It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 20 years since an 11-year-old girl in a yellow raincoat snuck around town writing down secrets and inspiring 90s tweens everywhere to rock some wide-leg jeans.
The kid cast of Harriet the Spy is now in their 30s, and most of the grown-ups are still around too. And while some cast members have retained their child-like looks, others might have you saying “Oh Golly!” Here’s what the cast of Harriet the Spy looks like today.
Harriet M. Welsch wanted to learn everything she could and wrote down everything she saw. Before landing the title role in Harriet the Spy, Michelle Trachtenberg had already learned a lot and seen success via Nickelodeon shows like Clarissa Explains it All and The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
As Harriet, Trachtenberg played an inquisitive preteen spy, and fans found inspiration in her relatable character. Just four years later, Trachtenberg moved on to the role of the younger teenage sister of the world’s most famous Vampire Slayer.
Harriet’s dark side
Dark drama became a trend for the former Harriet star, as she landed parts on shows like Black Christmas, Six Feet Under and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Her latest role as Dallas on the dark drama, Sister Cities, has little Harriet playing one of four sisters whose mother commits suicide. She’s made quite the change from her iconic yellow raincoat. But she still seems like a girl who is up for an adventure.
Vanessa Lee Chester
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Before she was Harriet’s science nerd bestie, Vanessa Lee Chester was Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper and dancing around with A Little Princess. This real-life science nerd quickly moved past her awkward days of being Harriet’s geeky side-kick, and moved into a starring role in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Director Steven Spielberg had seen her work as Becky in A Little Princess, and he bookmarked her for a future part.
She has since appeared on shows such as How I Met Your Mother and She’s All That. Her latest project is a small part in a revival of City Girl, a hilariously bad romantic comedy that actress Sarah Ramos wrote when she was 12. Chester plays a ditzy store patron who is oddly obsessed with denim.
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Actor Gregory Smith starred alongside Trachtenberg as Sport, Harriet’s loyal pal with an iconic 90s bowl cut. Sport’s dad was a struggling writer, and Harriet once pretended that Sport dropped a dollar outside of a grocery store, to help him pay for bread and milk.
But while Sport may have had trouble paying for groceries, after the launch of Harriet the Spy, Gregory Smith rode his fame all the way to the bank. The shaggy-haired star scored major screen-time in popular movies like The Patriot and Small Soldiers. But almost exactly ten years after his Sporty start, Smith got an even bigger break with a starring role as Ephram Brown on the hit TV series, Everwood.
Everwood ran for four seasons before it was cancelled in 2006, and Smith landed other roles through the four years that followed. Then, in 2010 he landed his next big role as Dov Epstein on the ABC crime drama Rookie Blue. In 2012 he earned his directing stripes on an episode of Rookie, and he was hooked. Most recently Smith has directed several episodes of the medical drama, Saving Hope.
Though he ditched the floppy locks, Smith has kept the baby face. And fans should still recognize that Sport-like smirk from his Harriet days.
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Harriet’s mom wasn’t a huge player in the movie, but she was a borderline villain when she took away Harriet’s prized notebook. In real life, actress J. Smith-Cameron worked on Broadway before being cast as Harriet’s less-than-hands-on mom.
After her spy-mom days, Smith-Cameron returned to the stage via the Off-Broadway scene, where she was nominated for a Tony. Smith-Cameron had a part on Law & Order, and she got back in touch with her motherly instincts with roles in Rectify as well as the HBO’s True Blood. She’s now married to playwright Kenneth Lonergan, and the couple has a non-spy daughter named Nellie.
Marion Hawthorne was the quintessential mean girl in Harriet the Spy. As the ringleader of the spy catchers, and the thief who maliciously blabbed all of Harriet’s secrets to the world, there wasn’t much to like about Marion.
But actress Charlotte Sullivan didn’t let that bully reputation stop her. She landed several small parts after Harriet, and in 2010 she landed a leading role alongside Gregory Smith as Gail Peck on Rookie Blue. Then in 2017 she earned a recurring role as a bone marrow transplant patient on the NBC drama, Chicago Fire.
YouTube/Instagram via @rosie
Every preteen girl needs an Ole Golly, and Rosie O’Donnell’s warm-but-firm portrayal of Harriet’s nanny is spot on. O’Donnell brought a maternal warmth to the character, and since her own real-life mother died when she was 10, maybe O’Donnell could identify with the nurturing needs of a young girl like Harriet.
By the time she landed her roles as the 90s Mary Poppins, O’Donnell was already in the prime of her film career due in part to her breakout role in A League of Their Own. After Harriet, however, her movie career slowed, and her biggest movie credit was as the voice of Terk in Disney’s animated version of Tarzan.
Instead of film, O’Donnell took off in the television arena and racked up hosting awards on The Rosie O’Donnell Show. She stayed in the talk show world for the past few decades, but her Rosie O’Donnell Show days were a cheery walk in the park compared to her seething political rants on The View.
She’s now a mother of five, and is probably best known for her LGBTQ advocacy, as well has her heated media battles with President Trump. But 90s kids will forever remember her gently reciting poetry in her red coat and hat as Ole Golly.
Instagram via @vanessalchester/ Facebook via Eugene Lipinski
At first Ole Golly’s boyfriend, George was a source of suspicion for Harriet. Ol’ George was seen “stealing” produce from his employer, and the Golly attention he was taking from Harriet was not well-received. But fans quickly learned to love George and his heart of gold. He loved Golly, he took Harriet out for some fun, and we later learned he wasn’t stealing any veggies, but instead was giving them to a struggling family. He became one of the unsung, beloved characters of Harriet’s story.
But actor Eugene Lipinski only stayed sweet for so long. After Harriet, he went on to play the creepy insect-eating Mr. Mortman, and the voice of Rocky in Night of the Living Dummy’s, in R.L. Stein’s Goosebump series. Lipinski actually has a lengthy list of film and TV credits, including appearances on TV shows like Fringe and Animorphs. But while his roles have changed, his looks really haven’t. He still looks like the same ol’ George Waldenstein to us, after all these years.
Harriet the Spy is one of those movies that will forever be tucked in the memories of 90s kids everywhere, flickering to life when we see a yellow raincoat or feel the need to jot down our secrets in a notebook. With quick cameo stars like Danny Glover, the uncredited cop who brought Harriet home in a squad car, and Eartha Kitt who purred from her bed as Harriet took note, it’s no wonder Harriet had kids across the country spying the wonder and magic of their everyday lives.
Now that we’ve seen what the lives of the Harriet stars look like today, it’d be interesting to track the directions their fans took as well. How many get the urge to chug a bubbly bottle of Squirt or still love those classic comfy sneakers?