and early 1990s, releasing numerous CDs with his band Corey Feldman and the Truth Movement. Feldman continued to play music as a hobby even though his music career did not take off.

Feldman’s biography, Coreyography, was released in 2013, detailing his childhood celebrity memories and his friendship with another child star Corey Haim, who tragically died in 2010. Feldman’s experiences with substance misuse and his rough background in the Hollywood world were also explored in the memoir.

Feldman has continued speaking out about Hollywood’s dark side and his trauma. In 2020, he produced and directed the documentary My Truth: The Rape of Two Coreys, in which he claimed that he and Haim were sexually molested as children by older adults in the film industry. The documentary aroused debate and conflicting reactions from the general population.

Corey Feldman in 1989

3. Joey Lawrence

Joey Lawrence is an American actor, singer, and television personality who rose to popularity in the 1980s as a child actor. In 1983, he received his first leading role as a young actor on NBC’s iconic family sitcom, “Gimme a Break!” He was cast as Joey Donovan, the housekeeper’s son. The show ran from 1983 through 1987 and helped Lawrence establish himself as a talented young actor.

Lawrence received another prominent role in the NBC sitcom “Blossom” in 1990. He played Joey Russo, the younger brother of Blossom, the titular heroine, and rapidly became a fan favorite. Lawrence’s catchphrase “Whoa!” became synonymous with the show and helped him become a household figure. Lawrence’s performance in “Blossom” gained him critical accolades from 1990 through 1995.

Lawrence continued to work on television after “Blossom,” who worked in a number of TV movies, series, and reality shows. He was a guest star on several notable shows, including “CSI: NY,” “Hawaii Five-0,” and “American Dreams,” to mention a few. Lawrence co-starred in the ABC Family comedy “Melissa & Joey” with Melissa Joan Hart in 2010. The show was a massive hit that lasted for five seasons and finished in 2015.

Lawrence explored a music career in addition to acting, releasing two albums in the 1990s. He has also appeared on reality television shows such as “Cupcake Wars,” “Celebrity Big Brother,” and “The Masked Singer.” Joey Lawrence has been a famous and well-known personality in the entertainment world throughout his career, owing to his talent, versatility, and ongoing popularity.

 

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4. Fred Savage

Fred Savage is an American television director and actor who has appeared in different movies such as The Princess Bride, Little Monsters, and The Wonder Years. He became famous at a young age as a result of his early performances in these films and television shows. From 1988 through 1993, he played Kevin Arnold, the lead character in The Wonder Years, which became one of his most notable roles.

Working, which ran from 1997 to 1999 on NBC, featured Savage in the late 1990s. He subsequently took a sabbatical from acting to attend Stanford University and study English.

Savage returned to acting in the early 2000s, appearing in multiple TV shows and films, including Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Rules of Attraction, and Crumbs.

Savage returned to television in 2015, co-starring in the Fox comedy series The Grinder with Rob Lowe. The show earned positive reviews. However, it was terminated after only one season.

Savage was accused by a costume designer of verbal and physical abuse in 2018. An investigation was completed, and Savage was found not to have committed any misconduct. However, due to claims of misconduct, Savage was sacked from the ABC revival of The Wonder Years in 2019.

Paul, Kevin and Winnie in Wonder Years where Fred Savage played as Kevin Arnold

5. Danica McKellar

Danica McKellar is an American actress and also a mathematician who began her career on The Twilight Zone before obtaining her blockbuster role as Winnie Cooper in the teen drama The Wonder Years. She played the role for five years, becoming a household name along the way.

McKellar continued to work in the entertainment industry after her time on The Wonder Years, contributing her voice to various animated series, including Transformers: Rescue Bots and Phineas and Ferb. She was also on Dancing With the Stars season 18, reaching the quarter-finals.

McKellar is a highly educated mathematician in addition to her career in the entertainment sector. In the late 1990s, she received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from UCLA, and in 2005, she received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Chicago. She has since written other books on the subject, including Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, both of which attempt to inspire young girls to pursue careers in math and science.

 

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6. Gary Coleman

Gary Coleman was an American actor best remembered for his portrayal of Arnold Jackson in the TV series Diff’rent Strokes. He made his series debut at the age of ten and instantly became a fan favorite. From 1978 through 1986, the sitcom featured the lives of two African-American brothers from Harlem who were adopted by a wealthy white man and his daughter. Arnold, played by Coleman, was famous for his catchphrase, “Whatcha talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Coleman appeared as a guest star on several prominent TV shows during his time on Diff’rent Strokes, including The Jeffersons, The Facts of Life, and Silver Spoons. He continued to perform throughout the 1990s and 2000s, but he was unable to find roles that matched his renown as a child star.

Coleman made headlines in 2003 when he declared his candidacy for California’s governor in the recall election that ended in Governor Gray Davis being replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite being considered a long shot, Coleman’s candidacy got some media attention with the slogan “Vote for Gary, I won’t do anything.”

Coleman’s health had been deteriorating for years before his death in May 2010 at the age of 42. In the years preceding his death, he had been hospitalized multiple times for a variety of health issues, including kidney sickness and seizures. A brain hemorrhage caused his death after he fell and wounded his head at his Utah home.

 

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7. Lisa Bonet

Lisa Bonet is a well-known American actress who starred in The Cosby Show and A Different World as Denise Huxtable. She made her Cosby Show debut in 1984 and portrayed Denise until 1991. From 1987 to 1988, she repeated her role in A Different World.

In the early 1990s, Bonet made the shift to film, acting in films such as High Fidelity (2000), Enemy of the State (1998), and Biker Boyz (2003). She took a break from performing for several years to spend time with her family.

Bonet returned to acting in the 2010s, featuring in TV dramas such as New Girl, Girls, and Ray Donovan. In 2015, she also appeared on Drunk History.

From 1987 to 1993, Bonet was married to musician Lenny Kravitz, with whom she has a daughter, actress, and singer Zo Kravitz. Bonet began dating actor Jason Momoa in 2005, and the couple married in 2017. They are the parents of two children. Bonet and Momoa confirmed their divorce in January 2022.

 

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8. Kirk Cameron

Kirk Cameron is a child actor turned television producer from the United States. He rose to prominence in the 1980s as Mike Seaver on the comedy “Growing Pains,” which aired from 1985 to 1992. However, due to his strict religious convictions, his later years on the show were marred by controversy.

Cameron changed his religion to Christianity as a teenager and grew increasingly public about his beliefs during his time on “Growing Pains.” He frequently argued with the show’s writers and producers, insisting on stories that reflected his conservative ideals. He also sacked a co-star after discovering she had posed for Playboy. Cameron eventually married Chelsea Noble, who played his love interest in “Growing Pains.”

Cameron shifted his focus after “Growing Pains” to evangelical missions and faith-based ventures. He and evangelist Ray Comfort co-founded The Way of the Master ministry, which focuses on evangelism and discipleship training. He also worked on religious films, such as the 2005 adaptation of the “Left Behind” series.

Cameron’s most recent film, the 2014 Christian comedy “Saving Christmas,” garnered five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. Cameron, despite this, continues to work on faith-based projects and is a vocal supporter of conservative Christian principles.

Cameron starred in the parenting documentary “Connect,” which examined the impact of social media on children and families in 2018. He also remains active in The Way of the Master ministry, which creates evangelistic materials and trains Christians all around the world in evangelism.

9. Lukas Haas

Lukas Haas was born in California on April 16, 1976, and began acting at the age of six. His appearance in the 1983 drama film “Testament” gave him his first significant break in the film business, and he achieved greater fame with his performance in the 1985 film “Witness,” he was a Young Artist Award nominee for this work.

Haas starred in a number of films during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Mars Attacks in 1996, Everyone Says I Love You in the same year, and Zoolander in 2001. He also had minor roles in critically acclaimed independent films such as “Boys” (1996) and “Brick” (2005).

In 2010, Haas co-starred in Christopher Nolan’s science fiction thriller “Inception” with Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy. The picture was a critical and economic triumph, and it received four Academy Award nominations.

Haas worked with DiCaprio again in the 2015 Western picture “The Revenant,” directed by Alejandro González Iárritu. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Actor for DiCaprio. Haas portrays a trapper named Jones in the film.

In addition to his cinematic work, Haas has appeared on television multiple times, including guest roles on “24,” “CSI: Miami,” and “The OA.”

Haas was most recently seen in the 2018 biographical drama “First Man,” which followed the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong. He also appears in Steve McQueen’s heist thriller “Widows,” co-starring Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki. Haas was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for his work as an assistant director in the 2022 film “Babylon.”

Movie poster for Witness where Lukas Haas starred as the notable Samuel Lapp

10. Ricky Schroder

Ricky Schroder’s acting career began at an early age, with a breakthrough part in the 1979 film The Champ, for which he received an award for Best New Male Star in the Golden Globe. After appearing in a few further films, he landed the lead part of Ricky Stratton in the hit sitcom Silver Spoons in 1982. The sitcom lasted five seasons, and Schroder’s portrayal of the affluent adolescent helped cement his reputation as a teen heartthrob.

Schroder continued to perform in films and television productions after Silver Spoons ended, including the 1989 drama The Earthling and the 1990 Western miniseries Lonesome Dove. He has appeared in series including NYPD Blue, Strong Medicine, and 24. In 2010, he played himself in the comedic film Get Him to the Greek.

Schroder has been embroiled in controversy in recent years. In 2020, he provided $150,000 to the bail fund of Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager accused of killing two demonstrators during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In May 2021, Schroder made news when he recorded himself addressing a Costco clerk in California about the store’s mask requirement policy, which compels customers to wear face coverings inside. The incident drew widespread condemnation, and Schroder later apologized.

The 1980s’ most famous child actors and actresses have all grown up and no longer portray their iconic on-screen selves. Others, though, left the spotlight and went on to pursue interests outside of Hollywood. Despite the difficulties they encountered as young actors, their impact on popular culture will endure forever. Their legacies as 80s child stars will live on long after they’ve left the business, whether they’ve retired or kept working.

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