The beloved children’s movie Mrs. Doubtfire turned 24 years old in 2017, and a lot of things have changed since its release. Of course, the world sadly lost star Robin Williams when he committed suicide in August 2014. Meanwhile, little Mara Wilson, who played one of his children, is now a grown-up writer. And, as 007 fans know, Pierce Brosnan went on to portray James Bond on screen from 1995 to 2002. But what happened to Matthew Lawrence, who played the teenager Chris Hillard? Well, he’s still around, still acting – and he’s looking good while he’s at it, too.
Those of a certain age may remember that Matthew Lawrence is one of the Lawrence brothers: a group comprised of him, Blossom’s Joey Lawrence and Recess star Andy Lawrence. And the three of them consistently worked as actors throughout their childhoods, not least because they were completely adorable. In 1983, for example, Joey clinched a part on popular NBC sitcom Gimme a Break! Matthew, meanwhile, started appearing alongside his older sibling in the show from season six.
After that big break, moreover, young Matthew’s career continued apace. He popped up in the Steve Martin film Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the horror anthology movie Tales from the Darkside, for instance. He also did TV work, which included turns in three episodes of the still-popular Blossom and several TV films. But come 1993, he got the chance to appear in a big Robin Williams movie – the sort of thing any young actor would’ve killed for.
That film was Mrs. Doubtfire, of course, and it was a massive success. In fact, it was the second-highest earning movie in the U.S. in 1993; only the dinosaur mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park took in more at the domestic box office. And while Lawrence, playing one of the three children of Robin Williams’ character, may not have had a massive role in the movie, it was still an important one. Plus, there was an unexpected bonus for the young star: his performance and his cute floppy hair won over many a teenage girl.
Furthermore, Lawrence would later go on to speak warmly about his time filming Mrs. Doubtfire. “[I had] a lot of great experiences on that movie. Everyone involved was really great, from the director Chris Columbus to – obviously – Robin Williams and Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan,” he said in a 2008 interview with Avi the TV Geek.
After Mrs. Doubtfire, Matthew joined forces with Joey and Andy on the aptly-named sitcom Brotherly Love. That made the two eldest siblings teen heartthrobs, even though the show itself was relatively shortlived, running from 1995 to 1997. Still, once it was finished, Matthew jumped immediately to another TV series – one that would 100 percent cement his success as a promising up-and-coming actor.
That TV show was Boy Meets World, a smash hit of the ’90s. Lawrence played Jack Hunter, who didn’t join the show until season five but quickly became a fan favorite. Indeed, alongside other teen idols of the day, his poster would become a staple on tween girls’ bedroom walls. And Lawrence didn’t restrict himself to just that one role during that time period. He kept himself busy, in fact, by appearing in a handful of movies and TV films as well as providing a voice for the English dub of the Studio Ghibli film Kiki’s Delivery Service.
But when Boy Meets World came to an end in 2000, the high-profile work started to dry up a little for Lawrence. And even after he managed to win a plum role in the 2002 Rob Schneider film The Hot Chick, the movie itself received an absolute roasting by the critics. But it wasn’t all bad: he still managed to act in TV films and small independent fare and, in the early ’00s, also took guest roles in episodes of CSI: Miami and Boston Public.
It’s a sad but true fact that relatively few child stars ever really manage to become successful adult actors once their teen idol phase is over. The ones that do manage it – Christian Bale, for example – are pretty much anomalies. And as any quick skim of a celebrity gossip website will tell you, child actors have a tendency to “burn out” and have problems in later life. Mara Wilson, Lawrence’s Mrs. Doubtfire co-star, wrote an article about the phenomenon in 2013.
“People who meet me as an adult are often surprised that I’m alive and have never been in prison or rehab,” she wrote. But the same was true of her one-time on-screen brother as well: Matthew Lawrence seemingly didn’t experience the usual child actor problems at all. Naturally, though, he did face the regular life and relationship issues that all adults deal with. He got engaged to actress Heidi Mueller in 2004, for instance, but it didn’t work out, and the pair split in 2006.
Shortly after that, though, he found a new love. When his brother Joey Lawrence appeared on Dancing with the Stars, he introduced Matthew to professional dancer Cheryl Burke. Before long, the two of them were dating and were reportedly completely inseparable, with Matthew supporting her as she toured for her Dancing with the Stars job. But after two years, they too went their separate ways and were soon thereafter both romantically linked to other people.
Meanwhile, Lawrence’s career was also somewhat beleaguered. Another big-screen moment came in 2007, when he appeared in parody film The Comebacks. This, however, was a big flop both critically and financially. After that came Trucker, a small independent film, which Roger Ebert named as one of his favorite indie movies of 2009 but which still passed under the radar of most of the public. What wasn’t so under the radar, though, was how good-looking the former child actor had become.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2011 that he nabbed a more high-profile TV role. And it was one seemingly tailor-made for him, as Tony Longo – Joey Lawrence’s on-screen brother – in Melissa & Joey. Finally, a chance to show the whole world that he’d grown up to be as handsome as his sibling! He ended up filming four episodes of the show overall, playing his part from 2011 to 2014.
What’s more, in April 2014 something else came along for Lawrence: the possibility of a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. TMZ reported that both Robin Williams and Christopher Columbus wanted to make a follow-up to the much-beloved movie, and the site duly got in touch with Lawrence to hear his thoughts on the matter. “Of course I would be on board,” the actor told them. “I hope they make the second as good as the first. The first was so good… It will be great to get the family back together.”
But, of course, it never happened. In August 2014, just a few months after the sequel announcement had been made, Williams killed himself at his California home. Though his cause of death was hanging, his wife revealed later that Williams was struggling with a condition called Lewy body dementia, which she felt bore the most responsibility for his passing. Williams’ fans and co-stars – along with most of the world, it seemed – were utterly devastated at the news.
And, understandably, all the child actors from Mrs. Doubtfire took to the internet to express their sadness. Lisa Jakub, who played the oldest daughter in the movie, wrote a long blog post about Williams’ kindness towards her when she was thrown out of her high school. Mara Wilson, meanwhile, tweeted, “Very sad, very upset… Probably going to be taking some time off [Twitter] for a while.” And Lawrence himself issued a statement to E! News.
“I am devastated,” he said. “He was the single most important influence on my career and not a day goes by I don’t appreciate the time I got to spend with him. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with his family.” It was obvious that the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel would be canceled, as the idea of doing it without its star was unthinkable. Indeed, within days news sites were reporting that the movie would not go ahead, although that was likely the last thing on the minds of those who had known Williams.
And though the tragic loss of Williams had undoubtedly affected Lawrence, he picked himself back up and continued to act. In fact, he had a stroke of luck when a different smash ’90s hit that he’d starred in was granted a sequel. This time, it was Boy Meets World – and come 2015, a spin-off series, Girl Meets World, hit TV screens. Lawrence guest starred as a now-adult Jack Hunter in one episode.
Unfortunately, that was to be Lawrence’s last major acting role for a while. In 2017 Girl Meets World was canceled, thus scuppering any chance Lawrence had to star as Jack Hunter again. But he has nonetheless since kept himself busy with small independent films and even branched out in another direction entirely. Specifically, he and his brothers formed a band, named Still Three. They released their first track together in February 2017.
And things may be looking up for Lawrence on the romantic front, too. According to 2017 reports, he has begun dating ex-girlfriend Cheryl Burke again, despite them having spent almost a decade apart. And rumor has it that he and his brothers are also planning a TV comeback with a series on PopTV, although nothing is confirmed. So, hopefully the future holds good things for Lawrence. And it might well do; after all, surely a handsome and talented actor like him isn’t going to be neglected by the entertainment industry for that much longer.