Most people with regular 9-5 jobs put in their 30 years and retire without much ado about their career. Movie stars, however, have it a bit differently. Some actors never lose their passion for acting, and continue appearing in films and TV shows until the day they die. Others call it quits midway through their career, or even before their career really takes off, much to the bewilderment of their fans. But these people don’t just fall off the face of the Earth, and they certainly don’t spend the rest of their lives resting on the residual checks that undoubtedly continue to come in. Many of them actually end up doing more for the world off screen than they ever could on it.
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1. Jack Gleeson
On screen, you know him as the despicable King Joffrey on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Gleeson plays such a convincing son-of-a-something-or-other that you’d find it hard to trust him if you see him on the street. But he really is an incredibly nice young man, who has chosen to donate much of his time and money to various charities, such as one that supports victims of the earthquake in Haiti. He’s also returned to school, where he plans to earn a degree in philosophy.
2. Jonathan Bennett
I wish I could have gotten this published on October 3. Official Mean Girls Day. Jonathan Bennett played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls in 2004, but his career didn’t really take off after that. Since then, he’s been following his passion for fitness, working as a spin instructor in Los Angeles. Though he hasn’t done much acting, he appeared on Dancing With the Stars in 2014.
3. Dylan Sprouse
Formerly Zack of Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Dylan ended up attending the Gallatin School of Individualized Study along with his brother, Cole, where he studied video game design. He hasn’t done much acting since leaving The Suite Life, but he does color commentary for Super Smash Brothers tournaments, which is also a pretty sweet life (sorry). He also keeps his massive Twitter following entertained on a daily basis with ridiculous tongue-in-cheek humor and in-references to his past Disney life.
4. Kel Mitchell
Don’t worry —the rumors of his death aren’t true. While his old co-star Kenan Thompson ended up being a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live, Mitchell left the spotlight to focus on becoming a family man, and a better Christian. However, he’s done some voiceover work, and recently reunited with Kenan while reprising his Good Burger roll…ahem, role…with Kenan on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.
5. Kevin Jonas
The former Jonas Brother…well, former member of the Jonas Brothers’ band…Kevin married Danielle Deleasa after the band split up. The couple had their own reality show, but it apparently was no match for Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and is no longer being filmed. However, Kevin found a new passion in contractor work, which he continues today.
6. Lark Vorhees
Anyone who grew up in the early 90s knows Vorhees as Screech’s love interest on Saved By the Bell, Lisa Turtle. Vorhees didn’t do much acting work after SBTB, but she has continued creating art in the form of paintings, music, and writing. Unfortunately, according to her mother, Vorhees has struggled with bipolar disorder throughout her adult life, which contributes to her rather secluded lifestyle.
7. Amanda Bynes
The former Nickelodeon star who continued her acting career throughout her early 20s unfortunately has also suffered her share of mental breakdowns over the years. Unlike Vorhees, Bynes’ struggles were chronicled by newspapers and tabloids across the country, until she took a step out of the spotlight and got the help she needed. She now focuses on a career in fashion design.
8. Karyn Parsons
If this name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps her character’s name, Hilary Banks, will. Parsons didn’t do much acting after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wrapped up its final episode, but instead turned to humanitarian work. She now focuses on a non-profit organization that aims to educate the public about important African-American figures who have been overlooked by the history books.
9. Geena Davis
Davis worked as an actress, writer, producer, and model throughout her successful and busy career. She now focuses her energy on her non-profit organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which focuses on increasing the presence of female roles in Hollywood. If you’ve ever turned on ABC on a Thursday night, you’d be pretty certain that the institute is getting work done.
10. Danica McKellar
McKellar played everyone’s favorite girl next-door, Winnie Cooper, on The Wonder Years. Despite the fact that she moved out of the Hollywood spotlight in her adult life, her post-Wonder Years life is pretty well known. She’s an all-around super genius, having graduated with honors from UCLA with a BS in Mathematics. McKellar has since spent years penning various math-related, non-fiction books aimed toward adolescent girls with the hope of getting more young women interested in the field. McKellar does know she’d beat the hell out of Hilary if she ran for president, right?
11. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
JTT, as he was known in the 90s, was every teen girl’s not-so-secret crush who starred in Home Improvement and voiced young Simba in The Lion King. As Home Improvement was coming to an end, Thomas decided to leave the spotlight. He’d been working since the age of eight, so I can’t really blame the guy. He spent years studying at Harvard and Columbia, as well as traveling the world. He recently appeared on Tim Allen’s new sitcom Last Man Standing, at which point he was reminded why he left the showbiz in the first place.
12. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman is one of the rare birds who actually retired from his acting career at a normal retirement age. His last role came in 2004, after which he decided to hang up his acting shoes after a long, illustrious career (seriously look it up on IMDB. He might even predate moving pictures). Ever since then, Hackman’s spent his time working on something that had always been a passion of his: writing fiction novels.
13. Sean Connery
Sir Thomas Sean Connery is a living legend. Like Hackman, his list of roles and accomplishments is absolutely astounding. I mean, he was the original James Bond. Not only will he live forever for that role, but he’s also been immortalized (albeit through a caricature of himself) on Saturday Night Live as Alex Trebek’s worst nightmare. Anyway, like Hackman, Connery simply retired from acting in 2003, and has since only bothered with small roles such as voice acting for a James Bond video game. It’s unlikely Connery will ever grace the silver screen again as he’s gone on record stating "retirement is just too much damned fun.” I can only imagine what he’s up to.
We sometimes forget that those on the red carpet are just like us in many ways. We tend to think when someone hits the big screen at a young age that we’ll be seeing them in different roles throughout their lives, as if they owe it to us or something. A lot of the time, however, when celebrities decide to leave the spotlight, they actually end up moving on to much bigger things, and making a much greater impact on the world.