11 Actors Who Followed Directly In Their Famous Parents' Footsteps

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Vote up the actors who did their legendary parents proud.

Many children of celebrities have tried their hand at acting, sometimes following directly in their parents' footsteps. Occasionally they play the same role once played by a parent, or work with the same filmmaker, or sometimes even portray their parent in film or TV. This happens because Hollywood loves a good story. If for no other reason, an interesting backstory involving the making of a movie is something that can be used for promotional efforts. Because audiences also love a good story.

The actors listed below may not have been cast exclusively for their familial connection to a particular role, but it adds another layer to the performance to see them carry on the legacy of their famous parent. Often these opportunities serve as a launching point for the career of the next generation of entertainer in the family. Which actor below do you feel did their parent's legacy proud? Vote up your favorites!

  • “You know. I’ve got a son. And one day, he’s gonna become the most electrifying man in sports entertainment.” - Dwayne Johnson as Rocky Johnson on That '70s Show

    Rocky Johnson was a Canadian professional wrestler who holds the honor of being the first Black Georgia Heavyweight Champion and the first Black champion in the history of the WWF (now the WWE), alongside his tag-team partner, Tony Atlas. When Johnson retired from wrestling in 1991, he shifted his focus to the training of his son Dwayne Johnson, whose eyebrow-raising persona of "The Rock" began to increase in popularity with the fans.

    At the height of The Rock’s fame, the WWF made $120.4 million from a single year of merchandising. Although Dwayne is now one of the highest-paid movie stars, he got his first scripted acting job portraying his legendary wrestler father in a Season 1 episode of That '70s Show titled "That Wrestling Show." The episode debuted in 1999, and the wrestler-turned-actor transitioned to film shortly after this appearance. Johnson passed unexpectedly in January of 2020, which likely gives this initial role additional significance for Dwayne.

  • “All the best of the monsters played for sympathy. That goes for my father, Karloff, myself, and all the others.” - Lon Chaney Jr.

    Lon Chaney may very well be history’s first method actor. Known for withstanding terrible pain to depict grotesque and deformed characters, he would often refuse to remove the contraptions needed to appear this way between scenes, instead using the pain to fuel his portrayal of rage-filled characters. Because of his abilities to transform himself with makeup and creative distortion of his body, Chaney was the natural choice for early attempts at horror cinema. He was best known for his portrayal of the monsters in the silent classics, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, so it was a significant moment in horror when his son was cast to play the lead in The Wolf Man in 1941.

    Born Creighton Tull Chaney, the actor began using the stage name Lon Chaney Jr. shortly before landing this iconic role. Following the release of the classic Universal werewolf film, he would only appear on film with his father’s name. Chaney Jr. went on to play Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Mummy in several other Universal horror films, reprising his role as the Wolf Man for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

  • “I always very much enjoyed arts and it was so central in my family, my mother was also an art teacher, as well as founding the Henson Company with my dad, there was a lot of art going on in our household.” - Brian Henson

    Jim Henson was a legendary American puppeteer and filmmaker best known as the creator of iconic Muppet characters used on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock, as well as directing The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The icon founded the Jim Henson Company, which included the Jim Henson Foundation and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. This company was in the middle of a planned merger with The Walt Disney Company in 1990 when Henson tragically passed at 53 from a virulent form of bacterial pneumonia.

    Along with other siblings, Henson’s third child, Brian Henson, stepped up to take over operating his late father's company. Brian had made several appearances on Sesame Street as a child and began working on puppets and special rigging devices for his father as early as high school. In January of 1991, Brian was named president and chief executive officer of the Henson Company at the age of 27. Although the company was sold to EM.TV in 2000, Brian and his siblings reacquired the Henson Company in 2003 and have owned it ever since. Brian has followed in his father’s footsteps, directing the Melissa McCarthy-led comedy The Happytime Murders, and operating puppets for the 2021 Disney+ special Muppets Haunted Mansion.

  • “He used to tell me to call him Uncle Spike during that time. And then working with him now, it wasn’t Uncle Spike this time, it was Spike.” - John David Washington

    Denzel Washington has starred in four films directed by Spike Lee, including an Academy Award-nominated performance in Malcolm X. That critically acclaimed biopic also served as the first opportunity for Washington’s eldest son to try his hand at acting while visiting the set one day at the age of 7. Lee happened to be filming a climactic scene inspired by Spartacus, in which elementary school students rise to declare, “I am Malcolm X,” and John David Washington was given the chance to be one the kids to say this line.

    It would be 23 years before he would act again, taking the role as NFL star Ricky Jerret on the HBO series Ballers after his own football career came to an end. John David’s acting career came full circle in 2018 when he was cast in the lead role of Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. In the film based on true events, he plays Ron Stallworth, an African American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s after posing as a white supremacist over the phone. The role earned him acting nominations at the 2019 Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

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    Zoe Perry Played Sheldon's Mom In 'Young Sheldon' After Her Mother, Laurie Metcalf, Played The Same Role On 'The Big Bang Theory'

    Zoe Perry Played Sheldon's Mom In 'Young Sheldon' After Her Mother, Laurie Metcalf, Played The Same Role On 'The Big Bang Theory'
    Photo: CBS / CBS

    “We have lots of similarities when it comes to our voices and mannerisms, and I’m lucky that I have that at my disposal - not only for this part, but in general.” - Zoe Perry

    When Zoe Perry was a child, she spent a lot of time on the set of ABC’s Roseanne, which starred her mother, Laurie Metcalf, as the title character’s sister, Jackie Harris. Perry’s first acting role was playing a younger version of her mother’s character for a flashback sequence on the series. History repeated itself when Perry was cast to play Mary Cooper for the prequel series Young Sheldon, a role first established by Metcalf in The Big Bang Theory.

    Metcalf played present-day mother of Caltech physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) in the popular series created by Chuck Lorre (who was also an executive producer on Roseanne), while the spinoff show stars Perry as a younger version of Mary during Sheldon’s formative years growing up in Texas during the early 1990s. Even though the producers were aware of the familial connection and Lorre had known the actor since she was a child, Perry was still put through the usual audition process before she was cast in the role.

  • “I was at an age where I was interested in understanding who he was, so it was my opening into really learning more and doing my own research and asking questions.” - Christopher Wallace Jr.

    Christopher Wallace Jr. was 5 months old when his father - best known by his rap names, The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or simply Biggie - was killed in a drive-by shooting. Rooted in the gangsta rap tradition, Biggie is widely considered to be one of the best MCs to ever live.

    When a biographical drama about the East Coast rapper was being made in 2008, his son, Christopher Wallace Jr., was the perfect age to play a young Christopher Wallace Sr. growing up in Brooklyn, NY. Wallace Jr.'s experience playing his father in Notorious opened him up to learning about Biggie's past, as well as the world of rap. He later adopted the stage names Lil Biggie Smalls and Lil Biggie, before creating techno remixes of Biggie’s classics as Frank White, a nickname of his father.