Top 20 Actors/Actresses Who Grew Up in Front of the Camera
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Actors and Actresses who grew up in front of the camera.
For this list, we’ll be looking at actors and actresses who got early starts to their careers.
Who’s your favorite lifelong star? Let us know in the comments down below.
#20: Christina Ricci
Christina Ricci’s career started early and with a bang. Her very first film role had her co-starring with Cher and Winona Ryder in the 1990 movie “Mermaids” when she was 10. A year later, she won over audiences as the belovedly odd Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family,” a true inspiration for strange little girls everywhere. In 1993, she came back for the sequel. She starred in several films over the course of the rest of her adolescence, including some provocative roles for a teenager, like Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” and Don Roos’ “The Opposite Sex.” Ricci made a name for herself as a child actor with these dark parts and continues to find success today.
#19: Maisie Williams
Best known for portraying the beloved Arya Stark on “Game of Thrones,” Maisie Williams spent the entirety of her adolescence on screen. She landed the role of Arya when she was 12, and grew up as millions of people watched as Arya also grew up--to become a full-blown assassin. Williams’ “Game of Thrones” audition was her second ever, and the role was her first professional acting job. She quickly became a fan favorite as her portrayal of the youngest Stark won over audiences. Her work on the show earned her tons of accolades, including an Emmy nomination in 2016.
In 1989, Raven got her start on “The Cosby Show” playing Olivia Kendall starting when she was four years old. Her career continued with “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” which she starred in between 1993 until 1997. She also had a bunch of film credits while growing up, including “Dr. Doolittle,” “The Little Rascals,” and “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.” But she’s probably best known and loved for her roles as teenage psychic Raven Baxter on Disney Channel’s “That’s So Raven” and singer Galleria in Disney’s “The Cheetah Girls,” both of which were released during the year Raven would turn 18: 2003. Raven’s iconic comedy roles throughout her early career have earned her many awards and accolades, and a reputation as one of the greatest childhood and teenage stars.
#17: Anna Paquin
Anna Paquin is the second youngest Academy Award winner, nabbing the award for Best Supporting Actress for “The Piano” in 1993, when she was just 11. After that accomplishment, Paquin took a short break from major acting projects, and returned to play young Jane in 1996’s Jane Eyre. She also starred in “Fly Away Home” that same year, earning Paquin Young Artist and YoungStar award nominations. As a teen, Paquin appeared in comedies like “She’s All That” and “Almost Famous,” and dramas like “A Walk on the Moon,” proving her wide acting range, all before reaching adulthood. She’d go on to star in “True Blood,” where she met her husband Stephen Moyer.
#16: Kristen Stewart
Speaking of blood and vampires… Kristen Stewart didn’t become a household name until after the 2008 release of Twilight, when she gained seemingly overnight fame as Bella Swan. But Stewart had been acting for years prior to her Twilight days. Starting to act professionally when she was 8, Stewart shared the screen with Jodie Foster in Panic Room - so she was just 12 when she had her first major breakout role. Throughout her teenage years, she appeared in several more films, like “Zathura,” “Into the Wild,” and even played a pre-teen thief in the kid’s heist movie “Catch that Kid.” Stewart actually turned 18 on the Twilight set, meaning Stewart literally transitioned from childhood to adulthood on camera.
#15: Hilary Duff
Best known for her role as Lizzie McGuire, Hilary Duff is a Disney darling who grew up on camera. She got her first big role in show business at the age of 10 in “Casper Meets Wendy,” where she played a good little witch who became friends with the iconic friendly ghost. Soon after came her “Lizzie McGuire” run, which ended with the Disney Channel Original Movie of the same name. After that, Duff became a familiar face in teen movies, including “Cadet Kelly,” “Agent Cody Banks,” the “Cheaper by the Dozen” movies, and “A Cinderella Story”-- all before she turned 18.
#14: Christian Bale
Christian Bale was a prolific and well-respected actor long before he was Batman. Bale decided to pursue acting when he was 10, and quickly landed his breakout role in Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun” at 13. Some of his subsequent notable movies include “Henry V,” “Treasure Island,” and “Newsies.” He also played Laurie in 1994’s “Little Women,” across from Winona Ryder’s Jo March. Having forged a name for himself, Bale would go on to star in mega-hits like “American Psycho” and, of course, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy. He won the Academy Award for his role in 2010’s “The Fighter,” and Time magazine called him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011. Not bad for a child star.
#13: Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan first became well known for her roles in multiple Disney movies, starting with “The Parent Trap.” She played both the roles of Hallie and Annie, identical twins separated as babies and reunited at summer camp. Lohan won a Young Artist Award for her breakout performance, a well-deserved accolade considering her British accent in the film. She went on to star in other Disney movies like “Life Size,” “Get a Clue,” and “Freaky Friday.” Lohan didn’t star in the fan-favorite “Mean Girls” until she was 17, but by that point she had already achieved bonafide teen-idol status.
#12: Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman’s debut role was a young orphan who befriends a hitman in Luc Besson’s “Leon: The Professional.” She was 12 when she booked the gig. She had a few movie roles during her adolescence, but she reportedly turned down a lot of parts because of their sexualized nature. Her first real big-budget project was the Star Wars prequels. She played Padme Amidala, Luke and Leia’s mom. She attended school throughout her career, and skipped the “Star Wars” premiere to study for exams. During the same year she graduated, the comedy-drama “Anywhere But Here” was released. In it, she starred alongside Susan Sarandon and her performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She took a few years off from acting to attend Harvard, but her reputation from growing up on screen allowed her a quick comeback.
#11: Jason Bateman
Though many people remember him best for his role as Michael Bluth in “Arrested Development,” Jason Bateman got his start in the early 80s as orphan James Cooper in “Little House on the Prairie”, with his first episode airing when he was 12. He also appeared on the television show “Silver Spoons” from 1982 to 1984. By the mid-80s, he was a well-known teen star, thanks to his role as David Hogan on “The Hogan Family” sitcom. He also directed a few episodes of the show when he was 18, becoming the youngest ever director in the Director’s Guild of America. All that to say that Jason Bateman definitely grew up in front of the camera--and even spent some time behind it.
#10: Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields started off as a child model, but quickly proved her acting chops at the age of 12 in “Pretty Baby,” playing the daughter of a sex worker played by Susan Sarandon. She went on to star in “The Blue Lagoon” and “Endless Love” in the early 80s as a young teenager. Both movies were met with a ton of controversy thanks to Shields’ young age and several risque scenes. Her modeling work also proved to be pretty controversial: in her mid-teens, she continued to build on her provocative image when she appeared in the iconic Calvin Klein Jeans ad. Though she briefly took a break from her career to attend Princeton, Shields had already achieved legendary status by then.
Zendaya got her start on the Disney Channel, initially appearing as Rocky Blue in the series “Shake it Up,” which premiered in 2010 when she was 14. Her first film role was also a Disney Channel production, 2012’s “Frenemies.” That same year, she made “Dancing With the Stars” history by becoming the youngest contestant the show ever had, though her record was broken a few years later. Following her “Dancing” stint, Zendaya went on to produce and star in Disney Channel’s “KC Undercover.” She’s since graduated into another Disney franchise, playing MJ in the Tom Holland Spider-man movies.
#8: Cole Sprouse
Cole Sprouse got his start in acting alongside his twin brother Dylan, as they split the roles of Patrick Kelly on the ABC show “Grace Under Fire” when they were babies and Julian in “Big Daddy” when they were a bit older. Cole’s first role that he didn’t share with his brother was Ross Geller’s son Ben on “Friends.” Together, Dylan and Cole also held the titular roles in Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” and its spinoff, “The Suite Life on Deck.” Though his twin subsequently took on less acting roles in favor of other pursuits, Cole Sprouse continued his acting career with the role of Jughead on the CW’s “Riverdale.”
#7: Leonardo DiCaprio
It seems that Leonardo DiCaprio has been acting forever--and he kind of has. After a few commercials in the ‘80s, he got his start on television in the early ‘90s, appearing in shows like “Growing Pains.” This nabbed him his first acting accolade, a nomination for a Young Artist Award. He had some small movie roles until he got his big film break in “This Boy’s Life” alongside Robert De Niro in 1993. The same year, he starred in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” which got him his first Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Leo was only 19, making him one of the youngest nominees. Since then, he has given too many breath-taking performances to count, gathering lots of Oscar nominations for roles that matured over time with the actor himself. He finally took home the prize for “The Revenant” in 2016.
#6: Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster started appearing in commercials between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, and hasn’t really slowed down since. She appeared in lots of TV shows and movies during her childhood in the 60s and 70s, and most notably starred alongside Robert de Niro in “Taxi Driver” when she was just 12 years old. The role got her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. That same year, she also starred in the original “Freaky Friday.” Foster is widely considered to be one of the most talented actors of her generation and has the accolades to show it--so she definitely deserves her spot here.
#5: Macaulay Culkin
Although he’s best known for playing Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin started acting at four, mostly in small roles. He got his first big break in 1988’s Rocket Gibraltar, and went on to star in John Hughes’ “Uncle Buck” in ‘89. In 1990, Hughes and Culkin reunited for the majorly successful “Home Alone.” The role required quite the performance from Culkin, as his character Kevin is often on screen--you guessed it--alone. His performance nabbed him a Golden Globe nomination, an American Comedy Award and a Young Artist Award. He also starred in “My Girl” and “Home Alone 2.” Eventually, his child star days came to an end: after over a dozen movies and 1994’s “Richie Rich,” he temporarily retired from acting to go to high school after.
#4: Dakota Fanning
First winning over audiences at seven years old with her appearance in “I Am Sam,” Dakota Fanning was a prolific child actor. That particular role earned her a SAG nomination, which makes her the youngest ever SAG nominee. She didn’t win, but she stole the show in a ton of popular films, including “Uptown Girls,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and “Charlotte’s Web.” Alongside films, she appeared in a bunch of TV shows like “CSI” and “Friends.” As she grew up, so did the roles she took. She played the scary vampire Jane in the “Twilight” Saga, rockstar Cherie Currie in “The Runaways,” and even voiced Coraline. Fanning is perhaps one of the best recognized and praised child stars of her generation, earning her this slot.
#3: Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen
The Olsen twins quite literally grew up in front of the camera, starting on Full House when they were just nine months old as the youngest daughter, Michelle Tanner. The last movie they did together, “New York Minute,” was released in 2004 just before the girls turned eighteen. In between, they starred in a plethora of movies and TV shows, including “Billboard Dad,” “Passport to Paris,” and “Winning London,” to name just a few. If we tried to name every Olsen twins movie and TV show, we’d be here for a while. There were few, if any years, of their childhood that went by without a new release from the Olsen twins.
#2: “Harry Potter”’s Main Three
Many fans of the Harry Potter series got to grow up alongside the stars of the film, who themselves grew up before our very eyes over the course of a decade. Over the course of 8 movies, franchise stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson aged at about the same rate as their characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione. The lead cast were all between the ages of 11 and 13 when the first movie was released. By the time the final movie was finished, Daniel, Rupert, and Emma were all adults, and had starred in a Harry Potter movie for almost every year between 2001-2011. Quite productive childhoods, we think!
#1: Drew Barrymore
While she appeared in a dog food ad and had a small part in sci-fi horror flick, Drew Barrymore had her childhood acting breakthrough in “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” - at age 6. She continued to act throughout her childhood in the 80s, even serving as Saturday Night Live’s youngest host ever at age 7. She got her first Golden Globe nomination for her supporting role in 1994’s “Irreconcilable Differences,” which was released when she was 9. In her teenage years, she took on mature, dark roles. At 17, she was nominated for her second Golden Globe for her starring role in “Guncrazy” -- two Golden Globe noms before adulthood! Drew Barrymore not only grew up in front of the camera, but also truly excelled at acting.