'Harriet The Spy' turns 25 — '90s child stars: Where are they now?

Michelle Trachtenberg made her feature film debut playing everyone’s favorite kid detective in 1996’s “Harriet The Spy,” which is based on the classic Louise Fitzhugh novel of the same name. It would become a standard for every movie-loving child at the time and helped launch Michelle onto the A-list of ’90s child stars. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Harriet The Spy,” which hit theaters on July 10, 1996, join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at where some of the most memorable ’90s kids actors and actresses are now…

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Michelle Trachtenberg made her first television appearance at 3 in a detergent commercial and took part in over 100 more ads before landing her first TV series role on “Law & Order” in 1991. Shortly after, she scored prominent parts on TV hits like “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” and “All My Children.” Nickelodeon classic “Pete & Pete” brought her to the attention of children everywhere and helped her nab the titular role in “Harriet The Spy,” forcing her to leave the series before it wrapped. The New York City native soon followed it with major parts in films like “Inspector Gadget” and “Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish” before the decade came a to close.

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Michelle Trachtenberg’s career remained in high gear as the aughts began: She joining the fifth season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as a main character — Buffy’s younger sister, Dawn — in 2000. Shortly after the show finished its run, she had stints on TV shows like “Six Feet Under,” “Mercy” and “Weeds.” In 2008, she landed a recurring spot as devious Georgina Sparks on the teen hit “Gossip Girl” and remained until the show’s end in 2012. During that same period, she had large parts in films such as “EuroTrip,” “Ice Princess,” “Black Christmas,” “17 Again” and “Take Me Home Tonight” as well as on made-for-TV movies like “Killing Kennedy,” “The Christmas Gift” and “Sister Cities.” Michelle’s career has cooled off in recent years, but she was most recently seen in the 2014 film “The Scribbler” and heard as the voice of a character on Facebook Watch’s “Human Kind Of” in 2018. In 2021, the actress made headlines for standing in solidarity with “Buffy” co-star Charisma Carpenter after she came forward with abuse allegations against series creator Joss Whedon. Michelle wrote on Instagram that she also experienced “not appropriate behavior” from the “Avengers” director.

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Co-starring alongside Michelle in “Harriet The Spy” was Gregory Smith, who played Harriett’s best friend Simon “Sport” Rocque, who helped her with her favorite pastimes of snooping and sleuthing. The Toronto-born star began acting when he was 14 months old, appearing in commercials and catalogue shoots, then made his film debut in 1994’s “Andre.” After “Harriet,” Gregory remained busy with parts in films like “Krippendorf’s Tribe” and “Small Soldiers” plus TV guest roles on “Highlander,” “The Outer Limits” and “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” He completed the ’90s with a supporting role in the hit Disney Channel Original Movie “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.”

Gregory Smith kicked off the following decade with supporting parts in 2000’s “The Patriot” and 2001’s “American Outlaws” as well as the short-lived drama series “Kate Brasher.” In 2002, he broke through as the lead, Ephram Brown, on the hit WB drama “Everwood,” which ran for four seasons, alongside fellow breakouts like Emily VanCamp and Chris Pratt. During that same time, he also appeared in the TV movie adaptation of the classic children’s’ book “A Wrinkle in Time.” In 2010, Gregory started a six-season run on the Canadian cop drama “Rookie Blue”; he also directed a number of episodes. It was that experience that lead him to pursue a career behind the scenes: He’s helmed episodes of “Riverdale,” “The Flash” and “Supergirl” in the years since. In 2021, he was behind the camera for an episode of “Superman & Lois.” Gregory married Canadian actress and model Taylor McKay in 2018. The pair welcomed their first child, a son, in 2021.

One of the most iconic television characters of the 1990s was the loveable dorky neighbor on “Family Matters,” Steve Urkel. Jaleel White famously played the pesky, suspender-loving “TGIF” icon for nine years, winning viewers’ hearts as he consistently dropped in on the Winslow family in an effort to woo eldest daughter Laura with his snort-filled cackle. In doing so, the Los Angeles native quickly became one of the most recognizable faces on the small screen until the sitcom wrapped in 1997.

Unfortunately, Urkel became so well-known that Jaleel White has never topped the impact of his breakthrough role and initially struggled to get many roles at all. In 2011, he told Vanity Fair that he struggled with being synonymous with the character toward the show’s end, saying, “I was retarding my own growth as a man to maintain the authenticity to what I thought that character should be.” However, he returned to television on the short-lived UPN sitcom “Grown Ups,” which was canceled after one season. The star then decided to give acting a break to pursue a college education and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2001 with a degree in film and television. He would go to cameo in the Oscar-nominated musical “Dreamgirls” and appeared on shows like “Boston Legal,” “House,” “NCIS” and “Psych.” In 2012, he even competed on “Dancing With the Stars,” coming in seventh. Jaleel returned to sitcoms with a lead part on 2017’s “Me, Myself & I,” which only lasted for six episodes before CBS pulled the plug. He was more recently seen on the 2020 Netflix comedy series “The Big Show Show” and in 2021 launched a line of cannabis products called ItsPurpl. In 2009, he had a daughter, Samaya, with now-ex-girlfriend Bridget Hardy.

Mayim Bialik got her start in the late 1980s with parts in films like “Pumpkinhead” and “Beaches” and on TV shows like “The Facts of Life” and “Webster” before landing her breakthrough role as the titular teen on the hit sitcom “Blossom” in 1991. The series followed the hijinks and dramas of Blossom Russo, a teenager living with her father and two older brothers. However, after finishing five seasons, the California-born star took a step back from acting to get a neuroscience degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, though she sporadically did voice work on shows like “Hey Arnold,” “Recess” and “Johnny Bravo.”

Mayim Bialik didn’t stop her education there — she went on to earn her Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2007 and returned to acting with minor roles on shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “‘Til Death” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” In 2010, she made a major acting comeback when she joined the incredibly successful sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” as, coincidentally, neuroscientist Dr. Amy Fowler. She stayed on the show until it wrapped in 2019, earning four Emmy Award nominations for her work. Since then, Mayim has remained busy: She hosted the reality competition series “Celebrity Show-Off” in 2020 and currently stars as the titular character on the FOX comedy series “Call Me Kat.” Outside of acting, the outspoken vegan founded the women’s lifestyle site Grok Nation in 2018 and has written two books with pediatrician Jay Gordon as well as two on her own. She’ll soon release her directorial debut, “As Sick As They Made Us,” which she also wrote. Mayim married Michael Stone, with whom she has two sons, in 2003; they parted ways in 2012.

Mara Wilson convinced her parents to let her try acting at a young age after seeing her older brother book gigs. She went on to nab a few major commercials before landing a main role in the hit 1993 comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire” opposite Robin Williams and Sally Field when she was 6. The film immediately made the Los Angeles native one of the most recognizable young faces in Hollywood, which led to a recurring part on “Melrose Place” and starring roles in theatrical hits such as the “Miracle on 34th Street” remake and the big-screen adaptation of the classic children’s tale “Matilda.” Sadly, Mara’s mom passed away from breast cancer in the late ’90s, and after a few unsuccessful auditions, she decided to cut her acting career short after the decade came to a close.

After her mom’s passing, Mara Wilson returned to Hollywood for the 1999 TV movie “Balloon Farm” and the 2000 fantasy flick “Thomas and the Magic Railroad” before pivoting to focus on her education. She attended New York University to study writing. In 2012, she began dipping her toes back into acting, appearing on episodes of “Demo Reel” and “Nostalgia Chick,” the latter of which she also wrote, and in the 2015 movie “Billie Bob Joe.” Mara has also pursued work as a voice actress on animated shows like “BoJack Horseman” and “Big Hero 6: The Series.” She’s also focused on writing: Her play “Sheeple” was produced in 2013 for the New York International Fringe Festival. The star also wrote the memoir “Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame” in 2016. Mara, who came out as bisexual in 2016, also penned op-eds for numerous outlets about her experiences in the film industry and her lengthy battles with anxiety and OCD.

Macaulay Culkin was one of the biggest breakout stars of the decade thanks to his starring role as Kevin McCallister in the iconic 1990 Christmas film “Home Alone.” It became one of the most famous movies of all time and immediately turned the fresh-faced 10-year-old into a household name. The tale of a young boy accidentally left behind by his family during Christmas break earned him a Golden Globe nomination and spawned a hit sequel in 1992. He immediately followed the comedies with starring parts in family-film classics such as “My Girl,” “Richie Rich,” “Getting Even With Dad,” “The Pagemaster” and “The Nutcracker.” He also struck up a long friendship with pop icon Michael Jackson after appearing in his “Black or White” music video and became godfather to Michael’s daughter, Paris Jackson. However, after diminishing box office returns, the New York City native dropped acting to pursue a normal life as a teenager. 

Following his parents’ divorce in 1994, Macaulay Culkin — who accused his father of pressuring him to work from a young age — sued them for control of his multimillion-dollar fortune before becoming legally emancipated at 15. In 2003, the young star made a brief return to acting with a guest appearance on the hit sitcom “Will & Grace” and a role in the gritty indie drama “Party Monster.” Macaulay followed those with the hit teen satire “Saved!” as well as a 2006 memoir, “Junior.” In the years since, he’s appeared in a few minor films as well as on TV shows like “Robot Chicken,” “The Jim Gaffigan Show” and “:DRYVRS.” In 2019, the actor teamed up with friends Seth Green and Breckin Meyer for the comedy “Changeland” and appeared on the Hulu series “Dollface” opposite his girlfriend, actress Brenda Song. Later in 2021, fans can catch him on the 10th season of “American Horror Story.” Outside of acting, he once was the vocalist of comedy rock band the Pizza Underground and is the publisher and CEO of satirical pop culture website and podcast Bunny Ears. In 2021, Brenda gave birth to the pair’s first child, a son they named Dakota Song Culkin after Macaulay’s late sister.

Tatyana Ali won the hearts of television viewers everywhere for her work as Ashley Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Fans got to see the New York-born star, who nabbed the gig at 11, evolve opposite Will Smith over the hit sitcom’s six-season run. She scored the part of Will’s fun-loving youngest cousin after appearances on “Sesame Street” and “Star Search” and parlayed her success into a music career with the help of Will, scoring a Top 10 hit with her 1998 track “Daydreamin'” off her album “Kiss The Sky,” which was certified gold.

After “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” wrapped, Tatyana Ali closed out the 1990s with small roles in films such as “Kiss the Girls,” “Jawbreaker” and “The Clown at Midnight.” She then took a step back from acting to attend Harvard University, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and Government. Tatyana then returned to the industry with sporadic TV guest appearances and roles in films like “The Brothers,” “National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze” and “Glory Road.” She portrayed a recurring character on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless” from 2007 to 2013 and then starred on the TV One series “Love That Girl!” from 2010 to 2014. Also in 2014, the star returned to music with the release of her EP “Hello.” Since 2018, she’s voiced Mrs. James on the Disney animated television series “Fancy Nancy.” She married Vaughn Rasberry, a professor in Stanford University’s English department, in 2016 after meeting him on eHarmony. The couple have two sons.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas became one of the biggest teen heartthrobs of the 1990s thanks to his role as Randy Taylor, the son of Tim Allen’s Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, on “Home Improvement.” The sitcom ran for eight seasons and landed the Pennsylvania native on the cover of every magazine aimed at young girls throughout the decade. During his time as a major television star, JTT also lent his voice to the classic animated film “The Lion King” as Young Simba and starred in movies like “Man Of the House,” “Wild America,” “Tom and Huck” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” He left the series that made him famous a year before it finished so he could star in the gritty drama “Speedway Junkie” before stepping away from acting to focus on his studies.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas left Hollywood to study philosophy and history at Harvard University and spent his third year abroad in Scotland. He eventually graduated from Columbia University’s School of General Studies. JTT did some voiceover work for “The Wild Thornberrys” and “The Simpsons” and appeared on live action shows like “Smallville” and “Veronica Mars,” but for the most part, he’s left his huge acting career in the past. He reunited with Tim Allen to make a few cameo appearances on the sitcom “Last Man Standing” between 2013 and 2015 and directed episodes of the long-running show. Outside of that, JTT (seen here in 2013) has been entirely private, with very little known about how he spends his days. In the summer of 2021, fans went wild after he was photographed walking his dogs following nearly a decade without any new photos surfacing. See the pics here.

Devon Sawa was also a BOP Magazine mainstay throughout the 1990s after moving from children’s toy spokesperson to film star with major roles in favorites like “Little Giants,” “Casper” and “Now and Then.” His shiny blonde hair and winning smile landed him on the bedroom walls of girls everywhere, but it wasn’t long before the Toronto-born actor felt like he’d outgrown the parts that made him popular. Devon finished the decade with edgy R-rated projects like the horror-comedy “Idle Hands” and the punk-rock drama “SLC Punk!”

Devon Sawa found a winning niche as he headed into the 2000s with more adult fare like “Final Destination” and “Slackers” as well as a memorable starring role in the music video for Eminem’s hit single “Stan.” However, it wasn’t long before the actor slipped out of the spotlight, avoiding the traps of teen stardom to focus on a number of independent films. Devon eventually moved into television with a major role on The CW’s “Nikita” from 2010 to 2013 and had a main part on the short-lived series “Somewhere Between” in 2017. He’ll next star on 2021’s “Chucky,” a television adaptation inspired by the classic horror-film series about a murderous doll. He and “Bachelor Canada” producer Dawni Sahanovitch tied the knot in 2013 and welcomed a son, Hudson, in 2014. They welcomed their second child, daughter Scarlett, two years later.

Christina Ricci became a movie star at 9 with her first feature-film role as Cher’s character’s daughter in 1990’s “Mermaids.” She immediately followed it with her breakout part — Wednesday Addams in 1991’s “The Addams Family” and the 1993 sequel “Addams Family Values.” She became a box office favorite with subsequent appearances in films like “Casper,” “Now and Then” and “That Darn Cat.” However, she quickly moved away from children’s films by the late 1990s, trading them in for dark adult dramas such as “The Ice Storm,” “The Opposite of Sex,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Buffalo ’66.” She closed out the decade with the massive Tim Burton hit “Sleepy Hollow” opposite Johnny Depp.

Christina Ricci earned critical acclaim for taking a dramatic turn in her role choices as she co-starred alongside an Oscar-winning Charlize Theron in the gritty biopic “Monster” in 2003. She also took on more television projects, appearing on popular shows like “Ally McBeal” in 2002 and “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2006 as well as the ill-fated “Pan Am” from 2011 to 2012 with Margot Robbie. In 2015, Christina starred as the titular murderer on “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” and in 2017 played Zelda Fitzgerald on Amazon’s “Z: The Beginning of Everything.” The Los Angeles native was most recently seen in the 2020 indie drama “Percy” and will next appear in the “Matrix” sequel as well as the Showtime series “Yellowjackets.” She wed dolly grip James Heerdegen in 2013 and they welcomed son Freddie in 2014. The couple split in 2020 amid domestic violence allegations.

One of the biggest breakout stars of 1996 was a then-unknown 6-year-old named Jonathan Lipnicki, who made his film debut alongside Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger in the hit romantic comedy “Jerry Maguire.” The spiky-haired scene-stealer won audiences over by blurting out the weight of the human head and soon found himself cast in a recurring role as Justin Foxworthy on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” as the voice of a baby tiger in “Dr. Dolittle” and as George Little in the 1999 family comedy “Stuart Little.”

Heading into the 2000s, Jonathan Lipnicki remained busy with parts in “Stuart Little 2,” “Like Mike,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Little Vampire.” However, the young star then took a break from acting to focus on school. Upon graduating, the California native headed back to Hollywood in 2012 to land roles in indie films such as “Edge of Salvation” and “For the Love of Money.” The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast made headlines in 2011 when photos of his buff bod went viral, showing he was no longer the adorable glasses-wearing child audiences knew. He’s continued training in mixed martial arts while appearing in numerous indie films like “Limelight,” “The Lake” and “Dembanger.” Jonathan has also popped up on TV shows like “Drop the Mic,” “Celebs Go Dating” and “Worst Cooks in America.” He’ll next be seen in a film with Tara Reid and Vivica A. Fox titled “A Second Chance” and appear in the drama “Pooling to Paradise.”

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