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These Nickelodeon Actors' Careers Tanked After Their Shows

Nickelodeon has been around since the 1970s, but it really came into its own in the '90s. The decade saw the premiere of the first Nicktoons, like "Rugrats" and "The Angry Beavers," and it also saw the debut of many live-action comedy shows. The sketch comedy show "All That" kicked off the careers of stars like Amanda Bynes and Kenan Thompson, and the sitcom "Clarissa Explains It All" made a star out of Melissa Joan Hart, but not every Nick child star has had the same luck.

It's not easy being a child star in Hollywood, and not everyone is able to successfully make the transition into grown-up actor. Some have trouble getting roles, while others simply discover that acting isn't their passion after all. For every former Nickelodeon star who is a household name today, there's another who hasn't had a successful career since leaving the kids' network. Let's take a look at some Nickelodeon actors whose careers tanked after their shows ended.

Kel Mitchell

"All That" premiered in 1994, and the sketch comedy show was essentially "Saturday Night Live" for kids. Featuring recurring sketches like "Vital Information" (a parody of self-help tips) and "Detective Dan" (a bumbling Inspector Clouseau-type character), the show was quickly a hit with audiences. While all the cast members had a lot to bring to the table, there were two names who stuck out from the very beginning — Kenan and Kel. Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell had brilliant chemistry, and the duo eventually received a spinoff, appropriately titled "Kenan & Kel."

Instead of sketch comedy, the spinoff saw the two in classic sitcom mode, as Kenan would always try to rope Kel into a wild scheme. The two would also star in the "All That" spinoff movie "Good Burger," where Kel portrayed a dim-witted fast food worker who always got the orders wrong. However, when Kenan and Kel decided to step up to the comedy big leagues, only one of them found success.

Both Kenan and Kel auditioned for "Saturday Night Live," but while Kenan got the gig, Kel's audition was something of a disaster, which he himself admitted in a Reddit AMA. However, it all worked out for Kel, as he is now a youth pastor at Spirit Food Christian Center, a church in California. In addition, he and Kenan are close once again, and they have reunited to executive produce a revival of "All That," which they talked about on the "Today" show in 2019.

Michael C. Maronna

"The Adventures of Pete & Pete" was one of Nickelodeon's earliest sitcoms, and it is still fondly remember today. The show starred Michael C. Maronna and Danny Tamberelli as Pete Wrigley and Pete Wrigley. Yes, they were two brothers with the same name. The show differentiated between the two by calling the older brother (Maronna) "Big Pete" and the little brother (Tamberelli) "Little Pete." 

Even if you didn't have Nickelodeon back when this show was on the air, you may have known Maronna from his role as Kevin McCallister's brother Jeff in the "Home Alone" movies. However, after "Pete & Pete" came to an end in 1996, Maronna seemed to disappear. He would pop up here and there, but he never had a role of "Pete & Pete" or even "Home Alone" caliber again. However, he has continued to work in the movie business anyway. 

Today, Maronna works as an electrician on movie sets, which may seem like a disappointing follow-up to acting, but he would disagree. Maronna told Rewind It Magazine in 2020, "I was always interested in the technical aspects of film production," and said that even when he was a kid he "kept asking questions of the gaffer." Clearly, he is working a job he always wanted to do.

Irene Ng

While most Nickelodeon live-actions shows have been comedies, there have been some notable exceptions over the years. Many a '90s kid had nightmares about "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" but Nick also had a brief foray into the mystery genre with "The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo." The show revolved around Shelby Woo (Irene Ng), a teenage detective who lived with her grandfather (Pat Morita). However, after the show came to an end, Ng's life went in another direction.

First, Ng went to Harvard, where she graduated with an economics degree. After working at Merrill Lynch, she opted for yet another career change, and opened a preschool. Mencius Mandarin preschool in Greenwich, Connecticut is a bilingual preschool that teaches in both Mandarin and English. According to Ng's interview with Suburbs 101, the school is "the only licensed Mandarin Chinese immersion preschool in the state of Connecticut." While all of her career paths have been impressive, it's clear that this is Ng's true passion.

Jamie Lynn Spears

Like a lot of Nickelodeon stars, Jamie Lynn Spears got her start on "All That," but she really became a top celebrity on the network with her starring role on the tween show "Zoey 101." Of course, she was also famous for being the little sister of pop superstar Britney Spears, which gave her quite a career boost.

Like her sister, Jamie Lynn quickly found success with her target audience, but eventually saw her image shattered by scandal. Around the time that "Zoey 101" was coming to an end, word got out that the 16-year-old star was pregnant. Naturally, many fans assumed that the show was quickly brought to an end due to her pregnancy, but this actually wasn't the case. The actress finally cleared it all up in a 2020 interview with Cosmopolitan, saying, "I didn't become pregnant until probably six months after we wrapped or something like that, but some of the episodes had not aired yet." After the news broke, she tried to retreat to Mississippi for a private life, but it sadly wasn't always so private, as the paparazzi followed her everywhere. After a long time away, Jamie Lynn Spears has finally gotten back in the acting game. She has a starring role on the Netflix drama "Sweet Magnolias," which she discussed in a 2020 interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Sean Flynn

Unfortunately, Jamie Lynn Spears wasn't the only "Zoey 101" star who had a hard time after the show ended. Fans of the show will remember Sean Flynn as Chase, the curly-haired classmate of Zoey who was in love with her from the first time they met (It was pretty much his whole character). The two finally got together on the show's very last episode, but that was sadly the high point for both the Chase character and Sean Flynn's acting career.

Flynn may have felt a lot of pressure on his career, because he is the grandson of Golden Age of Hollywood legend Errol Flynn. He told Conventional Relations in 2020, "Ever since I saw my grandfather on my VHS tapes back at home it just felt like it was sort of meant to be. Walking in his footsteps, you know? It felt right." However, as he has grown up, he has shifted into a slightly different role. Today, Flynn works as a producer at Donatello Arm, a production company that shoots commercials. 

Lucas Cruikshank

If you were on the internet at all in the early 2010s, you have seen the face and heard the voice of Lucas Cruikshank. You might not know it, but you have. That's because Lucas Cruikshank was the young YouTuber behind the (in)famous Fred Figglehorn character. Fred was a six-year-old boy who didn't understand how terrible his life was, and it felt like the squeaky-voiced character was everywhere for a time. Nickelodeon quickly caught wind of Figglemania and brought Cruikshank's character to TV — many times over.

Take a look at his IMDb, and you'll see all the times he played this character over the course of a few years. First, he appeared as himself on "iCarly." When that went well, he starred in "Fred: The Movie," "Fred: The Show," "Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred," and "Fred 3: Camp Fred." Nickelodeon was sitting on a high-pitched goldmine, but they soon learned that viewers had Fred fatigue. Not wanting to show Cruikshank the door, they cast him in "Marvin Marvin," a show about an alien with a thankfully normal voice. Cruikshank told Teen Vogue in 2013 that it was really refreshing to play a new character, but the critics didn't agree, and the show was canceled after just one season. Today, both "Marvin Marvin" and "Fred: The Show" are considered among the worst sitcoms in history. As for Cruikshank, he still uploads videos to his YouTube, but his Nickelodeon days are behind him.

Lil' JJ

A comedian may work decades before landing their big break, but James "Lil' JJ" Lewis caught his when he was just 13 years old. The stand-up comedian was thrust into the spotlight when he won the BET contest "Comin' to the Stage," and he soon found himself on Nickelodeon. However, in a 2013 interview with Consciousness Magazine, years after his Nickelodeon success, he still called stand-up his "first love."

Following successful appearances on the Nick shows "All That" and "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide," Lil' JJ was given his own sitcom called "Just Jordan." He never quite reached Lucas Cruikshank-levels of hype, but it was clear that Nickelodeon wanted to make him their next star. However, the show only lasted two seasons, and JJ's star faded a bit. 

In the same interview, Lil' JJ said that his real passion was directing, and he also wanted to help kids like him who were hoping to find success. Currently, you can find him on the sketch comedy show "Wild n' Out."

Danny Tamberelli

The other Pete on "The Adventures of Pete & Pete," Danny Tamberelli became one of Nickelodeon's biggest stars of the '90s. When "Pete & Pete" ended, Tamberelli made the move to "All That" in 1997, where he became famous for his loud, over-the-top characters. Of course, anyone who watched Nickelodeon game shows in the '90s remembers Tamberelli from "Figure It Out," where panelists would try to guess a kid's talent, while often getting covered in green slime. Tamberelli was just as over-the-top on this show, and the show's "Secret Slime Action" would often target him specifically, as Tamberelli pointed out in a 2019 Newsday interview. In regards to being slimed, he said, "Well, it was fun the first hundred times, and then it was kinda fun the next hundred times, and then it was mildly fun the other thousand times it happened to me." In addition, Tamberelli admitted he would often throw the game just to make sure the kids won the prizes, unless they were "snooty about it."

After "All That" ended, Tamberelli put acting on the backburner, deciding to focus on college and his band, which he talked about in a 2012 Metro interview. He remains close with his former "Pete & Pete" co-star Michael C. Maronna, with whom he has a podcast, and his former "All That" and "Figure It Out" co-star Lori Beth Denberg, whom he has gone on tour with.

Josh Server

The original run of "All That" lasted from 1994-2000, and there was only one cast member who was there the whole time — Josh Server. One of the most versatile members of the cast, Server could play the wackiest of wacky roles (like the aforementioned Detective Dan or Ear Boy), but he was just as adept at playing the straight man to someone else's wacky character. His wide range of talents should have put him on the track to stardom like co-stars Kenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes, but sadly it didn't.

Server's IMDb shows that he has mainly had a career of one-off appearances on Nickelodeon shows, including "Kenan & Kel" and "Drake & Josh." However, he has embraced that "All That" is a huge part of his career, and he even joked in a 2014 interview with Complex, "When I win my Oscar, God willing, they're going to show a clip of Ear Boy." Server has played a big part in the "All That" revival that is now on Nickelodeon, which he told The AV Club was "like coming home."

Devon Werkheiser

A lot of Nickelodeon sitcoms are simple, slice-of-life stories that don't get as weird as the cartoons on the network. However, "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" was an exception, as the main character would talk directly to the audience, and there were plenty of wacky, over-the-top hijinks. At the center of this "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" for middle schoolers was the nice guy everyman Ned Bigby, played by Devon Werkheiser. 

Sadly, after the show ended in 2007, Werkheiser never had a role anywhere near as iconic as Ned. His IMDb is mostly filled with small roles in TV and movies, including a few episodes of "Greek," but like so many other child stars, Werkheiser simply found a new passion. He talked about his burgeoning music career in a 2020 interview with Conventional Relations, saying that he was signed to a recording contract "right after Ned's Declassified." Over the years, he has spent more and more time on his music, releasing an album and several EPs. He hasn't completely given up on acting, though, as he remains friends with his "Ned's Declassified" co-stars, and spoke in the interview about a possible reboot of the show for adults.

Jennette McCurdy

Being a child star is not easy, but many Nickelodeon stars are still able to look back fondly on their time in the spotlight. Maybe their careers didn't turn out how they expected when they were teenagers, but they're still enjoying life now. Sadly, this isn't always the case.

Jennette McCurdy was one of the biggest Nickelodeon stars of her day, starting out on "iCarly" in 2007, where she played Sam Puckett, the sarcastic best friend and internet co-host of Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove). McCurdy continued her success with the spin-off "Sam & Cat," where she starred alongside Ariana Grande. However, behind the scenes, McCurdy's life was absolutely miserable. In October 2021, McCurdy told People, "My mom had always dreamt of being a famous actor and she became obsessed with making me a star." Unfortunately, this led to multiple eating disorders for the young actress before she was even a teenager, and her mother also became abusive as McCurdy got older. Not long after her mother's death in 2013, McCurdy stepped away from fame, saying, "It's a risk to change your life, but I made it my mission." Today she has a one-woman show, bluntly titled "I'm Glad My Mom Died," and she has overcome the eating disorders she struggled with at the peak of her fame.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Drake Bell

Although he made various TV and movie appearances throughout the '90s, Drake Bell first found real success on Nickelodeon's "The Amanda Show" in 1999. In fact, he and fellow co-star Josh Peck had such good chemistry on the sketch comedy show that they were soon cast in a sitcom of their own, titled "Drake & Josh." While Peck has had a somewhat successful career, including roles in the "Red Dawn" remake and the sitcom "Grandfathered," Bell has not had much success since his Nickelodeon days.

In 2009 and 2016, respectively, he was charged with driving under the influence, as reported by New York Daily News. In 2015, he tweeted about an injury that led him to believe he would never play guitar again. In August of 2020, Melissa Lingafelt took to TikTok to accuse Bell of physical and verbal abuse in time they lived together, which began when Lingafelt was just 16. She did not say how old Bell was at the time, and Variety did not mention it when they covered the allegations, but Lingafelt did make a reference to "the underage girls thing." The final nail in the coffin came in 2021, when Bell was "indicted on charges of attempted endangering children, a fourth-degree felony, and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, a first-degree misdemeanor," according to News5 Cleveland

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.