Mara Wilson on Being a Child Star and What Happens When “You Lose That Praise”

mara-wilsonMara Wilson is happy to prove that not all child stars end up like Amanda Bynes or Lindsay Lohan.  Wilson, who starred in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda back in the 90s, is actually a successful writer and playwright.  But she understands why most child stars have problems.

Wilson, who calls herself a ‘recovering child actor,’ remembers how hard it was to grow out of that cute phase.  “You lose that praise.  You lose what you had,” she said in an interview with NPR.  “And you are so used to it; it’s almost like a drug.  And all of a sudden it’s like withdrawal.  You just go off of it, and you feel very rejected.”

The 25-year-old started acting as more of a hobby than a career choice.  “I tried to take it seriously when I was on set and tried to be professional—as professional as a 6-year-old can be,” she said.  “But I don’t think I really wanted to be an actor.  When people asked me what I was going to do when I grow up, I always said, ‘I’m going to be a writer.  I’m going to write screenplays.  I’m going to write books.  I’m going to write plays.  That’s what I’m going to do.’”

Looking back on her child star days, Wilson acknowledges that the pressure of shooting movies was incredibly high.  “I had a moment when I was a child where I was filming a scene, and a soccer ball hit me in the chest, and I had to keep on going with the scene even though I was hurt, because I didn’t know what else to do,” she recalled.  “And as soon as they yelled cut, I started crying.  Everybody on the crew burst into applause, and that made me cry harder.  My mom said, ‘No, don’t worry, they just thought you were being professional.’  And that’s the kind of thing you have to do.”

“You’re also in this environment where you realize that, ‘Hey, I can’t really make a mistake because making a mistake is going to cost time and money, and it’s not going to help out the production.’  So you realize, or you think, rather, as a child that this is something that can’t happen: I can’t make a mistake.  I have to be perfect.  I have to get it right all the time.  And that’s not a healthy mindset for a child.”

Leave a Reply
‘Call Me By Your Name’ Star Timothée Chalamet: “What scares me is being boring”
"At a certain point I was able to come to grips with the idea to just 'be.'" - Timothée Chalamet
‘Phantom Thread’ Star Lesley Manville: “It’s so easy to make someone bad look good on film. In theatre, there’s no hiding place”
"Filming is different. You’re getting a moment right. You can go in and create something very good, very quickly. That’s a different challenge to having five, six weeks to rehearse a play.” - Lesley Manville
Chadwick Boseman on ‘Black Panther’ and How He Refocused His Career
"As soon as I came to L.A., things immediately shifted for me." - Chadwick Boseman
Bernadette Peters on Returning to Broadway and Why She is Still Trying to Improve Her Craft
"You have to do your best to fulfill the role, not fulfill yourself" - Bernadette Peters
Ellen Pompeo: “Acting, to me, is boring”
"Anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that's a f*ckin' skill." - Ellen Pompeo