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Teen Stars Then and Now

January 8th, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

On Monday, James Van Der Beek — best known as Dawson Leery from the teen drama Dawson’s Creek — broke some big news on Twitter: “My prediction for 2010: NBC’s ‘Mercy‘ will have a new Dr. who looks suspiciously like me, but with darker hair. Just a hunch…” While it’s not clear when Van Der Beek will start his recurring role as Mercy Hospital’s new ICU chief, it set us to thinking: the Dawson’s Creek alum isn’t the only actor to successfully graduate from a kid role to a meatier character. Below, the Hulu team shares some of our favorite actors who managed to jump from teen idol to grownup. — Rebecca Harper (), Hulu Editor, for the Yahoo! TV Blog

James Van Der Beek
Of course, Mercy isn’t Van Der Beek’s first foray into adult roles: he played one creepy serial killer on Criminal Minds in 2007, a part that made us forget all about that wholesome Dawson Leery. And on One Tree Hill last season, Van Der Beek returned to his roots, playing a director who wanted to do a film based on Lucas’ novel.

Joshua Jackson
Meanwhile, another Dawson’s Creek star, Joshua Jackson (Pacey), managed to shed his “bad boy with a heart of gold” image on J.J. Abrams’ Fringe. As Peter Bishop, Jackson is as a jack of all trades newly reunited with a mad-scientist father, thanks to a fringe investigation unit of the FBI. It’s a far cry from the petulant boy who stole Joey’s heart. (Of course, Jackson and Van Der Beek aren’t the only Capeside kids to hit it big: costars Katie Holmes and Michelle Williams have gone on to make headlines, themselves.)

Neil Patrick Harris
It may have taken a while for Neil Patrick Harris to ditch his Doogie Howser, M.D. persona in favor of more mature roles, but he hit pay dirt as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. As a legen-wait for it-dary womanizer on the hit show, it’s hard to remember the awkward — but genius — boy doctor who’d wrap up every episode by with a journal entry on his old-school computer.

Jason Bateman
Arrested Development star Jason Bateman is no stranger to television — he practically grew up on it. He starred on a whole string of series throughout the 1980s, getting his first big break on Little House on the Prairie and moving on to play the foil to good-boy Ricky on Silver Spoons, the lead role on It’s Your Move, and then the big brother on The Hogan Family.

David Boreanaz
While David Boreanaz’s Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel) wasn’t exactly a teenager — he was, in fact, a centuries-old vampire — it was our first real chance to get to know the actor. Boreanaz has since moved on to enjoy success as Special Agent Seeley Booth on Bones, where he uses his people skills to solve murder cases with forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel). While Booth’s relationship with Brennan is just starting to heat up Bones, things were downright smoldering between Angel and his one true love, Buffy Summers.

Mario Lopez
Like Dawson’s Creek, there’s another teen-based show that spawned a number of stars: Saved by the Bell, which launched the careers of Mark Paul Gosselaar (now on Raising the Bar), Elizabeth Berkley (guest starring roles on CSI: Miami and The L Word) and Tiffani Thiessen (from the original 90210 and now White Collar). Meanwhile, the be-dimpled Mario Lopez has made a career for himself first by making appearances on the reality show circuit (Dancing with the Stars and more) and entertainment shows (Extra), but there’s also a recent scandalous turn as Dr. Mike Hamoui on Nip/Tuck that had tongues wagging due to a shower scene with Christian.

George Clooney

Long before Up in the Air, the Ocean’s movies or even ER, George Clooney and his infectious grin were captivating ladies for 17 episodes of The Facts of Life. Clooney starred as a handyman who helped the girls out with a pop-culture boutique they called Over Our Heads. And though he didn’t stick around for long, it helped him land a recurring role on Roseanne, and that’s when his career really took off.

Kenan Thompson
From Mighty Ducks 2 and Kenan & Kel to Saturday Night Live cast member, Kenan Thompson’s come a long way since playing the titular role in the live-action version of Fat Albert. He channels his inner Bill Cosby for SNL from time to time, but it’s his turn as French Def Comedy Jam comedian Jean K. Jean that’s among our favorite sketches featuring Thompson.

Michelle Trachtenberg
These days, it’s tough to tell whether Michelle Trachtenberg is more famous for her turn as Dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or her recurring role as the deliciously evil Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl, but the actress is starting to charm audiences as sweet nurse Chloe Payne on Mercy. Trachtenberg’s Chloe is naïve farm girl-turned-nurse who brings some much- needed compassion to the New Jersey hospital. Along the way, though, she’s also learning that she needs to toughen up, too.

Alyson Hannigan

Of course, Michelle Trachtenberg and David Boreanaz aren’t the only TV stars who got their start on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There’s also Alyson Hannigan, who played Buffy’s best friend (and Sunnydale’s resident witch), Willow. Her goofy awkwardness made geeks seem cool, and — for a while, anyway, she had a thing for hairy guys (Seth Green, who provides the voice for Chris Griffin on Family Guy these days). These days, she’s co-starring with Neil Patrick Harris as Lily on How I Met Your Mother.

Candace Cameron Bure
Surprise, surprise: Full House‘s D.J. Tanner — big sister to Michelle (Mary -Kate and Ashley Olsen) and Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), daughter to Danny (Bob Saget), and niece to Jesse (John Stamos) — is all grown up now. You can catch her as Summer Van Horne on ABC Family’s teen gymnastics drama, Make It or Break It, where she dispenses advice to bad-girl Lauren in hopes of getting the teen to behave while her mom’s in rehab.

Christina Applegate
Long before she played an amnesiac on Samantha Who?, Christina Applegate was best known as Kelly Bundy, the trashy oldest daughter on Married … With Children. When she wasn’t making out with boys or bickering with her little brother, Bud, she was working to earn some extra cash — presumably for more hairspray and skimpy clothes. In this clip, she brings a familiar face (David Boreanaz) home to meet her parents.

What former child actors have you spotted on prime time lately?

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