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Film / Showbiz Kids

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"The life of a child was not my life."
Diana Senna Cary, formerly known as Baby Peggy

Showbiz Kids is a 2020 documentary film by Alex Winter, released in July 2020 on HBO Max.

The film is an exploration of the ups and downs of childhood stardom, tackling things like being discovered, to handling finances, to exploitation and sexual abuse in light of #MeToo. Winter himself started as a child actor, and the film features former child stars Evan Rachel Wood, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mara Wilson, Wil Wheaton, Henry Thomas, Milla Jovovich, Todd Bridges, Diana Serra Cary, and Cameron Boyce; the latter two appear posthumously.


  • Attention Whore: According to Wil Wheaton, a craving for attention is an unintentional but unsurprising side effect of spending your formative years as a child actor.
    Wheaton: We're doing the best that we can do on the set, but we also have to do it in public. And we have to live in public. And we have to get attention from people in public. And then one day it's gone and you don't know what to do anymore. And that's how you end up on a shitty reality show because you're like, "Please just somebody pay attention to me, 'cause that's the only way I know how to exist."
  • Contractual Purity: invoked Evan Rachel Wood and Milla Jovovich talk about how difficult it is to explore your sexuality as a child star because of the public image you have to maintain. Cameron Boyce, who rose to fame under Disney's watchful eye, even hesitates to cuss at first.
  • Financial Abuse: The finance part of being a child star is discussed. Some parents try to take a cut of their kids' earnings, or arrange things so their child can earn more. The Jackie Coogan act is a talking point.
  • Former Child Star: The focus of the film. The actors all made it big as kids, and discuss how that affected their childhoods and adolescence. Some like Evan Rachel Wood and Milla Jovovich are still acting consistently, while others like Mara Wilson and Todd Bridges have soured on the industry. The more outlandish horror stories like Lindsay Lohan are brought up as examples of what the constant pressure can do to a vulnerable mind.
  • Horrible Hollywood: While the documentary stops short of condemning the entire film industry, it is a cautionary tale about the exploitation of child actors, and singles out widespread practices that have lifelong consequences.
    Evan Rachel Wood: Any industry that has that much power and is that competitive, after a while it starts to become 'Well, who can take the most abuse?' Because somebody is in line to take your place, so you just start to allow yourself to be abused in some form or another. Every actor is guilty of that. They're lying if they say they're not because it's just part of the deal at this point. Until things change, there's always going to be somebody willing to take abuse and stay quiet.
  • I Am Not Spock: Invoked; Henry Thomas discusses producers not being able to separate his current self from the kid who starred in E.T..
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The first leg of the documentary discusses the differences between being a child actor and being normal, as your childhood is essentially taken from you — there's no real way one can be 'normal' on a film set. Some of the interview subjects say that they are or were hesitant for their own kids to be in the spotlight, and a rising child star featured, Demi Singleton, expresses the desire to go to sleepaway camp with her friends.
  • The Scrappy: Invoked. Wil Wheaton lightly touches on the widespread hate Wesley Crusher received from fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Unwillingly Girly Tomboy: Evan Rachel Wood talks about being a tomboy growing up and hated being forced to wear dresses, heels, and makeup for publicity.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: According to the interviewees, a common child actor origin story is a parent who never quite attained the acting heights they had hoped, so they push it onto their children. Among them, Wil Wheaton confesses his mother was a little too eager for him to act, while Milla Jovovich's mother was a Soviet movie star who didn't keep it up after emigrating to the United States.