Leaving Tinseltown Behind: Actors Who Chose Different Routes

The glitz and glamor of Hollywood often draws aspiring actors like a magnet, but it’s not uncommon for established actors to leave the entertainment industry in pursuit of entirely new career paths. Here are a few examples of former actors who decided to shift their focus to new endeavors:


Erik Estrada

Formerly From: CHiPs

Currently: Reserve police deputy

Net Worth: $4 million*

Erik Estrada was born in East Harlem, New York City, to his mother Carmen, a seamstress. From a young age, Estrada knew he wanted to be an actor. He got his break with a role in the 1970 movie The Cross and the Switchblade. But it wasn’t until he landed the role of Frank “Ponch” Poncherello in the TV show CHiPs that he became a household name. Despite his success, Estrada eventually felt a call to serve his community. In 2009, he became a reserve police officer for the St. Anthony Police Department in Idaho. Today, Estrada remains passionate about law enforcement and continues to serve as a reserve police deputy.


Peter Ostrum

Formerly From: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Currently: Veterinarian

Net Worth: $500,000*

Peter Ostrum’s acting career was short-lived, but his role as Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory left a lasting impact. After the movie, Ostrum decided not to pursue acting and instead followed a different path. He attended Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and became a successful veterinarian, specializing in dairy cattle. Today, he practices in rural New York and has found his passion in helping animals.


Jeff Cohen

Formerly From: The Goonies

Currently: Entertainment Lawyer

Net Worth: $4 million*

Jeff Cohen is best known for his role as the lovable Chunk in the 1985 film The Goonies. After the movie, Cohen decided to leave acting and focus on his education. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, and later the UCLA School of Law. Today, Cohen is a successful entertainment lawyer and co-founder of the law firm Cohen & Gardner, LLP.


Rick Moranis

Formerly From: Ghostbusters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Currently: Voice actor, occasional musician

Net Worth: $10 million*

Rick Moranis was a familiar face in the ’80s and ’90s with roles in popular movies like Ghostbusters and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. However, in 1997, he decided to take a break from acting to focus on raising his children after his wife passed away. Though he hasn’t entirely left the entertainment industry, Moranis has shifted his focus to voice acting and occasional music projects.


Formerly From: “I Think We’re Alone Now” – 80s Popstar Fame

Currently: Clothing store owner

Net Worth: $4 million*

Tiffany Darwish, popularly known as Tiffany, was an eighties teen singing sensation best known for her chart-topping song “I Think We’re Alone Now.” She also sang “I Saw Him Standing There,” which was a cover of the Beatles’ song “I Saw Her Standing There,” with the lyrics changed. Tiffany’s music was a hit during the late 1980s, and her single “I Think We’re Alone Now” reached the top position on the Billboard charts. It was famously used in an old ad for Apple.

Although Tiffany continued to sing in the years that followed, her primary focus has since shifted. These days, she is the owner/operator of a small business: a clothing store. She also tours small venues, such as coffee shops and festivals, often using her 80s fame to help promote her clothing business. Tiffany’s transformation from a pop star to a businesswoman is an example of how celebrities can successfully transition into new and rewarding career paths.


Vanilla Ice

Formerly From: “Ice Ice Baby” – 90s Rap Star

Currently: Real estate investor and home renovation expert

Net Worth: $12 million*

Robert Van Winkle, widely known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, was a 90s rap star famous for his hit single “Ice Ice Baby.” The song became the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts and was a massive success worldwide. However, after the success of his first album, Vanilla Ice struggled to replicate his initial success.

Deciding to explore other avenues, Vanilla Ice shifted his focus to real estate investing and home renovation. He started buying and flipping houses, and his keen eye for design and renovation caught the attention of television producers. He has hosted the home improvement reality show “The Vanilla Ice Project” on the DIY Network since 2010, which showcases his real estate and renovation skills. Vanilla Ice has successfully reinvented himself as a real estate investor and home renovation expert.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Formerly From: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Currently: Entrepreneur

Net Worth: $20 million*

Sarah Michelle Gellar became a household name with her portrayal of Buffy Summers in the hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Following the show’s end in 2003, Gellar appeared in several films, but she eventually decided to step back from acting to focus on her business ventures. In 2015, Gellar co-founded a company called Foodstirs, which produces organic and non-GMO baking mixes. Gellar’s commitment to promoting healthier food options has made her a successful entrepreneur in her own right.


Jon Gosselin

Formerly From: Jon & Kate Plus 8

Currently: DJ and IT technician

Net Worth: $10,000*

Jon Gosselin rose to fame as the father of eight on the reality TV show Jon & Kate Plus 8. After a highly publicized divorce and a few more reality TV appearances, Gosselin chose to leave the world of entertainment. He now works as a DJ in Pennsylvania and also holds a job as an IT technician. Gosselin has embraced a quieter, more private life away from the cameras, focusing on his family and career.


Josh Saviano

Formerly From: The Wonder Years

Currently: Attorney

Net Worth: $500,000*

Josh Saviano, who played Paul Pfeiffer on the popular TV show The Wonder Years, chose not to pursue a long-term career in acting. Instead, he went on to attend Yale University and became a lawyer. Today, Saviano is a successful attorney and partner at a New York-based law firm, Morrison Cohen LLP. He specializes in intellectual property law and represents clients in the entertainment and technology industries.


Danny Lloyd

Formerly From: The Shining

Currently: Biology Professor

Net Worth: $600,000*

Danny Lloyd is best known for his role as Danny Torrance in the iconic horror film The Shining. After the film’s release, Lloyd stepped away from acting and chose to pursue a career in academia. He studied biology in college and eventually became a biology professor at a community college in Kentucky. Lloyd has embraced his life away from the limelight, preferring the stability and fulfillment of teaching to the pressures of Hollywood.


Mara Wilson

Formerly From: Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire

Currently: Writer and voice actress

Net Worth: $500,000*

Mara Wilson was a child star, known for her roles in films like Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. As she grew older, Wilson decided to leave acting behind and pursue a career in writing. She graduated from New York University with a degree in drama and creative writing. Wilson has since published a memoir, “Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame,” and works as a voice actress for podcasts and animated shows.

Shirley Temple

Formerly From: Bright Eyes, The Little Princess

Currently: Former diplomat (deceased)

Net Worth: $30 million*

Shirley Temple was the quintessential child star of the 1930s. However, as she grew older, she decided to leave Hollywood and focus on public service. Temple served as a delegate to the United Nations, the US Ambassador to Ghana, and later the US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. She passed away in 2014, leaving behind a legacy of public service and philanthropy.



Charlie Korsmo

Formerly From: Hook, What About Bob?

Currently: Law Professor

Net Worth: $500,000*

Charlie Korsmo was a popular child actor in the early ’90s, with roles in films such as Hook and What About Bob? However, he chose to step away from acting and focus on his education. Korsmo earned a degree in physics from MIT and a law degree from Yale Law School. He is now a respected law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.


Tony Danza

Formerly From: Who’s the Boss?, Taxi

Currently: Educator

Net Worth: $40 million*

Tony Danza, known for his roles in popular TV series like Who’s the Boss? and Taxi, chose to leave acting to make a difference in the field of education. In 2009, he became an English teacher at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, even hosting a reality show, “Teach: Tony Danza,” that documented his experiences. Danza has continued to advocate for education, emphasizing the importance of inspiring and supporting students.


Jack Gleeson

Formerly From: Game of Thrones

Currently: Scholar and theater company co-founder

Net Worth: $6 million*

Jack Gleeson became famous for his role as Joffrey Baratheon in the hit series Game of Thrones. After his character’s death on the show, Gleeson decided to leave acting to focus on his education. He studied philosophy and theology at Trinity College Dublin and co-founded a theater company, Collapsing Horse, where he produces and performs in various plays. Gleeson has found fulfillment in his pursuits outside of Hollywood, enjoying the creative freedom that comes with running his own theater company.


Ariana Richards

Formerly From: Jurassic Park

Currently: Painter

Net Worth: $1.5 million*

Ariana Richards gained international recognition for her role as Lex Murphy in the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. After her success in the film industry, Richards decided to focus on her passion for painting. She studied at the Art Center College of Design in California and now works as a successful professional painter, winning numerous awards for her artwork.


Freddie Prinze Jr.

Formerly From: She’s All That, I Know What You Did Last Summer

Currently: Cookbook Author

Net Worth: $30 million*

Freddie Prinze Jr. became a heartthrob in the late 1990s and early 2000s with roles in popular teen films like She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer. However, Prinze decided to step away from acting to pursue his passion for cooking. He released a cookbook titled “Back to the Kitchen,” where he shares family recipes and personal anecdotes about his love for cooking.


Cary Grant

Formerly From: North by Northwest, Charade

Currently: Deceased (Retired as a businessman before passing)

Net Worth: $60 million (at the time of death)

Cary Grant was a legendary Hollywood actor known for his roles in classic films like North by Northwest and Charade. After a successful acting career, Grant chose to retire from the film industry in the 1960s and became a businessman. He served on the boards of several companies, including Fabergé, MGM, and Western Airlines. Grant enjoyed a quiet life away from the spotlight before passing away in 1986.


Kevin Jonas

Formerly From: Jonas Brothers

Currently: Entrepreneur

Net Worth: $25 million*

Kevin Jonas rose to fame as one of the Jonas Brothers, a popular music group. After the band disbanded in 2013, Kevin pursued a career in business and co-founded a construction company, Jonas Werner Fine Custom Homes. He has also ventured into app development with a food search app called Yood. While the Jonas Brothers reunited in 2019, Kevin continues to balance his music career with his entrepreneurial ventures.


Michael Schoeffling

Formerly From: Sixteen Candles

Currently: Furniture Maker

Net Worth: $500,000*

Michael Schoeffling became a teen heartthrob for his role as Jake Ryan in the 1984 film Sixteen Candles. Despite his success, Schoeffling chose to leave acting in the early ’90s to focus on his family. He became a skilled furniture maker and now runs his own woodworking shop in Pennsylvania, creating custom furniture pieces for clients.


Taran Noah Smith

Formerly From: Home Improvement

Currently: Entrepreneur

Net Worth: $300,000*

Taran Noah Smith is best known for his role as Mark Taylor on the hit TV show Home Improvement. After the show ended, Smith decided to leave acting and pursued various entrepreneurial ventures. He co-founded a non-dairy cheese manufacturer and cafe called Playfood, focusing on vegan and organic products. Smith has found fulfillment in exploring his business interests outside of the entertainment industry.


Brittany Ashton Holmes

Formerly From: The Little Rascals

Currently: Political Science Graduate

Net Worth: $300,000*

Brittany Ashton Holmes gained fame as a child actress for her role as Darla in the 1994 film The Little Rascals. After a few more acting roles, Holmes chose to leave the entertainment industry and focus on her education. She studied political science in college and has expressed a desire to work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry or explore a career in politics.


Andrea Barber

Formerly From: Full House

Currently: Writer and Mental Health Advocate

Net Worth: $2 million*

Andrea Barber is best known for her role as Kimmy Gibbler on the popular TV series Full House. After the show ended in 1995, Barber decided to step away from acting and focus on her personal life. She earned a degree in English from Whittier College and later received a master’s degree in Women’s Studies from the University of York. Barber returned to acting for the Full House revival, Fuller House, but she also focuses on writing and advocating for mental health awareness.





Chris Owen

Formerly From: American Pie Series

Currently: Sushi Chef and Actor

Net Worth: $200,000*

Chris Owen is known for his role as Chuck “The Sherminator” Sherman in the American Pie series. After his success in the films, Owen decided to diversify his career and became a sushi chef while still pursuing acting roles. He has worked at a popular sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, California, and continues to balance his career as a chef with occasional acting projects.


Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Formerly From: Home Improvement, The Lion King

Currently: Writer and Director

Net Worth: $16 million*

Jonathan Taylor Thomas became a teen idol in the ’90s for his role as Randy Taylor on the TV series Home Improvement and as the voice of young Simba in The Lion King. After leaving acting, Thomas studied at Harvard University, Columbia University, and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. He has since pursued a career as a writer and director, focusing on telling stories that resonate with him personally.


Gene Hackman

Formerly From: The French Connection, Unforgiven

Currently: Novelist (Retired Actor)

Net Worth: $80 million*

Gene Hackman is a legendary actor known for his roles in iconic films like The French Connection and Unforgiven. After retiring from acting in the early 2000s, Hackman pursued his passion for writing and has published several novels. He enjoys a quieter life away from Hollywood, dedicating his time to writing and exploring his creativity.


Dylan Sprouse

Formerly From: The Suite Life of Zack & Cody

Currently: Entrepreneur (All-Wise Meadery) and Actor

Net Worth: $8 million*

Dylan Sprouse rose to fame alongside his twin brother, Cole Sprouse, in the Disney Channel series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. After taking a break from acting to attend college, Dylan became an entrepreneur and co-founded All-Wise Meadery, a brewery in Brooklyn, New York. He has since returned to acting in independent films while continuing to run his successful business.


Geena Davis

Formerly From: Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own

Currently: Advocate for Gender Equality in Media

Net Worth: $30 million*

Geena Davis is an Academy Award-winning actress known for her roles in Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own. While she still occasionally acts, Davis has devoted much of her time to advocating for gender equality in media. She founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a nonprofit organization that researches and advocates for gender representation in film and television.


MC Hammer

Formerly From: Rapper (“U Can’t Touch This”)

Currently: Entrepreneur and Minister

Net Worth: $2 million*

MC Hammer, born Stanley Kirk Burrell, is best known for his hit song “U Can’t Touch This.” After his music career, Hammer pursued various business ventures, including a record label and a dance clothing line. He later became an ordained minister and started a television ministry program. Hammer has also been involved in tech startups and continues to explore his entrepreneurial interests while sharing his faith.

These former actors and entertainers have pursued various paths after their time in the spotlight, finding success and fulfillment in different fields. Their stories show that there are many avenues to explore outside of Hollywood, and that it is possible to create a meaningful life beyond fame.


Danica McKellar

Formerly From: “The Wonder Years” – Actress

Currently: Mathematician and Author

Net Worth: $6 million*

Danica McKellar is best known for her role as Winnie Cooper in the television series “The Wonder Years.” However, after the show ended, she decided to pursue her passion for mathematics. She graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and co-authored a paper that was published in a scientific journal. McKellar is also a successful author, having written several math books for middle and high school students, aimed at making the subject more accessible and less intimidating.


George Foreman

Formerly From: Boxing – World Heavyweight Champion

Currently: Entrepreneur

Net Worth: $300 million*

George Foreman is a former professional boxer who was a two-time world heavyweight champion. After retiring from boxing, he became an entrepreneur and is best known for endorsing the George Foreman Grill. The grill became a massive success, and Foreman has reportedly earned more money from it than he did in his boxing career.


Nikki Blonsky

Formerly From: “Hairspray” – Actress and Singer

Currently: Hairstylist

Net Worth: $625,000*

Nikki Blonsky is an actress and singer best known for her role as Tracy Turnblad in the 2007 film adaptation of the musical “Hairspray.” After her initial success, Blonsky decided to pursue a career as a hairstylist. She became a licensed cosmetologist and now works at a hair salon.


Jonathan Bennett

Formerly From: “Mean Girls” – Actor

Currently: Spin instructor and host

Net Worth: $1 million*

Jonathan Bennett is an actor best known for his role as Aaron Samuels in the film “Mean Girls.” After his acting career slowed down, Bennett decided to become a spin instructor. He also found success as a host, working on shows like “Cake Wars” and “Halloween Wars.”



Kirk Cameron

Formerly From: “Growing Pains” – Actor

Currently: Evangelist and Christian Filmmaker

Net Worth: $20 million*

Kirk Cameron became a household name for his role as Mike Seaver on the sitcom “Growing Pains.” After the show ended, Cameron became a born-again Christian and decided to focus his career on Christian-themed projects. He has appeared in and produced several Christian films, and he also works as an evangelist, speaking at churches and events around the country.


Frankie Muniz

Formerly From: “Malcolm in the Middle” – Actor

Currently: Racecar Driver, Band Manager

Net Worth: $40 million*

Frankie Muniz rose to fame as the titular character in the television series “Malcolm in the Middle.” After the show ended, Muniz pursued a career as a racecar driver and competed in several professional racing events. He also managed the band Kingsfoil and explored other ventures outside of acting.



Tom Selleck

Formerly From: “Magnum, P.I.” – Actor

Currently: Avocado Farmer

Net Worth: $45 million*

Tom Selleck is best known for his role as Thomas Magnum in the television series “Magnum, P.I.” After enjoying a successful acting career, Selleck turned to avocado farming. He owns a large avocado ranch in California and has become a successful farmer while still occasionally acting.


Gabrielle Carteris

Formerly From: “Beverly Hills, 90210” – Actress

Currently: Union Leader

Net Worth: $3 million*

Gabrielle Carteris is best known for her role as Andrea Zuckerman in the television series “Beverly Hills, 90210.” After her acting career, Carteris became a union leader and was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Her work as a union leader focuses on advocating for actors’ rights and improving working conditions.


Mike Vitar

Formerly From: “The Sandlot” – Child Actor

Currently: Firefighter

Net Worth: $300,000*

Mike Vitar, who played Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in the film “The Sandlot,” chose to leave acting and become a firefighter. He has been working as a firefighter for the Los Angeles Fire Department for several years, dedicating his life to public service.


Jason Zimbler

Formerly From: “Clarissa Explains It All” – Actor

Currently: Software Designer

Net Worth: $1.5 million*

Jason Zimbler is best known for his role as Ferguson Darling in the television series “Clarissa Explains It All.” After leaving acting, Zimbler decided to pursue a career in technology. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Business Administration and works as a software designer.


Jamie Walters

Formerly From: “Beverly Hills, 90210” – Actor and Singer

Currently: Firefighter and Paramedic

Net Worth: $500,000*

Jamie Walters rose to fame as an actor and singer, known for his role in “Beverly Hills, 90210” and his hit single “How Do You Talk to an Angel.” After leaving the entertainment industry, Walters became a firefighter and paramedic in Los Angeles, focusing on helping others in emergency situations.