Published on March 31st 2010 by Leon Shepherd

This top 10 list is based upon a combination of 3 factors: (a) Talent (b) Popularity and (c) Age. To be considered for the top ten, the child could not be over 12 years of age. I would also like to point out that this list is not based upon whether or not the actor was able to achieve additional success once his childhood fame was over, nor is it based upon any kind of problems the actor may have encountered later in his or her life. This list is based solely on what the actor did during his/her reign as a famous child actor. So, without further ado, here’s the list of my Top 10 Favorite African American Child Actors.


10. Rodney Allen Rippy


Rodney Allen Rippy (born July 29, 1968 in Shelby, North Carolina) is a former child actor who appeared in TV commercials for the fast-food chain Jack in the Box in the early 1970s, as well as in numerous roles in television and movies. In the commercial, he was seen trying to wrap his mouth around the super-sized Jumbo Jack hamburger. The tag line “It’s too big to eat!” became a catch-phrase. Rippy also had guest-roles in many popular television shows, including The Six Million Dollar Man, Marcus Welby, MD, and The Odd Couple.  Rippy also had a co-starring role on the CBS Saturday morning children’s show The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine. Today, Rippy stays busy with his independently owned, digital video production company,  R.A.R. ENTERTAINMENT.


9.  Todd Bridges


Todd Anthony Bridges (born May 27, 1965) is an actor from San Francisco, California. He is best known for his role as Willis Jackson on the television series Diff’rent Strokes from 1978 to 1986, and recently his recurring role on the The CW sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. Bridges became the first African-American child actor to have a recurring role on a successful TV series, The Waltons. He also appeared on Little House on the Prairie, and in the landmark miniseries Roots. He was a regular on the Barney Miller spinoff Fish. Bridges continues to find work as an actor, and is currently working on a new movie that will be released later this year.


8. Emmanuel Lewis


Emmanuel Lewis (born March 9, 1971) is an actor from Brooklyn, New York. He is best known for having played the title character in the 1980s’ television sitcom Webster. Lewis graduated from Midwood High School and then Clark Atlanta University in 1997. He is often compared with Gary Coleman, star of Diff’rent Strokes. When Diff’rent Strokes became a hit on NBC with Gary Coleman in the starring role, ABC tried, with some success, to duplicate that show’s formula of depicting a tiny African-American boy being raised in a white family. The resulting show, Webster, made Lewis a star. Since his Webster fame, Lewis has found very little work as an actor. However, he is said to be looking for another TV series and to possibly go into directing.


7. Raven Symone


Raven Symoné  (born December 10, 1985), is an actress, singer-songwriter, dancer, television producer, and model. She is best known for her television roles as Olivia Kendall on The Cosby Show, Galleria Garibaldi in The Cheetah Girls and The Cheetah Girls 2, and as Raven Baxter in the Emmy Award nominated series, That’s So Raven. Symone continues to work consistently in television & movies, and is currently set to star in ABC Family’s upcoming made-for-tv film, Revenge of The Bridesmaids.


6. Kim Fields


Kim Victoria Fields (born May 12, 1969) is an actress and director from New York, New York. She is best known for her roles as Tootie Ramsey on the long-running NBC sitcom The Facts of Life, and as Regine Hunter on the Fox sitcom Living Single. She is the daughter of actress/producer Chip Fields and the older sister of actress Alexis Fields. After obtaining a degree from Pepperdine University, Fields began directing. She is currently working as a director for the sitcoms Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.


5. Danielle Spencer


Danielle Spencer (born June 24, 1965 in Trenton, New Jersey) is an actress and former child star best known for her role as the sarcastic Dee Thomas on the ABC sitcom What’s Happening!!, which ran from 1976 to 1979. She would later reprise the role in eleven episodes on the series’ sequel, What’s Happening Now!!. Spencer became a veterinarian in 1996. She also portrayed a veterinarian in the movies As Good As It Gets in 1997.


4. Keisha Knight Pulman


Keshia Knight Pulliam (born April 9, 1979) is an actress from Newark, New Jersey. She is most recognized for her childhood role as Rudy Huxtable, the youngest child of Heathcliff and Clair Huxtable, on the popular NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. From her appearance on the show, Pulliam became the youngest actress ever to be nominated for an Emmy, at age six for best supporting actress. Currently, she appears as reformed con artist Miranda Lucas Payne on the TBS comedy-drama Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.


3. Ralph Carter


Ralph Carter (born May 30, 1961) is an actor, and singer. Carter is best known for his work as a child and teenager, both in the Broadway musical Raisin (based on the Lorraine Hansberry drama A Raisin in the Sun) and as the character Michael Evans, the youngest member of the Evans family, on the 1970s sitcom Good Times. For his work in Raisin, Carter was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. After the cancellation of Good Times, Carter had difficulty finding acting jobs, and is currently writing plays. He’s also the author of a new book.


2. Jaleel White


Jaleel Ahmad White (born November 27, 1976) is an actor and screenwriter from Pasadena, California. He is best known for his role as Steve Urkel on the 1990s sitcom Family Matters. When the series ended, White was so tightly defined by his Urkel character that it became hard for him to get other roles. In 2001, White graduated from UCLA with a degree in film and television. He currently writes short stories and finds occasional work as an actor. Interesting tidbit: White was originally cast as “Rudy” on “The Cosby Show”  until Bill Cosby decided to make the character a girl.


 1.  Gary Coleman


Gary Wayne Coleman (born February 8, 1968) is an actor, best known for his role as Arnold Jackson in the American sitcom Diff’rent Strokes (1978–1986). Coleman became the most popular fixture of the show (enhanced by his character’s catchphrase “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”). At the height of his fame on Diff’rent Strokes, he earned as much as $100,000 per episode, a total around 18 million dollars in earnings. However, it is estimated he only received a quarter of that after paying his parents, advisers, lawyers, and taxes. He later successfully sued his parents and his ex-advisers for misappropriation of his finances. Coleman currently works as a security guard in Santaquin, Utah and occasionally finds acting gigs.

Entertainment | Comments (22)

22 Responses to “Top 10 Favorite Child Actors”

  1. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    LOL! Okay Leon, I remember #10 very well and after some thought I would have come up with him. Where is Mark Copage? Julia’s (Dianne Carroll) television son. Kevin Hooks? I love it! It definitely brings back memories.

  2. shack II Says:

    Agree wuth rankings and Nice list but Here we go again…what about my girl Regina King and 227? Believe she might she warrant consideration for the 10th slot since RAR was never in a long running sitcom! But don’t recall her age. Will check on IMDb…

    Others to consider – Janet J. (Good Times) and Marc Copage (Julia)…Assuming he has distinction of being one of the few AA child actors in the 60s.

  3. Leon Says:

    Lenora, it was a toss-up for the 10th spot between Marc Copage & Rodney Allen Rippy. Copage is definitely deserving of the top 10.

    Kevin Hooks, a very talented child actor, was considered, but because he was not on a weekly tv series or sitcom, he wasn’t as popular as the others in the top ten.

  4. Leon Says:

    Janet was considered, but the others careers stood out more.
    Regina King was not considered at all. She was not memorable nor a standout on 227. And as we all know, she didn’t hit her stride in becoming a great actress until she became an adult.

  5. Shack Says:

    Leon – Disagree – RK DID stand out as the most viable child actor on the show…Curtis Baldwin was useless and made no mark. That being said however, she doesn’t place in the TT since she was 14 and too old using your criteria.

    Would rank the actors as follows – Gibbs, Jackee, H. Martin, R.King, E. Reed, Hal Wiillams, Baldwin, everyone else! Can I Get A Witness?

  6. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    Leon – Regina King was very good in 227. Don’t worry Shack, she will be on another list.

  7. grapevine Says:

    You forgot about Taj Mowry ( Tia & Tameras brother) he starred in numerous commercials as well as his tv show. Rodney Allen Rippy should be deleted from this list, he only had the one commercial.

  8. Leon Says:

    Grapevine, excellent comment & recognition regarding Tahj Mowry. You’re right, I did completely forgot about him and his show, “Smart Guy.”
    He was a very successful child actor and definitely belongs in the top 10.

  9. Big Myk Says:

    Hey Leon what happened to janet Jackson she is so famous now people seem to forget about her.

  10. Shack Says:

    You all know I’m about history as well so here are a couple of guys…not really Top Tenners but would like your opinion.

    Buckwheat and Stymie from the Our Gang series-Are they too controversial/stereotypical???

  11. Leon Says:

    Welcome to the Top 10′s, Big Myk!
    I didn’t forget about Janet Jackson, I just felt that the other child actors made a bigger impact when they were young. Keep in mind, that this particular list is based only on the actor’s success as a child, not their success as an adult.
    Thanks for your comment.

  12. Leon Says:

    Interesting you mentioned Buckwheat & Stymie. Shack. Stymie was on my original top ten list, but I felt that he & Buckwheat’s roles were too controversial/stereotypical. However,I do somewhat understand why they took such roles. Because in an interview, Stymie, stated that knew that his role was stereotypical, but he said that he had to feed his family.

  13. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    In that case, Tia and Tamara were doing commercials such doublemint gum and things like that before they got their sitcom. Should they be on the list? What about Tatiana Ali?

  14. Leon Says:

    Lenora, I remember T & T doing the gum commercials. But I didn’t include them on the list because they got their show when they were in their teens.
    And I like T. Ali, but felt the others in the top ten were stronger candidates for the top 10.

  15. Shonee Says:

    Okay Leon, good list but I have to agree Shack that Rodney Allen Rippy only made the Jack-In-The-Box commercial..I never seen him since, let’s replace him.

    Correct me if Im wrong, but wasn’t Kevin Hooks on The White Shadow? But you mean as a child star 12 and under only?

    I had no idea that Danielle Spencer was from Trenton, NJ..I live in Plainfield, NJ…woo hoo!

  16. Leon Says:

    Well, Shonee, it appears that the majority of those who have commented agree with you that Rodney Allen Rippy should be removed from the top 10.

    Kevin Hooks was on the White Shadow, but as a child actor he did a couple of notable movies while he was under 12 years old. The movie, Sounder, being one of them.

    And, I chose to only consider child actors under 12, because there were way too many over 12 to choose from. This was a way of narrowing the selection process.

  17. Lyn Says:

    Hey Leon where’s my boy Kenny from the Cosby Show? Poor guy he always got left out and you leave him out too. Still a good list though, good job!

  18. Leon Says:

    Thanks Lyn! Even though I’m a big fan of Kenny from the Cosby show; number 10 on the list, Rodney Allen Rippy, edged out Kenny at the last minute.

  19. jbb Says:

    i love jaleel white he is fineeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  20. rjay Says:

    Hmmm. Good list, but you left off a lot of people who should be recognized. Have to agree with the others about Kevin Hooks and Marc Copage, both of whom began their careers in the 1960s. But also Kristoff St. John and James Bond III (both of whom were everywhere in the 1970s; if you saw a black kid on TV or in movies during that time, it was very likely it was Kristoff St. John, Todd Bridges, or James Bond III, with the Crawford brothers, Jan and Edward, coming in a distant 4th and 5th after them). Janet Jackson, in addition to playing Penny on Good Times, was also a regular on her brothers’ variety show and in the TV series Fame, making her one of the few performers to be featured as a child actor in more than one recurring TV show. Taj Mowry is also a good pick who deserves recognition. And while Stymie and Buckwheat were controversial, I think they’re still deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame.

    Maybe you should extend your list to 20?

  21. Leon Says:

    You’re right RJay, I do recall seeing Kristoff & James Bond in quite a few things. So they deserve some recognition.

  22. Donna Mayberry Says:

    After seeing this list of actors, I want to go and rent some good moves I haven’t seen in a while.