Child Actors Who Should Have Quit While They Were Ahead


Taylor Momsen isn’t just finished with Gossip Girl; she’s done with Hollywood, period. “I quit acting,” she told, and now Momsen plans to devote all of her energy to her band, The Pretty Reckless. Her announcement has prompted derisive cheers from haters the web over, but, if she means it, we’re legitimately impressed by the 18-year-old star’s decision. Here’s the thing: For every Jason Bateman or Drew Barrymore, there is a former child actor who is still desperately hanging on to any mediocre role or shred of reality-TV fame he can get. After the jump, we round up ten celebrities who would have done well to emulate Momsen and quit while they were ahead.

Tatyana Ali

Who didn’t love Tatyana Ali as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s Ashley — the only Banks offspring you’d actually want to spend any time with. After the show ended in 1996, she appeared in a few movies whose titles you probably recognize (Kiss the Girls, Jawbreaker) and even released a pretty successful album, Kiss the Sky, in ’99. These days, the 32-year-old actress’s career isn’t nearly as impressive: Her movie credits have included such classics as Nora’s Hair Salon 2: A Cut Above, and her current gig finds her starring Love That Girl!, the first original scripted series on TV One — a cable network we can’t recall ever having watched.

Soleil Moon Frye

A staple of ’80s kids’ TV as lovable orphan Punky Brewster, Soleil Moon Frye maintained a solid career for a few years after that, landing guest spots on The Wonder Years and Saved by the Bell. By the mid-’90s, though, she was appearing in D-list horror sequels (Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings) and TV movies. Frye’s second big break came in 2000, when she landed a role alongside Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Since that show ended three years later, the 35-year-old actress has mostly done voice work. These days, she’s hosting the least interesting video blog of all time.

Danny Bonaduce

It’s always the adorable ones who grow up to be terrible, isn’t it? Children of the ’70s know Danny Bonaduce as the funniest member of The Partridge Family. Although he went on to make the teen-star rounds once the show was over, playing a recurring role on CHiPS and popping up frequently in movies, Bonaduce’s career tanked in the ’80s. He spent some time as a radio host and appeared on an ill-fated male version of The View between 2001 and 2003. While he has picked up other brief hosting gigs since then, today’s kids are most likely to recognize him from the painful Breaking Bonaduce, a VH1 “Celebreality” series that showed him at his alcoholic, drug-addicted worst. Over the years, he’s also been involved in various celebrity boxing and wrestling embarrassments, where he’s taken on such opponents as Donny Osmond and Barry Williams.

Christopher Knight

In his first professional wrestling match, in 1994, Danny Bonaduce was paired with Brady Bunch alum Christopher Knight. But that’s hardly the only embarrassing thing Knight has done since his days as Peter Brady. For a while there, he was on the right track, pursuing a successful career in computers throughout the late ’80s and ’90s. Eventually, though, Knight was lured back to TV in 2005, when he shared a house with other faded stars on VH1’s The Surreal Life. On the show, he allowed himself to be courted by America’s Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry; they got married and filmed three seasons of their own terrible VH1 reality show, My Fair Brady, before separating earlier this year.

Elizabeth Berkley

Perhaps Elizabeth Berkley was fated to be a camp icon — as Jessie on Saved by the Bell, she had by far the most ridiculous scene on the show (“I’m so excited,” caffeine pills, etc.). Her most famous role since then was as Nomi Malone in 1995’s hilariously disastrous Showgirls, at which point audiences seemed to stop laughing with her and start laughing at her. In the past decade and a half, she’s done stints on several TV shows; in 2008, she hosted the one and only season of Bravo’s Step It Up and Dance. Rather than pursuing these half-assed acting projects, we’d like to see Berkley stick to Ask Elizabeth, her great website and book of advice for teen girls.

Tia and Tamera Mowry

We were never big on Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen; our ’90s twins of choice were Tia and Tamera Mowry, the identical stars of Sister, Sister. Somehow, though, twins just aren’t as good of a gimmick when they’re grown up. The 21st century found the sisters going their separate ways professionally; for a few years beginning in 2004, Tamera played a young doctor on the Lifetime series Strong Medicine, and Tia currently stars as a med student-turned-football wife on BET’s popular The Game. While we don’t insist that the Mowrys should have given up acting altogether, but we do wish they hadn’t reprised their sister act for Style Network reality show Tia & Tamera. Does anyone really need to watch actresses who don’t have particularly entertaining personal lives get married and have babies?

Kirk Cameron

Remember when Kirk Cameron was nothing more than a harmless teen idol, Growing Pains‘ inexplicably attractive Mike Seaver? He might have made the jump to adult movie stardom, but Cameron became a born-again Christian instead. These days, he’s starring in Left Behind movies and a bunch of other, largely direct-to-video films aimed at the fundamentalist market. He has also become an evangelist and spokesman for creationism. In 2002, Cameron co-founded a ministry called The Way of the Master, which has its own crazy TV show.

Jenna von Oÿ

For tween girls in the mid-’90s, few TV characters were cooler than Jenna von Oÿ’s Six, the fast-talking, funky-dressing best friend on Blossom. The actress’s most notable role since then was as another best friend — Von Oÿ played Kim’s (Countess Vaughn) buddy Stevie on The Parkers. Running for five painful seasons between 1999 and 2004, the sitcom was quite possibly the worst show ever to surpass 100 episodes. We could never look at Six the same way again, and Von Oÿ hasn’t worked much since The Parkers wrapped.

Corey Feldman

Few teen stars dominated the big screen in the ’80s like Corey Feldman, who racked up credits in Goonies, Stand by Me, Gremlins, and The Lost Boys, all within three years. But his career nosedived in the ’90s, as Feldman struggled with drugs and attempted to launch a music career. Eventually, many of his acting roles made some reference to his fallen-child-star status — and that, we imagine, is when reality TV started to look good. In 2007, A&E brought us The Two Coreys, which had an unemployed and pathetic Corey Haim moving in with the now-sober Feldman and his wife. The exploitative spectacle ended after less than two seasons, and Haim died of pneumonia in 2010.