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16 Former Child Actors Who Switched To Surprising Second Careers

After Drew Barrymore emancipated herself from her mother at 14, she got a job at the Living Room, a coffeehouse near her apartment that "happened to be one of the big LA hot spots at night." Her boss hired her "on the novel idea of having a washed-up former child actor behind the counter." Unfortunately, she wasn't very good at that job.

A lot of celebs — such as Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus — made the transition from child star to a "grown up" career without stepping away from the limelight. Other times, however, a former child actor struggles to make the leap to more mature roles, or they simply want to take a break from Hollywood, so they end up in a job outside of entertainment for a while. Some decide not to get back into performing at all.

Here are 16 child stars who grew up and got "normal" jobs (at least for a little while):

1. The summer before his first semester at the University of Pennsylvania, Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp worked as a lifeguard at a summer camp.

Closeup of Noah Schnapp

He told Flaunt Magazine, "It’s kind of a 'just for fun thing.' I've kind of grown up with a normal life and normal friends and stuff outside of Stranger Things, so it's kind of kept me grounded."

He, of course, continues to appear in Stranger Things. He also starred in the thriller The Tutor.

Screenshot from "Stranger Things"

2. After That's So Raven ended, Anneliese van der Pol was on Broadway and had several other smaller onscreen roles. While living in New York, she also worked in several restaurants to support herself.

Screenshot from "That's So Raven"

On her Big Name Bi*ches podcast, she said, "I was really proud of myself; you had to do a lot of multitasking... [But] the disappointment, the look, the drop of faces when [people] recognized me, was truly gut wrenching. It's almost like I had to say, 'I'm okay. I'm actually really happy that I don't have to audition and am doing something I know I'm good at.'"

She once served fellow Disney Channel alum Ashley Tisdale. Anneliese said, " I wanna say she was lovely, but... She didn't do anything, but she was uncomfortable for me. She was so uncomfortable. It was like I had to [be like], 'I'm fine, girl!'"

In 2017, she made her return to Disney Channel reprising her role as Chelsea Daniels on Raven's Home.

Screenshot from "Raven's Home"

3. As the supporting roles he was booking started paying less, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide actor Devon Werkheiser ran out of his savings. So, when he was about 25, he "got a 9-to-5 for the first time in [his] life."

Screenshot from "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide"

He told Insider, "The only thing I knew to do was to go get some hourly job and start working my way out of my situation... It was a real wakeup call for me. My parents also got divorced around this time, so life really just smacked me around for a while. The next level I'd been trying to get to career-wise wasn't happening, and then my personal life wasn't a walk in the park either. I realized I still had a lot to learn about adult life."

From 2019–2021, Devon and some of his former costars and crew members worked to get an adulthood-focused Ned's Declassified reboot off the ground, but Nickelodeon and Awesomeness TV unfortunately passed and barred them from pitching it elsewhere. However, in 2023, he launched his own podcast, Growing Up with Devon Werkheiser.

Closeup of Devon Werkheiser

4. After six years of vying for the lead in Life of Pi, then not booking it, Mean Girls actor Rajiv Surendra moved to Munich, where he worked as an au pair for a year. Upon his return to Toronto, he started his own small business doing calligraphy, which eventually led him to move to New York. He also did a pottery apprenticeship.

Screenshot from "Mean Girls

In late 2022, he launched his YouTube channel, where he creates DIY, home, and lifestyle content.

Closeup of Rajiv Surendra

5. After Full House wrapped, Andrea Barber left acting for academia. She got her bachelor's in English from Whittier College and her master's in women's studies from the University of York. Then, she got a job at the Whittier College's Office of International Programs as the assistant to the director.

Kimmy Gibbler

She returned to acting over two decades later, reprising the role of Kimmy Gibbler on Fuller House.

Screenshot from "Fuller House"

6. After feeling like he let his high school varsity water polo team down by missing a month of practice to film The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Clayton Snyder decided to retire from acting. He went on to play water polo at Pepperdine University, then play professionally in Italy before becoming a real estate agent.

Screenshot from "The Lizzie McGuire Movie"

He doesn't "shy away" from being recognized as Ethan Craft, but he also doesn't "lean" into it to attract clients.

He told E! News, "I would really like it to be you want to work with me because I'm really good at what I do, and if it's a nice piece of trivia that I'm 'that guy,' then that's wonderful. We've had plenty of clients, where halfway through showing them homes, they're like, 'My wife and I just found out who you are, and we can't believe it!' But that makes me feel good because I know that's not why they're working with me."

He got back into acting about a decade after Lizzie McGuire ended. He actually discussed potentially joining the reboot for Disney+ with Hilary Duff, but the project was canceled before he could even get a script.

Closeup of Clayton Snyder

7. Once The Suite Life on Deck ended, Dylan Sprouse enrolled at NYU. He also worked as a restaurant host.

Screenshot from "The Suite Life on Deck"

On Tumblr, he said, "To clear up the air (which is admittedly pretty rude), I did not take this job because I 'lost all my money.' I am financially secure, and took this job as a way to primarily feed my over bountiful video game addiction. I also [see] this as a way to try a new experience, working somewhat below the means I'm used to, as well as a way to socialize and get out of the house. I feel most comfortable when I'm working and doing something, to criticize someone [for] that is pretty odd."

After graduating, he opened the All-Wise Meadery using the recipes he developed in his dorm room. He also returned to acting with roles in smaller productions like Dismissed and Banana Split.

Closeup of Dylan Sprouse

8. Dylan's twin brother Cole Sprouse also studied at NYU. While studying GIS, which is "basically like a virtual cartography and [he] was applying it to archaeology," he was part of a few excavations around the world. He then "had a job in Brooklyn in some dingy lab in a basement in Williamsburg."

Screenshot from "The Suite Life on Deck"

On Live with Kelly and Ryan, Cole added, "But, then I came back around... The arts called back."

Two years after graduation, he returned to acting, playing Jughead Jones on Riverdale.

Screenshot from "Riverdale"

9. After her Nickeloden series Game Shakers ended, Madisyn Shipman worked a minimum wage job at a gym rather than pursue acting because she thought she needed "real life experience."

Screenshot from "Game Shakers"

She told the Zach Sang Show, "My parents thought it would be a good idea. [My dad's] like, 'You need to have customer service skills for life. This is gonna be beneficial. It's gonna teach you that what you put out into the world isn't what you always get. You've gotta work hard for things, and there's gonna be shitty moments in life, and you gotta get over it.' ... He wanted me to be prepared and have a backup plan in place in case [acting] didn't work out."

She had a few acting roles, but she eventually began making a "lot more" money as a Playboy creator than she did as an actor. She also has a self-funded music career.

Madisyn Shipman

10. Several years after Boy Meets World ended, Danielle Fishel enrolled at California State University, Fullerton. She was also recruited to work at Bloomingdale's after the manager saw her wrapping a wedding gift she'd purchased for a former costar.

Screenshot from "Boy Meets World"

On Pod Meets World, she explained that, at the time, the cashier had shut down the register due to the store being slow and refused to reopen it, so she told her, "I have no problem wrapping it. Can you just give me the materials, and I'll wrap it right here?"

The manager complimented her gift-wrapping skills and gave her his card. She later filled out the application, initially planning to only stay through the holidays, but she ended up keeping the job longer because she was "really good" at customer service.

In college, she also worked as a math tutor, which is how she met her first husband, Tim Belusko.

She also continued to act, most notably reprising her role as Topanga Lawrence in Girl Meets World.

Screenshot from "Girl Meets World"

11. After Drew Barrymore emancipated herself from her mother at 14, she got a job at the Living Room, a coffeehouse near her apartment that "happened to be one of the big LA hot spots at night."

Young Drew Barrymore

In her memoir Wildflower, she wrote, "I wasn't great at my job. I wasn't really great at anything. I had only done two things: acted and had wild life experiences. But neither of those prepares you for the real world... I could tell my boss, who had hired me on the novel idea of having a washed-up former child actor behind the counter, was patient with all my learning curves, but was also irritated with me."

She, of course, got back into acting, next appearing in Motorama and Poison Ivy.

Drew Barrymore in "Poison Ivy"

12. As Ke Huy Quan grew up, he realized that roles for Asian actors were unfortunately rare and therefore very competitive. So, he decided to go to film school at USC as well. After he graduated in 1999, famous action director and choreographer Corey Yuen offered him a stunt choreographer job on X-Men. Following his role in the 2002 Hong Kong film Second Time Around, he didn't act again for almost 20 years. He continued working various positions behind the camera.

Ke Huy Quan in "Goonies"

He told Vulture, "I was happy working behind the camera, but this entire time, something felt missing. When those opportunities dried up, I spent a long time trying to convince myself that I didn't like acting anymore. I didn't want to step away with the feeling that it was because there were no opportunities. I was lying to myself."

Then, the success of Crazy Rich Asians in 2018 inspired him to try again. Within a few weeks of hiring a new agent, he booked Everything Everywhere All At Once, which he went on to win an Oscar for.

Closeup of Ke Huy Quan

13. Alongside acting and screenwriting, Wizards of Waverly Place star Jennifer Stone also became an ER nurse.

She told Deadline, "It still continues to blow my mind — all of the parallels that I have found and continue to learn about [between nursing and acting]. I've been an actor since the age of 6. … For so long, I've developed characters and just explored human nature and what makes people, people. I think it strengthens your sense of empathy, and it strengthens your area of questioning of why people do what they do. It also leads me to an understanding that people are very much the same. Regardless of your background, circumstances, choices, we're all very much the same — and acting gives you that gift. In nursing, you come across so many different kinds of people that to be able to view people that way is such a gift. To be able to say, 'I may not know what you're going through because I personally haven't gone through it, but I can only imagine and I'm here to listen. I'm here to empathize. I'm here with you for whatever you need me to do.' I don't know if I would have been able to do that as effectively without being an actor."

Her most recent acting role is in The In-Between, which she filmed during summer break from nursing school. She also launched her podcast Wizards of Waverly Pod in 2023.

Closeup of Jennifer Stone

14. Kay Panabaker, who appeared in many Disney Channel projects, retired from acting after Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva la Fiesta! However, she went on to become an Associate Animal Keeper at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

Kay Panabaker

She told Naperville magazine, "I no longer had that love, that passion. With Summerland, I loved going to work. I guess my discontentment started several years later on another TV show I was on. By contrast, it wasn't a good experience. The cast didn't seem to love it. The producers didn't seem into it. The crew was constantly changing. The kicker for me was when a producer told me that they were going to be bringing on a love interest for me, and that I needed to lose weight because of that; I was barely a hundred pounds. I didn't think this was a good reason for a character to lose weight... I was 21 at the time the show ended. I spent a couple years after that in LA, still auditioning, but the passion wasn't there. With my parents' help, I began to re-evaluate my life. I went back to school and entered an 18-month animal program in Gainesville, Florida at Santa Fe College. I did an internship at Disney World, and then I was hired... Looking back, finding my true passion was worth all of the extra time."

15. Blossom star Mayim Bialik never fully stopped acting, but she balanced her career with academics, earning a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. She taught neuroscience for five years before getting back into acting full-time.

Screenshot from "Blossom"

On Popcorn with Peter Travers, she said, "The true story is I was running out of health insurance and figured if I could even get a couple of acting jobs here and there, and if it's enough to get you your Screen Actors Guild AFTRA health insurance, we would at least have insurance."

Her Season 3 recurring role on The Big Bang Theory became a regular role in Season 4.

Screenshot from "The Big Bang Theory"

16. And finally, Reed Alexander, who's most well-known for iCarly, is a journalist who currently covers media and entertainment at Insider. Previously, he was a financial reporter. In 2022, he began working at the University of Miami as an adjunct journalism professor.

Screenshot from "iCarly"

Being interviewed as an actor inspired him to pursue a journalism career.

He told the Miami Hurricane, "I recognized that I wanted to be in the position where I could ask the questions and I could write stories and decide what words to use and essentially bring stories to life to viewers."

He reprised the role of Nevel Papperman on Sam & Cat as well as the iCarly revival on Paramount+.

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