“I got lucky that it happened during a period of time when the internet existed, but wasn’t what it is today.”
The pitfalls of being a child star are a long-standing Hollywood cautionary tale. There are a number of reasons why child actors have a high risk of spiraling out of control into self-destructive behavior, not the least of which being that you’re simply not mentally equipped to deal with the pressures of being a professional actor – and in some cases a bonafide movie star – at that age. It’s an extremely competitive billion-dollar industry that regularly chews up full-grown adults, so navigating it as a child must be overwhelming in a way I can’t imagine. But it clearly isn’t impossible, as plenty of young stars have grown up to be well-adjusted professionals with fruitful careers.
Speaking to Collider’s Steve Weintraub recently about their upcoming film Breaking News in Yuba County, Mila Kunis and Juliette Lewis shared some thoughts on their experiences as child actors. Specifically, both actresses explained how they managed to maintain their respective careers without going completely off the rails, and helped illuminate just how difficult it is to be a kid in the spotlight, especially after the advent of social media.
When asked whom she credits for keeping her on a healthy path and helping her maintain her career, Kunis credited her parents before highlighting the major differences young actors face today as opposed to when she got her start:
“I didn’t move to LA. I wasn’t a transplant, and I didn’t come here when I was 18 to make it. So, my life was always in LA. My friends are my friends from school, and I became an actor at a young age, but I loved it, but my parents were like, ‘That’s cool. You still got to go to school.’ So, my parents still made me go to public school. And then, I would do something horrible, they would ground me. And I was like, ‘Well, how do you expect me to get to work in the morning?’ And they were like, ‘Here’s money for the bus. Figure it out.’ So, I probably have to say that my parents and their lack of not giving a shit is a huge testament to why I think I looked at this as a mere… I love what I do, but it doesn’t mean that that is who I am, as to how I was able to separate the two. Also, I think neither one of us came up in a world of social media. And so, I think that because of that, it changed… I think the second that Perez Hilton spiked on the internet and became tabloid fodder… Before, it was weekly, at most, you’d have your US weeklies, or People, or whatever it was. And then, it became daily, then it became hourly, then it became by the minute, then it became in real time. And it was an impossible task. You can’t be a human being and not fail in front of people. And we’re now living in a cancel culture where I feel so bad for every single young actor who’s trying to make it. Because you’re just allowing yourself, you’re leaving yourself to be so vulnerable to so many people that you can’t control the opinion of. My long-winded way of saying, ‘I got lucky that it happened during a period of time when the internet existed, but wasn’t what it is today.'”
Lewis echoed Kunis’ thoughts on the importance of keeping your work as an actor separate from your identity as a person while emphasizing her own struggles early on:
“Yeah, I can second some of this in that our upbringing, my parents are so… They’re both artists. My dad was a character actor, so I was on movie sets when I was younger. So, I always knew it as a line of work for the freaks, and the alternative people, and people who live in their imagination. But I knew it very much as a line of work, so both of us, it wasn’t magazine culture … For me, it’s like a hunger or quest because you have something to say and you want to live in other people’s skin. I did have a little imploding when I was 19, 20. I was an introvert, and I didn’t know how to articulate myself yet. But now, I’m in my 40s, and I’m loud, and proud, and all that good stuff.”
Check back soon for the full interview with Kunis and Lewis. Breaking News in Yuba County releases in select theaters and on digital platforms February 12.
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