It’s not uncommon to see a salacious story about a child actor – past or present – featured on gossip TV or in the tabloids. However, these stories that make us cringe aren’t the only outcome for young performers. There are the others who remain grounded as they grow up in front of a camera or on a stage. There is one common thread that runs through these success stories: a strong, healthy, balanced support system.
Acting wasn’t something Ashley Johnson set out to do, per se. At 6 years old, she accompanied a couple of friends on one of their auditions. Seeing her in the waiting room, the casting director invited her to read for the part and she landed it. The following year she’d take on the role of Chrissy Seaver on Growing Pains. Today, she’s portraying Agent Patterson on NBC’s Blindspot. In discussing her career as a child actor in a TV Insider article, Ashley said, “The whole time, my parents had the mentality of ‘Have fun while you’re doing it, and if you ever don’t like it, you can always do something else.’ It was never a big deal in our home, and I think that helped make me semi-not-go-crazy. They did such a great job of making it feel like I was still a kid.”
Natalie Portman began modeling at 11 years old. At 13, she hit the big screen as Queen Amidala in the Stars Wars prequels. Natalie also credits her parents with keeping her grounded as a child actor. In fact, in a 2011 interview explains that her parents were a bit tentative about acting as a career plan. They encouraged her to pursue her education (Natalie is a Harvard grad with a degree in psychology.) “They are amazing parents who listen to me and respect what I say, and the reason I’m not totally crazy is I know they’re home, happy, loving me and proud of me no matter how badly I fail. If you have that in your life you feel free to do anything,” she explained in the interview.
Melissa Joan Hart
At 15, Melissa Joan Hart found fame playing the titular role in Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All. When she looks back on her career, she’s too lists her parents approach to her career as a grounding factor. Acting was something she wanted to do. She once told USA Today, “My parents let me explore that. They weren't interested in it themselves. They were trying to protect me. It became my mom's job to take me on auditions. She didn't want to be rich and famous."
These three actors mirror the sentiments of others who found a way to balance fame with childhood. To start, their parents followed their child’s lead into the industry (read: don’t want this more than your kid does.) and made it clear that this was just something fun to do for as long as it was fun. This lack of pressure, in addition to helping their children maintain aspects of their regular home life and friendships, help keep the job in prospective.
When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. ~ Walt Disney