Those of us who grew up in the ’90s would have had very different childhoods without the young stars from our favorite movies and TV shows. From ABC’s TGIF lineup to Nickelodeon’s sketch comedy shows to every single movie and TV special that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen ever made, that decade was a special time for kid-led entertainment. But as magical as those memories still are to us, a lot of the child actors who starred in these ’90s hits have left acting since. And they all had their reasons for walking away. Read on to find out why some of the former child stars you most associate with that era decided to leave Hollywood behind.
RELATED: The Biggest ’90s Child Actors, Then and Now.
In the ’90s, Mara Wilson‘s career was on fire, with movies including Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda, and A Simple Wish. She did not continue acting full-time into adulthood, however. Wilson said in an interview with NPR that she continued acting after her mother’s 1993 death since it was “the only constant” in her life, but that facing rejection as she got older was difficult.
“I was very depressed, I was very anxious, I can barely even remember Matilda coming out,” she said. “I only have vague memories of the premiere, and it was really hard for me. So I think that I definitely became kind of disenchanted with acting, with Hollywood, while, at the same time, it was a crutch for me. It was something where, when it was done, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Though Wilson has continued to lend her voice to animated shows, including BoJack Horseman and Big Hero 6: The Series, these days, she’s more focused on her own writing, including her newsletter.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
After he came into the spotlight by playing one of Tim Allen‘s character’s sons on Home Improvement, Jonathan Taylor Thomas—or JTT, as he was known by his many adoring fans—quickly rose to the ranks of teen heartthrob in movies including Wild America and I’ll Be Home For Christmas. And while he did appear on Allen’s recent sitcom, Last Man Standing, a few years ago, for the most part, he’s totally disappeared from the public eye.
Back in 2013, Thomas explained to People that after working for so much of his childhood, he was ready for a breather and also wanted to go to college.
“I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old. I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break. To sit in a big library amongst books and students, that was pretty cool. It was a novel experience for me,” he said, adding, “It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers.”
Not much is known about what Thomas is up to these days, but he was spotted walking his dogs in Hollywood in June 2021.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
In the ’90s and early ’00s, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen built an empire. What started as a gig sharing the role of Michelle Tanner on Full House spiraled into multiple TV movies, sing-a-long specials, sitcoms, a big-screen feature, merchandise… the list goes on and on. But by the time their teen years were coming to an end, the Olsen twins decided they had enough of being mega stars.
Though Mary-Kate and Ashley rarely do interviews anymore, in 2013, they told Allure that they wanted to have more control over the direction of their careers than they were able to as actors.
“I was reading scripts, and ultimately I just said to the people who are representing me, ‘I need to do things 100 percent. I don’t feel like I can give you 100 percent of my time,'” Ashley said.
“I am not great at not being able to control the end product,” Mary-Kate added.
Today, they’re both focused on their fashion line, The Row, and younger sister Elizabeth Olsen is the actor of the family.
If you’re obsessed with the Halloween classic, you know exactly who Omri Katz is: the actor who played teen protagonist Max in Hocus Pocus. Aside from his encounter with the Sanderson Sisters, he only played a few other smaller roles and then disappeared off the radar entirely. What gives?
Though Katz himself hasn’t explained why he decided to walk away from acting, it seems that he just wanted to live a normal life. The Disney live-action movie he’s famous for must have been a positive experience, since he still gets together with his cast-mates every so often. According to his Instagram, he recently founded his own cannabis company, The Mary Danksters.
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Amanda Bynes was nothing short of a comedy icon in the ’90s and early ’00s, especially to her young female fans. After becoming a breakout star on All That and scoring her own Nickelodeon sketch series, The Amanda Show, Bynes went on to appear in movies like She’s The Man and Hairspray. But her career ended with her role in Easy A—at which point she announced in a tweet that she was retiring from acting altogether.
“I literally couldn’t stand my appearance in that movie and I didn’t like my performance. I was absolutely convinced I needed to stop acting after seeing it,” Bynes told Paper in 2018.
Though Bynes did say she was ready to start acting again at the time of the interview, so far, her comeback hasn’t materialized. She did graduate from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 2019, but she’s been laying low ever since.
Best known for playing Pugsley Addams in The Addams Family and its sequel, Addams Family Values, Jimmy Workman would only play a few small acting roles after that. Since then, he’s preferred to stay behind the scenes, working in the transportation department of several different productions.
Otherwise, it’s hard to say what the former actor has been up to in recent years, other than his involvement in his younger sister’s custody battle after she accused their mother of emotional abuse. The older brother of Modern Family star Ariel Winter, Workman filed for custody of her, though ultimately, her sister, Shanelle Gray, ended up with guardianship, People reported at the time.
Harvey Kinkle, played by Nate Richert, was a major crush object in the ’90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but his fans have certainly noticed that they haven’t seen Richert act in a while. He played other characters in shows including Touched by an Angel and Fantasy Island, but he’s mostly stayed out of the spotlight since his tenure as Sabrina Spellman’s boyfriend came to an end.
When a fan asked Richert on Twitter why he retired from acting, Richert responded that it had to do with his mental health. “Anxiety and subsequent depression were my major game stoppers. Took a decade to learn how to cope and overcome. Back then, all I knew was something was wrong with me, that I was broken and unworthy; all that fantastic BS anxiety likes to ruin your life with. But it didn’t,” he tweeted.
He also shared that, since his days in Hollywood, he has worked as a “maintenance man, a janitor, a carpenter” while writing songs and doing improv on the side.
Andrea Elson (top right) was most famous for playing Lynn on ALF, which she followed up with a few guest starring roles on popular shows like Step by Step, Mad About You, and Who’s The Boss. But after an appearance on Men Behaving Badly in 1997, she never appeared on screen again.
Elson hasn’t shared exactly what prompted her to leave Hollywood, but it seems as though she’s plenty happy with her life outside of the spotlight. Until 2015, she regularly updated her Facebook page, where she described herself as “a wife, mother and world traveling Yoga instructor.”
On Step by Step, Brandon Call played JT Lambert, one of the oldest members of the blended family led by Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy. After the show ended in 1998, he never acted again. One of the reasons why he stepped away from public life may be that Call was seriously injured in a shooting in 1996, for which a teenage suspect was convicted.
Since Call seems to stay off of social media, it’s hard to say what he’s up to now or whether that’s really why he retired. But the Gazette Review reported in 2018 that he was rumored to be working at a San Diego gas station owned by his parents.
Jake Lloyd became instantly famous when he was cast as young Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace, but that fame is part of what led to his decision to retire from acting, as he explained in a 2012 interview with The Sun.
“Other children were really mean to me. They would make the sound of the lightsaber every time they saw me. It was totally mad,” he said. “My entire school life was really a living hell—and I had to do up to 60 interviews a day.”
Lloyd, now 32, has continued to stay out of the spotlight, but in 2020, his mother, Lisa Lloyd, released an update on him via a statement to Geek News Now.
“We would like to thank everyone for their kind words, their support, and goodwill. Jake has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but unfortunately he also has a symptom called anosognosia which causes a lack of insight into his illness,” her statement read. “This only adds to the struggle he faces, which has been very difficult after the tragic loss of his younger sister, Madison. He has moved closer to his family and we are all working hard to help him with this. He is still a kind and caring person and we hope to have him back to his fun and entertaining self as soon as possible. Jake will continue to make progress with the love and support you continue to show.”
RELATED: This Former Child Actor Quit After “Devastating” Star Wars Experience.
Amber Scott‘s only acting role was playing Maggie in the 1991 Peter Pan sequel Hook, though she also lent her voice to a 1995 documentary called The American Experience. Since then, she hasn’t acted at all, though E! News pointed out that a headshot of her as an adult was added to her IMDb page in 2015.
According to the site, Scott has continued to work a little in the entertainment industry, but has stayed off-camera. She was a producer on a short called Cannonball in 2019 and shared with the site for the BlueCat screenwriting competition that she’s mainly interested in writing these days.
“I’m currently working on four projects: a female-driven comedic feature about a hacker who gets revenge on her ex, a full season of a dramedy series on nurses in the Vietnam War, and two shorts (a child of migrant workers who aspires to be a chef, and a supernatural thriller about a haunted hotel room),” she wrote. “I write in many different genres with a wide range of diverse characters, but my focus is on tapping into universal themes that create empathy and feeling.”
You probably remember Jaimee Foxworth as Judy Winslow, the youngest daughter on Family Matters. As an actor, that was her biggest and final role, and it was one that she didn’t walk away from by choice. Judy was written out for budgetary reasons, which threw Foxworth for a loop.
“When I was on Family Matters, I thought the money was never going to stop,” Foxworth told Oprah Winfrey in 2006. “I thought I was never going to be broke. So I say to young girls, always have another option. Try to go for your dreams. Don’t try to be just what you see on TV.”
Foxworth did appear on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2008 and dealt with some serious addiction issues until her son was born in 2009. Today, she seems happy and healthy and frequently shares updates with fans on Instagram.
On The Wonder Years, Josh Saviano played Kevin’s best friend, Paul Pfieffer. When the show ended in 1993, so did Saviano’s time as an actor (save for a role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2016). He opted to go to law school and went on to found Spotlight Advisory Group, which helps entertainers, influencers, and other creatives with their branding and public image.
Saviano has spoken very positively about his time as a child actor and is still close with his Wonder Years family, particularly Danica McKellar and Fred Savage. So it seems that he just had another dream he wanted to pursue.
RELATED: A Former Child Star Just Explained How She “Blew All Her Disney Money.”