The transformation is a captivating theme in Hollywood and among star-struck fans. It’s easy to see why this is so intriguing; there is an undeniable satisfaction in witnessing an actor grow and shift from playful roles to more profound and mature performances.
What adds an extra touch of magic to this experience is when the transformation takes us by surprise. There is an indescribable thrill in watching an actor, previously known for bringing comedic or nerdy characters to life, suddenly reveal their hidden talent for intense and emotional acting.
These transformations serve as a powerful reminder of the immense potential often concealed behind the fresh faces of child actors. It’s a testament to the fact that talent can bloom and thrive with the passage of time and the accumulation of experiences.
1. Matthew Lewis
Matthew Lewis is widely known for his portrayal of Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films. Initially, his character was depicted as well-meaning but clumsy and goofy, just as described in J.K. Rowling’s books. However, as the series progressed, Lewis’s impressive dramatic skills became apparent, shining through in his various television appearances.
One notable display of his talent was in the series All Creatures Great and Small. In this show, Lewis takes on the role of Hugh Hulton, a suitor vying for the affections of Helen, who happens to be the love interest of the main character, Jame Herriot. As Hugh, Lewis adds a touch of complexity, revealing a slightly sinister side to his character. Although ultimately portrayed as a good-hearted man with noble intentions, Lewis skillfully showcases the darker aspects of Hugh’s personality.
2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt became a well-known figure in the 1990s, thanks to his memorable roles in the popular sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun and films like Angels in the Outfield. Even at a young age, he had a remarkable talent for portraying endearing characters who had a perfect balance of silliness and self-awareness, which was particularly evident in his performance on 3rd Rock from the Sun. This same charm shines through in 10 Things I Hate About You, where he plays a slightly awkward young man navigating the complexities of teenage love.
However, Joseph didn’t confine himself to safe, predictable roles for long. He quickly ventured into more daring and thought-provoking projects, including his role in Greg Araki’s 2004 coming-of-age drama, Mysterious Skin. In this film, Joseph demonstrated his ability to delve deep into characters with intricate and complex psyches. This versatility is also apparent in his work across various genres, from portraying real-life figures in biopics like Snowden to starring in blockbuster hits like The Dark Knight Rises. Additionally, he continues to pursue his personal passion projects, such as the critically acclaimed and cynical Apple TV series, Mr. Corman.
3. Christina Ricci
Christina Ricci has had a diverse and impressive career in both film and TV. One of her most iconic and beloved roles is Wednesday in the Addams Family movies from the early 1990s. She perfectly captured the unique essence of this character with her deadpan delivery, which remains unmatched.
Luckily, Ricci didn’t let this role define her career and went on to pursue various other performances that showcased her versatility. One notable example is her critically acclaimed portrayal of Selby Wall in the film Monster, where she starred alongside Charlize Theron. Over the years, she has continued to expand her repertoire and has received praise for her roles in many TV shows. Her appearance in the drama series Yellowjackets and her return to The Addams Family world with a role in the Netflix hit Wednesday have been particularly well-received.
4. Jerry O’Connell
Jerry O’Connell, a familiar face in numerous movies during his youth, made a lasting impression with his role in the popular film Stand By Me, which was based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Portraying the character of Vern Tessio, O’Connell’s chubby cheeks and lively personality made him the perfect fit for the role, portraying an endearing obliviousness.
While he may not have emerged as a leading man, O’Connell experienced a significant transformation after his appearance in Stand by Me. He attributes this to hitting puberty and undergoing a demanding training routine. As a result, he went on to feature in various supporting roles spanning the 1990s to the present day. Notable appearances include Jerry Maguire, Scream 2, Crossing Jordan, Billions, and even a cameo in Mariah Carey’s music video for “Butterfly.”
5. Josh Peck
Josh Peck rose to fame through his role in the hit Nickelodeon series Drake & Josh. While Drake exuded a cool and confident persona, Josh portrayed a completely different character – one who was clumsier and more awkward. Surprisingly, it was this awkwardness that played a significant role in catapulting Peck to stardom and increasing his popularity.
As the 2000s progressed, Peck ventured into different genres, showcasing his versatility as an actor. In the film Red Dawn, he proved his ability to take on rugged and leading man roles, departing from his comedic roots. Nevertheless, he hasn’t abandoned his comedy talents entirely, as evidenced by his appearances in shows like Grandfathered.
6. Nicholas Hoult
These days, Nicholas Hoult is everywhere, appearing in big film and TV projects like The Menu and The Great. But his fans know he started out as a child actor, taking on different roles, including an awkward character in About A Boy, where he starred alongside Hugh Grant and Toni Collette. After that, he took on smaller roles before making a splash in Clash of the Titans as one of the young soldiers who joined Perseus.
Hoult has always been great at playing characters who are a little silly yet charming and endearing. He showcased this in X-Men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road. But he’s not just about being lighthearted; he has shown real dramatic depth in roles like J.R.R. Tolkien in the film Tolkien and Tyler, the delusional and ambitious foodie in the witty film The Menu.
Zendaya has become a household name lately, thanks to her standout performances in two notable projects. In the HBO series Euphoria, she portrays a troubled teenager battling addiction, delivering a captivating and emotionally charged performance. Her remarkable portrayal has earned her immense praise and two Emmy wins. Additionally, her co-starring role as MJ in the new Spider-Man films has garnered significant critical acclaim and widespread recognition. Furthermore, she has showcased her talent in the enigmatic character of Chani in the movie Dune.
For those familiar with Zendaya’s journey, she first gained prominence through her work with Disney. Notably, she starred in the series K.C. Undercover, where she portrayed a nerdy math genius turned spy. Since then, she has come a long way and consistently demonstrated her ability to be one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses.
8. Gabriel Basso
Gabriel Basso started gaining more recognition after making several guest appearances on TV shows. But it was his role in the popular series The Big C that really put him in the spotlight. In the show, he played Adam Jamison, the son of Cathy Jamison, played by Laura Linney, who is dealing with cancer. Basso portrayed Adam as a typical teenager, a bit awkward and clumsy, often making choices that have major consequences for himself and his family.
As he entered his twenties, Basso started taking on more prominent leading roles. He starred in Hillbilly Elegy, a movie adaptation of JD Vance’s bestselling memoir, where he played a traditional leading man character. He also appeared in the Netflix series The Night Agent, where he was presented in a way that left no doubt about his attractiveness, portraying him as the epitome of all-American masculinity.
9. Brittany Murphy
Before her unfortunate passing in 2009, Brittany Murphy was a beloved actress known for her roles in various films and TV series since she was a teenager. In the early days of her career, she gained recognition for portraying lovable characters who may not have always been the sharpest tools in the shed. This was true for both her animated and live-action roles, exemplified by her portrayal of Luanne Platter in the long-standing series King of the Hill.
However, Murphy also showcased her dramatic skills, with her role in 8 Mile being a standout example. In the film, she played the romantic interest of Eminem’s character, Jimmy. Prior to her passing, she had also ventured into different genres, taking on roles in romantic comedies and thrillers.
10. Jurnee Smollett
Jurnee Smollett comes from a famous acting family, with all her siblings also being performers. Starting her career at a young age, she appeared in various sitcoms like Full House and On Our Own, where she shared the screen with her siblings.
But things have changed for Jurnee since then. She has really stepped up her game, landing more prestigious roles and being offered different types of characters. Two recent standout examples include her role as Black Canary in Birds of Prey, which earned her a place in the DC Extended Universe (before its rebooting), and her lead role in the highly popular HBO series Lovecraft Country.
Jurnee’s performance in Lovecraft Country was so impressive that she even received an Emmy nomination for it. This recognition truly shows how much she has grown and achieved in her career.
11. Tyler James Williams
Tyler James Williams, like the rest of the Abbott Elementary cast, has been praised by critics for his portrayal of the character Gregory. At the start of the series, Gregory is somewhat cynical and reserved, but it’s evident from the beginning that he shares great chemistry with Quinta Brunson’s Janine. Williams has become the series’ romantic leading man, thanks to his considerable charm and charisma.
What’s even more remarkable is that Williams has come a long way from his earlier roles. Many may recognize him from Everybody Hates Chris, where he played a skinny, nerdy character who often faced bullying. His performance in Abbott Elementary is a testament to his acting skills and his ability to surpass his previous role, showcasing his full potential.