Former Child Actors Talk About What It Was Like To Be On Famous Sitcoms
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Many of the most beloved sitcoms to have appeared on American television have been notable for the extent to which they have introduced the world to various child actors and, just as importantly, introduced said children to the art and craft of television performance.
Many child actors who appeared in these series have expressed their thoughts and feelings about what it was like to be in front of the cameras and the world at such a young age. Their comments shed an important light on the rewards - and the perils - of becoming famous while one is also trying to figure out one’s particular identity as a young person.
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Lisa Loring Of 'The Addams Family' Was Too Young To Read And Just Memorized Her Lines
The Addams Family remains one of the most unique and delightfully macabre series to have emerged from 1960s television. Focusing on the titular family and their ghoulish approach to the modern world, it is populated by several outlandish characters, including young Wednesday (who has recently become a pop culture icon thanks to the new Netflix series starring Jenna Ortega).
Lisa Loring, who played the character in the original television series, was quite young at the time of filming. In fact, she was only five when she was cast, and she managed to beat out a much-older actress because of her resemblance to Carolyn Jones, who was already slated to play Morticia Addams. "I learned to memorize before I could read," Loring remarked in an interview.
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Many millennials who grew up in the late 1980s and 1990s were caught up in the appeal of Full House, which focuses on Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner and his three girls. In order to help him raise them, he invites his brother-in-law and best friend to live with him. Of these, John Stamos's Uncle Jesse was the undeniable heartthrob of the show.
However, this wasn’t a sentiment shared by everyone in the cast. Jodie Sweetin, who rose to fame portraying middle daughter Stephanie, had this to say about her co-star’s appeal:
No, they were like family. People always asked, “Oh my God, wasn’t John Stamos so cute?” I’ve known John since I was five. I’ve seen him roll into work in old t-shirts and sweatpants with holes in them, and not looking all that cute. He was always just “John” to me. I know him too well to think he’s hot. He’s a big dork and I love him. You get to know people so well that you’re like, “Oh my God! No, no, no,” when it comes to that stuff. I know he is good-looking, but I’ve seen things, and that would be like having a weird crush on your uncle.
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Many millennials have many happy memories of the TGIF programming block on ABC. One of the most notable, and beloved, of these series was Boy Meets World. Like many of its companion series on the network, this series focused on a group of teens as they navigated the fraught territory of adolescence in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.
Among the characters, Danielle Fishel’s Topanga remains particularly popular, both at the time and since. For her part, however, she was deeply resentful of her last years on the show, since she wanted to get on with her life. Nowadays, however, she has expressed nostalgia for her time on the show:
The last several years, I feel like were tainted by my own feeling of wanting it to be over. And now, I would do anything to go back and have those moments back. Any time in my life, both personally and professionally where I have felt like I'm starting to take something for granted, I remind myself, “You did this with the end of Boy Meets World. Don't do it now, because one day you're going to look back and you're going to wish you had those moments back.” I think it's such an important lesson for teenagers and for me, even now as an adult.
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Roseanne was one of the most lauded sitcoms of the 1980s and early 1990s, thanks to its unflinching look at the life of a struggling working-class family. Of the series’ three children, Sara Gilbert’s Darlene was the most cynical, but in actress Sara Gilbert’s skilled hands, she became one of the show’s beloved characters.
Apparently, however, Gilbert herself could be somewhat difficult, especially when it came to the actor who originally played brother DJ. As she remarked in an interview:
We had a different DJ in the pilot, and the first DJ and I did not get along very well. There was fighting, and it was kind of a problem. When they hired Michael, I just remember thinking, “Oh, I better get along with this kid, otherwise they’re going to get rid of me.”
- Photo: CBS
Though he is now more famous for being a director, Ron Howard got his start on The Andy Griffith Show, one of the most beloved sitcoms of the 1960s. Focusing on Griffith's Andy Taylor and his life in the small town of Mayberry, it also starred the very young Ron Howard as Andy’s son Opie. Howard would go on to have a successful career in television, most notably in the series Happy Days.
Howard has fond memories of his time on the set of The Andy Griffith Show, particularly from the series’ lead:
At every turn, he demonstrated his honest respect for people and he never seemed to expect theirs in return, but wanted to earn it. He taught me a great deal through the examples he set and the approach to our work on the set. I learned about comedic timing, paying off characters in the third act of a storyline, and the equal values of both focused rehearsal and, at particular moments, of total chaotic spontaneity.
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For many people, Who’s the Boss? is notable for its adult stars, including both Tony Danza and Judith Light. It’s also notable for the extent to which it plays with gender, as it stars Danza as a baseball player who moves in with an affluent family in order to be their housekeeper. Like so many sitcoms of the era, it had many child stars, including Danny Pintauro, who played Jonathan Bower, the son of Judith Light’s Angela.
Like many other young actors, Pintauro had to confront the reality he might not always be a star. His parents, in order to ensure he didn’t confront the spiral so frequently encountered by child actors, made sure to stand up for him with the network and the producers. As the actor noted in an interview:
We went to the producers of Who’s the Boss?, and they said, “He’s gonna go to regular actual high school or he’s not coming back to Who’s the Boss?”… Every day for the last like five years of Who’s the Boss?, I went to school every day.
The actor faced a grueling schedule but, as his parents had insisted, he had something to fall back on which wasn’t contingent on his child star status.