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.

Surprise That Agent was a Star Split-Zachery Ty Bryan- Getty-Photofest-H 2018
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


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


    EP, 2018 Sundance hit The Kindergarten Teacher

  • Cori Wellins


    A young ?girl terrorized by spiders in 1990's Arachnophobia


    WME partner whose clients include Alan Yang and Liz Flahive

  • Jason Zimbler


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


    HBO software developer

  • Peter Billingsley


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


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

  • Jonathan Ke Quan


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


    Stunt and fight ?coordinator on X-Men

  • Jeff Cohen


    Chunk in 1985's ?The Goonies


    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.