Advertisement

15 Beloved Actors Who You Might Not Realize Started Their Careers At A Pretty Young Age

In Hollywood, there are a ton of people everyone thinks of when you hear the phrase "child actor." Whether it's Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Macaulay Culkin, Drew Barrymore, or more, certain actors just come with the reputation of having started their careers as famous children.

But, then there are some actors who have become so well-beloved as adults, you might not realize they've been working in the entertainment industry since they were kids. So, below are 15 actors who you might not realize started their careers pretty young, too:

1.First, after touring on stage alongside her parents, Julie Andrews made her professional solo debut at the London Hippodrome singing "Je Suis Titania" when she was only 12 years old. Then, a year later, she became the youngest solo performer to be featured in a Royal Variety Performance in front of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

julie as a child singing on stage

Of course, Julie received worldwide recognition when she starred as Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins in 1964 at 29 years old. She won an Academy Award for her work, too.

Keystone / Getty Images, Axelle / FilmMagic

2.Naya Rivera achieved widespread recognition for her work as Santana Lopez in Glee, but she actually started her career when she was four years old. In 1991, she landed the role of Hillary on The Royal Family. She even received a Young Artist Award nomination for Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress Under Ten.

closeup of a young naya on the show

3.Jonathan Bailey started his career at seven years old when he shared the role of Tiny Tim and young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1995. His first onscreen appearance came when he appeared in the TV show Bramwell a year later.

closeup of a child Jonathan in the role

4.At just 15 years old, Ryan Reynolds began starring as Billy in the Canadian teen drama Hillside, known as Fifteen in the US, in 1991. The show ran for four seasons. After starring in a string of comedies, Ryan landed the role of Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and starred opposite Sandra Bullock in The Proposal in 2009.

closeup of a teen Ryan in the show

5.Regina King started her career when she was 14 years old when she landed the role of Brenda on the TV series 227. She starred on the show alongside Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, Jackée Harry, and more for all five seasons. Regina went on to star in movies like Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice, and more before landing what is considered her breakout film role in Jerry Maguire.

closeup of her young character with curled bangs

6.Gabriel Macht, who is best known for playing Harvey in Suits, started his acting career at the age of eight when he starred in the movie Why Would I Lie? The role even earned him a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Young Motion Picture Actor. He was credited as "Gabriel Swann," with Swann being his middle name.

him as a child with a bowl cut

Of course, as mentioned above, Gabriel's big role came in 2011 when he began starring as Harvey Specter in Suits. He starred in the show until the series finale in 2019.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images, Lionel Hahn / Getty Images

7.While she's well-known for her roles as an adult, Carla Gugino first started acting when she was only 17 years old when she appeared in episodes of shows like Saved by the Bell, Who's the Boss?, Doogie Howser, M.D., and more.

her character with curly teased hair in the 80s

8.Jeff Bridges made his first onscreen appearance as a baby in the 1951 movie The Company She Keeps. Then, he appeared alongside his brother Beau Bridges and their dad on the TV shows Sea Hunt and The Lloyd Bridges Show between 1958 and 1963.

In 1972, at just 23 years old, Jeff was nominated for his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Last Picture Show. He's been nominated seven times over the course of his career, and he won Best Actor in 2010 for his work in Crazy Heart.

9.Laurence Fishburne, who was credited as Larry Fishburne during the beginning of his career, actually started acting when he was 11 years old. He first appeared in If You Give a Dance You Gotta Pay the Band before landing the role of Josh Hall on One Life to Live.

him as a kid in the role, wearing a denim jacket with an Afro

10.Melanie Lynskey made her movie debut when she was only 17 years old when she starred in Heavenly Creatures alongside Kate Winslet. Then, she went on to appear in a series of beloved movies like But I'm a Cheerleader, Coyote Ugly, Sweet Home Alabama, and more.

Recently, Melanie has earned critical acclaim for her work in Yellowjackets, with her role as adult Shauna earning her two Emmy Awards nominations and the 2022 Critics' Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series.

Recently, Melanie has earned critical acclaim for her work in Yellowjackets, with her role as adult Shauna earning her two Emmy Awards nominations and the 2022 Critics' Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series.

Miramax / Everett Collection, Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

11.Sarah Jessica Parker's career began when she was cast in Annie on Broadway in 1977 when she was 12 years old. She started out playing the role of June before replacing Andrea McArdle as Annie. Her first onscreen credit came when she starred in the short-lived sitcom Square Pegs.

closeup of sarah jessica parker with hair cut at her ears

12.Brie Larson's first onscreen appearance was in 1998 when she was only nine years old. She appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in various sketches. She then went on to land a role on the series Raising Dad and appeared in movies like 13 Going on 30, Right on Track, and Hoot.

a young brie with short hair and bangs

13.After doing some voice acting, Penn Badgley made his first onscreen appearance in an episode of Will & Grace in 1999 when he was 13 years old. He then went on to star in The Young and the Restless before landing his breakout role in Gossip Girl in 2007.

his young character with his tie undone on his school uniform

Penn starred on Gossip Girl as Dan Humphrey until 2012, while also appearing in movies like Easy A. In recent years, he's become best known for playing Joe Goldberg in Netflix's You.

NBC, Marc Piasecki / WireImage / Getty Images

14.Kurt Russell began his acting career when he was just 12 years old when he began starring in The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. Then, at 15 years old, he signed a reported 10-year contract with the Walt Disney Company and made 12 feature films with them.

closeup of his young character sitting in hay and wearing suspenders

While starring in The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, Kurt met Goldie Hawn, who appeared as a dancer and it was her first film credit. The duo would later begin dating and have been in a relationship since 1983.

ABC / Everett Collection, Eric Charbonneau / Getty Images for Apple TV+

15.And finally, Elizabeth Taylor, who is still considered one of the most popular classic Hollywood actors, started her career when she was 10 years old. Elizabeth appeared in a series of small roles in various movies, before starring as Velvet in National Velvet alongside Mickey Rooney when she was 14.

Elizabeth went on to have, simply put, an iconic career starring in movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer, Cleopatra, The Taming of the Shrew, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and more. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress five times and won twice.

We can't fit everyone into one list, so which other actors were you kind of surprised to find out started their careers as children? Tell us in the comments below!