7 Disney Channel Child Stars Who Are Still Dominating TV

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Courtesy: Everett Collection
Bella Thorne copy

Bella Thorne

Okay, so the year is 2010, and while some of you considered yourselves too old to watch the Disney Channel during this time, we still had our eyes glued. In the hit series Shake it Up!, we were introduced to a rambunctious high school teen named CeCe Jones (played by Thorne), who’s obsessed with boys and dancing (how could we not relate?). She starred in the show alongside another Disney favorite who’s also on our list! Thorne went on to expand her acting chops in shows like FOX’s Red Band Society and MTV’s Scream.

Now, the 19-year-old actress is preparing for the premiere of her upcoming Freeform drama series Famous in Love. She nabbed the lead role of August Roch, a naive college student who lands a huge role in Hollywood and learns to navigate the real from the fake.

Famous in Love premieres April 18 on Freeform.

Hilary Duff
Photo courtesy of TV Land

Hilary Duff

Lizzie McGuire was the answer to all of our middle school problems in 2001, and Duff made it extremely easy to relate to things like buying your first bra or talking to your first crush. She even introduced us to the future of Bitmojis with the cartoon version of herself voicing her inner thoughts without a filter. Let’s not forget when she taught us all about following our dreams in her hit Disney Channel original movie, Cadet Kelly.

You can now catch the 29-year-old mother of one starring as Kelsey Peters on TV Land’s Younger, where she tries to help her co-worker who’s living a double life. If you were a fan of her unique outfit choices in the early ’00s, you’ll love all the great pieces Duff gets to wear in this series.

Season 4 of Younger is expected to return summer 2017.

Cole Sprouse

Cole Sprouse

Cole and his twin brother Dylan are widely known from their hilarious portrayal of Julian McGrath in Adam Sandler’s 1999 comedy Big Daddy, but they instantly became a household name when they starred in the 2005 Disney Channel sitcom The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, as well as the spinoff The Suite Life on Deck. Cole played brainiac Cody Martin, a timid book-smart kid just trying to stay away from the crazy schemes his reckless brother Zack comes up with. His character was a total underdog, and we had fun cheering him on.

Today, you’ll find Cole on The CW’s new teen mystery drama Riverdale, based on the characters by Archie Comics. He landed the role of Forsythe “Jughead” Jones III, Archie’s best friend and somewhat of a social outcast. This time around, Cole’s character has just as much brain power, but with a little more mystery and sex appeal.

Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.

Emily Osment
DISNEY CHANNEL/BOB D'AMICO; Eric McCandless/Freeform

Emily Osment

Who doesn’t love a good sidekick? The world might have been introduced to Miley Cyrus in the iconic TV show Hannah Montana in 2006, but it also opened up the doors for her best friend on the show Lilly Truscott (played by Osment). Osment’s character is an energetic ball of sunshine, who loves her friends, sports and having a good time.

Since her Disney Channel days, Osment continued to show off her talents on the small screen, like voicing several characters for Family Guy, having a recurring role on the popular CBS sitcom Mom, as well as starring in Freeform’s romantic comedy series Young & Hungry. Osment plays the lead role of Gabi Diamond, a struggling chef living in San Francisco trying to balance love and holding a consistent job. Fun fact: The show is executively produced by High School Musical‘s very own Ashley Tisdale, who also had a small role on the show.

Young & Hungry airs Mondays at 8/7c on Freeform.

Kelsey McNeal/Disney Channel


Her style isn’t the only reason why we’re obsessed with her! Zendaya amazed us with her impressive dance skills alongside Bella Thorne on the hit series Shake it Up! in 2010. Zendaya starred as Raquel “Rocky” Blue, a family-oriented overachiever who values good grades, human and animal rights, and hanging out with friends. Although her character was a little shy at times, she made up for it with quick wit and dance moves that would even make Michael Jackson jealous. Zendaya went on to star in Disney Channel original movies like Frenemies and Zapped.

Unlike her fellow co-stars, Zendaya is still partnered with the Disney Channel. The 20-year-old California native currently stars in K.C. Undercover, where she plays a badass high school student named K.C. Cooper training to become an undercover spy.

Season 3 of K.C. Undercover is scheduled to return sometime this year.

Vanessa Hudgens

Vanessa Hudgens

We don’t think anyone was prepared for the epic outcome of the Disney Channel original movie High School Musical in 2006. It immediately became a hit franchise, with the third installment in the trilogy becoming a feature film. Hudgens played Gabriella Montez, a bookworm and new student at the fictional high school who later falls in love with popular jock Troy Bolton (played by Zac Efron). The merchandise sold like crazy, and the songs were embarrassingly addictive. Don’t worry, you weren’t the only one singing “We’re All in This Together.”

In 2016, Hudgens kept the spirit of music alive with the highly publicized television special Grease: Live on Fox, where she played the iconic role of Rizzo. Today, the 28-year-old singer and actress stars on NBC’s latest action comedy series Powerless as boss Emily Locke.

Powerless airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

Like a few of her fellow Disney colleagues (Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas), Gomez has made a major name for herself in the music business. Before she racked up multiple Billboard hits and became the most followed celebrity on Instagram, Gomez starred as Alex Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place in 2007. Alex was a sarcastic procrastinator learning how to master her magical powers, while also maintaining a normal high school social life. The series went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program in 2009, and the film adaptation of the show won an Emmy in the same category in 2010.

When she’s not making hit records, Gomez is mastering her acting skills both on and off the screen. On Friday, Netflix will air the television adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, which Gomez executively produced. The upcoming series is based on Jay Asher’s 2007 book of the same name. It surrounds a boy who finds a box filled with 13 cassette tapes left behind by a classmate who recently committed suicide.

13 Reasons Why will debut on Netflix March 31.

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Maintaining your celebrity status when you begin your career as a child star can be tough, but luckily for for one-time Disney Channel actors like Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, their success has continued to grow year after year.

Take a trip down memory lane with us to reminisce about some of our favorite shows and characters, while also looking at the various projects they’re tackling in 2017.

Find out who else made the list in the gallery above.