Perspective

06.04.13

The Amanda Bynes Meltdown: What Former Child Stars Are Saying

As the extensive coverage of Bynes’s troubles continues, former child stars including Evan Rachel Wood and Mara Wilson weigh in on what she may be going through.

Whether they’re fascinated by it, appalled by it, or worried about it, everyone has an opinion on the Amanda Bynes meltdown. The alleged bong-tossing incident, prancing around town in janky wigs, categorically denying any odd behavior, calling each and every critic “ugly,” reportedly getting evicted from her apartment, and responding to the whole ordeal by getting a nose job—it’s a jet-pack-fueled downward spiral, and countless people are weighing in on it, attempting to get to the bottom of what’s being pegged as the clichéd child-star meltdown.

As such, beyond the psychologists, media critics, and curious gawkers pontificating on the Bynesaster, the most interesting, even illuminating, reactions to the fallen Nickelodeon star’s recent troubles are fellow former child stars. Several actors who have managed to escape the notorious child-star curse have been offering advice, defense, and insight into Bynes’s meltdown in the past weeks. Here’s what they’ve had to say:

Evan Rachel Wood

The True Blood and The Wrestler actress, who began acting when she was 7, blasted the media for feeding the Bynes frenzy. “You know, we sit back and watch these ‘child stars’ lose their childhood,” she tweeted. “And then we wonder why they grow up and lose their minds.”

Mara Wilson

The Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire actress, now 26, has been very candid about why she left Hollywood behind. After Bynes was arrested, Wilson penned an incisive essay, “7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy (An Insider’s Perspective).” Among her reasons: their parents won’t help them (or can’t); they get used to and love the attention and are lost when they lose it; they can’t escape it; and they need to rebel, but can’t.

“Having to live up to your fan base is a little like having to deal with a million strict parents who don't actually love you,” she says. “They reward you for your cuteness and cleverness, but are quick to judge and punish. And they do not want you ever to grow up. How do you react? The way any sullen teenager does: You get resentful, and as soon as you have the freedom, you act out.”

Kevin Zegers

Zegers—who became a star at age 12 when Air Bud premiered and who has since been seen in Gossip Girl, Transamerica, and Normal—penned a lengthy monologue on Twitter decrying the blood-sport-style way in which we’ve watched Bynes in the lion’s den.

“Let’s not all act shocked or bewildered at what is happening to Amanda Bynes,” he says. “Or pretend we haven’t seen this unfold before. Let’s take ownership of our piece of the story. The wide eyed observer. Secretly hoping for carnage. Praying for it in fact. The part of us that slows down at car wrecks to perhaps see some blood. Titillated and detached. It’s time we accept that just like all dogs go to heaven, this stuff happens to people like Amanda Bynes. It’s not our fault, but maybe it’s not entirely hers either.”

Alfonso Ribeiro

The 41-year-old actor, best known for playing Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and who broke out after appearing in a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial at age 12, also blamed the aggressive coverage and sensationalizing of Bynes’s meltdown for exacerbating her troubles:

"I think the world has changed, and I think that the reality shows believe that the world has a right to your personal life. I think that if we can lose the personal side of celebrities' lives being so out there in the public, she could actually probably rehabilitate herself with whatever's going on, if anything. How much of it is true? How much of it is sensationalized? We don't know, and the truth lies somewhere probably in between. I think that people need to have the ability to have a private life.

“I watched something the other day, and a photographer's sitting there, actually assaulting her," he says. "I think that's the side that actually has to change. Regardless of what she's going through, regardless of what has happened to her in her life, it's never OK to put your hands on a woman. The guy who did that should actually be prosecuted for putting his hands on her when she's hiding herself trying to get in her building after going to jail. People need to have their private lives back.”

Danny Tamberelli

Tamberelli starred with Bynes on the Nickelodeon sketch show All That and recently defended their former place of work while being sympathetic to Bynes’s issues. “Nickelodeon was nothing short of amazing to work for, and they had their watchful eye on us all,” he said. “They took care of us and tried not to let us go down the wrong path ... [I am] very sorry to hear about Amanda's recent trouble with the law ... [I hope] she can find the support she needs to work through any issues that may be going on."

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Nikki Blonsky

Bynes’s former Hairspray co-star insisted that Bynes was not in the midst of a meltdown. “She’s the same Amanda I met working on Hairspray,” she said in April. “She’s happy. I don’t think that’s a breakdown, but a breakthrough. I back Amanda 100 percent.” Blonsky said that the fascination is probably due to our discomfort in seeing a child star grow up. “I think it was more like an episode of events that maybe people are finding her different for, because she had been so cookie-cutter perfect over the years.”

Rick Schroeder

Back when he was still known as “Ricky,” Shroder became a Hollywood star with his precocious role on Silver Spoons. He recently said that he feels bad for how child stars are treated today. “My heart goes out to them,” he said. “I wish some people would intervene on their behalf. They are in a place right now that is not good. A lot of people around them don’t care about them and want to capitalize on it. I feel bad for them.”