It’s got to be difficult to make the transition from squeaky-clean child star to serious character actor, but R5’s Ross Lynch is making it look easy. The former Disney star (he was the lead in both Austin & Ally and Teen Beach Movie) plays the title role in My Friend Dahmer, a disturbing, R-rated retelling of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school years.
My Friend Dahmer just came out today, but critics have already been praising Lynch’s surprisingly convincing portrayal of the disturbed teenager. It’s also worth noting that Alex Wolff, a fellow child star himself (remember The Naked Brothers Band?) also appears in the movie as Derf Backderf, Dahmer’s friend and the author of the graphic novel on which My Friend Dahmer is based.
With Lynch and now Dylan Sprouse deciding to take on roles that may not appeal to the Teen Choice Awards crowd, it’s worth revisiting a few other child actors who experimented with more adult-friendly fare (to varying agrees of success).
We couldn’t help but label Efron a teen heartthrob as soon as he and Vanessa Hudgens finished belting out “Start Of Something New” and it’s been hard for him to shed his Troy Bolton persona ever since. But he’s definitely been trying his best to move on from HSM—apart from hanging out with the Seth Rogens and Adam DeVines of the world and sort of rebranding himself as a comedy star, he’ll appear in the upcoming The Greatest Showman alongside established dramatic actors like Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. Which is, ironically, another musical…maybe Efron has some more work to do, after all.
Speaking of High School Musical, Vanessa Hudgens has also worked hard to establish her post-HSM acting career. First there was the fight sequence filled Sucker Punch in 2011. Then there was the raunchy Spring Breakers in 2012 and the dark Gimme Shelter in 2013. Her starring roles as Rizzo in 2016’s Grease: Live and the short-lived but promising Powerless were both stellar, and now all we want is for Hudgens get her own gritty HBO drama.
Gomez co-starred with Hudgens in Spring Breakers as Faith, one of four college students who befriend a drug dealer (James Franco) during a trip to Florida. Spring Breakers is filled with crime, drugs, and sex—aka, not appropriate for the Wizards of Waverly Place crowd. But while Gomez has been focusing on her music career as of late, we hope she gets a chance to use what she learned on the Spring Breakers set and take on some more substantial acting roles.
Duff never quite managed to make a name for herself as a movie star, (though The Lizzie McGuire movie is definitely award-worthy) but she’s been killing the TV game. Most notably, she popped up in Gossip Girl as Olivia and now stars alongside Broadway icon Sutton Foster in Younger. The more Duff in our lives, the better.
Despite continuing to exhibit some questionable behaviour, LaBeouf might actually be the most successful, non-musically inclined actor on this list. Apart from the CGI-heavy Transformers movies, LaBeouf also starred in the 2007 thriller Disturbia, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and the critically acclaimed American Honey. He also portrays famous tennis player John McEnroe in this year’s Borg McEnroe. LaBeouf’s come a long way since his Even Stevens days, and for that we give him credit.