Your Favorite 1970s Child Stars: Where Are They Now?
Decades have passed and these former child stars are all grown up. Your favorite kids from 1970s TV and movies are still around — though some have left show biz behind.
Whether they’ve left the spotlight or continued to fight it out in Hollywood, we’ve got the scoop on the most notable child actors and singers from the disco era. Here’s what they’re up to now.
Kids from Hollywood families tend to get into the business young, as Ron Howard did. His role as Steve in American Graffiti helped him to get his defining part, as Richie Cunningham in Happy Days, before leaving acting behind for directing in the ‘80s.
After decades behind the camera, Howard has surpassed his childhood stardom as a filmmaker in his adult years. His production company is responsible for many acclaimed titles, and he’s currently hard at work on the Untitled Han Solo film due out in 2018.
After playing Peter Brady on The Brady Bunch and its spinoffs for most of the ‘70s, Christopher Knight was clearly ready to leave the character behind. But the role continued to follow him around, even in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when he was fully immersed in the world of computer software.
Knight had a slight resurgence in the early ‘00s with his appearance on The Surreal Life, earning his own spinoff, My Fair Brady, alongside then-girlfriend Adrienne Curry. However, he hasn’t appeared on screen much in recent years.
When the popular book series Little House on the Prairie was turned into a TV show, it was with young Melissa Gilbert as the star. Playing Laura Ingalls took most of her childhood, but she continued to act steadily throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, with a significant catalog of TV movies in her repertoire.
Her onscreen career hasn’t thrived much in recent years, but she did make a brief pivot a few years back. In an interesting turn of events, Gilbert ran for Congress in her home state of Michigan but later dropped out due to health issues.
The Partridge Family was a landmark family show of the ‘70s, and Danny Bonaduce was at the center of it all. His role as Danny Partridge led to a moderate film career, but the ‘80s were a low point for him as an actor.
The ‘90s saw Bonaduce switch to a role in radio for awhile, but he made an attempt at a TV comeback in the ‘00s. He also dabbled in wrestling for a time, though he has ultimately had the most longevity as a radio host.
Though Jodie Foster fell into acting accidentally, she was a staple of the 1970s film landscape. She upped the ante with her role in Taxi Driver as a teenage prostitute and became a bonafide star with her turn in Freaky Friday.
As an adult, Foster has continued to take on powerful roles and later began directing and producing. She was honored for her work in 2013 when she received the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award.
Actor Todd Bridges didn’t make it big until the end of the ‘70s when he began starring as Willis Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes. However, following the series’ end in the ‘80s, he struggled to stay afloat, battling addiction and being arrested (and later acquitted) on murder charges.
The 2000s-era trend of attempting to revitalize former child stars helped Bridges a bit, as he appeared on Celebrity Boxing, Fear Factor, and the like. But other than a recurring role on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, Bridges has primarily stuck to independent films and one-off TV appearances for the last couple of decades.
The difficult life of Mackenzie Phillips has been well-documented. Though she became famous for her role on One Day at a Time in the ‘70s, she has come back into the public time and time again for her repeated drug abuse and allegations of sexual abuse against her father.
Phillips’ acting career has been splintered, with her most notable role post-rehab on the early ‘00s Disney series So Weird. Today, she works as a counselor at Breathe Life Healing Center in Los Angeles.
Tatum O’Neal’s career started with a bang — she won an Oscar for her very first role in Paper Moon at the age of 10. From there, she continued to act through the ‘70s and ‘80s, though the gigs became more and more sporadic.
Aside from her long-term roles in Rescue Me and the telenovela Wicked Wicked Games in the ‘00s, O’Neal has remained largely out of the spotlight. Her only credit in the last few years was for an episode of Criminal Minds.
While his career thrived in the mid-70s, Leif Garrett became known as a teen heartthrob. From movies to a music career, Garrett was a major face of the time, but child stardom took its toll.
His drug addiction followed him throughout his life, racking up arrests and stints in rehab throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s. Like many others on this list, his onscreen appearances have mostly been limited to reality TV.
Unlike most, Shaun Cassidy did things a little bit backward: He first became an acclaimed pop star, then transitioned to acting. After his Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, he was cast on The Hardy Boys TV show.
Though his success in the ‘70s was brief, he was able to propel it into a stable career, turning to stage acting before stepping behind the camera to write and produce. Cassidy was a writer and executive producer on the short-lived NBC series Emerald City in 2017.
Little Bugsy Malone did pretty well for himself throughout his younger years. His turn as Chachi on Happy Days led to a brief but memorable spinoff series, Joanie Loves Chachi, and he spent the ‘80s as the eponymous Charles in Charge.
But like many child stars, Scott Baio’s career petered off, though he had a few wins. Apart from guest appearances on shows like Arrested Development and his VH1 reality show Scott Baio Is 45…and Single, he led See Dad Run on Nick at Nite for three seasons. These days, he’s mostly known for his controversial political opinions.
The ‘70s were the decade of the Osmonds. Originally performing with his older brothers, Donny Osmond became a hit solo act and teen idol early in the decade, and later teamed up with his sister for the variety series The Donny & Marie Show.
Osmond bounced around over the next few decades, reinventing his pop image in the ‘80s and appearing on Broadway in the ‘90s. He hosted the game show Pyramid in the early ‘00s and was the winner of Season 9 of Dancing With the Stars in 2009.
At only 15 years old, Kristy McNichol earned an Emmy for her portrayal of Buddy on the ABC series Family. This set her career in motion, and she began appearing in films in the late ’70s, including opposite Burt Reynolds in The End.
McNichol continued to appear on screen throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, most notably in The Golden Girls spinoff Empty Nest. Shortly after, she retired and focused on charity work.
Her signature role of Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch was a blessing and a curse for Maureen McCormick. The ‘70s were a remarkably successful decade for her on screen and even as a singer, easily securing her teen idol status.
But things were difficult post-Brady. McCormick suffered from drug addiction throughout the ‘80s but was able to turn things around in rehab. She has made sporadic appearances on TV and in TV movies in the years since, most recently coming in eighth place on Dancing With the Stars Season 23.
Linda Blair started her career very young, and received acclaim only a few years in, for her starring role in The Exorcist. She rode the fame wave throughout the rest of the decade, appearing in several films of note.
The ‘80s saw Blair turn to B-horror flicks and exploitation movies, where she has mostly remained. She has branched out slightly in recent years, by showing her personal interests as an animal rights activist and vegan.
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