Fred Savage, now 35, a father of two boys and a successful director and producer (most recently, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphlia and Best Friends Forever) this week dismissed suggestions that child stardom leads to terrible things. But a look back at his childhood yields some obvious clues as to why little Kevin Arnold turned out so well--and why other child stars under different circumstances crumble.
Dad kept his day job. Savage's family, originally from the Chicago area, kept a home there for years after all three of the Savage kids hit it big in Hollywood. Dad Lew kept working as a real estate agent. (We can't help but notice, parents keeping their day jobs seems to be one of the most common factors when it comes to child stars growing into successful adults. It's good to see Jon back at a day job. When will Kate go back?)
Even as a child, Savage seemed to feel a sense of relief no one was counting on him to support his family. Said Savage when he was just thirteen-years-old: "A job is what you do to make money to support yourself. But I'm not acting to support my family or myself. I just do it for fun. When it starts to become hard work and I'm not enjoying myself, then it's time to stop."
College bound. Savage put acting on hold to attend Stanford University. He graduated in 1999 with a degree in English. (Other successful child stars also went to college.)
'Fame shouldn't be an end result': Staying away from the celebrity lifestyle and doing it because you love the work, not the fame. Said Savage: "Fame was never a big part of my experience. I didn't hang out with celebrities or live a celebrity lifestyle. Fame can come and fame can go. When it was never a part of your life to begin with, you don't miss it. For me, it was always about the work ... I just liked being on set and working. Fame shouldn't be an end result. That's a dangerous game to play and never part of the equation for me and still isn't." During his childhood, the family made their home in the quiet, distinctly un-Hollywood neighborhood of Tarzana, near the Wonder Years set.
Just a normal kid. Savage had chores and made an allowance of nine dollars a week. He said his parents never pressured him to act: "They're both very generous, kind, loving people who are fair and very supportive. They never push me. They say, 'You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. We'll love you even if you don't do it. If you want to stop, you can."
Family First. Said Savage's dad Lew, who took a flight to Los Angeles every weekend from Chicago, "If Fred worked in Timbuktu we'd be there. I'd probably come by elephant on weekends. A parent just does that by instinct for his kids. Things have changed for us, of course. But the family is the most important thing."
Good job, Mr. and Mrs. Savage.