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5 Former Child Stars We'd Like To See Featured In Demi Lovato's Upcoming Documentary

Written by Shani Milrad. Published: March 21 2023


Once a Disney Channel sensation and known as an inspirational artist to her millions of fans, Demi Lovato’s journey has been full of highs and lows that has opened the world’s eyes to the perils of fame for young people. From success and superstardom to her battle with mental health issues and addictions, she has laid bare her struggles to an understanding public.


But she isn't alone. In the upcoming documentary directed by the singer and former Disney Channel star, we'll get a look at the inner workings of child stardom and its effects as they reach adulthood. We'll likely see in the documentary various stories from the perspective of a variety of former child stars - their triumphs, challenges, and heartaches, their hopes for the future, and so much more. As we anticipate Demi’s documentary, here’s a look at some of the stars who we want to see as part of her exploration of fame, child stardom, and the transitions that can occur between the two.


1. Cole & Dylan Sprouse
Cole and Dylan Sprouse rose to fame as child stars, often playing the same roles. Their breakout was in the 1999 film Big Daddy alongside Adam Sandler followed by the Disney Channel show "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" where they played the titular characters. They also reprised their roles in the spinoff "The Suite Life on Deck" and The Suite Life Movie. In addition, they made cameo appearances as the Martin twins in "That's So Raven", "Hannah Montana", and "Wizards of Waverly Place".


After their teenage years, both twins took a break from acting. During this time, Cole focused on his studies and earned a degree in Archaeology from New York University. Currently, both twins are back to acting in separate roles. Cole plays Jughead Jones in the hit TV series "Riverdale", which will air its 7th and final season this month. Dylan, meanwhile, has had some roles here and there while also owning a meadery in Brooklyn.


Cole has spoken openly about the challenges and benefits of being a child actor. He and his brother started acting due to financial needs but also found stability and routine amidst the chaos of their parents' custody battle. In an interview on the podcast "Call Her Daddy", Cole said, "It was in many ways a lifesaving show. It provided us with an amount of stability and consistency and routine that really was needed for my brother and I at the time." Regarding the financial aspect, Cole shared that he and his brother started acting as a means to support their family. He acknowledges that his childhood was traded for financial stability, but he doesn't regret it. "If I were given the same choice again, I'd probably do it again," he said. 


2. Selena Gomez

One of the most well-known former child stars is Selena Gomez, who began her career on "Barney & Friends" in 2002 with Demi Lovato. She rose to fame when she landed the role of Alex Russo on the Disney Channel's show "Wizards of Waverly Place", which became a hit and received numerous awards and nominations, including BAFTA and Emmy Awards. Like many child stars who became famous through the Disney Channel, Gomez also released singles and albums alongside her acting career. Some of her earlier songs included "Fly to Your Heart" and "Tell Me Something I Don't Know", and she also recorded several songs for "The Wizards of Waverly Place". Later, she became the lead singer of the band The Scene, which released hits such as "I Love You (Like a Love Song)" and "Come & Get It". She also developed a strong solo career, which she continues to pursue today.


Gomez has also been open about discussing less glamorous topics such as mental health, the negative effects of social media, and the impact of child stardom. In a Vanity Fair interview, Gomeztalked about the clear image she had to present as a child star, saying, "I wasn't a wild child by any means, but I was on Disney, so I had to make sure not to say 'What the hell?' in front of anyone. It's stuff that I was also putting on myself to be the best role model I could be." Recently, she took a break from Instagram, which she has now returned to, and celebrated reaching 400 million followers and becoming the third most-followed account on the platform.


3. Daniel Radcliffe

Child stardom was not limited to Disney, as seen with the actors and actresses of the Harry Potter franchise. The series, which spanned from 2001 to 2011, allowed viewers to witness the growth of the actors alongside their characters. While Emma Watson,Rupert Grint, and others have also had notable careers, Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, stood out.


Radcliffe began his acting career at the age of 10 in the show "David Copperfield" before being cast as Harry Potter at just 11 years old. He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the iconic character, and the films became some of the highest-grossing of all time. Following the end of the franchise, Radcliffe continued to act on both stage and screen, starring in movies such as The Woman in Black, Now You See Me 2, Swiss Army Man, and, more recently, The Lost City alongsideSandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. He also played the role of "Weird" Al Yankovic in the biographical parody filmWeird.


Radcliffe has spoken about his experience as a child star, acknowledging the challenges of growing up in the spotlight. In an interview with The Mirror, he shared, "Ultimately, the hardest thing about growing up in the spotlight, it's not the easy access to drugs or the strange, sort of pandering world you enter into... I think it's very important, especially when you become famous young, to work out who you are without fame and without that as part of your identity, because that will go. Fame does not last forever. For anyone."




4. Peyton List

One actress known for her child stardom is Peyton List. List began her career as a model for children's clothing, later appearing in uncredited roles in the soap opera "All My Children" and Spider-Man 2. Her breakthrough came when she starred in 27 Dresses as the younger version ofKatherine Heigl's character. She then starred in the two sequels of Diary of a Wimpy Kid as Holly Hills, Greg Heffley's love interest, and as Emma Ross in the Disney Channel show "Jessie". The show was a huge success, leading to List appearing in more Disney shows such as the "Jessie" spin-off "Bunk'd", "KC Undercover", "I Didn't Do It", and "Austin and Ally". Currently, List is portraying Tory Nichols in "Cobra Kai" and Maddie Nears in Paramount's show "School Spirits".


List shared her experience as a child star in an interview with Yahoo Life, saying: "I didn't realize at the time that I was famous. I mean, people came up all the time asking for photos, but we were in this bubble — like, my school was with the kids on 'Jessie' and those are my best friends. That was everything, so it felt very normal to me. During quarantine, I realized how crazy my life has been and how it hasn't been normal, even though I thought it was."




5. Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato is the perfect fit to direct a documentary about former child stars, as she is a former child star herself. She started acting when she was 7 years old and gained massive fame for her roles in Disney's "Camp Rock", its sequel Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, the TV series "Sonny with a Chance", as well as non-Disney shows like "Glee" and "Grey's Anatomy". Additionally, Lovato gained a massive fan following from her singles and albums. Her discography includes hit songs such as "La La Land", "Send It On" (with Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez), and "Don't Forget". In addition, Lovato has also released several successful albums, includingTell Me You Love Me and Confident.


Lovato has been open about her struggles with mental health, addiction, and self-harm, which led her to enter rehab for the first time in 2010 at the age of 18. In her 2018 single "Sober", Lovato revealed that she was no longer sober with the lyrics, "Momma, I'm so sorry, I'm not sober anymore..." Sadly, just a month after the song's release, she suffered a drug overdose, ending her 6 years of sobriety.


She has always been candid about the challenges of child stardom; “I’ll always look at child stardom, at what I went through, as something traumatic for me,” said Lovato in an interview for Spin. “No child should ever be in the limelight. It’s too much pressure. There’s an absence of childhood that you never get to experience. It makes things confusing because you develop problems from that experience, whether it’s addiction or trust issues or financial stress. It follows you into adulthood.” Lovato's upcoming documentary is sure to shed light on the challenges faced by child stars and the importance of prioritizing mental health in the entertainment industry.