When we see actors on our favourite soaps or hear pop stars on the radio, it is sometimes easy to forget that these are all just normal people who opted for a life in the spotlight.
Well sometimes whether it be through their own choice or because circumstances forced it, these stars leave the limelight had take on new challenges. Sometimes actors just get fed up acting or pop stats don’t enjoy the life on the road and long for a simpler life. Here are some well known faces from the past and what they have gone on to do.
1. Kevin Kennedy
Kevin Kennedy played the iconic character of Curly Watts in Corrie. After leaving the show, the star made a return to the Cobbles in 2014 as a tour guide, showing fans around the newly-opened Corrie tour at the former Quay Street site in Manchester. Kennedy played the part of Curly in the soap from 1983-2003, as a bin man who became the Bettabuys supermarket deputy manager.
Highlights included his bickering with boss Reg Holdsworth and marriage to barmaid Raquel, played by Happy Valley’s Sarah Lancashire. So what’s Kennedy up to these days? The actor has now moved on again and can be found on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship ‘Anthem of the Seas’ starring in a production of We Will Rock You.
2. Sean Wilson
Sean Wilson used to play Martin Platt in Coronation Street, a role he had for 21 years before leaving over a dispute over a planned storyline for his character. Since leaving the show in 2005 he’s made a radical career change and is now an award-winning cheese maker. He and his best friend Mark Revell started the Saddleworth Cheese Company in 2009.
Sean is a patron of the International Cheese Awards, as well as setting up The Great Northern Food Company. He has said “We make four cheeses. Our Smelly Ha’peth has won four gold World Cheese Awards.”
3. Charlie Lawson
Charlie Lawson played the bad-tempered Jim McDonald in Coronation Street for 11 years before leaving the show in 2000. He now leads a more relaxed life, running his own farm shop alongside his partner. When he opened the shop in 2010 Lawson said: “I’ve been a professional actor for 31 years now and I’m kind of lucky that I’ve always been busy. But I really get fed up of it, it’s not the same job that it used to be, nobody seems to have fun anymore.”
“I don’t want to keep doing Casualty or Holby City any more, I’ve done them about seven times already. I don’t want to look in the mirror at the age of 70 and think I’ve never had a crack at doing something different with my career.” His new business is named Prestbury’s Farm Shop, which provides quality farm fresh Cheshire produce.
Pop star Tiffany was best known for her cover of I Think We’re Alone Now in the 80s. Since the release of that single she has had a few roles in TV and films after leaving music, including voicing Judy Jetson in Jetsons: The Movie.
In the early 2000s she left the public eye, and now runs a vintage shop called Tiffany’s Boutique, just outside Nashville, Tennessee.
5. Rebecca Ritters
Rebecca was best known for playing the part of Hannah Martin in Neighbours. The curly haired school girl was the daughter of Philip and Julie Martin and had a sister called Debbie? She had a bit of a fling with Lance before her dad married his mum.
Since leaving the show, actress Rebecca Ritters moved to Berlin and away from acting to became a journalist and producer.
6. Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal is best known for his roles in Under Siege and Above the Law, but has always had in interest in actual policework. Seagal went on to work as a a deputy sheriff in rural Doña Ana County in southern New Mexico as part of a reality TV show.
However, Seagal was never an actor by trade to begin with: he was in fact a martial arts instructor.
7. Neil Webb
Neil Webb is a former footballer, once a fan favourite at Manchester United. He earned £5000 a week working at Old Trafford in 1989, but after only playing four games for Manchester United he snapped his Achilles tendon in an England match against Sweden, badly affecting his performance.
When asked about his new career as a postie he said: “You never get used to the 4.15 alarm but it’s good exercise and I’m home by lunch. What else do people expect me to do?”
8. Jeff Cohen
When I say the name Jeff Cohen, you probably say “Who?” But if I said “Chunk” from the Goonies, of course you would know who I am talking about. The reason the name means nothing to you is that after his role in The Goonies, Cohen moved away from acting. Unlike his Goonies co-stars Josh Brolin and Corey Feldman, who became movie megastars, Cohen trained to be a lawyer and became a founding partner of Cohen & Gardner LLP.
He was also included in The Hollywood Reporter’s “Next Generation: Hollywood’s Top 35 Executives 35 and Under.” The boy done good!
9. Adele Silva
Adele Silva first appeared in Emmerdale when she was just 12. The actress stayed on the series until 2000 before making a brief two-year return in 2005. After leaving the show for a second time she left to America to try and make it big in Hollywood. When she couldn’t get a big break, she started working as a shop assistant at a Ted Baker store on Melrose Avenue in LA, as well as launching her own dog walking service called ‘Walkies of Fame’.
She said of her jobs: “I’m a jobbing actress and in this climate you can either sell your soul or do an honest day’s work.” She has since moved back to the UK.
10. Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum was a child star at age 12, becoming famous for his role as Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He doesn’t seem to think back on his role fondly, saying: “After the film, I always denied my involvement with Willy Wonka. I didn’t really want to have anything to do with it.” Now he’s in his 50s, and is working for Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lowville, New York, where he works on small and large dairy farms.
He’s spoken about his new job, saying: “For me, veterinary medicine is a really nice mix between using your head, using your brain, problem-solving, but at the same time, there’s a physical aspect of the work that I enjoy. I won’t get fat doing this job! You’re always on the go and each day is a little bit different. Everybody could be so lucky to have an experience like this and then to go in a completely different direction.”
11. Mark Feehilly
Mark Feehilly was part of Westlife, one of the biggest pop groups of the 90s. The band sold 44 million records before disbanding in 2011 after 14 years together. Since the breakup Mark has given up fame to set up his own catering business. He now runs a catering company named Old Street, which runs out of a refurbished 1971 Citroen H Van.
He mostly caters at music festivals, saying: “People were flabbergasted that I was in the van making crepes. They have this thing, ‘Oh, he was in Westlife and now he’s making tea.’ I love festivals, so why not?” Fair enough! It sounds as though he’s doing what he loves, so good luck to him.
12. Danniella Westbrook
Danniella Westbrook played Peggy Mitchell’s daughter Sam in EastEnders, and is currently working in a real pub, alongside some DJ work. She started working at The Bill Nicholson pub in Tottenham while she was struggling to find acting work, and seems to really enjoy it. She posted a message on her Twitter account about the career change.
“I help my mate at her pub, it makes me feel useful and I laugh all day. The locals are the nicest bunch, always respectful even though I’m a West Ham girl.”
13. Lee MacDonald
Lee MacDonald played Zammo Maguire in the school drama Grange hill from age 12 to 17, and even starred in the 1980s Just Say No anti-drugs campaign as the character. After leaving the show he had a brief career as a professional boxer before it was ended by a car accident when he was 21. He now works as a locksmith with a shop in Surrey.
He has said: “I got the part of Zammo at 12 and did it until I was 17. After the celebrity, and the excitement of boxing, here I was at 21 working in a wholesaler’s. My early 20s were really dark because of that. It took time to sort myself out. I started learning the locksmith trade then took my own shop. I do bits and pieces of acting but the shop is my main port of call.”
14. Kevin Jonas
Kevin Jonas is the oldest of the pop group siblings the Jonas Brothers. He is well known for his excellent vocal skills. After mainstream success in the 2000s, Kevin decided that music wasn’t for him and he left the band in 2014. He worked as a builder at first, and even made a cameo as a contractor on a 2014 episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
In the show viewers could see the former boyband and heart throb leading construction on Kathy Wakile’s home. He’s also had success as an app entrepreneur – he developed a food searching app called Yood. The app uses location to bring you the highest-rated restaurants closest to you. The Jonas Brothers reformed in 2019, but now we know what he can fall back on!
15. Nikki Blonsky
Nikki Blonsky bagged the lead role of Tracy Turnblad in the 2007 film adaptation of Hairspray. But what is she up to today? She found herself starring alongside Hollywood legends John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken in one of that year’s most popular films. Blonsky was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance and sang on the Hairspray album which was nominated for a Grammy.
However, since then Blonsky’s career has gone downhill and somewhat ironically, the actress is now working in a salon! She earned her cosmetology degree in 2011 and now works in a salon in New York in-between auditions. She tweeted: “Its true I’m workin @ Superstar Salon as a makeup artist & more, I’m proud 2 b workin & helpin pay bills BUT I’ll NEVER lose sight of my dreams.”
16. Jack Gleeson
Jack Gleeson gave an unforgettable performance as the sadistic boy-king, Joffrey Baratheon, so fans will be disappointed to learn that the experience actually put him off a career in acting! The Irishman had been acting since the age of eight, but decided that making a profession of it just wasn’t for him. He has previously stated:
“I just stopped enjoying it as much as I used to. And now there’s the prospect of doing it for a living, whereas up until now it was always something I did for recreation with my friends, or in the summer for some fun. I enjoyed it. When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It’s not like I hate it, it’s just not what I want to do.” Jack originally told a newspaper that he wanted to go back to studying but in a later interview he said he had “gone off that idea”. In 2015 he created a puppetry show entitled Bears in Space that subsequently toured in America.
17. Danny Lloyd
At the age of only six years old, Danny Lloyd starred in the notorious horror film The Shining. He’s had quite the career change though… Apparently, Lloyd was told by his parents that he was making a drama film about a family who live in a hotel… I bet he was shocked when he got to the set and started filming! I’m not sure how psychologically scarred Lloyd was by the making of the film, but it doesn’t seem to have affected him too much.
Since then, he’s gone on to have a successful career in education. In 2007, Lloyd became a biology professor at a community college in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where he still works today.
18. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates is probably best known amongst men of a certain age for her stand out performance in the high school comedy Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982). Remember that red bikini? Cates played the worldly teenager Linda Barrett, who was best friends with main character Stacy. One memorable scene saw Cates wearing a red bikini which she later gets rid of during another character’s wet dream!
Cates did actually go on to do more acting work during the 80s and 90s – her line in Lace, ‘Which one of you bitches is my mother?’, was voted the greatest line in TV history by TV Guide in 1993. Cates is now a business woman and philanthropist instead. She has donated to various charitable causes and in 2005, she opened a boutique called ‘Blue Tree’ on New York’s Madison Avenue, which sells clothing, homeware and jewellery.
19. Vanilla Ice
Vanilla Ice will always be remembered by 90s kids for his iconic song ‘Ice, Ice Baby.’ The song that we all loved to hate… It was essentially a one-hit wonder which reached heights that the singer’s later songs just couldn’t replicate. However, despite being a figure of ridicule in the music industry, Vanilla Ice turned his brief mainstream success into a fortune thanks to his real estate business.
He took on a completely different career path… He is an investor and home renovator who also teaches new investors how to make a profit selling houses. After experiencing success in the industry, he decided to turn his projects into a reality series called The Vanilla Ice Project in 2010. The show is still running on the DIY Network today.
20. MC Hammer
Speaking of music industry novelty acts, MC Hammer has also had a rather interesting career over the years! His early albums achieved Diamond certification and he had a worldwide hit with “U Can’t Touch This”, containing a music video which popularised ‘Hammer pants’ everywhere. However, despite his significant earnings, Hammer racked up $13 million in debt and was forced to file for bankruptcy.
Eventually he got his life back together and has been involved in a number of projects over the years, including iPad apps and lecturing about new media at Ivy League universities. MC Hammer has been a Christian for most of his life, and has now become a pastoral minister. He officiates weddings and also works with prison and youth ministries.
21. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman is a Hollywood legend who has starred in a number of iconic films including The French Connection and Unforgiven. He won two Academy Awards for his work on those films and has earned himself a string of awards and nominations on top of that. Fans of the actor were surprised when Hackman announced he was retiring from acting in July 2004.
This was shortly after appearing in the rom-com Welcome to Mooseport, which would be his last ever film. Instead Hackman decided that he wanted to become a novelist and has written three historical novels alongside archaeologist Daniel Lenihan. He also released two solo efforts in 2011 and 2013 entitled Payback at Morning Peak and Pursuit.
22. Hayden Christensen
Hayden Christensen is best known for playing the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise. The part earned him international recognition and a flood of job offers once filming for the sci-fi epic was over. However, Christensen decided to turn them all down and choose a very different career path. It turns out that the ex-actor used his Star Wars salary to buy a load of land in Ontario, Canada.
He started work on his own farm there, leaving the world of Hollywood firmly behind him for a good few years. However, rumour has it that Christensen is interested in making a comeback in the next few years. In 2017 he starred in a film entitled First Kill, and he’s been working on the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi TV show. So his days in the entertainment industry might not be over just yet!
23. Chris Owen
Chris Owen will be known to a generation of 90s and early 2000s kids as the Sherminator in American Pie, as well as a string of other films from that era. However, he struggled to find acting work once the American Pie franchise ended and was forced to work as a waiter to make ends meet. Fans spotted him working in a restaurant back in 2013.
In response to a Daily News article about his situation, the actor stated: “Life doesn’t always go the way you planned. I love acting and this job lets me stay in the fight.” However, it seems as though he’s recently had a career change and is now working as a professional photographer. His last film appearance was in 2016 in All That Jam.
24. Freddie Prinze Jr.
Freddie Prinze Jr. was a heart throb in the late 90s and early 00s, and will probably be best remembered for his roles in She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer. He married fellow 90s star Sarah Michelle Gellar in 2002 and the couple have two kids together. The actor has had a lot of career changes over the years – he’s a massive wrestling fan and has been heavily involved in WWE over the years as a host, producer and even director.
However, his love of food eventually led him to become a chef and food entrepreneur. He produced his first ever cookbook, Back to the Kitchen, in 2016.
Look at all those boxes of cold brew dunkin donuts!
25. Mara Wilson
Everyone recognises child actor Mara Wilson from her starring turns in Matilda, Mrs Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street. Mara is known the world over as Matilda. Wilson ultimately decided that acting wasn’t for her and chose instead to become a writer. Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000) was her last feature film until 2015, and she’s eschewed mainstream projects.
In the mean time, she penned a play entitled Sheeple for the New York International Fringe Festival. She also published a memoir entitled Where Am I Now? in 2016. Wilson continues to write to this day – she produced a popular article on Cracked.com about the problems affecting child actors. She still appears at various ComicCon events to discuss her past work.
26. Ali MacGraw
Ali MacGraw starred in a series of successful films in the 70s, 80s and early 90s and was nominated for an Academy Award in the 1970s for her role in Love Story. She then released her autobiography, Moving Pictures, in 1991. MacGraw eventually decided to become a yoga instructor. She had been practising since her early 50s and produced an extremely popular yoga video with American Yoga Master Erich Schiffmann entitled Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind and Body.
The video was still a bestseller over ten years later, and publications have gone on to claim that MacGraw is primarily responsible for popularising yoga in the West thanks to her work. That’s quite a responsibility! Imagine being the reason why most of the Western world does yoga! Loads of people do yoga! The pressure must be unbelievable.
27. Karyn Parsons
90s kids used to love watching Karyn Parsons on screen every week thanks to her performance as the snobby and spoiled Hilary Banks on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. However, she decided not to capitalise on her success and instead chose a much more charitable way of life. Parsons now works as a philanthropist and has been instrumental in promoting the achievements of African-Americans.
She set up the non-profit charity Sweet Blackberry, which produces short animated videos about unsung heroes of African-American descent. Parsons married the director Alexandre Rockwell in 2003 – they have a daughter (Lana) and a son (Nico) together. We’d like to see a Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion episode, with Karyn taking part!
28. George Foreman
‘Big George’ was a two-time world heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medallist who enjoyed a highly successful career in boxing after a difficult childhood. But youngsters will probably be more familiar with his famous kitchenware rather than his boxing prowess. Foreman became an entrepreneur after hanging up his boxing gloves and has made millions of dollars thanks to his George Foreman Grill.
After his second sporting comeback he claimed that his success was down to eating healthy, and he was quickly approached by Salton, Inc. to endorse their grill. He has since acquired other endorsements to help keep his bank account ticking over nicely. These include InventHelp, which hosts America’s largest invention trading convention.
29. Charlie Korsmo
Charlie Korsmo was a child actor who played the role of Jack Banning, aka Peter Pan’s son, in the 90s fantasy film Hook. Korsmo soon decided that acting wasn’t for him and trained to be a lawyer instead. He studied at the prestigious MIT before passing the bar and working as a lawyer in NYC for many years. He’s also done work for the Environment Agency and the Republican Party in the House of Congress.
Nowadays he works at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s had the honour of being nominated by Barack Obama to become a member of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.
30. Al Green
Al Green is the legendary soul singer who produced classic tracks such as ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and ‘Tired of Being Alone’. He was one of the most popular singers of the 1970s with his erotically-charged style of music, before returning to gospel music in the 80s. In fact, Green has fully committed to his faith since retiring from the world of singing and is now a practising minister in Memphis, Tennessee.
He preaches at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, which is located near Elvis’ Gracelands mansion. I imagine the gospel music during his services is something truly special to hear!
31. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar enjoyed a hugely successful career in the 90s and early 2000s. She starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the titular character and also appeared in teen films such as Cruel Intentions (1999). However, since then her acting career has taken a bit of a downturn, and rumour has it that Gellar now prefers food to show business, much like her husband Freddie Prinze Jr.
In 2015, she became an entrepreneur after co-founding the baking kit company FoodStirs. She also released a cookbook entitled Stirring up Fun with Food in April last year, which provides families with fun baking and crafting ideas. All this talking of food is getting us hungry, is it lunchtime yet?
32. Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes was a rising star in the 2000s after appearing in popular films such as What A Girl Wants, She’s The Man and Hairspray. However, her acting career was cut short after she struggled with alcoholism (leading to a DUI arrest) and mental health issues. After being hospitalised for setting a stranger’s driveway on fire, Bynes managed to overcome her demons.
The star enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Irvine. She is going to graduate in summer of this year and since stated a desire to return to acting. Who knows what the future holds now – hopefully we’ll be seeing Bynes gracing our screens again very soon!
33. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal absolutely dominated the world of basketball during his stellar career. O’Neal didn’t shy away from the spotlight and could often be found novelty rapping or selling Icy Hot when he wasn’t on the court. So what is he up to now? The Lakers star has actually been very productive after retiring from basketball. After leaving his sporting career behind, O’Neal earned an MBA and a doctorate in education.
As if that wasn’t enough, O’Neal has also pursued a career in law enforcement. He acted as an honorary sheriff’s deputy in Georgia, putting his athletic abilities to good use, no doubt. The former novelty rapper also tried to revive his musical career with a recent track about LaVar Ball. Nice!
34. Angus T. Jones
Remember Angus T. Jones? He was the ‘half man’ from the hit comedy Two and a Half Men and must have enjoyed an interesting time on set opposite Charlie Sheen. If you think that watching a loose cannon like Sheen might have put Jones off a career in acting, then you’d be absolutely right. Jones decided to leave the world of show business behind at the age of 21.
Instead he’s had an interesting change of profession. Apparently Jones now works on the management side of things by taking a step behind the camera. The former actor now works for Tonite, the production company which is co-run by P. Diddy’s son, Justin Combs.
35. Josh Saviano
Most people probably know Josh Saviano as the kid who played Paul in The Wonder Years. Remember those big geeky glasses?! You won’t believe what Saviano looks like nowadays. Well Saviano decided that acting wasn’t for him and instead he decided to go away and study the law. The former child actor graduated from Yale University and received his JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in NYC. Fancy!
The actor is now a successful lawyer who works in his native city of New York. He’s all grown up and rather easy on the eye too, we must say.
36. Taran Noah Smith
Taran Noah Smith is probably best known for his role as Mark Taylor on Home Improvement. Smith has always been an advocate of healthy eating and it seems that this passion led him to turn his back on acting for good. He had a bit of a wobble in his teenage years when he married a woman nearly twice his age when Smith was only 17 years old. However, since then the former actor has gone from strength to strength.
Smith launched a company called Playfood, which is based in Oregon and produces vegan cashew cheese spreads. It’s quite the change from acting but good luck to him!
37. Dylan Sprouse
Dylan Sprouse starred with his twin brother Cole in the Suite Life of Zack & Cody. So what is he up to today? While he might not have given up on acting completely – Dylan had a recent role on Riverdale, he has pursued plenty of non-acting jobs in recent years. Cole has largely ditched the world of show business in favour of a mead production company.
Yes, you did read that correctly. Dylan has now transformed into an uber hipster and runs a mead brewery in Brooklyn. Bottoms up!