Your Favorite ’80s Child Stars: Where Are They Now?

Whether you grew up watching sitcoms every weekend in the 1980s, or if you’ve just recently discovered 80s TV and film, it was certainly the era of the child actor.

From Saved By the Bell to Baywatch, all of us enjoy the camp and nostalgia of ’80s classics.

But have you ever wondered what some of your favorite ’80s child stars are doing today? Are they still acting? Which famous actors today actually got their start in the 1980s? Or, have they transitioned careers completely?

In this post, we will highlight the sometimes sad, sometimes uplifting comparison of young ’80s stars then and now.

Who knows?

Maybe soon, another one of the top child stars of the ’80s will make a comeback.

  1. Keshia Knight Pulliam

Despite the dark cloud hanging around The Cosby Show now, in its heyday, it was celebrated as one of the biggest hits of the 1980s.

Few stars stood out quite like Keshia Knight Pullman, who won over audiences everywhere are Rudy Huxtable.

In fact, she was the youngest actress ever to receive an Emmy Award nomination — so it’s safe to say that critics noticed her acting chops, too.

After a bit of a break from the entertainment world following The Cosby Show’s end, Pulliam starred on House of Payne.

She is also an outspoken advocate for equality in the film and television industry, frequently lending her voice towards supporting more roles for women of color.

  1. Melissa Gilbert

Many people don’t know that the child actress who played Laura Ingalls on the hit television series Little House on the Prairie was adopted by a family who was already in the entertainment business.

Her adoptive mother was the daughter of the creator of another popular show, The Honeymooners.

Gilbert played the role of Laura Ingalls for about ten years. She became even more famous when she entered into a relationship with ’80s heartthrob Rob Lowe.

Sadly, their engagement ended in no small part due to Gilbert’s struggles with a drug and alcohol addiction. Gilbert entered treatment and has been sober since 2004.

Since then, Gilbert has served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild and romanced many more Hollywood celebs, including Tom Cruise and Billy Idol.

In 2012, she landed a role on Dancing With the Stars and even ran for Congress in 2016!

  1. Jeff Cohen

It’s almost impossible to think about the 1980s without thinking about one of the most famous movies of all time: The Goonies.

Especially memorable in the film was Jeff Cohen, who starred in the 1985 cult classic as Chunk, the creator of the infamous Truffle Shuffle.

Cohen rode the wave of his Goonies success for a few years after the film, but he is one of the 80s child actors whose appearance has drastically changed since his most famous role.

Formerly heavyset, Cohen lost a ton of weight, which made it much tougher for him to land the roles he was previously typecast for. The weight loss was the result of years of playing high school football.

As Cohen got older, he decided that he wanted to return to Hollywood, but in a different way. He became a successful entertainment lawyer and is one of the most successful professionals in his field to date.

  1. Drew Barrymore

As one of the most recognizable names on our list of ’80s child stars, Drew Barrymore has clearly kept her career alive since her breakout role as Gertie in the film E.T. 

However, life for Barrymore wasn’t always easy.

Sadly, Barrymore also battled a highly publicized drug and alcohol addiction that began before she was even a teenager and continued well into the 1990s. Still, after time in rehab, she was able to maintain a successful film career, especially in films like The Wedding Singer and Ever After.

She has been nominated for Golden Globes and Emmy Awards, among other accolades.

Now, Barrymore continues to act, is interested in photography, and has a huge influence on the fashion scene in Hollywood and beyond.

  1. Jason Bateman

Another one of today’s successful ’80s TV stars is none other than Jason Bateman, who was also in Little House on the Praire as well as other 80’s TV shows like The Hogan Family.

Perhaps most notably, he achieved teen heartthrob status for his role in the movies Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf 2. 

Unfortunately, like many others on this list, success had both positive and negative impacts on Bateman’s career for many years. He too struggled with a devastating addiction to cocaine that lasted for much longer than his trademark babyface would lead many to believe.

His perceived innocence, he has since stated in interviews, was in many ways what allowed him to continue with his addiction for so long.

He didn’t act for many years while struggling with addiction and fighting his demons.

However, he is most known today for his incredible success on the television show Arrested Development. He has also starred in OzarkGame NightDodgeball, and countless others.

He is now also an accomplished film director in his own right.

Curious About What Happened to More of Your Favorite ’80s Child Stars?

Now that you know what some of the most popular ’80s child stars are up to, what other 1980s celebrities are you curious about?

From music to fashion, much of the legacy of the ’80s is still alive and well today. So, the next time you wear shoulder pads, listen to Madonna or read about whatever crazy thing Dustin Diamond has gotten himself into next, remember what life used to be like in the ’80s.

Want to learn more about what your favorite old stars from different decades are up to?

We’re all about nostalgia and the retro lifestyle. Keep checking back in with our blog for more updates about all things ’80s.


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