Skip To Content

    24 Actors Who Retired Or Took A Loooong Break From Hollywood To Pursue A New Career Path

    The child star to hotshot lawyer pipeline.

    Acting isn't all glitz and glam. Sometimes, actors — especially those who started in the business as children — decide to leave the limelight for more traditional career paths.

    Pop TV / Via

    It's not always a permanent decision. Some decide to get back into acting after a few years, while others have left the limelight for good.

    Here are 24 former actors who went on to have "regular" jobs.

    1. Michael Schoeffling, who played Jake Ryan in 16 Candles, became a furniture maker.

    Jake sits down
    Mca / ©MCA/Courtesy Everett Collection

    He retired from acting in 1991.

    2. Kal Penn, who played Kumar Patel in the Harold & Kumar movies, briefly left Hollywood for Washington, DC when he served as the associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison from 2009–2011.

    Kumar holds us some keys
    New Line Cinema / ©New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

    He took a brief break from the position to film A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

    3. Donnie Dunagan, who voiced the titular character in Bambi at 6 years old, joined the military in his teens and kept his previous acting career a secret until 2005.

    a butterfly lands on Bambi's tail
    Universal Pictures Co. courtesy Everett Collection / Walt Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

    He told the Houston Chronicle that he kept it a secret because he was in a leadership role for 25 years, and if the people he was in charge of found out, "as much affection as I had for it — they'd have ridden me out on a rail."

    4. Carrie Henn, who played Newt in Aliens, never acted in another movie, and when she grew up, she became a teacher.

    Newt looks forlornly at the camera
    20thcentfox / ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

    After she filmed Aliens, her family moved from London back to the US. However, she still attends fan conventions, and she occasionally signs DVDs of the movie for her elementary students. 

    However, in 2020, she had a voice acting role for Thunder Island.

    5. Jennifer Stone, who played Harper on Wizards of Waverly Place, is now a registered nurse.

    Disney / Via Disney+

    She's been fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Currently, she's set to play Sloane in The Perfect Night.

    6. Erik Estrada, who played officer Francis Llewellyn "Ponch" Poncherello on CHiPs, became a real-life police officer in St. Anthony, Idaho.

    He was also an officer on the show
    MGM Television / Via

    He focuses on protecting children from predators online.

    7. Dylan Sprouse, who played Zack Martin on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, runs All-Wise Meadery, a mead brewery in Brooklyn.

    Unlike Zack, Dylan's no slacker
    Disney / Via Disney+

    His business partners are Matt Kwan, a friend he met while studying at NYU, and fellow Disney channel alum Doug Brochu, who played Grady on Sonny with a Chance.

    He returned to acting in 2017 with the movie Dismissed. More recently, he starred in The Curse of Turandot.

    8. Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, founded the nonprofit organization Sweet Blackberry, which creates content to teach children about Black history.

    Hilary tries on her wedding dress
    Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    She also writes children's books.

    9. Kevin Jonas, who acted in Camp Rock and Jonas L.A. alongside his music career with his brothers, worked as a contractor before getting back into music.

    Jason really wanted Shane to make him a birdhouse at camp
    Disney / Via Disney+

    He also co-owns Jonas Werner Fine Custom Homes.

    10. Reed Alexander, who played Nevel Papperman on iCarly, is a financial news reporter.

    Nevel was an enemy of the "iCarly" gang
    Nickelodeon / Via Netflix

    He also published a cookbook.

    He reprised the role of Nevel Papperman on Sam and Cat in 2014 and on the iCarly reboot in 2021.

    11. Phoebe Cates Kline, who played Linda Barrett in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, runs a boutique called Blue Tree in Manhattan.

    Lisa breaks up with Brad before he can dump her
    Universal Pictures / Via

    The boutique takes its name from a common motif in Fauvist paintings.

    12. Rick Moranis, who played Louis Tully in Ghostbusters, became a stay-at-home dad.

    Louis was possessed before the Ghostbusters showed up to save the day
    Columbia Pictures / Via

    He decided to leave Hollywood to raise his children a few years after his wife's death.

    13. Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk in The Goonies, is now a lawyer.

    Chunk was known for being clumsy
    Warner Bros. Pictures / Via

    He founded his own firm in 2002.

    14. Lucas Babin, who played Spider in School of Rock, became the district attorney for Tyler County, Texas.

    He played guitar in No Vacancy
    Paramount Pictures / Via

    His term began in 2019.

    15. Mara Wilson, who played the titular character in Matilda, is now a writer.

    Matilda could move things with her mind
    Sony Pictures Releasing / Via

    She still occasionally does theater.

    16. Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, is now a dairy veterinarian.

    he was in the original version before the Johnny Depp movie
    Paramount Pictures / Via

    He was featured in Pfizer Animal Health's YouTube reality series "Vets on Call."

    17. Danny Lloyd, who played Danny Torrance in The Shining, is now a biology professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

    He was the little boy on a tricycle
    Warner Bros. / Via

    The Shining was Danny's film debut.

    18. Bridgit Mendler, who played Teddy Duncan on Good Luck Charlie, is pursuing a degree at Harvard Law School.

    Disney / Via Disney+

    She previously undertook a social media-focused graduate program at MIT.

    Her last acting project was 2019's Merry Happy Whatever.

    19. Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, became a sergeant in the Air Force Reserve.

    The character's real name was Theodore
    CBS / Via

    During the Vietnam War, he was mistakenly reported as killed in action, despite never being sent outside the US.

    20. Charlie Korsmo, who played Jackie in Hook, is a law professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

    He was captured by Captain Hook
    TriStar Pictures / Via Netflix

    Then-president Barack Obama appointed him to the board of trustees for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation in 2011.

    21. Nikki Blonsky, who played Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, was a makeup artist at Superstar Salon in New York.

    Tracy was Nikki's breakout role
    New Line Cinema / Via

    She earned her cosmetology license before taking up the job.

    She's had a few roles since then. Most recently, she appeared on Life Unfiltered.

    22. Ross Bagley, who played Nicky Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Buckwheat in The Little Rascals, works as a Realtor in Los Angeles.

    Nicky poses against a wall
    Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    23. Teddy Dunn, who played Duncan Kane on Veronica Mars, became a lawyer who now serves as an Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney's Office District of Columbia.

    Teddy casts a wary glance
    Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    He retired from acting in 2009.

    24. And finally, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played the titular role in The Terminator, announced his bid for governor of California on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in August 2003 then served two full terms from 2003–2011.

    the Terminator wearing his signature sunglasses and leather jacket
    Orion Pictures Corporation / Orion Pictures Corporation/Courtesy Everett Collection

    In 2012, he returned to acting as Trent "Trench" Mauser in The Expendables 2