Former Child Stars Who Are Actually Geniuses
These intellectual giants have a lot more to recommend them than their acting chops.
Being successful as a child star requires that the kid in question has a lot of skill, talent, and focus—not to mention the smarts to go along with all of those qualities. So is it any wonder that many young performers who were able to hold their own on sets are also intellectual giants? Some former child stars have genius-level IQs, and a few have gone on to earn degrees from Ivy League schools…and that's just scratching the surface of what these actors have achieved.
Read on to find out which of your favorite child stars are intimidatingly smart—and have the credentials to prove it.
Mayim Bialik began her career before she'd even entered her teenage years with roles in Beaches and Webster. In 1990, she landed the lead in the sitcom Blossom, which made her a huge star. These days, she's one of Jeopardy!'s current hosts. And not only did she play a neuroscientist on The Big Bang Theory, she also happens to be one in real life.
Bialik earned her PhD in neuroscience at UCLA, which is also where she got her undergraduate degree, and she raised her kids while she was going to grad school.
"I basically finished my curriculum, my classwork, and then had a child when I was in data collection," she said on the podcast The Three Questions With Andy Richter, as reported by USA Today. "I literally wrote my thesis breastfeeding, laying down and typing with one hand. So [my son's] a total nerd; it worked, that environment worked."
Best known for playing Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, Danica McKellar went on to compete on Dancing With the Stars and is a familiar face on the Hallmark Channel, having starred in several of the network's Christmas movies. After her child star career, when she attended UCLA, she originally thought she'd major in film, but instead decided to study math.
McKellar ended up being so gifted at math that, as she told Forbes, she even developed her own theorem with some collaborators.
"When I was at UCLA, we proved a theorem about temperature for a mathematic model of magnetic material," she explained. "There were three of us, and it's informally known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem. It's formally known as Percolation And Gibbs States Multiplicity For Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models In Two Dimensions."
McKellar has also written several math books aimed at teenagers who struggle with the subject, including one called Math Doesn't Suck.
In the entertainment world, David Dorfman's major claim to fame is playing the son of Naomi Watts' character in The Ring and The Ring 2, but his talents go well beyond acting. As reported by Business Insider, Dorfman attended UCLA at the tender age of 13 and graduated at 17 as valedictorian before going on to Harvard Law School.
"Being an actor, I was already accustomed to working in adult environments so college wasn't a shock," he told the outlet. "All things considered, I really enjoyed my time at UCLA."
Dorfman now works as legal counsel for the US House of Representatives.
You most likely remember Nolan Gould from Modern Family, where he played Luke Dunphy for 11 seasons, but the actor, who is now 22 years old, is also known for being an actual genius. One of his earliest intellectual achievements was getting his GED at 13, as he explained during an appearance on Ellen (via Us Weekly). During the same interview, he also revealed that his IQ is 150—the average is 100.
"When people learn I'm a member of MENSA, they're shocked," Gould said.
In her acting career, which began back in 1994 when she was just 13 years old, Natalie Portman has a lot to be proud of—including an Academy Award and two Golden Globes, just to name a few of her accomplishments.
Outside of Hollywood, though, Portman's life has also been pretty impressive. She graduated from Harvard in 2003, where she studied psychology, and has also published two papers in scientific journals.
"It was very clear when she was a student that she is a very determined person and capable of focused effort over a sustained period," one of her professors, Stephen M. Kosslyn, told The Harvard Crimson. "She is now demonstrating the results of that determination and focus."
Myles Jeffrey had big roles in a handful of popular Disney Channel original movies in the early '00s, including Stepsister From Planet Weird and Mom's Got a Date With a Vampire, and he also happened to appear on MTV's True Life: I'm a Genius because he is one.
Today, Jeffrey is 31 years old, and per his Twitter account, he's working on a PhD in English and writing screenplays. According to his official site, he has an IQ of 165, which would place him in the "exceptionally gifted" range.
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Rachel Fox played Tom's daughter, Kayla Huntington, on Desperate Housewives and continued to act in other roles until 2015. But since then, she's focused more on the stock market. She started with a blog, Fox on Stocks, at just 16 years old, and has gone on to become a financial expert. She even hosted her own TED Talk in 2015 about investing and has continued to write about finance and the economy. Now, Fox is 25 and providing expertise to sites like Investors.com.
Charlie Korsmo was one of the most prolific kid actors of the '90s, playing roles in Dick Tracy, What About Bob?, and Hook. But aside from a part in 2018's Chained For Life, Korsmo has mostly left acting behind in favor of other pursuits that include graduating from one of the most prestigious schools in the country.
After studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, Korsmo told The AM Law Daily. From there, he moved on to the House Homeland Security Committee before eventually graduating from Yale Law School, becoming a lawyer and eventually a law professor. He currently teaches at Case Western Reserve University.
Jodie Foster is practically an acting legend, but her performances in movies including The Silence of the Lambs and Taxi Driver aren't all she brings to the table. Foster is also a bit of a genius in her own right—she learned to read at just three years old and graduated from Yale University, where she studied English literature.
"I really don't remember one thing, but I feel like I learned more as a human being here than really anywhere else. It really was those human lessons, and some of them were incredibly painful," she said when she received the Yale Undergraduates' Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.