Sunday 4 December 2016

Child Stars: All grown up

Whatever happened to our much-loved child stars -- did they go from cute young star to acting sensation? Declan Cashin steps back into the archives

Declan Cashin

Published 24/09/2011 | 05:00

Fans of the geeky, Emmy award-winning US comedy series 'The Big Bang Theory' -- and, frankly, there are not enough of them on this side of the Atlantic -- will know of the character Amy Farrah Fowler, the nerdy girlfriend of one of the show's lead characters, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons).

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What those fans might not realise is that the actress who plays Amy, Mayim Bialik, is the same one who starred in the title role of the cheesy 1990s youth sitcom 'Blossom'.

Bialik, then aged 15, played the role of precocious teen Blossom Russo for five years, but, apart from guest-star work in other TV shows, she then semi-retired from acting to study at Yale and Harvard.

In 2008, Bialik returned to acting, while completing a PhD in neuroscience. So it seemed fitting that one of Dr Bialik's first roles back on TV was playing a PhD grad on 'The Big Bang Theory'.

In fact, long before she was even cast, Bialik was name-checked by one of the show's male characters because he found it so remarkable that Blossom now held a doctorate.

Not every former child star can make it in movies as an adult like Drew Barrymore, Kirsten Dunst, or Jodie Foster, so television often offers a better and more stable source of work for many actors who have survived that difficult transition to grown-up roles.

With that in mind, observant telly watchers might have spotted these former child stars popping up in some of their favourite TV shows.

Jason Bateman

Bateman started out acting at age 12 with guest spots on 'Little House on the Prairie' and 'Knight Rider', before landing bigger roles in 'Silver Spoons' (as Schroder's bad-influence friend) and 'Valerie and The Hogan Family' (his real-life sister Justine Bateman, meanwhile, was playing Mallory on 'Family Ties').

Something of a teen idol, Bateman starred in 'Teen Wolf Two', but his career stumbled badly in late adolescence.

It was only after getting the lead role in the short-lived but highly acclaimed sitcom 'Arrested Development' that Bateman got back on track to become the significant movie star he is today, with roles in the likes of 'Juno', 'Horrible Bosses' and, his most recent effort, 'The Change-Up'.

Ricky Schroder

The little blonde star of the classic movie weepie 'The Champ' went on to star in the early 1980s sitcom 'Silver Spoons' for five years, before vanishing into ignominious TV movie obscurity.

However, Schroder pulled off an adult comeback in 1998 by replacing Jimmy Smits in gritty cop drama 'NYPD Blue'. He then bagged recurring roles on 'Scrubs' and 'Strong Medicine', and in series seven of '24', playing Kiefer Sutherland's terrorist-hunting partner.

Neil Patrick Harris

Who could forget 'Doogie Howser MD'? Airing from 1989 to 1993, this drama series about a genius teenage doctor starred Neil Patrick Harris in the title role. Hopes were high for the then 16-year-old star, but his career didn't play out as glitteringly as planned.

Still, Harris worked consistently in single episodes of other shows such as 'Roseanne', 'Murder She Wrote' and 'Will and Grace', as well as in musical theatre.

But Harris really came back into the mainstream playing the womanising Barney Stinson on the hit US sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother'.

The role has earned him multiple awards, as well as other high-profile gigs such as hosting the Emmy and Tony (theatre) Awards to high praise -- head to YouTube to check out his opening number, 'Not Just For Gays Anymore!', from this year's Tonys.

Hayden Panettiere

Before she was the iconic cheerleader Claire Bennett on the since-departed sci-fi action hit 'Heroes', Panettiere had a recurring role on the comedy series 'Malcolm in the Middle'.

However, her first major break came on the late 1990s comedy 'Ally McBeal', in which the then-13-year-old played the long-lost daughter of Calista Flockhart's title character.

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