CLEARWATER — Scared children all over the country have thrown away toys before they turned as deadly as Chucky.
But the murderous doll at the heart of the Child's Play franchise elicited a different form of dread for Alex Vincent, the child actor who portrayed Andy Barclay, Chucky's nemesis in the first two movies. Cinematic gags weren't going to scare him. He knew the only way for Chucky to turn evil was if one of seven puppeteers made him.
Instead, Vincent feared the celebrity that came with Chucky.
"I never liked that much attention," said Vincent, now 38 and living in Clearwater. "I enjoyed acting but had no interest in being star."
At 13, he walked away from the movie industry and his former life as Chucky's onscreen opponent. But today, he is all in on Child's Play again. He appeared in the last two films and will begin filming a Chucky show this fall for the SyFy Network.
He is not in the new Child's Play movie starring Aubrey Plaza that comes out Thursday. No one from the original franchise is involved with what that film's producers call a reboot, but Vincent prefers to describe as a "re-imagination."
The story that launched in 1988 and continued through six sequels will live on through the SyFy series.
"It will focus on new stories, but the family will all be back together," he said. "It will all tie in."
The native of Maywood, N.J. delved into acting at 5 after seeing a friend star in a local commercial.
"I told my parents that I wanted to be on TV, too," Vincent said. "I was exceptionally cute, and I was bright, so it seemed to be worth a shot."
He booked a few commercials and a small role on As the World Turns before his big break as the boy whose mother gives him a doll unknowingly possessed by serial killer Charles Lee Ray.
There was little room for error when acting alongside a doll. If the puppeteers bringing Chucky to life hit their marks, that was the take the director would use.
"You had to get it right every time because when Chucky did the right thing, you were not going to get another chance," Vincent said.
The movie garnered an immediate cult following, Chucky became a horror icon and a sequel starring Vincent was released two years later.
"Child's Play represents the 1980s," said Tampa horror director and Vincent's friend Joe Davison, 43. "You have Freddy, Jason and Chucky."
Still, Vincent preferred to hide his identity as a movie star by remaining in his small New Jersey town and surrounding himself with childhood friends who knew not to discuss his acting resume in public.
Then, the script for part Child's Play 3 called for the Andy character to be 16. Vincent was only 10. Justin Whalin was cast in the role.
"I was devastated," Vincent said.
He continued to act, landing a starring role in the movie My Family Treasure. But he grew tired of the auditions and feared a fishbowl lifestyle.
"Fame and fortune should come hand in hand because you almost need a fortune to deal with the fame," Vincent said.
"He's very shy," said Davison. "He doesn't seek attention. He just wants to do his thing."
Vincent quit acting, enjoyed what he calls a "typical high school experience," majored in recording arts at Orlando's Full Sail University, moved to Clearwater in 2009 and opened the recording studio AVProductions.
"I've always been passionate about music," Vincent said. "I was also very aware of the cliché of child actor turned musician, so I went into production."
Meanwhile, a new generation of horror fans celebrated the original Child's Play movies.
"Chucky was my biggest childhood fear," said Tampa's Derrick Perez, 20. "I don't think anything can top what was done in the original films. Andy was the coolest."
Those movies, Perez said, inspired him to direct his own horror films.
Around 10 years ago, Vincent started taking small parts in a local independent films and making appearances at comic and horror conventions, but preferred to stay behind the camera through his recording studio.
Then, Child's Play creator Don Mancini reached out.
"He said he wanted to bring Andy back," Vincent said. "He had faith I could do it. I still feel like I am a good actor."
Vincent came back into the fold as the adult version of Andy Barclay with a post-credit's scene in 2013's Curse of Chucky movie. Then, he was featured in the Cult of Chucky film in 2017.
Still, Vincent said, he's not ready to fully re-embrace Hollywood. He might seek out an agent if the series does well but will likely stick to roles offered directly to him rather than auditioning.
That might include a few more battles with Chucky.
"I don't see why it can't keep going," he said. "Chucky plays on the inherent fear of inanimate objects coming to life. Add in his own evil charm and it is conducive to fandom."
Contact Paul Guzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @PGuzzoTimes.