The Harsh Realities Of Childhood Acting

Moviegoers and television watchers see child actors and don’t think much beyond the character. But the truth of the matter is those young actors have to follow super strict rules and guidelines behind the cameras, such as media training and even dieting.

That’s not even the worst of it! From not being allowed to have facial hair to being pushed to have a singing career, here are some of the rules child actors have to follow.

Individuality Is Thrown Out The Window

Individuality Is Thrown Out The Window
Focus Features
Focus Features

Landing a role is probably a great experience for a child actor. Unfortunately, once they land that role, their individualism is thrown out the window. During an interview with Marie Claire, Miley Cyrus spoke of how hard it was playing Hannah Montana and how the producers had an image that she couldn’t skew from.

She said, “You’re a pop star! That means you have to be blonde, and you have to have long hair, and you have to put on some glittery tight thing. Meanwhile, I’m this fragile little girl playing a 16-year-old in a wig and a ton of makeup. It was like Toddlers and Tiaras.”

Keeping A High-Pitched Voice Is A Must

Keeping A High-Pitched Voice Is A Must
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Some networks, such as Disney Channel, try their hardest to promote constant youth and the idea of children never growing up, à la Peter Pan. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how the real world works. Child actors are going to grow up, and their voices are going to inevitably change.

Well, not if the Mouse has anything to say about it! During an interview with Harpers Bazaar, former Shake it Up! star Bella Thorne said Disney Channel made her mask her husky, mature voice, making her keep her high-pitched voice, so it didn’t look like she was growing up.

Wholesome Wardrobes Only

Wholesome Wardrobes Only
Disney Channel
Disney Channel

Even though they’re growing up, child stars are expecting to keep up appearances. This means wholesome attire at all times and showing any type of skin is a huge no-no. According to former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne, she once got in trouble for a very silly reason.

At the time, the young star was at the beach with her mom, wearing a bikini. A photograph was snapped of her “showing skin” and Disney got very angry. Sorry, was she supposed to wear sweats?

Facial Hair = A Big No No

Facial Hair = A Big No-No
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

Youth, innocence, and the sense of being young forever are typically what a lot of child actors are asked to strive for while working for networks such as the Disney Channel. And that “fountain of youth” appearance means no facial hair, something that can be annoying for many actors.

Joe Jonas, for example, admitted to having to shave every day while working with the Mouse because he was supposed to be playing a young 16-year-old when he was pushing 20.

Disney Stars Aren’t Allowed To Experiment With Nail Polish

Disney Stars Aren't Allowed To Experiment With Nail Polish
Disney Channel
Disney Channel

As it turns out, Disney has a lot of rules it makes its young stars follow. One of those rules is having the “Disney look” at all times. This means child actors aren’t allowed to experiment with any weird or quirky styles and are never allowed to paint their nails bright colors.

The only way young stars are able to color their nails is if it’s for a part they’re playing or if they’re a neutral color. Otherwise, they’re expected to have their nails short, clean, and void of any color.

They’re Trained For The Media

They're Trained For The Media
ABC
ABC

Being a child star isn’t easy, especially when thrown into the spotlight at such a young age. With cameras following them around, waiting for the tiniest mistake, it’s a lot for a child to take in. That’s why a lot of networks have mandatory media training for their young stars.

But it’s not just training the actors how to act in front of the camera. They train them how to keep their innocent and youthful appearance 24/7, just to make sure they don’t receive bad press.

Autograph Training Is Mandatory

Autograph Training Is Mandatory
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

When people see child actors, most of the time, they see the characters they portray on-screen. They have an image in their mind of how this young person acts, walks, and even talks. And the actors are told to feed into the fans’ fantasy, even when it comes down to how they sign their name for autographs.

One former child actor who was asked to change her signature was Miley Cyrus. According to thegamer.com, the singer was asked to switch up her autograph to make it more “Hannah Montana fan-friendly.”

Young Actors Have No Say In The Matters Of Show Biz

Young Actors Have No Say In The Matters Of Show Biz
ABC
ABC

Even if a child actor is in a leading role, that doesn’t mean the adults want to have their input. In fact, they don’t. Most young actors are still in the “seen and not heard” stage of their lives, even if they are walking down red carpets.

During an interview with Vulture, Dylan Sprouse from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody spoke of how he and his brother were ignored. He said, “We had a really awesome idea for where the show needed to go. We were 18. If that isn’t old enough to know exactly what the show needs, then… well, I would beg to disagree.”

The Show Must Go On No Matter What

Young Actors Have No Say In The Matters Of Show Biz
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

As it so happens, the phrase “the show must go on” isn’t just a phrase; it’s actually a real thing in show business. No matter what is happening in an actor’s personal life, filming isn’t going to be halted. When Drew Barrymore was working on E.T., she had to come to set and film while she had a high fever.

In another instance, Mara Wilson had to continue filming Matilda even though she was only ten years old and her mother had just passed away. But, hey, the show must go on.

Dating Co-Stars Is Part Of The Game

Young Actors Have No Say In The Matters Of Show Biz
Disney Channel
Disney Channel

It seems that love is in the air whenever it comes to young actors working together. What or a lot of people don’t know is that these child stars aren’t necessarily looking for love. Some of them are asked to “date” in order to promote their show or film, while others aren’t allowed to date outside their network.

Disney, for example, makes it a point for their young actors to date within the Mouse family. So, who really knows if Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens or Selena Gomez and Nick Jonas were even into each other.

Coffee Drinking Starts Young

Coffee Drinking Starts Young
ABC
ABC

Long hours, sleepless nights, and memorizing lines are all part of being an actor. But being a child actor, the tireless grind catches up pretty quickly, and they need a way to stay awake during filming. Unfortunately, a lot of them turn to vices to stay awake.

According to Miley Cyrus, she started drinking coffee at a very young age, probably too young, just to make sure she was awake and alert during her time on the set of Hannah Montana.

Some Actors Don’t Own Their Names

Some Actors Don't Own Their Names
Fox Broadcasting Company
Fox Broadcasting Company

Copyright is an age-old issue. Unfortunately, child actors can be a bit naïve when it comes to the business side of Hollywood and, a lot of the time, they’re walked all over. Miley Cyrus, for example, didn’t even own the right to her own name,

During an interview with Pop Buzz, Cyrus said, “My name was Miley on my show, but I didn’t own my name – we didn’t think about that… My mom started understanding how many people take advantage of a child, so she hired smart people to protect me in that way… and put me in a position where I can now control my music.”

They Have To Be The Essence Of Innocence And Youth

They Have To Be The Essence Of Innocence And Youth
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

In movies and television shows, child actors typically play characters that epitomize youth and innocence. The idea is to bring the viewer back into their own childhood or show them what life can be like. To keep this image alive for viewers, the young actors must follow strict rules dealing and morality clauses.

This means no getting photographed by the paparazzi doing questionable things at night, not getting caught saying bad things on social media, and keeping an idealistic image of a “forever 12-year-old,” even if they’re pushing 20.

You’re With The Mouse Or You’re Not

You're With The Mouse Or You're Not
ABC
ABC

While adult actors are able to work on multiple projects at once, as long as their schedule allows it, child actors don’t have the same privilege. Many networks, namely Walt Disney, ask their talent to focus on nothing more than the projects they’re assigned to with the network.

Even if a career-changing film or television series comes along, child actors are told to decline the offer. Adriana Caselotti, the voice of the original Snow White, wasn’t allowed to feature her voice anywhere after making a deal with the devil (sorry, the Mouse).

Parents And Guardians Run Their Social Media

You're With The Mouse Or You're Not
ABC
ABC

Social media is a huge part of society. But many child actors aren’t trusted to run their own accounts since “trolling” and cyber-bullying are, unfortunately, still very prominent in the online community. Instead, parents and guardians are typically posting pictures and captions on the young stars’ various social media sites.

Of course, not every star gives over that power to an adult. But a vast majority is asked to hand over the power—just one more thing out of their control.

There’s No Smoking On Set

There's No Smoking On Set
NBC
NBC

It’s no secret that young actors fall victim to vices at a young age. One such vice being smoking. But that’s an image a network doesn’t want to promote, especially Disney. They want their young stars to look innocent and youthful.

In order to do that, Disney makes it a rule that each set and studio has a strict no smoking policy. Many of the child actors are even told to hide their bad habits from fans, meaning they’re not allowed to smoke on the streets or anywhere they’ll be recognized.

Acting And A Singing Career Go Hand In Hand

Acting And A Singing Career Go Hand In Hand
NBC
NBC

Some people might have noticed that their favorite childhood star wound up with a seemingly out-of-the-blue pop career. This is because a lot of child actors are pushed to have a singing career on top of their acting career, even if that wasn’t in their plans.

There have only been a few Disney stars who made it off the network without being signed to a record label, one of them being Cole Sprouse, who wound up ditching his self-proclaimed “no singing” clause for a musical number in Riverdale.

Yes, There Are Laws, But Working Hours Are Not Limited

Yes, There Are Laws, But Working Hours Are Not Limited
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

There might be child labor laws, but Hollywood tends to look at them as guidelines than actual rules. Many child actors go over the typical eight-hour workday and are expected to continue to work as though it’s hour one, just like the adults.

As a result, many young actors suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. According to therichest.com, Miley Cyrus even suffered from a Vitamin D deficiency from working in a studio day in and day out.

Keeping Up With School Work Isn’t Negotiable

They're Not Allowed To Manage Their Own Money
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Many child actors spend their days on set. This is especially true for those starring in huge film franchises such as Harry Potter. A vast majority of the actors on set were kids! And one of the rules they had to follow in order to keep their jobs was to keep up with their school work.

Between takes, the young actors would work on school assignments. Oliver Phelps, aka George Weasley, said that in scenes when students are working on their wizarding homework in the Great Hall, they’re working on their actual school work!

They’re Not Allowed To Manage Their Own Money

They're Not Allowed To Manage Their Own Money
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Unfortunately, young actors aren’t allowed to manage their own money. Even though they’re the ones putting in the hours and the work, child actors aren’t seen to be mature enough to keep their vast fortunes in check. Their bank accounts fall to their parents or guardians.

The thing is, sometimes the parents are worse at managing money than the child would have been! Mischa Barton, Ariel Winter, and even Macaulay Culkin had their parents take advantage of their money.