Hollywood can be notoriously hard on child actors; one day they’re America’s pint-size sweetheart, and the next they’re heroin-addicted has-beens knocking on Dr. Drew’s office door. But the kids who play TV’s most recognizable geeks may have even more trouble finding their place in the industry as adults, because outside of a few sitcoms like Community and The Big Bang Theory, their archetype is far rarer in shows about adults — and unlike the jocks and cheerleaders who are their teenage cast mates, they don’t generally have the superhuman good looks that will translate to leading roles. So, as a recent article about Freaks and Geeks‘ head geek Stephen Lea Sheppard got us wondering, what has become of all those memorable ’90s TV brains that we grew up with? We check in on everyone who isn’t Alyson Hannigan (because we’re sure you know what she’s up to) after the jump.
Stephen Lea Sheppard: Freaks and Geeks’ Harris Trinksy
On a show that proudly states that it’s about freaks and geeks, you can bet there will be no shortage of the latter. But William McKinley High School’s geek to end all geeks was Stephen Lea Sheppard’s Harris Trinsky, a wise and noble guru figure to the school’s outcasts, not to mention their honored Dungeon Master.
It probably won’t surprise most Freaks and Geeks fans to learn that Sheppard, who turned up in the equally nerdy guise of Dudley Heinsbergen in The Royal Tenenbaums, was an intelligent loner in real life, too. The Canadian magazine Maclean’s recently checked in on him and found out that his early years weren’t easy — in addition to relentless bullying, he endured the cancer-related death of his father, a recovering alcoholic, and had to live with family friends while his mother went to school to become a midwife. After he impressed Paul Feig and Judd Apatow just by being himself, and they wrote the role of Harris just for him, Wes Anderson came calling. But while his Freaks and Geeks co-stars went on to A-list fame, Sheppard flubbed auditions and made just one commercial. These days, the 29-year-old moderates gaming forums and writes video game reviews for Vice.