Former child actors acting all grown up

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They grow up so fast, these Nickelodeon and Disney kid actors. It seems like only yesterday that Josh Peck was best known as the good stepbrother, the one with straight A's, on Nickelodeon's "Drake & Josh." The next thing you know, Peck is 21 and dealing weed on the streets of New York for his role in the R-rated film, "The Wackness," which debuted last week.

Peck had his "I'm all grown up" coming-out party on screen earlier this summer with "Drillbit Taylor," a comedy rated PG-13 for crude sexual references, bullying, language, drug references and partial nudity. He also stars in the upcoming "Safety Glass" with Hilary Duff, another actress who started out as a pop tween, on The Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire."

Not to be outdone, Peck's co-star, Drake Bell, jumped out of the Nickelodeon mold first with the PG-13-rated "Superhero Movie" and, expected in theaters Aug. 29, the R-rated "College," about a wild weekend for three high school seniors making a college visit.

While we're watching young actors portray precocious kids, many are already looking beyond the "child actor" years. Even Nickelodeon's animated "The Rugrats," which gave voice to toddlers, eventually graduated to "The Rugrats: All Growed Up."

We all know about the Disney Mouseketeers who grew up quickly in the music biz: Britney, Justin and our Christina. And there are those who have gone the magazine route, intentionally or unintentionally, such as Lindsay Lohan's nude spread in New York magazine and the provocative Miley Cyrus images, with and without dad Billy Ray, that appeared in Vanity Fair.

Some others who have grown up in the public eye:

Melissa Joan Hart ("Clarissa Explains It All," Nickelodeon) -- Hart and kids channel Nickelodeon have been around long enough for the show that launched her career in the early '90s to be called "classic Nick" -- and for Hart, 32, to be a mother of two. She graduated from Nick to ABC, and later The WB, with "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." This year, she welcomed her second son and was seen in the Lifetime Movie Network drama "Whispers and Lies."

Shia LaBeouf ("Even Stevens," The Disney Channel): The TV show launched LaBeouf, 22, during its 2000-03 run. After bit parts in "I, Robot" and "Constantine," LeBeouf made his mark as an action hero in last summer's blockbuster "Transformers" and the sleeper teen horror flick, "Disturbia." He then added to his action resume in the summer hit "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Next, he'll play a slacker who with his mother gets tangled in a terrorist plot in "Eagle Eye." He's also been in the tabloids with first an arrest for disorderly conduct and more recently, a car wreck that left him with a severe hand injury.

"Sisterhood": Let's stray from the Nick/Disney formula for a moment for a timely foursome: The stars of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" have boomeranged from TV to movies, movies to TV: America Ferrera became a star on ABC's "Ugly Betty" and Blake Lively became The CW's "Gossip Girl" after the first film; Alexis Bledel was a "Gilmore Girl" for The CW before joining the Sisterhood and the cast of "Sin City," while Amber Tamblyn previously starred for CBS on "Joan of Arcadia." The sequel to "Sisterhood" is in theaters now.

Kenan Thompson, Nick Cannon, Amanda Bynes and Jamie Lynn Spears ("All That," Nickelodeon): Thompson moved from the "All That" sketch show for kids to a bigger spotlight in the "Kenan & Kel" sitcom that ran from 1996-2000 on Nick. Next came the classic not-ready-for-prime-time sketch show, "Saturday Night Live." The 30-year-old went back to his G-rated roots this summer to voice a character in "Space Chimps."

Cannon, 27, who recently made headlines by marrying Mariah Carey, has had a career on screen since his Nick days, from a bit part in "Men in Black II" to a starring role in "Drumline" to "Roll Bounce" and, more recently, "Day of the Dead."

Bynes headlined the "All That" spinoff, "The Amanda Show," and a series of teen comedies before landing the role of Penny in "Hairspray." She also starred in The CW TV series "What I Like About You." Then there's Brit's sis, Jamie Lynn, 17, who has starred in Nick's "Zoey 101" and recently became a mom.

Raven-Symone ("That's So Raven," The Disney Channel): Raven, 17, first caught our eye as little Olivia on "The Cosby Show," then moved into a sitcom of her own and a music career, including tours with The Cheetah Girls. Her movies have included "Doctor Dolittle" with Eddie Murphy and the G-rated comedy "College Road Trip" with Martin Lawrence.

Hilary Duff (Disney's "Lizzy McGuire"): Duff has had a steady string of big-screen projects, from "The Perfect Man" (2005), "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" (2005) and "Material Girls" (2006) to this year's R-rated "War, Inc." with John Cusack. ("War, Inc." has not been released in Pittsburgh.)

Zac Efron (Disney's "High School Musical" franchise): Efron, 21, hasn't quite escaped the cute-boy-who-can-sing-and-dance label, not that there's anything wrong with that. After playing Link in the big-screen "Hairspray," he's been shooting "Me and Orson Welles," about a teenager cast in a production of "Julius Caesar" directed by a young Welles in 1937. A remake of "Footloose" is in development for 2010, and Efron is mentioned most often for the Kevin Bacon role of a rebel with a cause -- dancing.

Vanessa Hudgens (Disney's "High School Musical" franchise): Efron's co-star and girlfriend went in the opposite direction, from the R-rated teen drug drama "Thirteen" to the PG-rated "Thunderbirds," then to The Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and "High School Musical."

Last year, Hudgens made unwanted headlines for nude photos of herself that wound up on the Internet. She'd apparently sent them to another young star, Drake Bell, two years earlier, when she was 16. Hudgens issued an apologetic statement, saying she was "embarrassed over the situation and regretted having ever taken these photos."

Growing up on screen hasn't always been easy for child actors, but growing up off screen, in the public eye, is truly hard to do.

Sharon Eberson can be reached at or 412-263-1960.


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