Created By: Rothul on April 10, 2011 Last Edited By: Rothul on April 16, 2013

Aging Actor, Ageless Character

The character does not age. The actor who portrays them, well, does.

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The incongruities that occur when an aging actor plays a character who is specifically not supposed to age: vampires, robots, long-life-spanned fantasy creatures, someone who plays a character with a clear, if Vague Age, for too long, and so forth. Most situations are resolved with the MST3K Mantra, but it still can be the cause of some behind the scenes hand-wringing.

Contrast with Not Allowed to Grow Up, where there is no in-story reason for the character's appearance to remain the same.

Examples:

  • Rimmer from Red Dwarf, as a hologram, is supposed to retain the same appearance from the beginning of the series. However, Chris Barrie naturally and visibly ages over the 20 years of the show's run. Interestingly, there is also an episode that features a fat, balding Future Rimmer... right after one that shows Rimmer aging 600 years without major change.
  • Brett Spiner claimed that one of the reasons he pushed for Data's death in Star Trek: Nemesis was that he increasingly felt he could not keep playing the ageless robot as he was reaching his 60s.
  • David Borenaz, already a victim of Dawson Casting ages from his late twenties to late thirties throughout his appearances in the Buffy Verse, with flashbacks throughout showing that he looks the same in the past, while always reflecting his future appearance. Considering that he fills out considerably from season to season, this gets kinda odd.
  • James Bond who, despite his movies forming a loose continuity, each actor who portrays him has a time limit on how long he can play the relatively young secret-agent. Thus, he can go from the 58 year-old Roger Moore in A View to a Kill to the 43 year-old Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights, while secondary characters like Desmond Llewelyn's Q grow older.
  • Elves are supposedly ageless. Yet not even the good CGI could fully hide that Hugo Weaving as Elrond had gained ten-years between The Fellowship of the Ring and prequel-movie The Hobbit.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • February 1, 2013
    Larkmarn
    If we don't have this, then this is a good trope. Though I think "Aging Actor, Ageless Character" is a much less unwieldy title.
  • February 1, 2013
    Hodor
    I think we should restrict this to aversions.
  • February 1, 2013
    bwayrose7
    Capt. Jack Harkness from DoctorWho and Torchwood supposedly ages imperceptibly slowly due to his time-vortex induced immortality. Actor John Barrowman has aged well, preventing this for now, but further appearances in a more distant future may require some sort of timey-wimey jumps to explain why he is aging.
  • February 1, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • River Song from Doctor Who has aged noticeably from her first appearance to her most recent. Not only should she be ageless (she's pretty much genetically a Time Lord), due to the Anachronic Order of her appearances, her first appearance is actually her at her oldest. Handwaved by her chronologically youngest appearance, where she says that she might "try aging backwards" just for a lark.
  • February 1, 2013
    robinjohnson
    About the Red Dwarf example: Word Of God says that as Rimmer's hologram was created as a companion for Lister, his simulated ageing happens at the same rate as Lister's natural ageing. This explains why he didn't age on Rimmerworld, but he does age over the series and in the various alternate futures. Kryten shouldn't age, but his actor Robert Llewellyn is under so much rubber and makeup (and the Kryten costume is redesigned so often) that it's hardly noticeable.
  • February 1, 2013
    Random888
    Everyone on Mash, due to the show being Frozen In Time to a specific three-year period while lasting for eleven years in the real world. The Fanon explanation is that they were aged by the stress of war.
  • February 2, 2013
    TrustBen
    Slight correction to above: Timothy Dalton was in his early forties (Wikipedia is unclear on exact birthdate) when he took over the Bond role.
  • February 2, 2013
    Rothul
    You are correct. Did my IMDB math wrong. Entry has been updated.
  • February 2, 2013
    JohnDiFool
    Methos (Peter Wingfield) looked noticeably older in the last Highlander film-Adrian Paul by contrast looked pretty ageless.
  • February 2, 2013
    nlpnt
    My Babysitters A Vampire doesn't use Immortality Begins At Twenty, but that doesn't stop the actors from looking substantially older by the second season than the Pilot Movie, particularly Rory whose actor finished going through puberty since Rory was turned.
  • February 2, 2013
    Tal63
    This seems like People Sit On Chairs to me.

    People can't help getting older the fact that it's noticeable seems meaningless.
  • February 3, 2013
    Tallens
    But it can be pretty jarring when the character is supposed to be immortal, especially if they have eternal youth.
  • February 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    re James Bond: Note that it's specifically in the film continuity where he is "relatively young." In the books he has aged, although not by as much as the books have gone on for.
  • February 5, 2013
    Desertopa
    Tal63, I'd say this is just as much a trope as Not Allowed To Grow Up. The conflict between a character who's supposed to be ageless and an aging actor is every bit as significant as the conflict between a character who's supposed to be juvenile and is growing up.
  • February 6, 2013
    randomsurfer
    A more Egregious example from the Buffyverse would the the Anointed One, a 10-year-old who was turned into a vampire in the middle of the 1st season. He was originally going to be the Big Bad for season 2, but he had noticibly grown so they killed him off in favor of Spike.
  • February 6, 2013
    Tallens
    I'm not sure James Bond should be up there at all. He's not immortal or ageless.

    Also it's Brent Spiner, not Brett.

    John De Lancie aged as well in the fifteen or so years he played Q. Not really noticable enough if you watch them in order, but if you compare his first appearance with his last it becomes clear.
  • February 7, 2013
    Tuomas
    I agree that James Bond isn't an example of this; his non-aging is due to Comic Book Time, not immortality.
  • February 7, 2013
    Tuomas
    I'm not sure if this counts as an example, but I thought it was interesting case:

    • In the beginning of Tron Legacy, Kevin Flynn disappears in the 1989 while his son is still a kid. The rest of the movie takes place 2009, so in the one scene set in 1989 CGI is used to make Flynn's actor Jeff Bridges look 20 years younger. In 2009, Flynn's son Sam discovers Flynn has disappeared inside a virtual reality called The Grid. He hasn't had a physical body in 20 years, but for some reason still looks 20 years older, even though he's just a piece of computer code now. This isn't a straight example, because Flynn is never stated to be immortal, but on the other hand there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to live as long as the computer running The Grid has power, nor does the movie give any explanation why a computer code would age in real time. All of the other entities inside The Grid seem to be ageless, since Clu, a sentient copy Flynn made of himself, still looks the same as he did 20 years ago.
  • February 10, 2013
    FaxModem1
    Nicholas Crawford, a recurring alien villain who didn't age on Roswell, played by the teen actor Miko Hughes, disappeared after season two, due to his obvious growing up.
  • February 10, 2013
    AgProv
    Live TV: Men Behaving Badly. This show about feckless man-children Gary and Tony ran for over ten series. It is entirely plausible that two guys in their early twenties would be immature, socially inept, incapable of dealing with women, and generally being lads. In young men, this might even be somewhat endearing and have added to the somewhat soiled charm of the show.

    But in two men past thirty-five and seeing forty approaching, with two despairing girlfriends getting older and wondering when they'll finally grow up... this kind of behaviour gets not so much endearing as embarrassing. The series recognised it all had to end, as there was a growing plausibility gap. Tony metamorphosed into middle-aged fogey overnight, and Gary realised that to keep Dorothy - and find a new career - he'd have to shape up. It is interesting that since the demise of the series thatr made his name, a middle-aged Martin Clunes (Gary) has played responsible sober characters like undertakers and doctors.
  • February 10, 2013
    Watergirl909
    Of course, besides for The Annoying One and Angel, there's also Spike. Sure, Marsters only really got hit with the aging stick after BTVS, but he wasn't doing that great at portraying an ageless vampire.
  • April 15, 2013
    Tal63
    I kept thinking about this trope and I believe that it is People Sit In Chairs.

    Not Allowed To Grow Up is invoked. The actors may age but they're considered the same age as when the show started because the executives, writers or whoever wanted it to be that way. In cartoons it's very easy not to let the characters grow up.

    This however, is Not Allowed To Grow Up but not invoked. This is Not Allowed To Grow Up accidentally occurring. Of course actors playing immortal (or eternally young) characters are going to age. It's simply a fact of life that people get older. Whether it's jarring or not is irrelevant. Tropes Are Tools not things that occur randomly with no meaning.
  • April 15, 2013
    tantamoq
    Seems like a good one, definitely the first thing to come to mind for me was the appearances of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines in The Two Doctors in Doctor Who - although the Season 6B fantheory is commonly accepted as a way to handwave that, it's still a fantheory, and main canon never explains why or how the Second Doctor and his most devoted companion appear in the Sixth Doctor's TARDIS visible aged to the point of grey hair (and with different outfits, to boot), years after their last appearance together. Same goes for Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor in Time Crash, when he appears considerably older than he ever did prior to his own regeneration, and has a quick conversation with his Tenth regeneration.

    And given the theories about the Second Doctor and Jamie being given more time to have potentially aged like that a la the 6B theory, Time Crash actually exemplifies this trope more than that does even.

    Forgive me not knowing how to format or link things correctly here, I'm incredibly new to the world of actually contributing as a Troper rather than just avidly reading the site.
  • April 15, 2013
    AP
    • The Highlander series featured several immortal characters that aged over the years.
  • April 16, 2013
    xanderiskander
    I think this would make more sense as a Trivia article than a trope.
  • April 16, 2013
    KingZeal
    • Selene in Underworld, as portrayed by Kate Beckinsale, is an immortal vampire. The first and ninth movie are nine years apart, and it's easy to tell that Kate is not her character.

    • Compare Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Terminator, in the second, and in the third. Arnold portrays three different machines built from the same mold, but the films span roughly two decades of production. By the fourth movie, they needed a CG likeness of him to avoid breaking suspension of disbelief.

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