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11 Top Child Stars Who Transitioned From TV To The A-List

Happy Days with Ron Howard

When we look back over the last 30 years of performers some of the current most well-known A-list actors didn’t get their start because of a big break in a blockbuster film. Instead the likes of Justin Timblerlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, and many others got their start on television.

While Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club was by far the biggest creator of talent from the 1970s through the 1990s, other shows also helped launch the careers of A-List actors. Remember Leonardo DiCaprio on Growing Pains? How about Ron Howard on The Andy Griffith Show.

Growing up in the public eye is not an easy thing to do as many young performers end up having serious emotional problems. Just take a look at Lindsey Lohan who is in the headlines frequently for her run-ins with the law or Demi Lovato who spent some time in rehab recently due to personal issues. Then there is Miley Cyrus who is in tabloid headlines repeatedly lately due to her wild party ways and her relationship troubles with fiance Liam Hemsworth.

While problems most often plague child actors whose stars burn out before their prime, some are able to move on and succeed at their craft.

The following is a list of the top 11 child stars who successfully transitioned from TV to the A-List. From sappy TV shows (Mickey Mouse Club, Degrassi: The Next Generation), to hit series (Growing Pains, The Andy Griffith show), these celebrities rose above their childhood fame and have reached a level of international fame known as the A-List.

Drake (Degrassi: The Next Generation)

Drake in Degrassi

Photo Credit: Drew

Drake is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and actor. He became known for playing Jimmy Brooks on the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation. He later became a rapper and has sold over $5 million albums worldwide. He has won a Grammy Award and several other important accolades. He also holds some important Billboard records.

Leonardo diCaprio (Growing Pains)

Leo DiCaprio Growing Pains role.Photo: Twitter

Leonardo diCaprio or Leo as he is also known started in show business doing television ads before landing starring roles in the shows Santa Barbara and Growing Pains. Leo had several prominent roles after his TV appearances until he made it big in James Cameron’s Titanic in 1997.

Ryan Gosling (Mickey Mouse Club)

Ryan Gosling Child Star in Mickey Mouse Clug
Photo Credit: Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling is a Canadian actor, director, musician, and writer. He began his career as a child star in the Disney program Mickey Mouse Club during its 1993-1995 airing. After his success in the Club, he starred in several family oriented shows until he got his first major role in the romantic drama The Notebook in 2004. Now, he is an Award nominated actor who is in high demand. for leading men roles.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock From the Sun)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt child starPhoto: gdcgrapphics

He appeared in several TV shows the best known of which was 3rd Rock From the Sun. Gordon-Levitt began acting at age 6 and now is an American actor, producer, director, and writer. He played Tommy Sullivan on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Most recent hits include roles in Lincoln, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises.

Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Houser)

Neal Patrick Harris Child ActorPhoto: Tom Sorensen

Harris is an American actor, producer, director, singer, and magician. He was discovered by playwright Mark Medoff when he was a child. His best known role was in the TV show Doogie Dowser M.D. He is an award winning performer that has had several successful roles on TV, the big screen, and theater.

Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen (Full House)

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen twins child starsPhoto:David Shankbone

Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen are two of the best known child actors. They were part if the incredibly successful and popular sitcom of the nineties Full House in which they played adorable Michelle Tanner in a shared role. As adults the twins have been focused on a fashion career which included girls fashion lines as well as couture.

Justin Timberlake (Mickey Mouse Club)

Justin Timberlake successful child starPhoto: Gregxscene

Justin Timberlake is another successful former member of Disney’s Mickey Mouse club. He also appeared in the show Star Search as a child. In the late nineties he rose to prominence in the music industry as part of the boy ban ‘N Sync. Now a solo artist, actor, businessman, and singer song-writer, he has recently released his popular album The 20/20 Experience.

Ron Howard (Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show)

Ron Howard director after starting as child starPhoto: David Shankbone

Ron Howard’s most iconic role as a TV star is the sitcom Happy Days, but he appeared in the Andy Griffith Show for eight seasons prior to that. He made his directorial debut in 1977 with Grand Theft Auto and has won several Academy Awards with movies such as Cocoon, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind.

Britney Spears (Mickey Mouse Club)

Britney Spears child star singerPhoto: Glenn Francis

Britney Spears is one of the most recognized names in the music industry. She started in the Mickey Mouse Club. Her earlier hit singles include Oops!…I Did It Again and Baby One More Time. She is a Grammy winning artist and currently is working on a new album.

Christina Aguilera (Mickey Mouse Club)

Christina Aguilera child starPhoto: Nick Stepowyg

Christina Aguilera is yet another member of the Mickey Mouse Club who has made the A-list. Her single Beautiful helped propel her career with the public. Aguilera’s powerhouse voice has made her one the most iconic artists in pop culture. She will be a judge in the reality TV show The Voice for Season Five.

Jason Bateman (Little House on the Prairie)

ason Bateman started as a child starPhoto: Tom Sorensen

He started his career in Little House on the Prairie, playing an orphan boy who is adopted by the Ingalls. His first high-profile appearance came as a teen actor in Silver Spoons and The Hogan Family. In 2000 he received a Golden Globe for his performance in Arrested Development.

These artists are all important parts of different areas of show business and continue to amaze fans with their talents.

Did you know that some of these A-listers started as child stars?

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