“Showbiz Kids,” debuting Tuesday, July 14 (9-10:35 p.m. ET/PT), offers an unvarnished look at the high-risk, high-reward business of working as a child actor in the entertainment industry. The film chronicles the personal and professional price of fame and failure on a child. Those who know the industry best, including several successful child actors and two aspiring hopefuls, unpack their own complicated experiences as they reconcile the hardships they’ve faced and sacrifices they’ve made on their way to finding success in show business.
The film will be available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max.
“Showbiz Kids” was written and directed by former child actor Alex Winter (“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Panama Papers”), who relies on the perspectives of many of his peers to explore the complexities of growing up under the glare of Hollywood’s spotlight, refusing to shy away from the more difficult truths about the industry. Winter’s commitment to creating an honest representation of a complicated industry stems from his own childhood in show business, beginning as a child actor on Broadway at the age of 10.
"This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for many years,” he said. “Having grown up in the business, I've never seen the experiences of a child actor – from their early career through to the transition into adulthood – told from the perspective of those involved. I’m honored that these talented actors trusted me with their very personal stories."
Highlighting the shared experiences of prominent former child stars, “Showbiz Kids” features a wealth of intimate, revealing interviews with: Henry Thomas, who starred in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” at the age of 11; Mara Wilson, who first appeared in “Mrs. Doubtfire” at the age of 6; Todd Bridges, who was featured in TV’s “Diff’rent Strokes” beginning at age 13; Milla Jovovich, who made her screen debut at age 13 in “The Night Train To Kathmandu”; Evan Rachel Wood, who starred in “Thirteen” at the age of 14; the late Cameron Boyce, star of Disney TV’s “Jessie” at age 12; Jada Pinkett Smith, who starred in “A Different World” and is also a mother to young child actors; Wil Wheaton, who starred in “Stand by Me” at the age of 14; and the late Diana Serra Cary (“Baby Peggy”), who became a huge silent film star at the age of 2 in 1920.
In contrast to the celebrity actors, the film also follows two aspiring young hopefuls: Demi Singleton, an up-and-coming teenage performer looking to book her next big Broadway show; and Marc Slater, a young unknown from Florida who moved to Los Angeles with his mother for pilot season. The young actors and their parents work tirelessly to break into the highly competitive business while struggling to balance the demands of auditioning, working and maintaining a healthy childhood with friends and family.
Through film footage, behind the scenes clips, and rare audition tapes, “Showbiz Kids” offers a glimpse into life on set for these young professionals. The actors discuss the challenges of navigating the industry at such a young age and the lasting effect that the public’s gaze has on self-esteem and feelings of isolation. Many also speak to the complicated relationships they have with their parents, the pressures of balancing grueling work schedules with life beyond set, and the disturbing prevalence of abuse and exploitation in the industry.
“Showbiz Kids” looks to peel back Hollywood’s velvet curtain, shining a spotlight on the glamour and allure of working in the entertainment industry, while also affording a sobering window on the tolls that early success can take on young professionals.