WHERE ARE THEY NOW: The biggest child stars of the '80s

Fotos International/Archive Photos via Getty Images, Michael Tullberg/Getty ImagesJaleel White, then and now.
  • Some child stars quit acting altogether, like “The Goonies” star Jeff Cohen, who became an entertainment lawyer.
  • Others, like Danica McKellar from “The Wonder Years,” continue to act while also pursuing other passions.
  • Alyssa Milano rose to household name status in “Charmed” after getting her start on “Who’s The Boss?” at 10 years old.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Some child actors who make it big stay in the business and continue acting into their adult years. Others leave Hollywood behind and pursue other passions. And then there are those who occasionally venture back into television and movie appearances, but live relatively normal lives.

Here’s what 13 child stars from the 1980s are doing now.


Soleil Moon Frye held the titular role in “Punky Brewster.”

Gene Arias/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty ImagesSoleil Moon Frye as Punky Brewster.

The show aired from 1984 to 1988.


Frye has continued acting, mostly through voiceover work.

Earl Gibson III/Getty ImagesSoleil Moon Frye.

Frye has lent her voice to characters in “Robot Chicken,” “The Proud Family,” and “Bratz” movies.


Jaleel White started playing Steve Urkel on “Family Matters” in 1988 when he was 12 years old.

Fotos International/Archive Photos via Getty ImagesJaleel White as Steve Urkel.

Steve Urkel was only supposed to be on one episode of “Family Matters,” but White ended up playing him for nine seasons due to the character’s popularity.


He’s continued acting, appearing in numerous television shows and movies such as “Dreamgirls.”

Michael Tullberg/Getty ImagesJaleel White in 2019.

Recent television appearances include “Raven’s Home,” “The Big Show Show,” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”


Sean Astin starred as Mikey Walsh in “The Goonies” when he was 14.

Warner Bros.Sean Astin in ‘The Goonies.’

“The Goonies” premiered in 1985.


Astin landed another iconic role in adulthood as Samwise Gamgee in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Getty Images / Neilson BarnardSean Astin.

He has since appeared in TV shows such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Stranger Things,” and “Supergirl.”


Jeff Cohen also got his big break in “The Goonies.”

Warner Brothers/Getty ImagesJeff Cohen shouting through a hole in the door in a scene from ‘The Goonies.’

Cohen played Chunk, a clumsy, accident-prone member of the gang who originated the “Truffle Shuffle.”


Cohen stopped acting, but stayed in the industry as an entertainment lawyer.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Entertainment WeeklyJeff Cohen in 2013.

He attended Berkeley and earned his law degree from UCLA, then cofounded the entertainment law firm Cohen Gardner in 2002.


Danica McKellar played Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years” from 1988 to 1993.

Walt Disney Television via Getty ImagesDanica McKellar and Fred Savage, stars of ‘The Wonder Years.’

Before “The Wonder Years,” McKellar appeared on episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.”


McKellar has continued acting, but she also received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from UCLA and wrote four bestselling maths books.

AP ImagesDanica McKellar.

As an undergraduate, she coauthored a new mathematical physics theorem that was named the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem. She has also appeared in Hallmark movies and done voiceover work for “Young Justice” and “Transformers: Rescue Bots.”


Her former co-star, Fred Savage, began acting at age 9.

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty ImagesFred Savage in 1988.

He starred in “The Princess Bride” in 1987, then got cast as Kevin Arnold in “The Wonder Years” in 1988.


Savage is still acting, but he also works behind the camera as a director.

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty ImagesFred Savage in 2019.

Most recently, Savage played Max Adler in “Friends from College” and has done voiceover work for “American Dad!” He’s also directed episodes of “Modern Family,” “Black-ish,” and “The Connors.”


Alyssa Milano began starring on “Who’s the Boss?” in 1984 when she was 10 years old.

ABCAlyssa Milano on ‘Who’s the Boss?’

Milano played Tony Danza’s daughter, a character named Samantha Micelli.


She went on to become a household name playing Phoebe Halliwell in “Charmed,” and a prominent activist in the #MeToo movement.

Rich Fury/Getty ImagesAlyssa Milano.

Milano, one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, attended the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings where Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. She often attends protests for various progressive causes.


Lisa Bonet played Denise Huxtable Kendall on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1991.

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty ImagesLisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable Kendall in 1987.

She started acting in commercials at 11 years old, and landed her breakout role on “The Cosby Show” at 16.


After her time in television, Bonet starred in high-profile movies such as “Enemy of the State” and “High Fidelity.”

Daniele Venturelli/Getty ImagesLisa Bonet.

She’s also had small roles on “Girls” and “New Girl.”


Peter Billingsley played Ralphie Parker in the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” in 1983.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty ImagesPeter Billingsley sits on Santa’s lap in ‘A Christmas Story.’

Young Ralphie asked Santa for an “official Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.”


Billingsley now works behind the scenes as a producer.

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty ImagesPeter Billingsley in 2018.

He’s worked as a producer on “Iron Man,” Four Christmases,” and “The Break-Up,” and directed the romantic comedy “Couples Retreat.”


Corey Feldman played Regi Tower in “The Bad News Bears” from 1979 to 1980.

Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty ImagesCorey Feldman in1987.

He started acting in commercials at 3 years old.


Feldman wrote a book about his time in Hollywood called “Coreyography: A Memoir,” released in 2013.

Ben Horton/Getty Images for Rainbow FilmsCorey Feldman.

He has continued to act in indie movies and did voiceover work in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”


Emmanuel Lewis starred as the titular character on “Webster.”

Walt Disney Television via Getty ImagesEmmanuel Lewis in 1983.

“Webster” aired from 1983 to 1989.


Lewis has made a few appearances in movies and television shows since then, and he’s also ventured into music with his own record label.

David Livingston/Getty ImagesEmmanuel Lewis in 2015.

Lewis made a cameo as himself in the movie “Kickin’ It Old Skool” in 2007.


Tracey Gold played Carol Seaver on “Growing Pains” from 1985 to 1992.

Walt Disney Television via Getty ImagesTracey Gold in 1985.

Her acting career began with commercials at age 5.


She has continued appearing in movies and television shows, and she wrote a memoir called “Room to Grow: An Appetite for Life.”

Bobby Bank/Getty ImagesTracey Gold in 2018.

In her book, Gold wrote about growing up in the spotlight and her experience with anorexia.


Jenny Lewis appeared in movies and television shows throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images/Chic DonchinJenny Lewis on ‘Life with Lucy.’

She landed roles in “The Twilight Zone,” “Life with Lucy,” “Webster,” “The Golden Girls,” and “Roseanne,” and made her big screen debut in “Troop Beverly Hills” in 1989.


Lewis switched gears and became a successful musician.

Scott Dudelson/Getty ImagesJenny Lewis performs in 2016.

Lewis was lead singer of the band Rilo Kiley, and then launched her solo career with the album Rabbit Fur Coat in 2006. She released her most recent album, On the Line, in 2019.

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