6 Hollywood Execs Who Were Once Child Stars

6:30 AM 8/9/2018

by Joelle Goldstein and Andy Lewis

From a former 'Home Improvement' actor to a 'Goonies' star, these former kid thesps are working all over showbiz — just off camera.

Zachery Ty Bryan, today (left) and as Brad Taylor on 'Home Improvement' in the 1990s
Zachery Ty Bryan, today (left) and as Brad Taylor on 'Home Improvement' in the 1990s
David Livingston/Getty Images; ABC/Photofest

Cori Wellins starred in Arachnophobia and appeared on an episode of CHiPs as a kid, but after interning for her own agent during her senior year at UCLA, she shifted her focus from performing to representing talent (including GLOW showrunner Liz Flahive and Master of None co-creator Alan Yang). "It's just a tough trade," says the WME partner of her childhood career. "I met with my first agent when I was 10 — I remember him telling me that I was fat, I had thin hair, I had a high forehead, that I was never going to make it in this business if I didn't lose weight and take one of his acting workshops that cost $800."

But as kid star turned entertainment attorney Jeff Cohen, best known as as Chunk in 1985's the Goonies, says, "if you love show business, there's lots of ways you can be part of the gang," even if your acting fizzles after childhood. "Puberty, actually, made the decision for me," Cohen says of his involuntary career transition. "I became less chunky so work dried up; it was a forced retirement."

Former child stars work all over the industry, from software development at HBO (Clarissa Explains It All's Jason Zimbler) to producing (Home Improvement's Zachery Ty Bryan) to X-Men fight choreography (The Goonies' Data, Jonathan Ke Quan). While she has many fond memories of acting ("There is a thrill going onto the MGM lot and feeling like, 'Oh, my gosh, I have a job here'"), Wellins says her background gives her empathy with artists — an understanding of the tough breaks of the biz.

"Whether you're a writer, a director or an actor, no matter how great a job you do, you don't know when your next job is coming," she says, adding with a laugh, "I'm definitely better at this job than I was at that job." Of his own glory days, Cohen notes that he'll occasionally compliment someone wearing a Goonies T-shirt "and they go, 'Thanks,' [but] they don't know who I am."

  • Zachery Ty Bryan

    David Livingston/Getty Images

    Then

    The soccer-loving oldest Taylor son on Home Improvement (1991-99)

    Now

    EP, 2018 Sundance hit The Kindergarten Teacher

  • Cori Wellins

    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Then

    A young 
girl terrorized by spiders in 1990's Arachnophobia

    Now

    WME partner whose clients include Alan Yang and Liz Flahive

  • Jason Zimbler

    Nickelodeon/Courtesy of Everett Collection

    Then

    The annoying little brother Ferguson on Nickelodeon's Clarissa Explains It All (1991-94)

    Now

    HBO software developer

  • Peter Billingsley

    Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

    Then

    Ralphie, the kid who wanted an air rifle in 1983's A Christmas Story

    Now

    Producer, The Break-Up (2006); director, Couples Retreat (2009)

  • Jonathan Ke Quan

    Amblin Entertainment/Warner Bros./Photofest

    Then

    Data in 1985's The Goonies and Short Round in 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

    Now

    Stunt and fight 
coordinator on X-Men

  • Jeff Cohen

    Amblin Entertainment/Warner Bros./Photofest

    Then

    Chunk in 1985's 
The Goonies

    Now

    Partner at the law firm Cohen Gardner, whose clients include Lori Petty and Ryan Coogler

    A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.