There’s nothing worse than a bad child actor, stinking up a perfectly good TV programme, so we’re taking the opportunity to big up some of our favourite young characters. Nice work, girls and boys.
Arya Stark and Lady Lyanna Mormont, Game of Thrones
It says everything about how good Maisie Williams was/is that Arya was the first of the Stark children to feel like a fully established character. But Ned Stark’s youngest daughter has been bogged down in a plot filled with misery porn for the last few series, which has enabled 10-year-old Bella Ramsey’s northerner to sneak the title of Child Most Likely to Cause An Air Punch.
Here’s her cracking speech at the end of the last series (SPOILERS OBVS), a scene that is dripping with testosterone and yet still owned by Ramsey and the completely silent Sophie Turner.
Dukie, Randy, Michael and Namond, The Wire
David Simon’s superlative HBO drama already had a great record for solid performances by youngsters (in particular Michael B Jordan’s Wallace), but since the fourth season hinged around the teenage quartet, there was a huge amount of pressure on the young shoulders of Jermaine Crawford, Maestro Harrell, Tristan Wilds and Julito McCullum.
But mercy, did they pull it off. It’d be unfair to single any one performance out – Dukie, for example, is a way more sympathetic character than Namond. But since space restrictions dictate we do, all the claps to Wilds. As child-man Michael, he has the most screentime and the least dialogue and manages to carry himself with the confidence of someone twice his age, despite being 17 when filming started. Here he is turning down cash from Marlo, which is probably one of the bravest/dumbest things any boy in Baltimore could do.
Sally Draper, Mad Men
The rapid turnover of Bobby Drapers (itself the subject of an in-joke when he picks up the nickname Bobby 5) is no better example of how difficult it is to find the right kid for a role.
No such problems for Kiernan Shipka, who aced everything she was given from day one, meaning the writers could give her more and more to do. And she just got better and better, developing an awesome line in side-eye as she went.
Sally’s not just responsible for some of the most gut-wrenching storylines in the series (i.e. when she walks in on her dad with his mistress), she is also part of some its funniest, like when she goes on a ‘date’ with Roger Sterling, which is completely delightful. Right up to the point she walks in on him with her step-grandmother. The things that poor girl had to see.
Here she is chucking a proper strop in the offices of SCDP because she doesn’t want to live with Betty any more. And who can blame her.
Gracie Belle Taylor, Friday Night Lights
The triplets who played the youngest Taylor child were delightful, even if the internet was already busy proving a girl is NEVER too young to have her looks ridiculed. In truth, Gracie doesn’t really do anything, in fact, we can’t find a clip of her at all. Although we did find this one of all of Tammy Taylor’s “y’alls” in the whole series. Have at it.
What makes Gracie so integral to the series is that rather than it pretending she doesn’t exist, she’s always there, merrily chatting nonsense from her high chair. And the improvisational nature of the series means they sometimes just point the camera at one of the toddlers to see what happens. And sometimes she demands macaroni cheese for breakfast and sometimes she refuses to put trousers on. All of which contributes greatly to making the Taylors one of the most realistic families to ever to be on TV.
Speaking of which…
Becky, Darlene and DJ Conner, Roseanne
Given the seemingly endless ways in which we can consume, consume and consume again television series, it’s a mystery why bona fide sitcom classic Roseanne remains so difficult to get your hands on.
Lecy Goranson, Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman – who were 14, 13 and six, respectively, when the show started – are central to the series’ success and do everything that’s asked of them. Which, this being Roseanne, is a lot.
People tend to forget, possibly because it’s so indelibly late 80s/early 90s, that the sitcom was years ahead of its time. Meaning these three kids not only had to perfect the tantrums and sulks of ‘family comedy’, but also had to talk about things like sex and masturbation. On TV. (Gilbert later described having to talk about periods as a teen as “mortifying”.)
And sometimes, they just had the rather thankless task of keeping going. Like here when Becky asks her mum if she can go on the pill, and Roseanne Barr and Laurie Metcalf have a competition to see who can pull the funniest face.
Come on Netflix, sort it out.
Mariah Garry, Raised By Wolves
In many ways Roseanne’s spiritual (or maybe gynaecological) successor. There’s so much great stuff going on among the grown-ups and older kids, it should be near impossible for “The Babbies” to get a look in. But up steps strange little Mariah (Erin Freeman) who is part Pre-Cog and part Stormtrooper. And proper terrifying, especially to Grampy.
No clips of Mariah (I suspect she’s removed them all with the power of her mind), so here’s some info on how you can get involved to make sure we see more of the Garry family in the future.
George Michael Bluth, Arrested Development
The nicest kid in the world. No really. Such is the never-ending chaos and arseholery of the rest of the series, that it requires not one but two straight men. Although Michael Cera, who was 15 when the comedy started, is also more than capable of funny. Here he is explaining to Maeby (subject of his inappropriate crush) why he wants to get a motorbike. Never have the words “controlled slide” been so funny.
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