Child actor  

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The term child actor or child actress is generally applied to a child acting in motion pictures or television, but also to an adult who began his or her acting career as a child; to avoid confusion, the latter is also called a former child actor. Closely associated is teenage actor or teen actor, an actor who reached popularity as a teenager.


Regulation of child actors

In the United States, the activities of child actors are regulated by the governing labor union, if any, and state and federal laws. Some projects film in remote locations specifically to evade regulations intended to protect the child. Longer work hours or risky stunts prohibited in California, for example, might be permitted to a project filming in British Columbia. US federal law "specifically exempted minors working the Entertainment Business from all provisions of the Child Labor Laws." Any regulation of child actors is governed by disparate state law.


Due to the large presence of the entertainment industry in California, it has some of the most explicit laws protecting child actors. Being a minor, a child actor must secure an entertainment work permit before accepting any paid performing work. Compulsory education laws mandate that the education of the child actor not be disrupted while the child is working, whether the child actor is enrolled in public school, private school or even home school. The child does his/her schoolwork under the supervision of a studio teacher while on the set.

Issues involving child actors

Ownership of earnings

Many child actors never got to see the money they earned. Jackie Coogan earned millions of dollars from working as a child actor only to see most of it squandered by his parents. In 1939, California weighed in on this controversy by enacting the Coogan Law which requires a portion of the earnings of a child actor to be preserved in a special savings account called a blocked trust.

Competitive pressure

Some people also criticize the parents of child actors for allowing their children to work, believing that more “normal” activities should be the staple during the childhood years. Others observe that competition is present in all areas of a child’s life—from sports to student newspaper to orchestra and band—and believe that the work ethic instilled or the talent developed accrues to the child’s benefit.

The child actor may experience unique and negative pressures when working under tight production schedules. Large projects which depend for their success on the ability of the child to deliver an effective performance add to the pressure.


In August 2011, former child star Corey Feldman told ABC's Nightline, “I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia. That’s the biggest problem for children in this industry. … It’s the big secret”. He claims he was abused as a child star, and asserts "The trauma of pedophilia contributed to the 2010 death of his closest friend and “The Lost Boys” co-star, Corey Haim". (Haim's official cause of death was heart failure and pneumonia). Reports The Vigilant Citizen, "Feldman admitted that Haim struggled with addiction but said it was a mechanism to cope with his demons. 'It was a symptom,' he said." The two friends discussed that topic on their reality TV show, The Two Coreys. The Vigilant Citizen further reports: "While Feldman does not directly mention Monarch mind control (which is used on Hollywood child stars and is characterized by systematic sexual abuse), he describes a reality that is very similar to it."

Feldman, a former friend of singer Michael Jackson, was subpoenaed to testify in Jackson's 2005 sexual molestation trial. After Jackson's death, Feldman dedicated a tribute concert, with his band Truth Movement, to his former friend).

In December 2011,The Daily Mail published an article detailing the arrests of two Hollywood players who were accused of pedophilia: Martin Weiss, who a prominent manager of child actors, and convicted sex offender/kidnapper Jason James Murphy, who had been working as a casting director and had helped place child actors in Bad News Bears, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, and Super 8, "films with predominantly young casts". An insert in that article, titled "ARE CHILD ACTORS AT RISK IN HOLLYWOOD OF PEADOPHILES?", states: "The recent arrest of Hollywood manager Martin Weiss has reignited a debate of children’s safety in the TV and film industry."

A December 7, 2011 editorial in Investors Business Daily, one of the media outlets the covered up on these stories, blasted the media, the Catholic Church, and politicians for covering up such scandals:

Child Abuse: Recent charges and past history point to a pedophilia problem in the film industry, yet we rarely hear about it. Why is that, and why doesn't the congressman who represents Hollywood look into it?
It's remarkable how little attention the press and politicians have given abuse of children in the film industry — especially in view of the coverage devoted to scandals in the Catholic Church. But recent events suggest lots of trouble under the surface.


Many actors' careers are short-lived, and this is also true of child actors. Peter Ostrum, for example, is now a successful large-animal veterinarian after a starring role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Most notably, Shirley Temple became a successful public figure and diplomat, eventually becoming U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, then United States Department of State Chief of Protocol under the Nixon Administration, and then in the late 1980s U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Brandon Cruz is a successful punk rocker, after a co-starring role in The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Jenny Lewis, formerly of Troop Beverly Hills, is a well-known indie rock musician, and Kirk Cameron, star of Growing Pains, is now a minister of Ray Comfort's evangelist ministry The Way of the Master.

In other other countries, child actors have gone on to become very successful in other careers. An example are child actor twin identical brothers Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński who became very success politicians in Poland, at one time one being President and the other the Prime Minister at the same time.

However, there are child actors who have achieved successful thespian careers into adulthood. These have included Jodie Foster, whose adult career has earned her two acting Academy Awards; Helen Hunt, whose also her adult career has earned her an Academy Award. Roddy McDowall, who had a long distinguished career including as the regular star of the Planet of the Apes series; Ron Howard, who, in addition to being the star of the long running Happy Days television series, became an Oscar-winning director in adulthood; Elijah Wood, who continued his career successfully into adulthood from playing Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings film series and starring as Ryan Newman in the T.V. series Wilfred. Other child actors who have continued their careers into adulthood include Christina Ricci, Macaulay Culkin and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Post-success troubles

It has been seen in many cases that the failure to retain stardom and success has caused many child actors to lead adult lives plagued by legal troubles, bankruptcy, and drug abuse. Examples include the cast members of the American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, which starred child actors Todd Bridges, Gary Coleman, and Dana Plato.

Plato went on to pose for Playboy magazine and was featured in several softcore pornography films. She was arrested twice for armed robbery and forging prescriptions. She died in May 1999 from an overdose of prescription medication, deemed suicide.

Coleman famously sued his parents for misuse of his trust fund and, although awarded over $1,000,000, filed for bankruptcy in 1999. After many charges of assault throughout the next years, Coleman died in May 2010.

Bridges was plagued with many legal troubles as well as an addiction to cocaine. After breaking this habit, he traveled across the US, touring schools and warning about the dangers of drug abuse. He has since made several cameo appearances on multiple television programs.

The popular television sitcom Full House made child stars out of Jodie Sweetin and the Olsen twins. After the show, Sweetin went on to develop an addiction to methamphetamine, as well as alcoholism. She later overcame this and wrote a memoir describing her experiences. Mary-Kate Olsen developed an eating disorder, for which she was treated with intensive rehab.

Judith Barsi starred in many TV commercials in the 1980s, as well as major voice work in the animated features The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven. However, she suffered at the hands of her alcoholic, abusive father, who in 1988 shot her and her mother dead.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Child actor" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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