Playing Gertrude

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Left to right: Queen Olympias (Angelina Jolie, 29) with husband King Philip (Val Kilmer, 44) and son Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell, 28).

"Hamlet's mother will not be played by a woman who could have gone to high school with the actor playing Hamlet."

Due to Double Standards concerning age and perceived attractiveness, adult male characters are usually played by actors of about the character's age, but female characters of middle age and older are often played by actresses noticeably younger than the character should be. This becomes jarring when a character's mother, or a woman otherwise stated to be of of an older generation, is played by someone only slightly older — or, in some cases, younger — than him.

Named for Hamlet, prince of Denmark's mother Gertrude, who tends to be played by improbably young actresses. That this is often used to support a Freudian interpretation of the text has Unfortunate Implications: apparently there can only be sexual tension between the characters if they both appear young and pretty. This is most prominently and ridiculously pronounced in Laurence Olivier's film version of Hamlet, which featured Eileen Herlie in the role of Gertrude despite the fact that she was eleven years younger than Olivier himself. (Note that this trope does not apply if the actress is convincingly made to appear her character's age.)

Male examples occur too, but tend to be less jarring, perhaps because men are generally perceived as aging more gradually and gracefully than women.

A related effect tends to crop up in animated portrayals of middle-aged women. If a female character has an obviously attractive mother, expect them both to look about the same age.

Sometimes this trope can be forced by a movie that covers a long period of time. If we see the mother of a small child, and then see the child grow to adulthood, it's usually easier to cast a young woman as the mother and "age" her with makeup, instead of the other way around.

Closely related to Hollywood Homely. This is one way to invert Dawson Casting, and is frequently a side effect of it (having a forty-year-old actress playing the mother of a teenager is perfectly plausible, but when the actor playing the teenager is 25, it becomes a problem.) Often overlaps with Hollywood Old, since it's usually impossible for a Hollywood Old character to have a teenage or adult child without their (lack of) age difference becoming a Playing Gertrude. However, when both actors are middle-aged or older, it's easy to have a Playing Gertrude without either character being Hollywood Old. Contrast Age Lift, where the role is changed to make the actor's age appropriate for the role. See also Absurdly Youthful Mother, where a parent is or appears unusually young in-story, as well as Mum Looks Like a Sister, where parent and child (typically mother and daughter) look like siblings instead.


Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • Tekken Movie 2010: Asuka's Revenge is, as the name suggests, a rewrite of the 2010 live-action Tekken movie with Asuka as the main character. The author even provides a "cast list" with characters that were in the actual movie being played by the same actors and the author providing casting for anyone who wasn't. His choice of actress to play Michelle Chang is actually three years younger than the one playing her adopted daughter Julia (canonically nearly 20 years Michelle's junior). Overlaps with Dawson Casting as both actresses are closer to Michelle's age than to Julia's.

    Films — Animation 
  • Strange Magic: Maya Rudoph is 8 years younger than Alan Cumming who plays her character's son.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The two best-known films of Hamlet: Franco Zeffirelli's version had Glenn Close, who is only nine years older than Mel Gibson, as Gertrude. In Laurence Olivier's version, Eileen Herlie (pictured above) was eleven years younger than Olivier. (Kenneth Branagh at least averted it by casting Julie Christie, 19 years older than him)
  • In Mean Girls, 32-year-old Amy Poehler played Regina's mom, despite being just five years older than Rachel McAdams. Tina Fey even mentions this in one of the featurettes. Justified, in that a) she was probably picked up as a young trophy wife, and b) it's implied that she has had excessive plastic surgery, her "hard-as-rocks" boob job being just the tip of the iceberg.
  • In North By Northwest, Jessie Royce Landis played Cary Grant's mother. Landis was actually ten months younger than Grant. (Or eight years older according to different sources, which still fits this trope.)
  • The Graduate combined this trope with Dawson Casting: 30-year-old Dustin Hoffman played the titular recent college graduate, with 36-year-old Anne Bancroft as his middle-aged lover. Her daughter is played by 27-year-old Katharine Ross.
  • Alexander: The title character's actor (Colin Farrell) was born in 1976. Angelina Jolie, who played his mother Olympias, was born in 1975, making her a year older than him. Freud could have a field day. I swear. Olympias' character development is seen in flashbacks from when Alexander was much younger, which means this casting makes some sort of sense.
  • The original version of The Manchurian Candidate. Angela Lansbury is almost exactly two years older than Laurence Harvey. Nowadays this often comes as a shock to people seeing the film for the first time, because of Lansbury's fame from Murder, She Wrote and how little she seems to have aged in between the two.
  • Another Lansbury example: when she played Elvis's mother in Blue Hawaii, she was only 9 years older than him.
  • In Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983), Miriam Colon, who played Tony Montana's mother, was only four years older than Al Pacino.
  • Male example: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade introduces Indy's father - played by Sean Connery, who is only 12 years older than Harrison Ford. Showing Connery's undyed and naturally thinning hair without wig helped portray Connery as older.
  • Another male example is Matt Frewer, who was 30 when Far from Home was filmed but plays the father of a girl who's just turned 15 (although Drew Barrymore was only 13 when she played the part). Matt Frewer looking older than he really was, having started balding in his early 20s.
  • In Family Business Connery plays Dustin Hoffman's father. Connery is only 7 years older than Hoffman.
  • A related example: In Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, it is implied that Allen's character cannot have a relationship with Mira Sorvino's Linda Ash because he is too old for her. Although there's some validity to this idea (Allen is 32 years older than Sorvino), it completely overlooks the fact that Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Allen's wife in the movie, is 31 years younger than him.
  • In The World According to Garp, Robin Williams (30) plays T.S. Garp and Glenn Close (35) plays his mother, Jenny Fields.
  • In The Passion of the Christ, 42-year-young Maia Morgenstern was Mary to 36-year-old Jim Caviezel's Jesus. Possibly justified in that a) she also appeared in scenes of Jesus' childhood, b) some Catholics believe that since Mary was sinless she did not age normally, and c) young (though not child) brides were common at the time, nudging the numbers marginally closer to plausibility.
  • In the 2007 Beowulf movie, Angelina Jolie plays Grendel's mother. Grendel is played by Crispin Glover, who is older than she is. Although, you know, her character is Really 700 Years Old, and his character isn't human (not to mention hideously deformed as well), so....
  • Winona Ryder (age 37) playing Spock's mother in the 2009 Star Trek movie. Spock is played by Zachary Quinto, who's only five and a half years younger than her in real life. The reason a younger actress was hired was a scene detailing Spock's birth that was cut from the film (though it did appear in one of the trailers). Also, despite having much longer life spans, it's implied at a few points throughout the series(es) that Vulcans reach physical and intellectual maturity faster than humans. It's not exactly clear how old Spock is, but given his extremely gifted intellect (even by Vulcan standards) it's entirely possible he's around the same age as the other cadets.
  • Played straight and averted with Spock's parents in Star Trek: The Original Series: Mark Lenard was only about six years older than Leonard Nimoy while a healthy twenty-one years separated Spock and his mother. (Since Vulcans have a much longer lifespan than humans, it's reasonable for Spock's Vulcan father to appear younger than his human mother.)
  • In Peggy Sue Got Married, Nicolas Cage played Helen Hunt's father in the 1980s part of the movie. She's six months his senior, although his Lounge Lizard costume helps age him. In the 1960 section he is supposed to be 17, which is a different trope.
  • In Mrs. Miniver, the title character was played by Greer Garson, who was just 11 years older than the actor who played her son (Richard Ney). In real life, they got married after falling in love on set.
  • In the film version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Martha, who is in her fifties, played by 34-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. Her casting surprised many people, but she proved to be very convincing.
  • Boyz n the Hood featured 30-year-old Laurence Fishburne playing the father of 23-year-old Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • As roundly parodied in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, where Trey's father is barely out of elementary school while Trey is noticeably an adult.
  • The movie Sara Dane drifts into Playing Gertrude territory at the end of the film, while becoming Hollywood Old at least one hour earlier. The movie spans most of the title characters adult life, but nothing is done to make the actress look older as the decades go by. In the final scenes, the children she gave birth to in the middle of the movie are older then her.
  • Peter O'Toole playing Henry in The Lion in Winter—he was 36 or so, the king was about 50. Katharine Hepburn, 25 years O'Toole's senior, played Eleanor, 11 years Henry's senior.
  • Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Stifler's Mom in the American Pie movies, is only thirteen years older than Sean William Scott.
  • Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings may be the most extreme example yet: H.B. Warner, playing Jesus, was about twenty-four years older than (and, indeed, almost twice the age of) the actress playing Mary. Possibly justified, for the reasons listed with The Passion of the Christ above.
  • The film Unfaithful featured a then- 37-year-old Diane Lane as a housewife having an affair with a younger man (her infuriated husband is shocked to see how young the guy is and later blasts her for throwing their life away "for a fucking kid!") The "younger" man was played by the then-36 year old Oliver Martinez.
  • In the 2002 ITV production of Doctor Zhivago Lara Antipova was played by Keira Knightley then a mere 16 years of age. In the initial scenes, she matches the age she's supposed to play, but by the end of the production she's supposed to be around 25, with a four-year-old child. Admittedly, Knightley has always had a rather mature look (who would have believed that she was just 17 in the first Pirates film???) but here it does seem to be pushing the limits of plausibility.
  • In The Fighter, Melissa Leo (born 1960) plays the mother of Mark Wahlberg (born 1971) and Christian Bale (1974) - Wahlberg is playing a character who starts out a decade younger than he is, but Bale's character is meant to be older than he is.
  • In The Namesake, Tabu (37 when the movie came out) plays Gogol's mother from age 20 to age 60. In fact, she is only 7 years older than Kal Penn, who plays her son.
  • In Blow, Johnny Depp's (that is, George Jung's) father is played by Ray Liotta, who's only eight years older than him, and his mother is played by Rachel Griffiths, who's five years younger than him.
  • In the film version of The Dead Zone Jackie Burroughs played Christopher Walken's mother though she was only four years older than him. He looked so much younger than he was and she looked old enough that it's actually completely believable.
  • In Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Maureen Stapleton played Dick Van Dyke's mother despite being only six months older than him in real life.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has Lionel Jeffries, who was six months younger than Dick Van Dyke, playing his father.
  • In The Godfather, Marlon Brando (age 47) was father of Al Pacino and James Caan (both 32, but Caan is supposed to be the older brother), John Cazale (37), and the only one who had a fitting age, Talia Shire (26). Averted with Pacino himself by the third movie (both Sofia Coppola and Franc D'Ambrosio were at least 20 years younger than him).
  • In Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Musetta Vander, who plays Sindel, is four years older than Talisa Soto, who plays Sindel's daughter Kitana. This is justified based on the back-story of the Mortal Kombat games on which the movie is based: For one, Edenians, Sindel's and Kitana's native race, age at a far slower rate than Earthlings; Kitana is stated to be 10,000 years old despite physically appearing to be in her late 20's at most, and Sindel's canonically attractive despite her exact age never being given in-universe. For another, part of the story is that Shao Kahn is able to invade and retake her because Sindel was reincarnated in Earthrealm—so if she looks younger than her "daughter," it's because her new body is younger than her daughter's.
  • Male example from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: Sean Bean (Boromir) is just 11 years younger than John Noble, who played his father, Denethor.
  • Bicentennial Man. Embeth Davidtz (born 1965) plays Amanda Charney (née Martin), the mother of Lloyd Charney, played by Bradley Whitford (born 1959). She's not wearing aging prosthetics at this point.
  • In the film Laws of Attraction, Frances Fisher plays the mother of Julianne Moore's Hello, Attorney! character. Possibly lampshading this trope in that she doesn't want her daughter to call her "mom" in public because she'd rather pass herself off as her older sister. Which makes perfect sense, as in Real Life, Fisher is more like an older sister to Moore, being only 8 years older than she is.
  • In Earthquake, 59-year-old Lorne Greene played the father of 52-year-old Ava Gardner.
  • In the film adaptation of Tommy, Tommy's mother was played by Anne-Margret (Born in 1941), making her only three years older than Roger Daltrey, who played Tommy.
  • In Babe, grandmother Esme Hoggett was played by Magda Szubanski, who was only 34 at the time.
  • In Sharknado Tara Reid played the mother of an actor only 7 years younger than her.
  • The Stunt Man. Barbara Hershey is made up this way.
  • Male example from Pacific Rim: Max Martini, who plays Herc Hansen, is only fourteen years older than Rob Kazinsky, who plays his son. This can be blamed on Dawson Casting: Chuck is supposed to be 21 but was played by a 30-year-old. The difference between their character's ages (24 years) is much more reasonable.
  • In Notorious, Leopoldine Konstantin was a mere three years older than her on-screen son, Claude Rains.
  • X-Men:
  • The 1964 Harold Robbins adaptation Where Love Has Gone has Bette Davis playing Susan Hayward’s mother, despite being only nine years older.
  • Constance Marie portrayed Marcella Quintanilla, mother of Selena in the film of the same name despite being only four years older than Jennifer Lopez, who played Selena.
  • In The Best Years of Our Lives, actress Myrna Loy (Milly Stephenson) was only 13 years older than Teresa Wright who played her daughter Peggy.
  • The Man in the Iron Mask: Anne Parillaud plays the mother of Leonardo diCaprio's King Louis XIV. At the time, diCaprio was 24 years old and Parillaud was 38. The creators were very worried about Parillaud's youth, as the age difference would have made her a 14-year old mother. They only refrained from removing her from the cast when a member of the team mentioned that marriage, and consummation of marriage, could happen in those days at the age of 14.
  • In Love's Enduring Promise, January Jones (Missy) is ten months older than Katherine Heigl (Marty), who played her step-mother. The previous movie, Love Comes Softy, established that Marty raised Missy since she was a little girl.
  • In The Haunted Mansion, Marsha Thomason plays Sara, a mother whose daughter and son are aged 13 and 10, and who is implied to be around the same age as her husband, who is played by Eddie Murphy and obviously meant to be in his late thirties/early forties. In reality, she is less than fourteen years older than the actors who portrayed her children, and was clearly only in her mid-twenties when principal photography took place.
  • The Dark Knight Rises, sees Tom Hardy, who was in his early thirties, play Bane, who based on flashbacks towards the end of the movie, is supposed to be in his late forties/early fifties, a 15 to 20 year age difference. This gets very weird when you look it up and discover that Marion Cotillard, who plays Talia, is actually two years older than Hardy, yet the character is supposed to be younger.
  • In Footloose, Dianne Wiest (Ariel's mother) is only 9 years older than Lori Singer (Ariel) and John Lithgow, who plays Ariel's father, is only 12 years older.
  • In Dune, Lady Jessica who is Paul Atreides' mother, is played by English actress Francesca Annis who is only six years older than actor Kyle Mac Lachlan. But it could be that it runs in the family.
  • Watchmen has multiple examples, which are justified as the characters also appear in flashbacks set at least 20 years prior, and it's easier to add age with makeup than it is to subtract it: Carla Gugino as Sally/Silk Spectre I and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian (she was 37, he was 42, both play characters that ranges from the 20s in flashbacks to the late 60s in 1985), Malin Akerman as Laurie/Silk Spectre II (29 during filming, ranges from 17 to 37 - and the two actors mentioned prior are her on-screen parents), and Matthew Goode as Ozymandias (29 at the time of filming, playing a 46-year-old - in flashbacks, 27). Also, canonically Jon Osterman was 30 when he "died" (and became Dr. Manhattan, who essentially doesn't age), but his actor, Billy Crudup, was 39.
  • Love Actually featured Keira Knightley playing a character who was probably meant to be older than she actually was - as said character was getting married, Keira being barely eighteen. Her on-screen husband is eight years older than her - and her other love interest is twelve years older in real life.
  • A nonhuman example: Jasmine the lioness in Secondhand Lions was an elderly, retired circus lion who was no longer able to perform, and had a fatal heart attack from the physical stress of mauling Stan. Taureg the lioness, who played her, was less than two years old.
  • Jenifer Lewis has made a career out of playing the mothers of people she's only a few years older than. For example, in The Preachers Wife, she played the mother of Whitney Houston, who is only 6 years younger than her.
  • The Good Shepherd featured Eddie Redmayne playing the son of Matt Damon. The two are only 11 years apart.
  • Jennifer Lawrence so far in all her roles in David O Russel movies, seemingly getting more pronounced with each one. Silver Linings Playbook is an arguable example, it came out when she was 22 but her character Tiffany has been married for several years and then widowed, placing her in her late twenties/ early thirties. American Hustle came a year later and Lawrence's character in that movie is in her mid-to-late thirties (although the real woman portrayed was in her late forties). Joy is a borderline case, as the movie focuses on Joy Mangano's attempts to get her products sold - and she starts out the same age as Lawrence and only a couple of years pass (besides the Distant Finale).
  • Divergent:
  • Superman Returns features both male and female examples with Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth, who were respectively younger than Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were in Superman II, despite playing versions of their characters intended to be many years older than they were in that film. Especially pronounced in Bosworth's case, as she was nine years younger than Kidder was in Superman II, while Routh was only one year younger than Reeve.
  • Bound (2015): Charisma Carpenter is only 10 years younger than Daniel Baldwin, who plays her father.
  • Narcissa in the Harry Potter films is a borderline case. Helen McCrory is nineteen years older than her on-screen son Tom Felton. Of course he's only meant to be sixteen by the time she first appears, but Felton had entered his twenties at that point.
  • While averted by the 2013 movie (helped by not much Dawson Casting), the other adaptations of Carrie:
    • In the first film, Betty Buckley was only two years older than Sissy Spacek, despite playing her teacher. There is a small amount of merit to this in the book, where Miss Desjardin is said to be a young teacher on her first year. There's also a line from Carrie's narration where she remarks that the teacher looked lovely enough at the prom to pass for a student.
    • The same film also has an eighteen year difference between Spacek and Piper Laurie, who plays her mother. Could be a teenage pregnancy in the film, but the book's version of Margaret is meant to be much older. Averted with the age gap between Sue and her mother, as they were played by real life mother and daughter Amy Irving and Priscilla Pointer.
    • The 2002 remake has a whopping thirteen year difference between Angela Bettis and Patricia Clarkson, mother and daughter. Bettis was twenty eight playing a high school student.
  • In a case of Timeshifted Actor, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has Dominic Cooper and John Slattery as Howard Stark - the former as the young businessman\inventor in the 1940s, the other as Tony Stark's father beginning with 1974 (as shown in Iron Man 2). Slattery is only 12 years older than Cooper.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Life Unexpected Shiri Appleby is 12 years older than Britt Robertson who plays her daughter, of course it's forgivable considering she was 16 she had her baby.
  • In Mildred Pierce Kate Winslet is only 12 years older than Evan Rachel Wood who plays the older version of her daughter.
  • Male example: On Blackish, Anthony Anderson is only nine years younger than Laurence Fishburne, who plays his character's father. He also is only 13 years younger than Jennifer Lewis, who plays his mother.
  • Reno Wilson is only 7 years younger than Cleo King, who plays his grandmother on Mike & Molly!
  • Sabrina Le Beauf, who played eldest sister Sondra on The Cosby Show, was only 10 years younger than Phylicia Rashad, who played Clair, her mother. Supposedly, Le Beauf almost didn't get the role because of this, but in the end it apparently didn't matter.
  • A storyline on All My Children in the early 90's featured a "scandalous" affair between single mom Dixie and college-age Brian. Matt Borlenghi, who played Brian, was actually older than Cady McClain, who played Dixie.
  • Kevin Tighe and Swoosie Kurtz play Locke's parents on Lost. They were both born in 1944. Terry O'Quinn, who plays Locke, was born in 1952. Locke's mother was supposed to be sixteen when she had him, but his father is said to have been roughly twice her age at the time.
  • In the British sitcom On The Buses, this trope was first averted in season 1, the character of Stan Butler's mother was played by Cicely Courtneidge who was 22 years older than the actor Reg Varney who played Stan Butler, but in seasons 2-7, the trope was played straight when they brought in a new actress(Doris Hare) to play the mother. She was only 10 years older than Reg Varney.
  • In Supernatural, 43-year-old Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays 31-year-old Jensen Ackles' father. He was also unconvincingly aged-up, leading viewers to think of John Winchester as a teenage daddy until his actual age was given. Since Jeffrey Dean Morgan was pulling double-duty on Supernatural and Grey's Anatomy at about the same time, many jokes were made about the fact that his TV son (Ackles) and TV girlfriend (Katherine Heigl) were the same age.
  • Frasier:
    • Played with in Frasier's agent Bebe (played by then 49 year old Harriet Samson Harris) is shown to have a son that's at least 40. However, the preceding conversation was about Bebe praising her plastic surgeon in order to convince Frasier to get some work done so he'd be ready for TV. Seeing the older son (and realizing Bebe is probably older than he ever imagined) is what convinced him to go see the plastic surgeon. It's also implied several times that Bebe is one of Satan's minions (or at least sold her soul).
    • John Mahoney is supposed to be Kelsey Grammer's father, even though he is only 15 years older than him and eight years younger than Martin Crane is supposed to be.
  • In The O.C., Kirsten turns 40 in the series run, meaning she had Seth at 19. This wouldn't be as much of an issue if they hadn't specifically stated that Sandy and Kirsten were living in a mail truck at that age... So was the baby in there with them?
  • On The Nanny, Ann Morgan Guilbert, who plays Grandma Yetta, is just five years older than her onscreen daughter, Renee Taylor, who plays Sylvia Fine. Additionally, C.C. Babcock is meant to be several years older than Fran Fine, but Lauren Lane, who plays C.C., is actually four years younger than Fran Drescher.
  • This naturally occurs in The Secret Circle with Dawson Casting. The most egregious examples are Cassie and her mother and Charles Meade and his mother, both only thirteen years apart.
    • To be fair, Cassie's mother did have her in high school so this isn't that bad.
  • The Vampire Diaries TV show has Aunt Jenna, who's supposed to be in her late twenties, but is played by an actress who is only a year older than the actors who play her teenage niece and nephew.
    • David Anders, who plays John Gilbert, Elena's biological father is only 8 years older than her. His character was supposed to be young for a man with a 17 year old daughter, but not that young.
    • Jasmine Guy was only 47 when she started playing Sheila "Grams" Bennett, who was supposed to be in her late 60s or early 70s. She is only 10 years older than Persia White and 27 years older than Katerina Graham, who play her daughter Abby and granddaughter Bonnie respectively.
    • The best example is Alice Evans who plays Esther, who is only 3 years older than the actor who plays her oldest son, Finn.
  • On 8 Simple Rules, Kaley Cuoco, who played Bridget Hennessey, was six years younger than her on-screen little sister Kerry, played by Amy Davidson. Justified because Kaley is taller, and hey, shorter is younger, right?
  • On Six Feet Under, Frances Conroy, who plays Ruth Fisher, is eleven years older than Peter Krause, who plays her oldest child.
  • When EastEnders began, 29-year old Gillian Taylforth played 34-year old Kathy Beale, the mother of 14-year old Ian, played by then 16-year old Adam Woodyatt. When casting for the character of Kathy, Gillian convinced the show's producers she could "look older" - and won the part.
  • In Hope And Faith Nicole Paggi was 26 at the time she played 15-year-old Sydney. There are thirteen years between her and Faith Ford, who played her mother. Also Kelly Ripa is seven years older than her and she played her aunt. The show also had a male example in Ted McGinley who played Paggi's father - nineteen years age difference. Megan Fox played Sydney for the show's next two seasons, making the age difference 22 years (for her mother) and 28 (for her father).
  • On V (2009), Anna (Morena Baccarin) is the mother of Lisa (Laura Vandervoort). In real life, Baccarin is only five years older than Vandervoort. Worth noting however that they are alien reptiles, and that their human appearances are artificial.
  • On Neighbours, Shane Connor (b.1959) and Carla Bonner (b.1973) played father and daughter. Again, Dawson Casting is at work here too — Bonner's character was born in 1979.
  • On Tyler Perry's House of Payne, the character of Janine is played by Demetria McKinney who was born in 1981. Janine's son, Malik is played by Doc Shaw who was born in 1992. In addition, Allen Payne (C.J.) was born in 1968. Cassi Davis (Aunt Ella) was born in 1964, while Lavan Davis (Uncle Curtis) was born in 1966.
  • On 'Allo 'Allo! Rose Hill, born in 1914, played the mother of Carmen Silvera, born in 1922. Their advanced ages made this less obvious than most.
  • On Mystery Science Theater 3000, Pearl Forrester was played by Mary Jo Pehl, who was two years younger than the actor who played her son Clayton, Trace Beaulieu. They at least tried to give her a frumpy late middle aged house wife appearance in season seven, but, at the beginning of season eight, when she took over fully for her departed son, her look was updated to make her look more her actual age. This was stated to have been something done by Bobo and the rest of the apes.
  • On The X-Files, Rebecca Toolan plays Mulder's mother. In reality, she is only two years older than Mulder, and only a year older than the actor who plays him.
  • Gretchen Mol playing Michael Pitt's mother in Boardwalk Empire. Mol is only 9 years older than Pitt. This is a combination of Pitt playing a 22 year-old and Mol's character having had a son at a very young age. Her surprising youth, in spite of being a grandmother, is a part of her character.
  • Desperate Housewives was accused of this when it cast Mike Farrell as John Slattery's father. Though in fact the two are just barely far apart enough in age for this to be reasonable; it's just that Farrell looks very good for his age.
  • In Good Times, John Amos was only 34 when the show began, making him only 8 years older than his "son" Jimmie Walker(J.J.) and 19 years younger than his "wife" Esther Rolle (Florida)
  • Tony Goldwyn played Vincent D'Onofrio's older brother on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Goldwyn is a year younger than D'Onofrio.
  • Kath and Kim has an interesting version of this. Kath is supposed to be in her 50s, though her actress is about a decade younger. Her daughter Kim is supposed to be in her mid-to-late 20s, but is played by an actress who is pushing 50.
    • Also done in the U.S. remake in a more traditional way, Molly Shannon as Kath was only 8 years older then Selma Blair, who played her "daughter" Kim.
  • In The Wire Chris Bauer plays James Ransone's father despite being just under thirteen years older.
  • In 30 Rock
    • Jan Hooks plays Jenna's mother despite being only eleven years older than Jane Krawkowski.
    • This trope was lampshaded and parodied in other instances.
      • In season three, Tracy discovers a son who looks far too old and is later discovered to be a con artist who is two years older. Tracy still refers to him as his son "who is two years older than me".
      • Liz pretends to be Kenneth's mother despite only a three year difference in actors. She even points it out, though the man being lied to says he could believe it.
      • Jenna is cast in a mother/daughter drama, thinking she was going to play the daughter. However, Jenna was cast as the mother of a younger actress, though obviously not young enough to actually be her daughter.
  • Justified in Angel wherein Vincent Kartheiser plays David Boreanaz's son despite being only ten years younger. This is due to 1) a plotline in which Connor is taken to a hell dimension and ages nearly twenty years in a few weeks, 2) Boreanaz playing a vampire who is over two hundred years old (but died in his mid-twenties), and 3) Kartheiser playing a character a few years younger than himself
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Pegasus", Terry O'Quinn plays Commander Riker's former first commanding officer, Admiral (formerly Captain) Erik Pressman. Pressman is, presumably, at least 15-20 years older than Riker, but Terry O'Quinn is barely a month older than Jonathan Frakes.
    • In "Inheritance", Fionnula Flanagan (who plays the woman who helped Dr. Soong create Data and calls herself his "mother") is only seven years older than Brent Spiner. Justified in that he's an android ...and she is, too; though one designed to age and die.
    • "Bloodlines": Jason Vigo, Picard's fake son, is stated to be 23, but the actor playing him is 18 years younger than Patrick Stewart.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,: One of the actresses who plays Ishka is nine years younger than the actor who plays her character's son Quark. Plus, thanks to Dawson Casting, she's only 11 years older than the actor that plays Ishka's grandson Nog. Due to the extensive use of makeup, it's not very noticeable.
  • In Lost Girl, Inga Cadranel (Bo's mother), is four years younger than Anna Silk (Bo). Justified in that the two characters are ageless succubi.
  • Charmed:
    • There is a twelve year difference between Finola Hughes who played Patty and Jennifer Rhodes who played her mother Penny. This one has a quasi-justification that Rhodes first appeared as the girls' grandmother in the present - and later episodes also had her play Penny in flashbacks. This caused problems when an episode featured Paige going back in time to the 60s and meeting past Penny. Jennifer Rhodes was too old to convincingly play her at age 30 so a visibly younger actress was cast. The problem was that only ten years separated the events in that episode from one that took place in the 70s (that had Rhodes playing Penny).
    • There's also eighteen years between James Read who played the girls' father and his oldest daughter Shannen Doherty. It works because Read was already grey-haired when he first appeared on the show. Finola Hughes is also 13 years older than Doherty. Semi-justified since she only appears as Patty before she died.
  • In Once Upon a Time Lana Parrilla who plays Ginnifer Goodwin's stepmother is only one year older than her. At first this wasn't an issue - except when it came to Regina's backstory episode. It takes place when Snow White was ten, where Bailee Madison plays her now. Parrilla however still plays Regina, meaning that her character is meant to be about ten years older than Goodwin's. This created an odd paradox when it comes to Regina's mother Cora. In her first appearance she's played by Barbara Hershey (in the aforementioned backstory episode). But when we meet Cora's younger self, she's now played by Rose McGowan. Said episode shows that Cora giving birth to Regina, meaning it only takes at least fifteen years for her to turn into Barbara Hershey.
  • In Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, 23 year old Yumeria Moegi is played by 16 year old Karin Ogino.
  • In the Steel Magnolias remake, 42-year old Queen Latifah is only 17 years older than the actress playing her daughter. Adding to the problem is that Queen Latifah is also a classic example of Older Than They Look. It's not as extreme an instance as the others listed, but you still have to basically assume that M'Lynn was a teen mom.
  • Arrow,
    • John Barrowman is only fifteen years older than Colin Donnell who plays his son. Its not helped by John Barrowman looking younger than forty-five. At times, they looked more like brothers.
    • Regarding the Lance sisters, Laurel is supposed to be two years older than her sister Sara. Katie Cassidy (Laurel) is, in fact, older than Caity Lotz (Sara,) but only by a single month. Their father Quentin is right on the cusp, with Paul Blackthorne being 17 years older than them (their mother Dinah doesn't apply, as Alex Kingston is a respectable 23 years older.)
  • In How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life), Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins (both age 52) play the mother of Polly, played by Sarah Chalke, who is 36.
  • In The Golden Girls, Estelle Getty, who played Sophia, was actually the second youngest of the girls despite Sophia being the eldest. This means she was actually younger than Betty White, who actually was the eldest of the actresses, and older than Bea Arthur, who played Sophia's daughter, Dorothy.
  • Vicki Lawrence played Mama in The Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family despite being 16 years younger than daughter Eunice (played by Burnett) and son Vinton (played by Ken Berry), and 27 years younger than her other daughter Ellen (played by Betty White). Lawrence herself loved playing an older woman because, according to her, it was liberating to come into work every day and have the make up people make her look uglier.
  • In Parks and Recreation it is mentioned that Tammy One, Ron's first wife, was also a nurse who helped deliver him. Patricia Clarkson, the actress who plays her, is only 10 years older than Nick Offerman, who plays Ron. She's also only two years older than Megan Mullally, who plays Tammy Two and is married to Offerman in real life.
  • A grandmotherly version on General Hospital. In the mid-90's, when the Ward family was introduced, actress Rosalind Cash was only 20-something years older than the actors playing her 20-something/30-something year old grandchildren, meaning it would have been far more appropriate for her to be playing their mother instead—indeed, she was only a few years older than the actors who did play her (grown) children
  • As one of the most extreme examples on this list, on Masked Rider, actress Candace Kita played Barbara Stewart, Dex's adoptive mother, a character who would be no younger than 30. In truth, the actress was 14-15! Gets kind of Squicky when you look at how old Hal, her husband is, and gets downright weird when you realize that Dex's actor was a year OLDER than her. Thankfully this was a No Hugging, No Kissing show.
  • On Strong Medicine, actress Rosa Blasi, who played Dr. Lu Delgado, was only 11 years older than the actor playing her son. This is Justified by the fact that Lu was a teen mom, even though she explicitly states that she gave birth at 16.
  • On Awkward., Nikki DeLoach is only 13 years older than Ashley Rickards, who plays her on-screen daughter. Like Strong Medicine this is justified in DeLoach's character having been a teen mom.
  • On Suburgatory, high schooler Tessa's mom is played by Malin Ĺkerman, who at the time was 34, meaning that she would've had to have been a teenage mother. The Dawson Casting of Tessa makes this trope even more obvious since Jane Levy (Tessa) was 23 at the time.
  • On "Reign", the actor playing Sebastian (Torrance Coombs) is born in 1983 - the actress playing his mother, Anna Walton, is born in 1980. It's noticeable, they look pretty much the same age.
  • On Friday Night Lights Lyla Garrity is played by Minka Kelly, born in 1980, while her mother, Pam Garrity is played by Merrilee McCommas, born in 1971. So mother and daughter are played by actresses just nine years apart in age.
  • On the final season of Homicide: Life on the Street, Giancarlo Esposito joined the cast as Gee's son Michael. Esposito is only fourteen years younger than Yaphet Kotto. Possible, but there was no reference to Gee getting his future wife pregnant in high school.
  • A rare male example is Len Cariou from Blue Bloods, who plays the father of Tom Selleck. Selleck is only 6 years younger than Cariou.
  • Another male example: In Last Man Standing, Robert Forster (born 1941) plays the father of Tim Allen (born 1953).
  • Orange Is the New Black: Elizabeth Rodriguez plays the Absurdly Youthful Mother of Dascha Polanco, but the two actresses could literally could have gone to high school together due to Polanco being 33 and playing a character in her early 20s.
  • In Teen Wolf we have Malia Tate, played by 28-year-old Shelley Hennig, who's father is revealed to be Peter Hale, played by 38-year-old Ian Bohen, meaning there's a ten year age difference between father and daughter from the actors.
  • Discussed in-univers on Drop Dead Diva. One client is a former Hollywood celebrity (played by Elliott Gould), and jokes that the actress who played his TV wife was only three years older than the actress who played his daughter.
  • By Part Three of the 2002 adaptation of White Teeth; because of a combination of Dawson Casting and Time Skips, Archie Panjabi (twenty-nine years old playing thirty-four) is only three years older than the actor playing her son (twenty-six years old playing fifteen).
  • In dinnerladies, Bren's mum Petuna is played by Julie Walters, who is three years older than Victoria Wood.
  • You, Me and the Apocalypse: Jenna Fischer (Rhonda) is 9 years older than the actor playing her twin brother, Kyle Soller (Scotty).
  • Parodied in the titular Show Within a Show of Garth Marenghis Darkplace. The character Thornton Reed is futilely passed off as older than the others with a 70's-style mustache, mentions of Korean War service, and usage of phrases like "young bucks". In-universe, his actor's clearly just as old as the other actors. Out-of-universe, his actor's considerably younger than the others.
  • Parodied in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. When producers want to make a TV show about the twins, they cast an actress who is twenty-two to play their mother. The twins are about twelve at this point.
  • On Empire, Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Terrence Howard (Lucious) are only about 13 years older than two of the actors playing their sons.
  • Peaky Blinders: Helen McCrory is only seven years older than Cillian Murphy, who plays her second-eldest son.
  • On Green Acres, Oliver's mother was played by Eleanor Audley, who was only a year older than Eddie Albert.
  • In an episode of Taxi, Victor Bruno played Jim Ignatowski's father, even though he was born the same year as Jim's actor, Christopher Lloyd.

    Music 
  • In Mark Schultz's Letters from War, the woman playing the soldier's mother looks like she's only as old as he is.
  • In the Strauss opera Salome, which sets the Biblical story to music, there is often an interesting aversion in which the soloist playing Salome is often far older than the soloist playing Herodias, her mother. This is probably because Salome is a central role and Herodias is at most a bit-part: older opera singers tend to have the prestige and clout that gets them the starring roles, and newbies are relegated to bit-parts. Therefore, as noted in the BBC production of Salome, we get the incongruity of a fifty-year old daughter dancing a salacious striptease in front of her enthralled stepfather and twenty-something mother...

    Theater 
  • Beyond the Trope Namer Gertrude, some productions of Hamlet do this with Claudius as well. Most notably, in the 1980 BBC version, 40-year-old Patrick Stewart played Claudius to 42-year-old Derek Jacobi's Hamlet (blame the Bald of Awesome). This is considerably easier to justify than with Gertrude, as it is theoretically possible for Claudius to not be much older than Hamlet, (or have been born even after Hamlet), but let's face it: it's not likely.
  • Justified in any production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. The mother and aunts of the male lead are supposed to all look noticeably younger than him, and one of the jokes is the need for him to explain to people (such as his intended bride) why teenage girls are seen hugging and kissing him. (There is a good reason for the apparent age difference.)
  • Inverted in-story in The Grand Duke when mention is made of an actor who refuses to play Romeo unless his grandmother plays Juliet.
  • King Lear is as often as not played by a younger man due to the intense physical nature of the role in most productions. Whether this trope comes into play or not differs depending on the quality of the given Lear's age makeup (most major productions are pretty well done).
  • In the musical of Spring Awakening all of the adult female roles (including several teenage characters' mothers) are played by one woman. In the original production, the understudy for this role was 30-year-old Frances Mercanti-Anthony. This makes her a bit young for her motherly roles to begin with, but combined with Dawson Casting of a few of her "children" (such as 20-year-old Lea Michele as the daughter of one of her characters) the age gap was even smaller.
  • Pretty much inevitable in high school and college theater, since all the actors will be about the same age.

    Video Games 
  • In the early installments of the Myst series, Rand Miller streaked his hair and beard grey and affected a gravelly, world-weary tone of voice to play the much older Atrus; it also helped to differentiate Atrus from his son Achenar, whose hair was darker and who spoke in a higher register. By the time of Exile and Revelation, Rand was old enough to play Atrus with his natural voice and without fake grey in his hair; casting a different actor as Achenar in Revelation also helped.

    Web Original 
  • The cast of Noob consists of people of similar age, and the "X is Y's parent" twist has happened a couple of times. In both cases, the parent does not look old enough to have an adult child (the youngest characters were in their late teens in Season 1). The cartoony art style of the Comic-Book Adaptation doesn't help much in this regard either. In additon to this, the actor playing Abraham, introduced as Sparadrap's father from the start, is actually a few years younger than the actor playing Sparadrap.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond:
    • Kevin Conroy wasn't even in his 50s yet when he voiced old Bruce Wayne (who was about eighty years old during the series proper, and nearing the century mark in the Fully Absorbed Finale episode of Justice League).
    • Similarly, Angie Harmon wasn't even 30 yet when she took over from Stockard Channing in the role of the older Barbara Gordon in Return of the Joker and Season 3 of the series proper. In Beyond, Bruce and Barbara are respectively in his 80s and her 60s.
  • Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch voices Great Uncle "Grunkle" Stan Pines, Old Man McGucket, and Gravity Falls' 100+-year-old mayor. Hirsch himself is in his late 20s during the production of the series.
  • April Winchell was in her late 30s/early 40s when she voiced sexagenarian Miss Finster on Recess.
  • Sherri Stoner was only in her 30s when she voiced Slappy Squirrel on Animaniacs, who is stated on the show to be an octogenarian.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlayingGertrude