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Top 10 Surprising Roles by Former Disney Stars

VO: Lisa Yang
Script written by Cassandra Kalley These Disney alums surprised us all when they took on these roles! In 2005, Demi Lovato took on the role of Hayley May in “Grey’s Anatomy”. After playing Mitchie Torres in “Camp Rock,” Hayley May was one of Demi’s first roles outside of Disney! In 2015, Bella Thorne took on the role of Amanda in “Perfect High” which took us all by surprise! As Amanda, she is a teen dancer who, after a knee injury, falls in with the wrong crowd and gets hooked on opioids. Just like any based on a true story film that serves as a warning, this leads to some highly intense scenes, including a scene where one of Amanda’s new friends overdoses.

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Top 10 Surprising Roles by Former Disney Stars

Everyone grows up, but these stars might have grown up a little too fast. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Surprising Roles by Former Disney Stars.

For this list, we’re looking at those eye-popping parts that were taken on by Disney stars either before, after, or during their stint with The House of Mouse. Get ready to have some childhood memories scarred.

#10: Demi Lovato as Hayley May

“Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-)

“Grey’s Anatomy” has been on the air for over ten years, which has allowed for many guest stars. So it’s no surprise that Demi Lovato wanted her go in a hospital gown. After playing Mitchie Torres in “Camp Rock,” Hayley May was one of Demi’s first roles outside of Disney. Hayley May’s original diagnosis is Schizophrenia, but after some tests, it’s revealed that all she needs is surgery to fix her inner ear. For the first time, Lovato was able to show her acting range, making the audience feel for Hayley and believe she’s not crazy, even with claw marks over her eyes and a syringe needle pointed at her heart.

#9: Sierra McCormick as Zoey/Lilith

“Supernatural” (2005-)

Another guest appearance, only this one was before Disney’s “A.N.T. Farm” had introduced Olive Doyle’s crazy memory to the world. As a young girl, Sierra McCormick took on a big role on “Supernatural.” Zoey might seem like a sweet little girl, but as soon as she is possessed by the demon, Lilith, all of that sweetness quickly turns sour. That’s right! The same actress who played a lovely - albeit jealous – girl on A.N.T. Farm also played an evil child who keeps her family trapped inside of their own house to do her bidding. Sweet dreams.

#8: Bella Thorne as Amanda

“Perfect High” (2015)

On “Shake It Up,” Bella Thorne’s CeCe Jones is bubbly, quick-witted, and perhaps one of the first feminists a young girl will come across on TV. But in “Perfect High,” Thorne takes on a very different cultural issue: drugs. As Amanda, she is a teen dancer who, after a knee injury, falls in with the wrong crowd and gets hooked on opioids. Just like any cautionary film about drugs, “Perfect High” features some highly intense scenes, including a scene where one of Amanda’s new friends overdoses.

#7: Hilary Duff as Kelsey Peters

“Younger” (2015-)

Who didn't love watching Lizzie McGuire take on all the troubles of being a preteen? Now, years later as Kelsey Peters on “Younger,” Hilary Duff is taking on different struggles. Or maybe they’re the same struggles, just painted a little differently. After all, Lizzie deals with puberty, and Kelsey deals with major period problems. Kelsey’s also always there to give her friend advice, and at the end of the day, wasn’t Lizzie always there for Miranda and Gordo too? Of course, Kelsey doesn’t have a cartoon to say what she’s thinking, so she’s a little more forthright than Lizzie could ever be. But whether she’s a preteen or in her 20s, Hilary Duff is always fun to watch.

#6: Calum Worthy as Alex Trimboli

“American Vandal” (2017-)

What do Dez from “Austin & Ally” and Alex Trimboli from “American Vandal” have in common? Well, first of all, they are both portrayed by the same red headed actor, Calum Worthy. It’s true, and he definitely grew up quickly between playing awkward and adorable Dez and taking on the role of the finger-pointing Alex Trimboli. The dorky persona is still very much ingrained in both of these characters, but whereas Dez is an eccentric goofball, Alex is a contradiction of discomfort and self-assuredness. You could easily say that these two characters are two sides of a similar coin, but with Alex showing a much more realistic view of a high school dork.

#5: Jake T. Austin as Grantham Portnoy

“Grantham & Rose” (2014)

Rose Price is an elderly volunteer at a juvenile detention center, just looking for someone to save. Enter Grantham Portnoy. Grantham Portnoy, or Grant for short, is a troubled teen. Just like any typical teen trying to be different, he has tattoos and darkly dyed hair. And who is Grant portrayed by? Jake T. Austin, the same actor who brought the young mischievous wizard, Max Russo, to Waverly Place. As one of Austin’s first major roles after playing Max, this was definitely a turn to the tougher side of life.

#4: Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones

“Riverdale” (2017-)

The Sprouse twins, Dylan and Cole, have been in the public eye since they were very young, most notably on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." Now though, after graduating from NYU, Cole Sprouse has stepped back into the limelight without his twin and in a darker role, to boot. On "Riverdale," Cole now plays Jughead Jones, a damaged young man who’s trying to solve a small town murder. Not too bad for the kid who once danced the tango with his brother in a sparkly shirt.

#3: Vanessa Hudgens as Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey

“Gimme Shelter” (2013)

It’s amazing what can happen in seven years, isn’t it? Vanessa Hudgens burst onto the scene as Gabriella in the first “High School Musical,” as well as it’s two sequels. Afterwards, Hudgens began looking for projects that separated her from her previous youthfully innocent persona. One of those projects was “Gimme Shelter,” in which Hudgens plays Agnes Bailey, self-named Apple. Pregnant and used by her adoptive family, this teenage woman is just looking for a peaceful place to rest her head. This is obviously a complete 180 from Gabriella, and displays Vanessa’s ability to take on a much heavier role.

#2: Ashley Tisdale as Emma Jean

“Sons of Anarchy” (2008-14)

On “Sons of Anarchy,” Ashley Tisdale plays Emma Jean, an expensive escort, who not only gets to ride around with the biker gang, but also causes drama within them. So much drama, in fact, that Emma eventually gets beat up by the matriarch, Gemma. All this by the same girl who demanded fabulous as Sharpay Evans in “High School Musical 2,” sang about squirrels in her pants as Candace on “Phineas and Ferb,” and danced with a young Dylan Sprouse as Maddie Fitzpatrick on “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” Isn’t that a turn for the dark side?

Before we’re shocked by our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Miley Cyrus as Missi

“Two and a Half Men” (2003-15)

Stefanie Scott as Quinn Brenner

“Insidious: Chapter 3” (2015)

AJ Michalka as Lainey Lewis

“The Goldbergs” (2013-)

#1: Selena Gomez as Faith

“Spring Breakers” (2013)

It took only one year for Selena Gomez to go from the innocent Alex Russo in “Wizards of Waverly Place” to the scantily clad Faith in “Spring Breakers.” Not only does every main female character in this cast only wear a bikini or underwear, but they break the law several times as well. And as maybe the only one in the group with her moral compass still intact, Selena Gomez owns every scene. She plays Faith with an open and honest sense of nervousness and tears even though she still makes some questionable decisions. A far cry from her days of stirring up havoc with a wand, this role shows us that Selena has truly grown up.

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