Child actors have been around for as long as acting itself. Kids are needed to film family scenes, class-room settings, shots of parks and beaches, and then there are some films and shows that revolve around the child leads. With the rise of digital media, the film industry has prospered, and so has the variety of characters in acting. The demand for better and fitting child actors has increased tenfold throughout the last century. In the latter half of the 20th century, this increase in demand resulted in films casting child actors who were perfect at doing their jobs.
Nowadays, with the entertainment industry being as vast and diverse as it is, a lot of people feel that most child actors fail to prove that they are a good fit for their acting job. In Hollywood, this has resulted in an overall negative reputation that some people associate with child actors. You may argue that this is because, nowadays, technology can fill the gaps where actors lack or that the writing is poor. You may be right, but there is no arguing with the fact that in the last century, CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) wasn’t there to save the actors, and they had to stick with the script strictly.
The 90s were part of a golden era of entertainment. Fans of different genres got to enjoy seeing child actors killing the scenes with their adorable and breath-taking performances. From Macaulay Culkin getting his audience on the edge of their seats in Home Alone to Jaleel White being the classic sibling in Family Matters, you just couldn’t get enough of the youngsters’ performances. They were talented, intelligent, and understanding. Behind the scenes, there wasn’t much difference between the adults and the kids, as both were equally engaged with their work.
Not every child star from the 90s grew up to become a big name in the industry. A lot of the child stars pursued other interests in life. However, there are several stars who we are now familiar with as adults, like Haley Osment, Jonathan Lipnicki, and Ariana Richards. Those that did shine in the 90s left a lasting impression on the entertainment industry, regardless of their future careers. They will forever be admired for their significant roles in the film industry.
So, without further ado, get ready for a ride back in time as we present our top 5 picks from the child TV stars of the 90s.
1. Leonardo Dicaprio
The start of Leonardo Dicaprio’s career was much humbler than how diverse and exciting his later acting projects would be. He initially played in low budget films like Critters 3 in 1991. He had to work his way through various smaller projects for some years, but it all paid off when he finally rose to prominence in the mid-90s and performed in several films as the leading actor.
He is famous for his particularly varied childhood roles, ranging from a mentally unstable youth in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) to a gunslinger in The Quick and The Dead (1995). Among various other characters, he also played the role of a drug addict in The Basketball Diaries and as Romeo Montague in 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. With his memorable performance in 1997’s Titanic, he overshadowed all his previous fame once and for all.
2. Christina Ricci
Christina Ricci rose to fame due to her exemplary role as a morbid-creepy sort of character. Her works include The Addams Family film, playing Kathleen in the 1995’s Casper, and she even got to play Jessica in The Cemetery Club. Among these, she received critical appreciation for her meticulous portrayal of Wednesday Addams in TheAddams Family.
She made her screen debut when she was 9, by playing Kate Flax, in the 1990’s Mermaids film. As she grew up, she showed off her healthy and cheerful nature, visiting different TV shows as guest host and playing diverse roles. During her comedy TV series Now and Then, aired in 1996, she was known to have become best friends with Gaby Hoffmann.
3. Natalie Portman
At the age of 11, she was discovered by an agent in a pizza parlor. Initially, she was set for a modeling career, but she later decided that acting was a better choice for her. This was a wise decision considering how she rose to fame in just a few years. She took part in several live performances, but her real career kicked off due to her amazing film debut in Léon: The Awakening (1994). Her other films from the decade include Mars Attacks, where she played the role of Taffy Dale, Heat, where she performed as Lauren Gustafson, and Beautiful Girls, where she was Marty.
By the end of the 90s, Portman’s career seemed to reach the skies with her staggering performance in the highly loved Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. She would continue to receive more and more popularity as she took part in the whole trilogy. The series earned an astounding $431 million, part of which was, no doubt, because of the flawless character of Queen Amidala, which happened to be Portman’s role.
Later in her life, she would mark her fame by earning the Academy Award for Best Actress. Natalie Portman has had a long and hard-working career to reach the status that she’s currently at. Her story is an ideal success story that illustrates the slow steps of a child TV star in becoming a worldwide celebrity.
4. Danielle Fishel
Born in Arizona, Fishel’s acting life began at the age of 10. Her early career mostly consisted of making guest appearances in TV shows. She has also been featured in several commercials. Her natural charisma and ability to fit in the acting environment became evident when she was cast as a guest star on Boy Meets World and was found to add such a shine to the show that she was then cast as a permanent member.
Watching Cory and Topanga grow up along with ourselves made sure that we never forget them. As the teens grew, their relationship and chemistry with each other also flourished and created a stronger bond with the audience. Danielle does not have records of big films or rewards to adorn her name, but she is the living example of the fact that what matters is what you make of the role that you are given, not how many roles you play.
5. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris made his debut in the late 80s. In the 90s, his acting capabilities were truly seen by the world when he was chosen as the lead role in Steven Bocho’s TV series DoogieHowser, M.D., where he played the role of a teen prodigy doctor working at a local hospital. The series lasted for four years and rightfully earned Harris a People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Male Performer.
After DoogieHowser, M.D., Harris decided to follow his dreams and took up stage acting. Both Starship Troopers and The Proposition are two of his earlier big-screen films that eventually gifted him with the popularity he has gained over the years.