Wednesday February 13, 2013
Child actors who are still in showbiz
By S. INDRAMALAR and ANN MARIE CHANDY
These child actors are all grown–up now — and continue to impress.
RON Howard was possibly the first child actor who truly had an impact on me. I must have been around 10 when I watched The Andy Griffith Show (in black and white) on RTM in the early 1980s. Back then, my television viewing was limited to cartoons and parent-approved shows – programmes that contained some moral or educational value – and The Andy Griffith Show fit the bill. Strangely, variety show Sha Na Na also passed my mother’s strict scrutiny but that’s another story for a future Spudniks instalment.
The sitcom revolved around Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith), his son Opie (Howard), bumbling but well-meaning deputy sheriff Barney Fife (Don Knotts) and the sheriff’s housekeeper Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier). It followed the day-to-day lives of the main characters as well as the many eccentric residents of a fictional small town called Mayberry in North Carolina. Nothing really major happened in Mayberry – it was an ideal town without any hard criminals in it. Still, the sheriff had his hands full dealing with the misdemeanours of the residents as well as the shenanigans of his son.
The main focus of the show, for me at least, was the father-son relationship. Opie was a curious lad who had a million (it seemed like it) questions for his “paw”, who was rather strict with his son. Opie’s favourite word was “gosh” and I remember trying to use that word any way possible, most of the time inappropriately. Barney used to say “doggone it” and I always wondered what that meant.
Looking back, it was amazing how the young Howard played Opie so well – he was only six when the series first aired and gosh! (had to sneak that in) was he a natural. Howard went on to play teenager Richie Cunningham in sitcom Happy Days (which ran from 1974 to 1984) and although Henry Wrinkler’s character Fonzie was the main draw (he was the cool one in the leather jacket), Richie was the one I secretly rooted for every week. Howard didn’t act much after Happy Days and instead turned to directing/producing feature films – what a portfolio he has with movies like Apollo 13, EDtv, Ransom, Cinderella Man and A Beautiful Mind, for which he won an Academy Award.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my favourite child actor was Fred Savage from The Wonder Years, a coming-of-age show set in the 1960s that centred around lead character Kevin Arnold (Savage) and his growing pains as he navigated his way through adolescence (when the series begins, Kevin is 12 and when it ends, he is 17) – from his relationship with his family (his dad was always disappointed that Kevin wasn’t a jock like his brother, who used to always taunt him about it) to his struggles at school, his first crush and so forth. Funnily enough, in an interview published in thehollywoodreporter.com, Savage said that he was often called “little Opie” on the set of The Wonder Years. I guess he had the same qualities I liked in Opie – an innocent yet wise-beyond-his-years persona and a real natural actor.
Savage was 13 when he starred in The Wonder Years. These days, he is directing more than acting – he has directed episodes of popular shows like Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls, Happy Endings, It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia and Friends With Benefits. – SI
* WHEN it comes to child actors who I think have grown up really gracefully and taken on the world while they’re at it, I have three favourites. I’ll start at No.3 – Neil Patrick Harris. Harris, now 39, played the protagonist on Doogie Howser, M.D. when he was 16 in the late 1980s. The show was about Doogie, some sort of child genius, who becomes a teenage physician but then faces regular problems of being a teen. While I wasn’t all that fond of that show, I have become a huge Harris fan now that he’s all grown-up. Harris “appears” in my living room every day on How I Met Your Mother, and I’ve also enjoyed seeing his guest appearances (as himself or a version of himself) on the Harold & Kumar movie series. He’s also become somewhat of a cult celeb, appearing on the Academy Awards show, Glee and American Idol. And did you know that Harris has also provided his voice for the Disney California Adventure Park attraction California Screamin’? Remember to listen out for it if you’re ever there.
Number two on my list was such a goofy kid, I must say he did turn out quite a spiffy young man. My earliest memory of him as young Louis Stevens is charging the kids of his neighbour to view dust bunnies in his home on the Disney Channel’s Even Stevens. The kids television show is often cited as launching Shia LaBeouf’s breakout career as an actor. Now 26, LaBeouf has made quite a name for himself as an actor – from supporting roles in Constantine, I, Robot and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull to headlining movies like Disturbia, Eagle Eye and Transformers. I think LaBeouf is a really well-rounded actor who has both great comic timing, and the brains and brawn to carry off action-thrillers. I think the best still awaits him.
And now, drum roll please, it’s time for my No.1 all-time favourite child star who’s just been delighting me to no end as a very handsome, amiable, charming young man. Put your hands together, world, for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. At 31, Gordon-Levitt is one fine actor, director, producer and writer today. And who knew he had all that in him in 1996 when he was just an extraterrestrial on the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun. Gordon-Levitt was still a teen when he played Tommy Solomon on that crazy award-winning show which saw four aliens posing as a regular American family in order to observe human behaviour.
He’s had an extraordinary career in the past half decade, with a deluge of very watchable movies. And for me, at least, he always steals the show. Think (500) Days Of Summer, Inception, 50/50, Premium Rush, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises, The Lookout, Manic, Lincoln, Mysterious Skin, Brick, and G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.
A formidable actor with a smile that is just to die for, Gordon-Levitt is another one of these fellas who seems to have it all – great comic timing, action star abilities, drama ... New York magazine once called him a “major tabula rasa actor” and I just love that description, whether it means he can be a clean slate every time (there’s no pigeonholing this guy), or that minimalism is his thing and in doing so little he is able to portray so much. Needless to say, I am a great fan. And what? He can dance amazingly too. Please check out our iSnap content. It’s one of my favourite videos. If you aren’t already a JGL fan, you will be after watching it. – AMC