It is a truth universally acknowledged that good kid actors are hard to find. It doesn’t take much to ruin a scene. The flash of a saccharine smile or flat, stilted delivery are enough to ruin a perfectly good dramatic or comedic scene. And I could spend days deriding the worts kid actors on television. A fellow critic was joking the other day that they would pay good money to see the kids from several shows (“The Good Wife,” “Smash” and “Once Upon A Time” spring immediately to mind) in some sort of Hunger Games scenario. But I don’t come to you today with hate in my heart. Today is all about heaping praise on those kids (with a hat tip to the excellent casting agents) who can go toe to toe with the acting heavyweights that populate their shows. And I’m not talking about the twenty (and sometimes thirty) somethings that pass as teens. Those actors do a fine job in their own right (particularly Jane Levy of “Suburgatory”) but are somehow less impressive. The following are kids that are much more than a cute face and could legitimately have a future on both big screens and small.
“Game of Thrones”—Jack Gleeson—Age 19: The main reason Gleeson belongs on this list is that he is, by all reports, a swell kid. It’s not his fault that the character he plays (and plays quite well) makes your blood pressure pound and your fingers itching to throttle. Gleeson isn’t much interested in a career in acting. He’s told the Irish Independent that he’d prefer a different course: “I’d like to be an academic, a philosophy lecturer if possible. I’d do a Masters in Ancient Hebrew maybe, and a PhD hopefully, if I get in.” For now, however, he’s softening his reputation a bit by appearing in
“a puppet musical.” Oh you heard me.
“American Horror Story”—Taissa Farmiga—Age 17: Farmiga (much younger sister of the lovely Vera) benefited from some excellent scene partners during her season on FX’s batsh*t “American Horror Story.” Between Evan Peters (just a shade too old for this list) and Jessica Lange, she had plenty of talent buoying her up. But in the latter half of the season, when the Violet character was allowed to do something other than sulk, Taissa showed that she was more than just a pouty face. She won’t be returning for the next season of “AHS,” but she will be appearing in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring.
“Justified”—Kaitlyn Dever—Age 15: Dever is currently (criminally) wasting her talent on Tim Allen’s dumber than a bag of Tool Time hammers comedy “Last Man Standing.” However, her schedule did permit a brief return to the “Justified” universe where she once again held her own against Timothy Olyphant (as she did last year with Olyphant, Jeremy Davies and the magnificent Margo Martindale). I’m praying for a swift cancellation for that Tim Allen show so Dever can once again dazzle in material that’s more worthy of her talent.
“Game Of Thrones”—Sophie Turner—Age 16: Ooooo, careful, don’t confuse the subtle loveliness of England’s Sophie Turner with the, ah, more obvious charms of the
Australian one. Sophie Turner’s first and only role has been as the spoiled (yet steely) Sansa Stark on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” And as enjoyably whiney as she was last year, she’s shown her true acting stripes this year. Each humiliation and torment Sansa weathers just further proves Turner’s depth as an actress.
“Parenthood”—Miles Heizer—Age 17: I’ve been quite vocal in my praise for “Parenthood“‘s Mae Whitman. (Yes, her.) But as good as Whitman is (and just a hair too old for this list), it was the actor who plays her brother, Miles Heizer, who had one of the very best moments of the season this year. I joked for the first few seasons that I could never remember this kid’s name (Tommy? Bobby? Sam? Oh DREW!), but after an emotional exchange between Heizer and Jason Ritter, I was a complete convert. Check it out and tell me this doesn’t ring completely true.
“Game Of Thrones”—Maisie Williams—Age 15: First of all, look how tiny Maisie was when she started filming. Just a tiny little Midge in a helmet!
But over the past two years, Williams has grown into one of the finest actresses on TV. In this past week’s episode, when Arya Stark had to stare down Charles Dance’s Tywin Lannister, I can’t have been the only one who got chills. Though Williams is the third “GoT” kid on the list, I cannot stress enough how important it has been for the success of the show that the young actors nail their parts. And they have, each one. I cannot wait to see Williams continue to mature in this phenomenal role.
“Mad Men”—Kiernan Shipka—Age 12: And while the Stark/Baratheon kids may dominate this list, it’s young Sally Draper who wins the crown. She was only 7 when filming began on “Mad Men” and existed for the first few seasons as a prop/scenery to the Draper home life.
But after a fantastic storyline in Season 3, Kiernan was promoted to a series regular in Season 4. Fans of the show cannot deny that Shipka has earned that title and continues to prove, week after week, that she’s one of the most compelling reasons to watch this show.
Joanna Robinson thinks, with the exception of Sarah Hyland, that the entire kid cast of “Modern Family” should fall in a volcano…and take those teenaged brats from “Revenge” along with them.