Evan Rachel Wood’s Advice to Child Actors—and Their Parents

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Unlike plenty of child actors, struggling under the notorious pressures of Hollywood fame, Evan Rachel Wood matured unscathed.

Still, the Emmy-nominated actor and activist sees herself as the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. “I would say if your child is showing signs of talent and really seems to possess something unique, it’s not going anywhere, so there’s no need to throw them in front of a camera right away,” she advises parents during her interview for Backstage’s “In the Envelope” awards podcast.

Although Wood first faced the camera at 11 for the film “Digging in China,” she argues that children need to develop their personality and craft before stepping into the limelight at such a young age. An actor draws upon life experience in order to authentically inhabit various roles; children, however, have not experienced enough life to draw upon. “If you push somebody out on the spotlight too early and they don’t know who they are and they’re a kid, then they’re going to be told what to do and who to be.... There’s a reason why so many child stars have these little breakdowns.”

Even as an adult Wood finds herself taking moments off of work to live life in a semi-“normal” way, to have a life separate from her career that can inspire her artistry. As a young stage and screen performer Wood tiptoed the line between being a child and an adult. She experienced a pressure to be perfect and not express her child-like impulses. “You’re raised in this adult world, but you’re also told not to be an adult, but you have to act like one, but you’re not one. So it’s this weird kind of push and pull of, ‘Don’t grow up too fast. But grow up immediately!’ "

Wood attributes the mental or emotional breakdowns that occur in many child star trajectories to the lack of space designated for mistakes. Each mistake that a child star makes is fodder for public scrutiny. “People love to judge and people love a child star gone off of the rails. But it’s really sad and it’s more than you’ve bargained for most of the time,” Wood notes.

While Wood’s mother protected her on set and supported her throughout her career, the “Westworld” star recommends that parents and other members of the industry practice something simple: allow child actors to act like children. “Childhood starts to kind of fall away from you if you’re not careful,” Wood warns. “Please, let’s let them mess up.”

To listen to this “In the Envelope” podcast interview in full, click here!

Looking for child actor gigs? Check out Backstage’s kids auditions!