You know how sometimes you're watching a show and you think, "Hey, isn't that person too young to be a doctor?" This is an example of under-aged casting, and it happens when an actor or actress is not actually old enough to be their character, for instance, when a twenty-three-year-old actor plays a character with a PhD.
This happens most frequently to characters who are doctors, lawyers, or some other profession that requires a lot of schooling, and actresses tend to be cast in older roles more often than actors.
This can coincide with Playing Gertrude
if the character has a teenage or adult child. However, it can also result from Playing Gertrude
if the actor or actress portraying the parent is physically too young to have borne the child in question (e.g. a character played by a forty-year-old actress having a thirty-year-old daughter).
This trope is subverted when the character has actually skipped grades
. It is not simply the opposite of Dawson Casting
, because it doesn't only require that the actor is younger than the character. The actor must be too young to be the character.
See also Improbable Age
Contrast with Age Lift
- In an example where a Playing Gertrude causes this, Angela Lansbury was only three years older than the actor playing her son in the original The Manchurian Candidate.
- Sally Field played Tom Hanks' mother in Forrest Gump, though she's only ten years older than him. Granted, the two didn't share the screen together much since many of her scenes are flashbacks to when he was younger. Once it came time for them to act off one another, Field was in old-lady makeup while Hanks was invoking Dawson Casting by playing a man in his 20's.
- In Superman Returns, Lois Lane is played by Kate Bosworth, who was only 23 years old and looked it. She was supposed to be an experienced reporter with a Pulitzer or two under her belt, not to mention a kindergarten-age son. Brandon Routh (Clark Kent) was 26 during production. The most problematic part of all this is that the movie is supposed to take place five years after the events of Superman II, which makes these characters 35 at the very minimum.
- Katie Holmes played an assistant district attorney in Batman Begins despite being 26 years old and looking to be about 23. If she'd gone to law school straight out of college, she'd have graduated at 24 or 25. It's unlikely given her youth and inexperience that she'd be handling cases—especially major, high-profile ones—on her own.
- In Oldboy (2003), the actor who plays Lee Woo-jin, Yoo Ji-tae, was born in 1976, while a scene in which his character is a teenager takes place in 1979.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Sean Connery plays Dr. Henry Jones, Sr., father of Henry Jones, Jr., or Indiana Jones, who is played by Harrison Ford. However, Connery is only 12 years older than Ford (Connery was born in 1930, Ford in 1942).
- In The Bourne Series, Julia Stiles played Nicky Parsons, one of Jason Bourne's field handlers on an extremely sensitive mission and apparently has beyond Top Secret clearance given what she is involved in (monitoring all of the Treadstone field agents). In other words, significantly more dangerous to the Agency than Bourne is if she screws up, or if something was missed in her vetting and she is less than 100% loyal. When The Bourne Identity was released, Stiles was a very young looking 21. There's an attempted Hand Wave in The Bourne Supremacy when Nicky explains her cover was an exchange student studying in Paris.
- Wilfred Brimley was only 50 when he played senior citizen Ben Luckett in Cocoon, whereas his costars were all in their 70s.
- House: Real doctors (not including Doogie Howser, M.D.) usually graduate from medical school in their mid-20s, and at that point they've still got years of residency ahead before they can do the kinds of jobs the characters on the show do. When their respective characters joined the cast, Olivia Wilde was 23, Jesse Spencer and Charlyne Yi were 25, and Odette Annable was 26.
- When she was cast on Law & Order, Jill Hennessy was twenty-four. The minimum age at which a normal person can graduate from law school is twenty-five.
- Gillian Anderson was cast as Dana Scully on The X-Files at 24, though she lied and said she was 27 to make her seem more believable as an FBI agent with a medical degree; her character is 28 at the start of the series. A combination of Underage Casting and Improbable Age for the character make for noticeable dissonance. Scully is a teacher at Quantico and a forensic pathologist, a career which requires 13-15 years of education. This is in addition to the two years she is stated to have been with the FBI in the pilot. Scully should be at least in her mid-30's in the pilot.
- On Miami Vice, Helena Bonham-Carter was twenty when she played a doctor who was supposed to be about thirty. At the time, she looked like she was twelve.
- The Newsroom: Olivia Munn was 29 years old when she started shooting Season One when the character is supposed to have two PHD's and several years of real world experience beside, prior to the start of the show, making her character at least a few years older than her actual age.
- Similar to Wilfred Brimley as mentioned above, Rue McClahan was only 51 when she was first played retiree Blanche on The Golden Girls, whereas her castmates were all in their 60s (however, in an early episode, Blanche does first encounter menopause, so early fifties might have been right.) Her costar Estelle Getty was 62 when she started playing Sophia, the 80-year-old mother of Dorothy, despite being a year younger than her onscreen daughter Bea Arthur.
- Star Trek: The Original Series, episode "Whom Gods Destroy": Fleet Captain Garth of Izar, whose exploits've been studied by Kirk at the academy's played by a 34-year-old actor. Steve Ihnat was in fact younger than William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Pegasus", Terry O'Quinn plays Riker's first commanding officer, Admiral (formerly Captain) Pressman. Pressman is presumably 15-20 years older than Riker, but O'Quinn is barely a month older than Jonathan Frakes, who plays Riker.
- The majority of Power Rangers teams are high school students (played by 20-somethings), but the occasional season will have a team of rangers with other professions that require extensive training still played by the typical 18-25 actors they always have. Dana Mitchell of Lightspeed Rescue was a paramedic played by 20-year-old Allison McInnis, who was then a full-fledged pediatrician the next year. Similarly, by the time of Dino Thunder, Tommy Oliver (then-31-year-old-Jason David Frank) had finished college, gotten a Doctorate in Paleontology, and developed the Dino Thunder technology, all in the six year span since he graduated high school midway through Turbo.
- Masked Rider had a really bad example of this: Candace Kita (then known as Candace Camille Bender), the actress playing Barbara, was fifteen at the time. Robbing the cradle much, Hal? The main purpose of the fifties housewife look is to disguise the fact that she's younger than her daughter. Of course, the kids are adopted...
- Has one in Girl Meets World: Background character Yogi, who dates another background character, Darby, is played by 10-year-old Nicholas Jabonero. Yogi is supposed to be 14 on the show. This casting choice explains Yogi's relationship with the much taller Darby.
- General Hospital: Jason Thompson plays Patrick Drake, a well-known neurosurgeon, despite the fact that he premiered in 2005 when he was 29 years old...which is a few years younger than the average age of most attending physicians. Similarly, Kimberly McCullogh returned as Robin Scorpio at roughly the same time as an attending, though she (and her character) were 27 at the time, which meant that she would have been more likely to be a resident.
- An in-universe example happens in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "T.R.A.C.K.S": Coulson and Simmons are under cover as a father/daughter couple. Simmons, who is in her mid twenties, remarks that Coulson (in his late forties) is much too young to have a daughter her age.
- AOA: A good chunk of the dance unit members in the "Short Hair" MV (police woman, car mechanic, air stewardess), but it's all in good fun.