"This is just like The O.C., except without 25-year-old teenagers and 35-year-old parents."
High school students in television look nothing like high school students in real life (well, not always
), for one good reason: they're often played by actors who are upwards of fifteen years older
. This dates back to the earliest days of Hollywood, if not further, making it Older than Television
. Despite this trope being a prime source for ridicule, mockery, and parody, there are actually a lot of legitimate reasons for why this is done. Among them include stricter rules for employing children and limitations on what they are allowed to perform on camera, or at the very least Ability Over Appearance
. See the Analysis Page
for more details.
This happens when dealing with teenage characters in the range of 14-18 years old, especially in dramatic shows. If younger, casting usually tries for children actors, and if older it is simply far less noticeable. If a show or movie carries a greater focus on the adults rather than the kids then they will usually avert this. This ought to be horribly distracting, but by and large, television audiences have learned to manage. It is so ingrained into our mindset that almost all aversions
end up being notable.
It can sometimes result in a paradoxical effect: teens that look more like actual teens (either with real teenage actors or in animation) are described as looking "too young" (see Reality Is Unrealistic
). Conversely, actors in their early-to-mid-twenties, especially those who make their name in these kinds of shows, often have difficulty being taken seriously playing characters their own age. Very specific actors can pull it off, usually attributing it to the character being Older Than They Look
. In other cases, some stories work with this because a key plot point may be the character does not actually look their age and are trying to pass off as older than they really are. But with no such luck Hollywood will get by with appropriate clothing, hairstyles
, makeup and mannerisms.
Named for Dawson's Creek
, which was notorious for it — James Van Der Beek (20), Katie Holmes (18), and Joshua Jackson (19) playing 15-year-olds (at the time of the pilot's filming). 17-year-old Michelle Williams was the only one still high school aged. In season two, the new main character Jack was 16, and actor Kerr Smith was 26
. While maybe not the worst case example (Jack aside), it is a joke that has filtered into the cultural mindset regarding the show.
By and large this trope requires some research, you can't know for certain that an actor/actress is a certain age unless you scour around Wikipedia
. Also consider that production time may vary greatly from release of the movie or airing of the episode. The actors are of course younger during filming. Timeline issues sometimes make this more apparent, as 5 seasons of a tv show may only cover one year within the context of the story
, making an actor who was an aversion become a straight example over time. Consider also that the exact age of the character
may also be in question (a generic "high schooler" can be anywhere from 14 to 19). In the case of voice acting that field has nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with vocal performance, as such only notable aversions are mentioned (consider what the point would be to list examples of Race Lift
in voice acting). This is also part of why we have Crossdressing Voices
Ultimately realize that that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this trope
, all forms of entertainment are about the illusion and with that in mind what really matters is if you believe in the character. At the same time this is not about age discrepancies, just being three or four years older doesn't mean the production is "trying to pull a fast one" on the audience. If anything finding a 19 year old to play a 17 year old is well ahead of the curve.
Compare Age Lift
, Age-Inappropriate Dress
, Hollywood Old
, and Three-Month-Old Newborn
. Contrast Playing Gertrude
. See also Artistic Age
for an intentional drawn equivalent. Cross-Dressing Voices
is more-or-less the animated version
of this trope, as partially explained above. Also used to avert
a Stage Mom
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Anime And Manga
- In both Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood the 15-year-old Edward Elric was voiced by 38-year-old Vic Mignogna, even in the Whole Episode Flashbacks to when he was younger.
- Something similar happens in the Spaniard dub with male actor Ricardo Escobar (15-year-old Edward) and female actress Blanca Rada (10-12 year-old Edward). Rada voices Ed in most flashbacks, but in some short ones (two-three lines tops), Escobar keeps voicing little Ed. The results are kinda jarring, since even though Escobar's voice is believable for a teenager (although a kinda deep voiced one at that), it definitely isn't for a little boy.
- When an established character remembers their childhood, a separate actress is often brought in to provide the younger voice; however, Soichiro Hoshi continues to voice Goku (Saiyuki) and Oujirou (Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer) in flashbacks.
- The English dub actor Chris Patton has played the younger versions of two of his characters as well: Joshua Christopher in Chrono Crusade (who was played by a woman in the Japanese version) and Fakir in Princess Tutu. In the audio commentary for Chrono Crusade, it's revealed that they used a mixture of Chris speaking higher and some editing to make it work.
- Similarly, in the dub of Naruto, Yuri Lowenthal voices Sasuke even when he was a kid and later he voiced Simon of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann both before and after the Time Skip, though not in the Distant Finale (which happen the same in the original language as well). The same goes for Rossiu, though only in the dub (while in the Japanese version he retains a female voice actor even when we briefly see him in his fourties)
- In the Spaniard dub of Naruto every single main male character over the age of 10 is voiced by a male actor, and most of them are believable. Javier Balas, Naruto's voice actor, explained in an interview that it was done like that because when the series arrived to Spain, in Japan the manga had already reached the Time Skip. Hence, they casted so every character could keep their voice actors after that point.
- Which happened for all characters... except Sasuke. Before the Time Skip he was voiced by Adolfo Moreno, a 30-something voice actor famous for voicing Ash Ketchum from Pokémon, Sora from Kingdom Hearts II and Scott Pilgrim, among many others. However, after the Time Skip he was replaced by Eduardo Bosch, whose voice sounds way more mature... so much that some people believe they overdid it.
- It's probably worth noting that Greg Ayres (the actor of Negi from Negima mentioned above) has been cast three times in dubs for young characters voiced by Akira Ishida in the original: Kaworu Nagisa of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Chrono of Chrono Crusade and Satoshi Hiwatari of D.N.Angel. In fact, Greg himself tends to be a walking example—he was originally hired as a voice actor in the first place because his natural voice sounds so young
- Sixteen-year-old Tsukiyono Omi of Weiß Kreuz is played by Yuuki Hiro, actually the oldest of the four lead voice actors of the series; his youthful voice means that he is often cast as cute, young boys.
- Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z was played by his male actor, Ryo Horikawa in his young appearances. Most dubs use a female actor for this role, but the Funimation English dub, like the Japanese Version, used his adult actor, Christopher Sabat as the young Vegeta.
- Christopher Sabat also voiced the child form of Piccolo in Dragon Ball, while in most other versions including the original Japanese version cast a woman for this part.
- Shinji in the English dub of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and most character voiced by Spike Spencer (with a few exceptions which were old enough to be played by a male in both versions).
- This trend was followed by most of the other dubs worldwide; in fact, the Japanese version seems to be the only one in which Shinji was voiced by a woman, which some fans perceive as Lost in Translation, as his effeminacy was a major point in his character development.
- Other male teen characters were also voiced by men in the original Japanese: Touji Suzuhara, voiced by Tomokazu Seki; Kensuke Aida, voiced by Tetsuya Iwanaga; and, as mentioned above, Kaworu Nagisa, voiced by Akira Ishida.
- The 2008 Yatterman series marks the only time in the franchise's entire history (the live-action movie aside, for obvious reasons) that Gan/Yatterman-1 had a male actor (Hiroyuki Yoshino in this case); otherwise, he had a female actress.
- The Adventure of Sinbad OVA has 14-year-old Sinbad and Drakon being voiced by the same actors who play their 30-year-old selves in Magi, which just sounds unnatural combined with the more cartoonish art style.
- Although there's generally no actual casting involved, many fanfics involve describing the characters (both existing and new) in terms that don't fit with eleven to seventeen years old. Sometimes there actually is casting, when the author creates banners or pictures for the cast, and generally uses "teen" models or actresses in their early-mid 20s.
- Practically all Role Players cast their characters into age illogical celebrities.
- In the author's notes of My Immortal, Tara Gilesbie suggested that Gerard Way (!) should play Draco in the next Harry Potter film. Gerard was almost 30 at the time.
- In Teeth, then-26-year-old Jess Weixler plays the teenaged Dawn O'Keefe.
- Terminator Linda Hamilton was 28 in the first film, playing 19-year-old Sarah Connor. In T2, she was 35 and the character was 29. John was a strange case. At the beginning of T2, the police computer shows John's DOB as 1985, and his age as 10 (making the setting of the movie 1995). Edward Furlong was 13 at the time. In the third film, they establish John's age as about 13 when he stopped attending school, subverting the trope but setting the second film two years later. Interestingly, perhaps noticing that Linda Hamilton was clearly not a teenager in the original film, the opening narration of T3 retcons Sarah's age saying she was 23 years old when the Terminator attacked her in the first film.
- In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, Renee Zellweger is a 24-year-old high school senior. Her friends look older.
- The actors in Three O'Clock High.
- Audie Murphy played himself from his late teens to early twenties in To Hell and Back, made ten years later. It wasn't too bad, as he remained quite young-looking as well as short.
- The 2013 teen sex comedy The To Do List prudently uses this. Sexually curious high school valedictorian is played by 29 year old Aubrey Plaza. In fact the youngest actor playing a major role is 24 year old Alia Shawkat.
- In 1983, 21-year-old Tom Cruise played a teen in four different movies, The Outsiders, Losin' It, Risky Business, and All the Right Moves.
- Tombstone had 32-year-old Thomas Haden Church as the 19-year-old Billy Clanton.
- 19-year-old Summer Bishil played a 13-year-old in Towelhead. This is somewhat lampshaded by a line even featured in the trailer in when hearing her age a character responds "You look older." There is no way such a young actress would ever be cast in a movie with its sexual content.
- True Grit 1969 has 21-year-old Kim Darby playing 14-year-old Mattie Ross.
- Alexis Bledel was 21 years old when she played 15-year-old Winnie in Tuck Everlasting (the character had already been aged from a child to a teen in order to accommodate her.) At 29 she played a teenager in Violet & Daisy and was thirteen years older than her actually teenage co-star Saoirse Ronan.
- Parodied and played straight in 21 Jump Street. Many of the characters who are actually in high school were played by actors in their twenties, while Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum played police officers in their twenties who were going undercover as high schoolers. Tatum in particular was really pushing it—this is of course lampshaded.
- Parodied and lampshaded even harder in the sequel, 22 Jump Street, when they try to pass off as college students. Nobody believes them, and the other students assume they're just creepy older guys trying to act cool and young.
- In the film Unfaithful, while a specific age is not given, we are led to believe that Oliver Martinez' character is much younger than Diane Lane (37 at the time of filming). Her husband is shocked at how young he is when he encounters him, and later blasts his cheating wife—"you threw our life away for some f—king KID!". However, Martinez is only a year younger than Lane.
- Varsity Blues starring the guy from Dawson's Creek and a bunch of other people in their 20s as beloved high school jocks.
- Veronica Mars: People in their 30s play people in their 20s.
- Parodied in Walk Hard, where the 14-year-old version of Dewey Cox is played by 42-year-old John C. Reilly, and his 12-year-old child bride Edith is played by 34-year-old Kristen Wiig. The other students in the scene are a grab bag of realistic and hilariously inappropriate age. This scene was intentionally made even sillier by the fact that it is immediately preceded by 8-year-old Dewey being played by actual 8-year-old Conner Rayburn.
- In Warlock, a 30-year-old Lori Singer played a 20-year-old character.
- Wet Hot American Summer has hilariously age inappropriate actors including Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd playing high school aged camp counselors. I believe it was intentional.
- A prequel is in the works, and the entire cast will be returning to play younger versions of themselves.
- Lampshaded in What's New Pussycat? as flashbacks depict Peter O'Toole's pivotal experiences with women in grade school, high school, and college, all with O'Toole in character (his twelve-year-old self in school uniform looking very Angus Young).
- In the 1954 White Christmas, 32-year-old Vera Ellen plays Judy Haynes; Judy's age is never expressly given, but based on comments made by other characters (she is repeatedly called "kid" and "little Judy"), that she orders a malted when the others order alcohol, and that 25-year-old Rosemary Clooney plays her older sister Betty, it appears that she's supposed to be about 19.
- Wild Things from 1998, 25-year-old Neve Campbell and 27-year-old Denise Richards as 18-year-old high school seniors.
- Willow inverts the trope by featuring then-17-year-old Warwick Davis as a father of two who must be in his 30s at least.
- The movie version of The Wiz has 33-year-old Diana Ross managed to get herself cast as Dorothy, pushing out 20-year-old Stephanie Mills (who was the stage Dorothy) in the process.
- 16-year-old Judy Garland was cast as the 11-year-old Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (indeed, most people who haven't read the books don't realize Dorothy isn't supposed to be a teenager). Legend has it the studio forced her to wear a tight band around her breasts to make them less noticeable during the filming, among the many other nasty things they did to her and other actors of the day. Meanwhile, Billie Burke played the beautiful Glinda at the age of almost 60. She was old enough to be the mother of Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West), several years older than Frank Morgan (the Wizard) and just four years younger than Clara Blandick, who played the elderly Auntie Em.
- In The Film of the Book of The World According To Garp, Garp is played from age 15 and up by then-30-year-old Robin Williams, while Glenn Close (herself only 4 years older than him) played his mother.
- From the X-Men Series:
- In the live-action movie version of Yatterman, 13-year-old Gan Takada is portrayed by 27-year-old Shou Sakurai. The actress playing Doronjo is actually younger than Sakurai. In the anime, Doronjo is clearly much older than Gan.
- Yentl, with a 40-year-old Barbra Streisand in the title role. In the original short story by I.B. Singer, Yentl seems to be younger than 20, although Streisand made the character 28 years old in the movie. Interesting in that the plot revolves around the main character disguising herself as a young man to study in a yeshiva, which when done by a 40-year-old woman stretches the imagination a bit. Then again, so does Streisand's Brooklyn accent in a movie set in Poland around the turn of the century. (The MAD satire "Mentl" summed it up perfectly by having her disguise be seen through by a blind man!) Mandy Patinkin was 30; his character Avigdor's age is never given, but he's young enough to be eagerly awaiting his wedding night.
- The 1936 Yiddish musical Yidl Mitn Fidl (Yidl With His Fiddle) stars the Yiddish stage icon Molly Picon, who was about 37, as a teenage girl (who poses as a boy, then falls in love).
- Your Highness — 40-year-old Justin Theroux plays 19-year-old Leezar. 31-year-old Zooey Deschanel as Belladonna. Leezar remembers Belladonna when she was a baby, making her years younger than him. Assumingly played for laughs.
- Yours Mine And Ours has Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda playing expectant parents, at the ages of 57 and 63 respectively.
- The 1984 comedy Teachers subverted this trope. In the film, actor Anthony Heald (who would later go on to play Dr. Frederick Chilton in Silence of the Lambs) plays a narcotics cop whose undercover at a High School. Heald was 40 at the time, but could have easily passed for 30. The subversion came from the fact that every student at the school knew he was an undercover cop, and was far older than the other students, but no one ever let on that they knew.
- The Maltese Falcon: Elisha Cook Jr. was 38 when the film came out. His character Wilmer is described as a "boy" and said to be about 20 years old.
- The 10th Kingdom — 23-year-old Lucy Punch as a girl experiencing her 18th birthday.
- Just the Ten of Us — Teen characters Marie and Connie were played by 24-year-old Heather Langenkamp and 25-year-old JoAnn Willette.
- This trope is subverted in 21 Jump Street, where the main characters are clearly identified as adults, but they are assigned to this undercover unit because they all look young enough to pass as teens, though many of the non-cops play this trope straight.
- Chiara Zanni, who plays the main character "Amy" on The N show About A Girl, was 29 years old during filming, yet she plays a supposedly "young college student."
- In the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous, 16-year-old Saffron is played by 24-year-old Julia Sawalha. Also somewhat inverted with her mother Edina; in an episode dealing with Edina's 40th birthday, actress (and writer) Jennifer Saunders was only 34.
- Julia Sawalha does genuinely look 16, though. Does it fit the trope if the actor genuinely does look like a teenager?
- When the series picked up after a break, Sawalha's age was beginning to catch up with her, and she looked closer to her real age than to Saffy's age. There is a joke, when another character looks at her passport and says she can't believe Saffy is that young, she looks older. Saffy makes a sarcastic comment with a look at her mother, that stress ages a person.
- This was heavily Lampshaded in a French and Saunders sketch where Sawalha also appeared as Saunders's daughter and claimed that, at 42 (much older than she really was), she was getting too old for it.
- 31-year-old Gerard Christopher was cast as the title character in the live-action Superboy series which ran from 1988-1992. Superboy/Clark Kent was supposed to be a 19- or 20-year-old college sophomore at the time.
- On the Soap Opera All My Children, Sarah Michelle Gellar first appeared on the show at the real-life age of 15 in 1993 as the main character Erica Kane's previously-unknown teenaged daughter, Kendall Hart. Since Susan Lucci, the actress who portrays Erica, had been on the show since it first aired in 1970 and the show had claimed Kendall was conceived when Erica was raped as a teenager, Gellar's character was rapidly aged from 16 to 23 years old several months after the character's debut. For two years, a teenaged Gellar played a character in her early twenties and nobody really bought it but just wrote it off as Willing Suspension of Disbelief. After Gellar left and Kendall's character was brought with a recast 6.5 years later, the character's birth year was reverted back to her original birth year, making her a 16-year old girl again in 1993.
- American Horror Story: Murder House - 24-year-old Evan Peters as Tate, a high school student. The five classmates that are shown are played by people in their early 20s, as well. Among the girls who bullied Violet are 32-year old Bianca Lawson. The only teens on the show who aren't portrayed by someone over the age of 20 are Violet and Leah, portrayed by 17-year-old Taissa Farmiga and 19-year-old Shelby Young.
- American Horror Story: Asylum, episode Tricks and Treats — 25-year-old Devon Graye as 16-year-old Jed Potter.
- Burt Ward, the teenaged Robin in the 60s Batman, was already 20 when the show started filming.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) plays this straight with Sharon Valerii, who is supposed to be younger than Kara Thrace. In real life Grace Park, who plays Sharon, is actually six years older than Katee Sackhoff as Kara.
- The Beverly Hillbillies: One early episode states that Elly May is "almost eighteen". Donna Douglas was 29 at the time. Even more egregiously, her love interest in the episode, college-age Sonny Drysdale, was played by 49-year-old (and looked it) Louis Nye.
- Beverly Hills 90210 is well-known for this sort of thing, but believe it or not, quite a few of the cast members were actual teenagers. Of course, some of the core cast of high school juniors (ages 15-16) were well into their twenties: Luke Perry (25), Ian Ziering (26), and, most famously, Gabrielle Carteris, who was 29. Series star Jason Priestley was comparatively young at 21. Still, these examples alone are so egregious, coupled with the fact that 90210 predates the Trope Namer by several years, that it is also called "90210 Syndrome".
- This trope is played ridiculously straight on the reboot 90210. The youngest cast members were 19 when the series started, and the rest range from their early twenties to Trevor Donovon who was 30 when he began his stint. Honorable mentions are Michael Steger (28 at the beginning) and Matt Lanter (25 at the beginning). What's even crazier is that those three "teens" are all older than actor Ryan Eggold who plays the English lit. teacher!
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode, "Marge Vs. The Monorail" in reference to "Springfield Heights 90210" star, the Luke Perry-esque Kyle Darren:
"Let's have a warm welcome for the stars of the popular teen soap opera, Springfield Heights 90210! He's cool, he's sexy, he's 34 years old! Say hello to Kyle Darren!" (Darren smiles, excessive wrinkles show on his face)
- On Big Time Rush, Carlos Pena (21), Logan Henderson (21), James Maslow (20) and Kendall Schmidt (20) play 16-year-olds. It sort of works out, though, because of their rather boyish yet still mature good looks and their mid-pitched voices. Kendall and Carlos could pass as a bit older, though.
- Gerard Campion, the star of the long-running BBC series about Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School (Bunter was in the fourth form), was 29 when he began playing the role. It lasted for close to a decade...
- In Boardwalk Empire 37-year-old Stephen Graham plays Al Capone, who was 21 at the time the show is set.
- Alice Cooper, born in 1948, has been singing "I'm Eighteen" for over 30 years.
- Bryan Adams had a hit with "18 Till I Die" in 1997, at the age of 37.
- Pat Benatar, born in 1953, built an entire discography around singing about how "we are young" back in the 1980s.
- A more direct example is the video for Love is a Battlefield (which has the "we are young" line in question), where she plays a teen runaway. She was 30 at the time she made the video.
- Marilyn Manson, born in 1969, has been singing, in a first person narrative, of being a disgruntled youth, since 1994 when he was 25.
- Madonna's early musical career centered around insinuating that she's a troubled youth, being a material "girl" who was "like a virgin" and juggling youthful crushes and youthful rebellion and wants to know "where's the party", contrasted with tougher issues such as whether or not her "daddy" would be angry that she's pregnant, and running away from home because "daddy" is abusive. She was 25 years old when she released her self-titled debut. 3 years after that, she still considered herself young enough to kiss a 13-year-old in the music video for "Open Your Heart", but her critics disagreed.
- Belinda Carlisle had a youthful-sounding voice and used it to make references about being a "kid" in "school" finding love for the first time with her band The Go-Gos. In the late 1980s, she became a solo artist at the (relatively) mature age of 29, replete with air-brushed album covers to make her look like someone born after 1958.
- Cyndi Lauper, another 30-something in the 1980s who got famous about singing about being a "girl" instead of a woman.
- Pete Burns was 26 when he released his album "Youthquake" and the other members of British New Wave band called "Dead or Alive" were in their late 20s and early 30s.
- Spice Girls
- Beastie Boys
- The Beach Boys continued to sing love songs to teenage girls even after they became middle-aged, bearded, creepy men. Not counting the unreleased track "Lazy Lizzy", in which Brian sings about stalking an underage girl, the most pedo-worthy track to appear on a Beach Boys disc was undoubtedly "Hey Little Tomboy" — made even worse by a bootlegged outtake in which the Boys seem bent on gang-raping the title character.
- New Kids on the Block
- Backstreet Boys
- Indigo Girls
- At the age of 26, Katy Perry played a 13-year-old high school student in the music video of her song "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)".
- Several of Taylor Swift's videos, such as "Fifteen", "You Belong With Me", and "The Story of Us", in which she plays high schoolers. Minor examples earlier, as she wasn't that much older than her characters, but it's started getting played more and more straight as she gets older (though to her credit, she doesn't look it).
- Van Halen's members were in their late twenties when they came out with the song "Hot for Teacher", where David Lee Roth describes himself not as a college student, not as a high school student, but what sounds like an elementary school (an American school for pre-teens) student, lusting after his teacher. The video averts this by having scenes depicting the band as actual children, as well as being blatantly comedic in the first place.
- 20-something Kesha has made an entire discography over referring to herself as a young girl who believes herself to be a rebel who is living on the wild side despite her vanilla bubblegum antics, especially her song "Die Young" (which has endless references to her youth) or the video for "TiK ToK" (which has her living with her parents and riding a bike because she's too young to drive). Her debut album, Animal, was released in 2010 when she was 23.
- In the Music Video for "Stupid Girls" by P!nk, she rather convincingly portrays a 16-year-old girl (purging in the bathroom during a school dance), as well as other characters covering a wide age range. She herself was 27.
- In the music video for "Sixteen Military Wives" by The Decemberists, the band members portray a high school Model UN. They all look at least ten years too old for the role. However, most of the actors in the video who aren't band members look plausibly teenage, and one of them is clearly in fact too young.
- The music video for Fancy, featuring 24-year-old Iggy Azalea, 22-year-old Charli XCX, and their equally adult friends portraying teen characters from the high school film Clueless.
- Hustle's Monster Bono was only six years younger than his "father", The Great Muta, and was seven years older than his mother, Yinling The Erotic Terrorist.
- TNA did a storyline where "Father" James Mitchell claimed to be the father of Abyss...except taking into account their relative ages meant that Mitchell was only 9 when Abyss would have been born.
- In Pokémon Live!, the characters are pre-teens. The actors... aren't. Kind of inevitable, really.
- In the original runnote and film version of 1776, 26-year-old Edward Rutledge was played by then-forties John Cullum. There's even a line in the play about how Rutledge is the youngest man in Congress. But who cares about that when you've got Cullum's beautiful soaring baritone?
- Done for artistic reasons in The Golden Ticket, an opera based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — to emphasize Charlie's innocence and kindness compared to the other kids in the story, he's the only character played by a kid. The four brats and several jealous tots who are at hand for the factory opening are all played by adults.
- In Wicked the age range of the leads Elphaba and Glinda is about 18-23 years, and sometimes there are actresses those ages that play them; but more often than not the roles are given to women in their late-20's to mid-30's, and sometimes even older.
- Tedd from El Goonish Shive invokes this in an EGS:NP strip by claiming to be twenty-one outside of continuity due to Comic-Book Time. Grace counters the gap might be up to a year, making Tedd eighteen. She then goes on to say that it doesn't matter anyways since none of them are likely to look any different before they turn 30.note
- This was the initial reason that some viewers suspected lonelygirl15 to be a hoax. The Real Life implications of this are apparent in an episode of MaxterBexter, in which former lonelygirl15 actors Becki Gregoski and Maxwell Glick complain about needing to show ID before they would be served alcohol, even though Maxwell Glick was 29 at the time.
- On the website hosting the Whateley Universe, the stories centering on Chau Lee (Bladedancer) are often illustrated with pictures of Zhang Ziyi. The character is fifteen, the actress at least twelve years older...
- Mocked in A Very Potter Musical with CLEARLY College aged Darren Criss stating "I'm just a 12-year-old kid".
- Lucas Cruikshank was 14 when he started playing six-year-old Fred Figglehorn. Justified in that he created the character to be performed by himself.
- That Guy with the Glasses
- 20-something Bhargav playing Ma-Ti, who is somewhere around 14. He said he was fourteen when he woke up to see MarzGurl and The Nostalgia Chick in bed with him.
- Lindsay and Doug both play teenage versions of their characters in videos, respectively 27 and 30 as of writing.
- Behind The Veil is an interesting case of this, with the "actors" being limited to celebrity representations of what the character's appearance would be. However several characters ages are either older or younger than the celebrities portraying them, for example the 32-year-old Jack Raven being represented by the 45-year-old Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
- South Park couldn't help but use this trope when they did the live action reenactment in "I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining" by casting guys in their mid 20s to play the ten year old boys. Cue the narrator emphasizing "These four 4th graders" throughout.
- The Virgin Mary is usually played by an actress over the age of 20, but historians say she was about 14 when she became pregnant with Jesus. (Obviously there's no evidence for Mary's actual age, but she clearly has the status of a girl who will be married soon, but not yet, and the ancient Jews had pretty strict cultural norms about at what age you went through important milestones in life.)
- It's a common lesson, in art class, that the more lines you add while drawing a face, the more aged your subject will look. Also, the more angular the subject in the picture is, the older they will look. Therefore, most young characters should be drawn with no lines and a rounded face. Some artists don't apply these rules.
- In this analysis of Rob Liefeld's work...
In "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way," "Drawing Comics in the Style of Detective Comics Comics," "Aping Shit the Valiant Way," and every other drawing tutorial I've been a part of, it clearly says that every line you draw on a person's face adds to their age. When you're drawing children or sexy young women you give them clean surfaces to suggest youth and a tightness of veins, and when you draw Clint Eastwood in an eyepatch hanging out with Gen 13 you draw all over his face to let people know he's old. Depending on who you talk to, every line can equal a year added onto the life of your character. Shaft, the young leader of rogue operative team "Youngblood," is 900 years old.
- In a rather squicky and creepy example, a 29-year-old named Neil Rodreick III was found posing as the 7th grader (12 years old) Casey Price, fooling even the two people he was living with.
- A woman from Texas, the aforementioned Treva Throneberry, pretended to be a teenager throughout her 20s and early 30s and moved from foster home to foster home. She got a tuition to go to college and was finally arrested for fraud. Interestingly, she didn't look especially youthful.
- 31-year-old Patricia Dye posed as a teenage boy so that she could have sex with a teen girl.
- A 29-year-old woman named Lorelei Corpuz did the same, passing herself as a 18-year-old boy named Mark Villaneuva to both couch-surf and hit/date teen girls.
- Adult police officers will often pose as teens to catch sexual predators, or to catch juvenile offenders.
- A member of the Hong Kong police force successfully posed as a 15-year-old high school student to uncover Triad recruitment of high school students. He got the idea from a movie.
- There was an incident where a client of a prostitution ring requested an underage girl. The owner of the ring contacted the police anonymously and agreed to help set up a sting against the client. The police sent a female officer to him claiming to be 15 years old. He believed it and discussed sexual activities with her leading to his arrest.
- Cosplayers regularly portray characters that are considerably younger than themselves. Characters in their younger to mid-teens are prevalent in many popular series; meanwhile, the skills you need to make your own costumes require time and practice to develop. Even if you opt to buy your costumes, cosplaying eats up a LOT of money either way, so you're generally much better off if you have an income level more typical of an adult.
- Cameron Crowe enrolled as a high school student at age 22, to research his book on teen life, called Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
- Kevin Bacon enrolled as a high school student prior to filming Footloose just to see if he was still believable as a teen at age 25, according to the DVD commentary.
- Riley Weston was born Kimberlee Kramer in 1966. In May 1997, she changed her name and began claiming her date of birth as 1979 in order to be considered for acting roles. The deception was assisted by her small size, with a height of 4' 11" and weight of 93 pounds. In 1998, she began drafting screenplays and marketing herself to television studios as a recent high school graduate. She was soon hired by the WB Network as a writer for the show Felicity after they saw one of her scripts about teenage sisters. Hailed as a child prodigy and "wunderkind," she was featured on Entertainment Weekly's October 1998 list of the "100 Most Creative People in Entertainment," which described her as an up-and-coming 19-year-old, though she was really 31. Shortly thereafter, she was offered a half-million dollar screenwriting deal with Disney. After Entertainment Tonight began working on a segment about Weston, her real identity and age soon emerged. Soon after, her contract with WB expired and was not renewed, and her deal with Disney fell through.
- Barbora Škrlová was a 33-year-old Czech woman suspected with child abuse and cannibalism who fled to Norway and pretended to be a 13-year-old boy named "Adam". It worked for a while, though she was eventually arrested and sent back to the Czech Republic. Before that, she has posed as a 13-year-old girl named Anicka, the supposed "adoptive daughter" of one of her Czech accomplice.
- When Shirley Temple was signed with Fox Studios (later part of 20th Century Fox), the studio shaved a year off her age to make her seem more precocious, even altering her birth certificate. She was initially presented to the public as a four-year-old when she was actually almost six. Shirley didn't learn how old she really was until she was thirteen.
- Similar to the Shirley Temple example above, Gypsy Rose Lee and her sister June Havoc had years shaved off their ages when they performed as child stars. Their mother, the legendary Stage Mom Rose Hovick, reportedly had many fake birth certificates for them and they couldn't be sure of their real ages.
- A 34-year-old woman named Charity Johnson pretended to be a 15-year-old high school sophomore for nearly an entire school year at New Life Christian School, fooling teachers, classmates and even the woman who took her in.
- Jennifer Connelly was 14, the same age as her character Sarah, during her audition for and throughout filming of Labyrinth.
- Michelle Trachtenberg was in her late teens playing 18-year-old Jenny in Euro Trip.
- She played the 11-year-old sixth-grader Harriet in Harriet the Spy, while the actress was 10 years old to the day when shooting began on October 11th, 1995 (this may have been done for labor law reasons, or it may have been a coincidence).
- She went on to play the 17-year-old lead in Ice Princess, filmed when she was 18. Her co-star Hayden Panettiere, whose character is around the same age as Michelle's (they're in the same grade at school), was 14 at the time.
- Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson were all roughly the same age as their characters in Harry Potter when they began the film series. Of course, as time has gone on, the actors have gained a bit of a lead on the characters they play, to the point that, as of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, they're all 20-21 years old but playing 17- to 18-year-olds.
- Emma Watson actually started off younger than Hermione. In the first film, she was 10 years old playing 11-12.note
- This was the subject of a misaimed parody in Epic Movie, where the "kids" were all in their forties, and "Hermione" was nine months pregnant. It gets even more inappropriate: "Hermione" was shown smoking.
- The title role in Babe was played by 48 different piglets, because they grow so quickly. A makeup artist was employed to make the pigs look similar.
- All the lead actors of 10 Things I Hate About You were actual teenagers: 19-year-old Heath Ledger and 17-year-old Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Larisa Oleynik (though the latter two play fifteen-year-olds).
- Lindsay Lohan is the same age as her characters in her early films, particularly Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. Inverted in Herbie: Fully Loaded when she played a university graduate at the age of 19.
- Sue Lyon was 14, and playing 14, when she filmed Lolita. (In the original novel, Lolita was 12; the character's age was raised to comply with the censors. Nabokov himself had said "to make a real 12-year-old girl play such a part in public would be sinful and immoral.") Many are under the mistaken impression that she was 16, because the film was released in 1962, and Lyon was born in 1946. The film was, however, filmed between November 1960-May 1961, and she was born July 10th, 1946, making her 14 for the duration of filming.
- Similarly, Dominique Swain was 15 when she played the 14-year-old Lolita in The Remake (again, the character's age was raised to comply with the censors).
- The 10-year-old (at time of filming) Fairuza Balk played the older but still preteen Dorothy Gale in Return to Oz.
- Michael Cera (Evan) was 18 and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogel/"McLovin") 17 when playing their graduating high-school characters in Superbad. Jonah Hill (Seth), by contrast, was 23 (due to legal regulations, Mintz-Plasse's mother actually had to be on the set of Superbad the day his character's sex scene was shot).
- The 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet featured one of the only examples of an actress playing Juliet being anywhere near her age. Juliet, who is supposed to be nearing 14, was played by 15-year-old Olivia Hussey. Hussey was famously barred from the premiere due to her age. In effect, she was deemed too young to witness a scene featuring her own nude body. Seventeen-year-old Leonard Whiting was impressively young for Romeo, as well.
- Gogo Yubari, the psychotic 17-year-old killer from Kill Bill was played by the 18-year-old Chiaki Kuriyama (the film was released on her 19th birthday).
- Leonardo DiCaprio was twenty-two when he played twenty-year-old Jack Dawson in Titanic. Also, 22-year-old Kate Winslet as 17-year-old Rose DeWitt.
- Inverted in Mysterious Skin with Brady Corbet and Michelle Trachtenberg. Corbet was 15 and playing a 17- to 18-year-old, while Trachtenberg was 18, the same age as her character.
- The Star Wars films. Carrie Fisher was 18 when playing 19-year-old Princess Leia (and then 21 when playing 22-year-old Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and 24 when playing 23-year-old Leia in Return of the Jedi). 19-year-old Anakin Skywalker was played by 19-year-old Hayden Christensen at the time of filming Attack of the Clones; when Anakin was 22, in Revenge of the Sith, Christensen was 22. Natalie Portman was 16 when playing Amidala at 14; she also played her at 24 when she was 19, and at 27 when she was 22.
- Pans Labyrinth. Guillermo del Toro changed the screenplay when he was impressed by an actress a few years older than the part asked for initially.
- Kirsten Dunst was eleven years old in Interview with the Vampire, where she played a vampire who was infected at eleven years old and was never able to grow up. Her kiss with the adult Brad Pitt led to a fair amount of controversy. Her character was aged up from about six for practical reasons.
- The Virgin Suicides: The actresses playing the younger Lisbon sisters were close in age to their characters, from Kirsten Dunst (16) as 14- to 15-year-old Lux, to Hanna R. Hall (14) who played 13-year-old Cecilia, to Chelse Swain (15) as 15-16-year-old Bonnie.
- Lost in Translation: Scarlett Johansson was not yet 18 when she played Charlotte, who is in her early-to-mid twenties (going by her reference to having graduated from college a little while previously). Johansson had just graduated from high school when she got the part.
- In Somewhere, 11-year-old Cleo is played by 11-year-old Elle Fanning (she was 12 by the time of its release).
- Yet another Sofia Coppola film, Marie Antoinette, features a partial subversion — it starts off playing the trope straight by having 23-year-old Kirsten Dunst portray the future queen of France at age 14, but Dunst continues to play her all the way into her thirties.
- The Film of the Book Twilight: Kristen Stewart (Bella) was actually seventeen and Taylor Lautner (Jacob) was fifteen during filming. Robert Pattinson is twenty-two, in contrast to the eternally 17-year-old Edward. The rest of the actors playing the Cullens are mostly in their early twenties, but it's justified as their characters aren't even really of high school attending age to begin with.
- Chloe Moretz, at 11, plays 10-year-old Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. 17-year-old Kick-Ass himself is played by 19-year-old Aaron Johnson. At 15, she stars in the 2013 remake of Carrie as the titular 16-year-old character.
- Matchstick Men is an unusual case in that an actress in her twenties plays a 14-year-old girl with surprising believability, yet in the end it's revealed that her character really is in her twenties.
- In Apocalypse Now, Laurence Fishburne played a 17-year-old soldier, but he was only 14 years old when filming started (due to the film's long period of production and post-production, Fishburne was 17 when the movie was released).
- In Sixteen Candles the 16-year-old protagonist is portrayed by a 16-year-old Molly Ringwald. In the same movie, the trope is delightfully lampshaded by Ringwald's comments on a classmate (played by then-25-year-old Haviland Morris). "I swear to God, Caroline Mulford had to flunk about nine grades."
- In Pretty in Pink, Molly Ringwald was 18 while playing a high school senior.
- In the movie Real Genius, Gabe Jarret played a 15-year-old, and was actually 15 at the time of the film's release.
- Averted in Danny Boyle's 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire: eighteen-year-old Dev Patel plays eighteen-year-old Jamal Malik.
- Partial subversion: In the film version of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, eighteen-year-old David Kross plays main character Michael Berg from the age of fifteen into his early twenties. Considering the fairly explicit sex scenes with co-star Kate Winslet, there was very little chance of Michael being cast any younger. It is also worth noting that, although this is not mentioned in the film, the book features a brief scene in which Kate Winslet's character Hanna Schmitz expresses the false understanding that Michael is at university already when she starts having sex with him, implying that he looks several years older than he actually is.
- In Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life there is a scene in which an instructor (played by John Cleese) at what appears to be a religious institution of learning is teaching a class how to have intercourse with his good lady-wife. While in the church service, all the children are... well, children. When we get to the classroom and intercourse discussion, however, they are all played by the various Pythons.
- When the instructor catches one of them playing with an ocarina, he punishes him by making him play on the rugby team later, which is made up of actual children again!
- Mia Sara was perhaps the only actual teenager in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Her character Sloane was a junior in high school; she was 18 at the time.
- The Professional features a thirteen-year-old Natalie Portman playing twelve-year-old Mathilda. Which makes her love towards Leon as poignant as it's odd.
- In To Have And Have Not, Lauren Bacall was 19 and playing a 22-year-old.
- Evan Rachel Wood was fourteen when she was cast in Thirteen, the title referring to her character's age (Wood turned fifteen during filming). Considering the sex-and-drugs subject matter of the movie, probably no one would have blamed them if they had cast a baby-faced adult, so it's a notable near-aversion.
- Tara Steele was about ten when she played teenaged Katie in Mockingbird Don't Sing, though the character was 'supposed' to look much younger than she really was.
- Anton Yelchin was eighteen when he played the titular Charlie Bartlett.
- Rebel Without a Cause is a partial exception; Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo were 16, portraying teens. James Dean, however, was 24.
- Victoire Thivisol was four years old when she played the main role in Ponette, that of a four-year-old who loses her mother. She even won a Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 1996 Venice Film Festival for her heartbreaking performance.
- All of the teenagers in Casper were played by people between the ages of 13 and 15 (including the voice actor for the titular character), and the temporarily revived Casper is played by a 17-year-old. For somebody used to this in movies, the sight of an entire classroom of teenagers who actually look like teenagers is actually rather jarring.
- The live action adaptation of The Last Airbender both plays this straight and subverts it. Jackson Rathbone (Sokka) was 25 playing 15 and Dev Patel (Zuko) was 19 playing 16, but both Noah Ringer (Aang) and Nicola Peltz (Katara) were the same age as their characters during filming (12 and 14 respectively).
- Disturbingly avoided in Taxi Driver. Jodie Foster was 13 when she played the role of a 12-year-old prostitute (except for the nude scenes, which were performed by her older sister, who was of legal age).
- The Sound of Music largely kept the actors relatively close to their ages — Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich) was fifteen playing fourteen, Heather Menzies (Louisa) fourteen playing thirteen, Duane Chase (Kurt) thirteen playing eleven, Angela Cartwright (Brigitta) twelve playing ten, Debbie Turner (Marta) eight playing seven, and Kym Karath (Gretl) six playing five. Played utterly straight, however, with Charmian Carr (Liesl), who was twenty-one playing sixteen-going-on-seventeen.
- In Another Cinderella Story, Selena Gomez was 15 and playing a 15-year-old high schooler. Critics were squicked that Drew Seeley, who played her love interest, was 24, but the movie makes it clear that his character really is that age. A Cinderella Story also averts this with Hilary Duff (whose character is 17 — she was 16 when the film was released).
- The Diary of a Wimpy Kid film adaptation. The supplemental film diary mentioned that a lot of the child actors used were actual middle-schoolers and that the two boys playing Greg and Rowley actually missed their first days of sixth grade to film the movie.
- Borderline case: Most of the actors playing students in Sky High were between 17 and 19 at the time of the film's release, although many of them played high school freshmen.
- In the 2010 version of True Grit, then 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld played 14-year-old Mattie Ross.
- Brooke Shields, in her 1980s movie appearances from age 14-17 (most famously The Blue Lagoon), appeared in a variety of R-rated films that involved frontal nudity. In each case, an over-20 body double covered those moments for her.
- Mandy Moore was 18 when she played high school student Jamie in A Walk to Remember, though her also high school aged love interest was played by Shane West, who was 21 at the time.
- Walking the line in Mystery Team; the actors are in their early twenties, and their characters are high school seniors.
- Ann Miller played a character several years older in You Can't Take It With You when she was fifteen.
- In Welcome To The Dollhouse, released in 1995, Heather Matarazzo, born in 1982, is the right age to play a seventh grader.
- While a number of the cast members who play tributes in The Hunger Games are borderline cases, it's definitely averted by Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove), Jacqueline Emerson (Foxface) and Amandla Stenberg (Rue) — aged 15, 17 and 13 respectively at the time of release.
- Nikki Blonsky was 17, playing teenaged Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. She had her 18th birthday on-set.
- The cast of Stand by Me were close in age to their characters, although still a straight version of the trope, with the exception of Jerry O'Connell. Wil Wheaton was 13 (playing "12 going on 13"), Cory Feldman was 14 and River Phoenix almost 15. Jerry O'Connell was 11.
- A bit of a twist: the actress who plays the antagonist in Orphan was 10 or 11, playing a 9-year-old who's actually in her 30s.
- Inverted to the point of lunacy in Aces: Iron Eagle III - Christopher Cazenove, Horst Buchholz and Sonny Chiba (born in 1943, 1933 and 1939 respectively) play World War II aces, while Paul Freeman (born 1943) plays an ex-Nazi bad guy. Run that by me again?
- Mostly averted by Lords Of Dogtown, in which Victor Rasuk (age 19), Emile Hirsch (age 18) and John Robinson (age 18) convincingly play teenage Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta, respectively. However, in real life Peralta and Alva were four years older than Adams, who is portrayed in the movie as being approximately the same age as them. Likely Hirsch was cast due to the difficulty of casting a real 13-year-old for the part.
- Inverted in If I Stay. Mia is stated to be 18, even though Chloe Moretz herself is only 17.
- Inverted in Disney's Maleficent. As with Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora as a teen is meant to be fifteen/sixteen (the latter age being a plot point). While the animated film modeled Aurora's design after an actress in her twenties, the filmmakers for this live-action adaptation cast Elle Fanning, who at the time of filming was fourteen/fifteen. Cue Reality Is Unrealistic coming into play, with some viewers arguing Elle looked too young to play Aurora, while others defended the casting, pointing out that she actually is a teenager. Funnily enough, by the time the film was released, Elle had indeed turned sixteen.
- Averted in Into the Woods - where Red Riding Hood and Jack are portrayed by younger adults in the stage versions, they're played by actual children in the movie.
- Claire Danes (Angela) and Devon Gummersall (Brian) from My So-Called Life really were teenagers at the time of filming — although the rest of the teenage characters were played by twentysomethings (including the aforementioned Senta Moses).
- This is a rare, possibly unique inversion, especially for an actress, as the producers knew that Danes was only 13 years old (at the start of filming) yet they still cast her to play a character two full years older than the actress, without any retcons or fudging the numbers.
- Justified with Jared Leto in the character of Jordan, who is repeating the grade the rest of the kids are in...at least for the second time.
- The teens on Degrassi are all played by real teens — but they're much more attractive than the typical bunch of high schoolers (see Hollywood Homely).
- The show has been slipping into example of this, but only due to a change in season coverage. Early seasons went at an equal time (1 school year per season), since season six ended they now run the series at half the speed (half a school year per season). This means that members of the cast are now older than their characters. However, most new characters are still about the same as their actors when introduced, leaving it well short of being as bad as The Trope Namer or any other example.
- An odd recent aversion is casting 17 year old (16 during filming) Niamh Wilson as a 12th grader, making her younger than her character and all but one of the cast regulars, who plays a 9th grader.
- Beverly Hills 90210 did manage to avoid this in a few cases: Shannen Doherty (19) and Jennie Garth (18) were borderline, but at least they were still teenagers. Brian Austin Green and Tori Spelling, both 17, were clear aversions. Douglas Emerson, who played Scott Scanlon, was actually 16, making him the only actor the same age as his character, but he was written off in the second season.
- Most of the original cast on Saved by the Bell were close to age-correct, though there was a little leakage into the 20s by graduation from the portion of the cast not from the original Good Morning Miss Bliss:
- Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack, was 14 when he started on Good Morning Miss Bliss, playing an eighth-grader and was 19 at "graduation". Lark Voorhies, who played Lisa, was only a few weeks younger than Gosselaar. Dustin Diamond was three years younger than them, and the youngest in the cast, playing an eighth-grader at age 11 (and a high schooler at 12). If you were wondering why it took so long for Screech's voice to drop, that's why.
- The two kids from Good Morning Miss Bliss who did not carry over to Saved By The Bell, Max Battimo and Heather Hopper, were 14 and 12 respectively.
- Mario Lopez (Slater) started out at age 16, graduating at 20; Tiffani(-Amber) Thiessen started at 15, making her the same age as Gosselaar and Voorhees. The eldest was Elizabeth Berkley, 17 when she started and 21 when it ended.
- In general, Disney Channel is pretty good at averting this trope.
- The other kids on Hannah Montana, including star Miley Cyrus, were actually in their early-to-mid-teens when the show started, making the casting of Jackson all the more glaring — and baffling, though that only applies when you find out his actual age; seriously, if you didn't think he looked like he was in his late teens, you are either blind or really need your eyes checked. This is funny in that he's more believable as a teen in Hannah Montana than he is as a grown adult in Dadnapped.
- Averted in Shake It Up, where the characters are supposed to be in high school. In fact, leads Bella Thorne (Cece) and Adam Irigoyen (Deuce) were only 13 years old playing high school freshmen at the start of the series.
- Mostly averted with Sonny With A Chance and its spinoff So Random!, except for one member of the core cast, Tiffany Thornton, who was 24 years of age when she played 17-year-old Tawni Hart.
- Super Sentai often averts the trope: post-2000 series rarely feature main cast members older than 22-23 maximum, save for some Sixth Rangers who were older than the main heroes. Several recent series have had 15 to 17-year-old characters played by actors of the same age and even teenagers playing characters older than themselves — Shinkenger has 14-year-old Runa Natsui as 17-year-old Kaoru. There are however a few examples of the trope played straight, such as Goseiger where 20-year-old Mikiho Niwa plays 17-year-old Moune.
- In Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, Ryuji is played at 28 years old by Ryouma Baba (who turned 27 soon after the start of filming) and at 15 years old by Koudai Matsuoka (a year younger than the character.)
- At 15 years old, Tsuruhime/Ninja White from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger is currently the youngest female hero in the franchise's history. She was played by Satomi Hirose, who was actually 14 at the time the show began.
- Possibly the most hilariously exaggerated inversion yet — in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, 23-year-old Yumeria Moegi is played by 16-year-old Karin Ogino.
- Married... with Children
- Christina Applegate was 15 years old and playing a 15-year-old in the first season of (her character's age was said to be 16 a few months before Christina herself, making it a rare case of a teen actor younger than her role).
- David Faustino was much the same, playing a 12-year-old boy when he was in fact 12 years old. In both cases, the characters aged at the same rate as the actors. Of course, while Kelly was repeatedly stated to have an active sex life, Applegate wasn't actively portrayed making out on camera until after she turned 18.
- Katey Sagal was 33 and Ed O'Neill 41 when the series started, though for comedic effect Al and Peg often referred to the other as being several decades older than that.
- The Bill features a 19-year-old character, played by an actress who was 17 when she started filming.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar was 16 when she started playing Erica Kane's long lost daughter Kendall Hart on All My Children in 1993. The character was initially 16 years old but, via a retcon, her age was later changed to 23 due to the continuity errors of Erica having a teenaged daughter from a teenaged pregnancy created. When the character was brought back 6.5 years later, Kendall's birth year and age were reverted back to her original age when she first appeared as a teenager in 1993.
- Freaks and Geeks had a good percentage of its cast close to or of the high school age (24-year-old Linda Cardellini and 21-year-old James Franco being exceptions). John Francis Daley, playing a very small and scrawny 14-year-old, was the same age as his character.
- Also, in Bones, in which a now 24-year-old John Francis Daley plays 24-year-old wunderkind psychologist Lance Sweets.
- In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), Kara "Starbuck" Thrace is about 28-29 years old by the end of the third season, going by a reference to her having graduated from the military academy six years previously. Katee Sackhoff, the actress who played Kara, was only 26 at the time.
- For that matter, the fact that she was cast could be considered an inversion of this trope: the original script for the miniseries described Starbuck as being in her thirties. Katee was 22 when she tried out for the part and eventually got it, despite initial objections from the casting directors that she was too young.
- Firefly has twenty-year-old Jewel Staite playing Kaylee, who is implied to be older than 17-year-old River (played by Summer Glau, who IRL was a year older than Jewel).
- F Troop's "Wrangler Jane", presumably a character in her twenties, was played by Melody Patterson. Melody got the part after lying about her age initially, and was only 15 years old at the start of the show.
- That '70s Show
- The 15-year-old character of Jackie Burkhart was played by the actually 15-year-old Mila Kunis. The story goes that when asked how old she was, Mila said, "I'll be 18 on my birthday." She just didn't say which birthday. The producers liked her so much that they decided to keep her even when they found out the truth. Thus, she was 14 when they started filming the series, but the producers thought she was 16.
- When the show started, Laura Prepon and Wilmer Valderrama were also teens; however, they aged normally, while their characters did not.
- In Supernatural, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are actually almost exactly the same ages as their characters, Sam and Dean Winchester. They are each one year older than their charactersnote , but the four-year age gap between them is the same.
- However, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays their father, is only 12 years older than Ackles (something Padalecki and Ackles used to tease him about). This begins to border on squick for those who also watch Grey's Anatomy, considering Jensen Ackles (his son) and Katherine Heigl (his girlfriend) are the same age.
- Played straight with Teen!Dean in "After School Special," but inverted with Teen!Sam: the actor playing 14-year-old Sam played 8-year-old in "A Very Supernatural Christmas" a year before. The kid was about 12 years old or maybe 13, but very small for his age.
- Grey's Anatomy watchers might also find it strange Sarah Drew plays 17-year old Nora in the season 5 episode Swap Meat despite being 30-year old, and playing an age-appropriate doctor in Grey's at the time.
- The cast of Skins are generally the same age as the characters they play — which makes it a rather interesting exception given the show's apparent policy of "sex, drugs, and nudity whenever possible."
- The American version landed in hot water with the Moral Guardians for casting teenaged actors, who accused the producers of violating "child pornography laws" for a semi-nude scene using a 17-year-old actor. They weren't actually doing anything illegal, but the resulting Squick did put a lot of viewers off the show.
- Gilmore Girls featured 33-year-old Lauren Graham as 32-year-old Lorelai Gilmore, and 18-year-old (at the time of casting) Alexis Bledel as 16-year-old Rory Gilmore.
- Lucy Griffiths, who played Marian in the BBC's 2006 version of Robin Hood was 18 and playing a 21-year-old character in the first series.
- On The Wire, Jermaine Crawford (Duquan "Dukie" Weems), Maestro Harrell (Randy Wagstaff) and Michael B. Jordan (Wallace) were the same ages as their characters (15, 14, and 16 respectively).
- Many Nickelodeon shows using a live-action cast actually used actors around the same age as their characters.
- Notably, The Adventures of Pete & Pete actually paid attention to how old the characters were and raised their ages accordingly and the producers later commented that the kids essentially grew up on the set because they'd been doing the shorts and television series for so long.
- Drake & Josh had the title actors be the appropriate age, with Miranda Cosgrove playing a 10-year-old. But the show's timeline was different then real time, and the actors were hitting their 20s when the characters were still in High School. Cosgrove especially was about 14, still supposedly about 11 or 12.
- Same situation for Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, sort of. Devon Werkheiser and Daniel Curtis Lee were both 13 when they started the show which is fine for 7th graders. However, for the next 2 years the show never went past 8th grade and ended with the 2 boys 16 years old still playing 8th graders. Lindsey Shaw on the other hand, was 15 playing a 7th grader when the show started, a true Dawsons Casting. She ended the show playing an 8th grader at age 17.
- Melissa Joan Hart was fifteen when she started playing Clarissa Darling, and her character aged up accordingly.
- Also on Zoey 101: the characters grew from 8th (season 1) to 10th grade (seasons 3/4), along with the main cast who were 13/14 when the show started. There's in an inversion with Victoria Justice, who is two years younger but was seemingly placed in the same grade.
- What made it notable was that the amount of fanservice also grew each season.
- Claire was 17 years old — and played by 16-year-old (when the series started) Hayden Panettiere — until the writers noticed fans enjoying the chemistry displayed between Claire and 26-year-old Peter and writers docked her age down one or two years to make them less comfortable with the pairing until The Reveal of Peter and Claire being related.
- The kids who play Molly Walker and Micah Sanders are about the same age as their characters, or at least they were until the show took some time off. Micah is supposed to be eleven, and the actor is now fourteen, which is very noticeable as puberty has begun to kick in and his voice changed. Deepest voice on an eleven-year-old ever.
- In Home Improvement the actors playing the kids were all of appropriate age: Zachary Ty Bryan (Brad) was the same age as his character, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy) was a year older than his character and Taran Noah Smith (Mark) was a year older than his character.
- Arrested Development had Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat at almost the exact age of 14-15.
- Season 4 continues this but plays around with this and Older Than They Look. George Micheal becomes the target of sex offenders due to his youthful looks despite being and perhaps because he's 22. Maeby is still in high school, purposely posing as a senior for the last five years. Of course she's barely fooling anyone.
- Tyler James Williams, the young Chris Rock on Everybody Hates Chris, was 12 when he began playing his middle-school-aged role. Unfortunately, he's since hit puberty ... and now his voice is noticeably more baritone than that of the adult Chris Rock, who narrates the show.
- Not to mention one of the early jokes of the show was that Chris' younger brother was taller than him (mirroring Chris Rock's real life younger brother who grew taller than him at an early age). After puberty, Williams was much taller than the other actor, not to mention his constant bully (though the bully remained much bulkier than the skinny Williams).
- Holly Tyler of What I Like About You was exactly the same age as her portrayer Amanda Bynes (starting at 16 in the pilot), AND aged in real time to boot (both were nearly 20 in the finale).
- Neil Patrick Harris was more or less the same age as his character when he was in Doogie Howser MD, although the show does illustrate why this trope exists — he really grew from season one to season two. However, Max Casella was 22 years old when he began playing 16-year-old Vinnie.
- Most of the Boy Meets World cast (with the already-mentioned exception of Trina McGee) were fairly close to the ages of the characters they portrayed. In the first season, Will Friedle was 17 and playing a 15-year-old and 11-year-olds Cory, Shawn, and Topanga were portrayed by Ben Savage (13), Rider Strong (13), and Danielle Fishel (12). But the timeline actually moves faster in the BMW universe than in real life: The gang takes five years to graduate high school instead of seven, making Savage and Strong the same ages as their characters (and Fishel a year younger). Matthew Lawrence joined the cast in the fifth season at age 17, playing Shawn's older brother, despite being two months younger than Strong.
- In fact, even though only two years of college are shown, it is strongly implied that at least three years have passed; Eric, Jack, and Rachel are all graduating despite (apparently) being Juniors. This makes Maitland Ward, who joined in the sixth season at age 21, yet another aversion.
- The reason this exists was perfectly demonstrated in the episode "Better than the Average Cory", where we meet 13-year-old artist Alexandra Nechita (playing herself), who strikes up a friendship with Cory's little sister Morgan, who is the same age (and played by also 13-year-old Lindsay Ridgeway). Nechita looks several years older than Ridgeway, to the point that one reviewer could not believe they were the same age, even though they were.
- On the other hand, the use of accurately-aged actors added a nice flavor of realism to the physical changes during puberty for the main characters. For example, Topanga grows breasts over the summer at the same time that Danielle Fishel grew them during the hiatus between seasons. And in season 1, Rider Strong is more than six inches taller and considerably larger-boned than Ben Savage (to the point where their difference in size was the subject of a few gags), although both the actors and their characters are only a few months apart in age. Fast-forward to season 3, and not only have both actors grown considerably, but Savage has shot up to a couple of inches taller than Strong, as well as becoming noticeably bulkier than the latter.
- Willa Holland really was fourteen when she played fourteen-year-old Kaitlin Cooper on The O.C.. Actually, she didn't turn fourteen until just after her first episode aired, but that's fine because Kaitlin was eleven two seasons earlier, anyway. (Though humorously played by an actress who was the same age)
- Mischa Barton was 17 when Marissa was 16 in the first season.
- Malcolm in the Middle does this by a couple years; at the beginning, 14-year-old Frankie Muniz played (approximately) 11-year-old Malcolm; 9-year-old Erik Per Sullivan played his 6-year-old younger brother Dewey; 20-year-old Christopher Masterson played his 16-year-old brother Francis; but his older brother Reese was played by 13-year-old Justin Berfield (who was taller than Frankie, and remained so throughout the entire series, to the producers' probable relief).
- Invoked in one episode, an adult woman in her early 20s poses as a student in order to bust drug dealers. Nobody is fooled.
- Growing Pains had their Cousin Oliver characters played by actors around their ages. By the final season in 1991, Ashley Johnson was eight, playing the suddenly six-year-old Chrissy Seaver. Luke Brower was fifteen years old, played by sixteen-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio.
- Matthew in One Life to Live is canonically about a year older than actor Eddie Alderson.
- Richard Castle's daughter Alexis is eighteen, as is her actress Molly Quinn.
- The whole Castle family falls under this trope. The actors portraying Richard Castle and his mother (Nathan Fillion and Susan Sullivan) were 37 and 66 when filming began. That makes Castle a young father, but it does work out.
- Lie to Me: Cal Lightman's daughter is 15/16; the actress playing her 18.
- Although the flagship character of Caprica (Zoe Graystone) is played by someone about six years older than the character, Tamara is herself a semi-exception. Genevieve Buechner is older than Tamara Adama but she's much closer than her colleagues to her character's age, being only 18 while her character is about 15.
- Claire Danes subverted this somewhat in her first major role in My So-Called Life. The producers thought she looked too old for the role of Angela Chase, when she was actually younger, and the character's age was revised downward to match the actress's actual age of 15.
- A deleted scene from the Pilot of The X-Files shows Scully as a teacher at Quantico, and it has been noted by many fans that she looks much younger than her students.
- Gillian Anderson was actually four full years younger than her character on The X-Files. She lied to the producers of the show to say she was 27, to make her seem more credible as an FBI agent with a medical degree.
- David Duchovny was only a year older than his character, Mulder.
- New Zealand series The Tribe averted this with every one of the actors playing characters the same age, give or take a year.
- The Canadian TV series Ramona, based on the Ramona Quimby books, subverted this surprisingly well. Ramona is 8 years old and in third grade. So is her actress. (The film, on the other hand, is a ludicrous example of this trope played very straight!)
- Breaking Bad's high school-age Walter White, Jr. is played by high school-age RJ Mitte. As of Season 3, both character and actor are 17.
- The George Lopez Show averts this with Max, who is played by Luis Armand Garcia. They are both the same age. Played somewhat straight with Carmen (Masiela Lusha), in that Masiela Lusha was 17 at the start of the show and Carmen was supposed to be 13-14.
- All characters on The Wonder Years had ages to match their roles, with star Fred Savage being 11 years old when the show first began. Following this trope, Fred Savage has had trouble finding work as an adult after his lauded childhood acting career (acting work, that is — he's been considerably busier as a director).
- Pretty Little Liars averts this with Sasha Pieterse who began playing the role of Alison DiLaurentis at age 14, one year younger than the character. As The Other Wiki puts it, "being only 14 at the time, she is the youngest actress on the show, all her co-stars being in their late teens to early 20s."
- Averted in Earth 2. 8-year-old Uly Adair and 10-year-old True Danziger were played by actors aged 8 and 10 respectively.
- The kids on Full House.
- Unlike almost all of her costars, Michelle Trachtenberg was the same age as her character, Dawn (14 years old when she first appeared on the show).
- Another aversion: At the time of Faith's first appearance in "Faith, Hope and Trick", Eliza Dushku was actually seventeen, Faith's age at the time (she had to apply for legal emancipation so she could work on the show unencumbered by child labour laws).
- Taylor Momsen was fourteen when Gossip Girl premiered, same age as her character Jenny. This ended up pulling the plug on the planned Jenny/Nate romance in season two since Chace Crawford (in his twenties) wasn't comfortable with a storyline that would have him regularly making out with a then fifteen-year-old.
- Most of the actors and actresses playing kids on The Secret World of Alex Mack were within a few years of their characters' ages.
- In Young Blades, 16-year-old Robert Sheehan plays the nearly 16-year-old King Louis XIV.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Luke Smith and Maria Jackson were played by actual teenagers. This demonstrates one of the advantages of Dawson Casting because both actors had to leave the show for academic reasons.
- Inverted on The West Wing. Elizabeth Moss is at least a year younger than Zoey Bartlet.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Tommy was Really 700 Years Old, but his fake Earth age was always the same as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's real age (both were fourteen in the first season). Both his girlfriends were played by actresses (Shay Astar and Larisa Oleynik) born in the same year as him. However, there was the interesting situation of Joseph Gordon-Levitt looking younger than he actually was, especially in the early seasons. August looked like she was a good year or two older than Tommy, but actually Shay Astar is seven months younger than Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
- On South of Nowhere Chris Hunter was 18 at the time of filming playing the 17- to 18-year-old Glenn. It's notable because he was three years younger than the actress playing his younger sister.
- In the Made-for-TV Movie Birds Of Prey David Janssen plays an ex-WWII pilot who now flies a traffic helicopter. The film was made when Janssen was 41, and he was 14 when the war ended!
- The Lifetime Original Movie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy cast Hayden Panettiere (21 at the time of filming) as Miss Knox (20 at the time of the incident).
- Totally averted by BBC children's dramas Byker Grove and Grange Hill, where all the actors playing children were about the same age as their characters. Some were even a year or so younger.
- Effectively averted in one case on Glee, in which Chris Colfer was not only 18 years old when he was cast as 16-year-old Kurt Hummel, but went through a rather dramatic late burst of puberty after being cast, supplying a very effective visual of Kurt growing up (literally, as he gained about three inches in height) on screen. As Colfer still looks Kurt's age (19) in Season 4, it's becoming disconcerting to see Kurt standing next to his on-screen stepbrother Finn, who is supposed to be roughly the same age but was played by Cory Monteith, who was closer to 30 than 20 and starting to show it.
- In the UFO episode "Destruction" Sarah Bosanquet is said to have "ten years' service" at her job, which is a little tricky given that actress Stephanie Beacham would have been about twenty-three at the time of production.
- Averted by Ariana Grande for the duration of Victorious (she began playing Cat on the show aged 16, and was 19 when it ended)... if not the spinoff.
- The children on Blackish are played by similarly aged actors. For example fifteen year old Zoey is played by a fourteen year old.
- Sadie Calvano, who plays Violet on Series//Mom, was 16, the same age as her character, when the show premiered in 2013. Spencer Daniels, who plays her boyfriend Luke, is a slight case since he was 20 when the show began.
- John Owen Jones was 26 when he first assumed the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, who ages from late thirties-early forties at the beginning of the show and into his sixties by the end. Alexander Gemignani was 27 when he starred as Valjean in the Broadway revival. This kind of thing also happens to a lesser degree with Javert and the Thenardiers, who age similarly to Valjean throughout the show, and are usually cast near the younger end of that range (i.e. 40s). Valjean, however, is most susceptible to inverted Dawson Casting due to the role being written for a high tenor, and there are few men Valjean's age who can hit those high notes with the kind of power necessary for the role.
- Similarly, this has been a respected convention for the casting of the very aged King Lear, due to the exhausting nature of the role (in one scene, Lear has to carry around Cordelia's body). However, this has not stopped many of the Shakespearean actors in their sixties and seventies from taking on the role, particularly more recently, and often multiple times throughout their lives. As a result, Lears come in all different ages.
- Sir Laurence Olivier at 39, then again at 75.
- David Warner at 64.
- James Earl Jones at 43.
- Sir Donald Wolfit throughout his (and the) 50s.
- Orson Welles at 38, then again at 43.
- Lee J. Cobb at 57.
- Sir Ian Holm at 67.
- Sir Ian McKellen at 68.
- William Devlin at 49.
- Christopher Plummer at 66.
- Stacey Keach at 64.
- Sir Michael Hordern at 59, 64, and 71.
- Kevin Kline at 60.
- Nonso Anozie at 22.
- Sir John Gielgud at 26, 46, 51, and finally at 90(!), as part of an all-star radio production.
- Both Thirteen and the recent revival of Bye Bye Birdie averted this, casting real teens to play the teen characters. Ditto for certain stage productions of High School Musical, notably those by real high school theatre departments.
- Amy Nuttall was 16 when playing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on the West End, and to date is the youngest leading actress ever featured in the London production. Christine is almost always played by an actress in her mid- to late 20s, because most younger singers don't have the training needed for the demanding numbers.
- The cast of Newsies. Neil Patrick Harris made a joke at the Tonys about the "hyper-acrobatic 35-year-old 15-year-olds" in the show.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender had child characters like Aang, Toph and Katara played by child voice actors. Effects of this trope came into play, Aang's voice deepened over the course of the show because of his actor. The line producers played around to ensure the contrast wasn't too great.
- ReBoot actually changed the voice actor for their child character Enzo several times over the course of production to ensure he kept a little kid voice. Including a separate actor for flashbacks in season four and a Plot-Relevant Age-Up for the adult version, they ended up with six different voice actors over four seasons. One early kid returned later in the series voicing a one-off character.
- Monsters, Inc. had an actual four year old play Boo, including all of the laughter. During the door system roller coaster ride, they actually had her on their knee, bouncing her up and down.
- Transformers Prime used older actors for the teenaged Jack and Miko, but had an age appropriate actor for the adolescent Rafael. Like other examples, a few years into production his voice started to deepen and they had to pitch shift it accordingly.
- Teen/18 Porn sites often feature women in their 20's who look young.
- Incredibly, Maria Callas began her opera career at the age of 15, as the leading lady in Cavallera rusticana, which is about a young, knocked-up village girl, probably about 15-16. Since it requires performers who can sing over an orchestra, this trope doesn't have many opera exceptions, folks.
- Although there is one other noticeable aversion in the field of opera — Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. Tchaikovsky felt that older singers playing young, passionate lovers would cause people to be unable to take his opera seriously. He had students at the Moscow Conservatory put on the first performance of Eugene Onegin.
- Lampshaded by the The Firesign Theatre on their album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers; High school student Porgie Tirebiter's best friend Mudhead is in court, and the prosecutor (Porgie's dad) says "So you don't go to school?" to which Mudhead replies, "Hell, no! I'm thirty years old!"
- This one is in "Other" because it derives from Theatre, Live-Action Film, and Television: Patty Duke in three separate productions of The Miracle Worker. Duke was able to play Helen Keller on Broadway well into her teens, and played her again in the 1962 film adaptation, partly because she was very small: even in adulthood she has never grown taller than five feet. Her height presented a particular challenge to the producers of the 1979 TV remake, in which she played Annie Sullivan, because she was cast opposite fifteen-year-old Melissa Gilbert — confronting audiences with a seven-year-old Helen Keller who was taller than her teacher.
- The Full Cast Audio book recordings, which was founded by Bruce Coville, always uses age-appropriate voice actors for every book they record.
- In the notorious "Friday" video, 13-year-old Rebecca Black and her real-life friends (who are presumably in the 12-14 range) play characters who are at least 16, as one of them is driving a car. This has been observed and lampshaded in many parodies.
- In the music video for Aerosmith's song "Crazy", 17-year-old Alicia Silverstone and 16-year-old Liv Tyler play two students who skip class and go on a road trip together. The fact that this is an exception is surprising because the video is fanservice-heavy and even features Liv doing a striptease at one point. Not to mention the fact that Liv is lead singer Steven Tyler's daughter.
- Lots of examples posted on this tumblr, with comparison photos of the actors when they were actually teenagers.
- School plays and musicals usually invert or avert this. Well... mostly. A high school theatrical production will of course have all the roles played by high school students, so if they're supposed to be high school students it's an aversion (or inversion if they're supposed to be older). However, it's not uncommon for there to be a younger brother or sister in the play who's supposed to be a pre-teen, who's usually played by the shortest/youngest-looking person who tries out. If they're supposed to be 12, this can work okay; if they're supposed to be 6, it's less believable.
- Traci Lords did adult entertainment when she was a minor. She did (and does) look older than most people who were born in 1968. When the feds tried to bust the pornographers for hiring someone underage, the case fell apart when the government admitted that it, too, had been fooled when Lords traveled to Europe on a fake passport.
- One of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims, Konerak Sinthasomphone, escaped and ran down the street, drugged, suffering brain damage, and only fluent in Loatian. His nudity attracted the police, who brought him back to Dahmer's home, where Dahmer convinced them that Konerak was 19 instead of 14, despite looking more like 10.