In Smash when Rebecca Duvall joins the cast of Bombshell it's pointed out that she's older than Marilyn Monroe was when she passed away. Duvall is played by Uma Thurman, who is indeed several years older than Marilyn — in fact, she turned 42 (Marilyn left us aged 36) the day before one of her episodes premiered!
Mr. Show features a sketch in which adult members of a youth outreach group play the roles of Totally Radical teens to deliver conservative aesops. One member of the group is bald, with a full beard, and his teen character states, "I love playing those damn video games!"
Lizzie McGuire was an exception because Hilary Duff was 13 when she started playing the title character (who is in middle school), but in one episode, her animated conscience lampshades this trope: "maybe when [Miranda's] thirty, she can play a teenager on Dawson's Creek."
Scarlet Heart: At the start of the series Liu Shi Shi is 25 playing a 16-year-old, while Nicky Wu is 40 playing a character in his late twenties.
When the series aired the actors for Lan Sizhui, Jin Ling, and Lan Jingyi were 20, 22, and 24 years old respectively, although their characters are only around 15 to 17 years old.
Inverted with Wang Yibo, who was in his early twenties while Lan Wangji is in his early-to-mid thirties. Although this is played straight in the flashbacks, where Lan Wangji is a few years younger than Wang Yibo's actual age during filming.
Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng are supposed to be around 15 at the start of the series and Jiang Yanli is only a few years older. Xiao Zhan (Wei Wuxian) and Xuan Lu (Jiang Yanli) were 26-27 and Wang Zhuocheng (Jiang Cheng) was 22 or 23 during filming.
The Rise of Phoenixes: Ning Yi is in his late twenties, while Chen Kun was 41 during filming. Luckily he looks younger than he is.
Queen for Seven Days: All three of the leads are older than their characters. This has the side-effect of making Lee Yeok and Lee Yung seem closer in age than they were — in real life Lee Yung was twelve years older than Lee Yeok.
Chae-gyeong was nineteen when she became queen and was deposed, and is played by thirty-one-year-old Park Min-young.
Lee Yeok was eighteen when he became king, and is played by thirty-three-year-old Yeon Woo-jin.
Lee Yung was twenty-nine when he died, and is played by thirty-seven-year-old Lee Dong-gun.
General and I: Wallace Chung (born 1974) and Angelababy (born 1989) play characters who are the same age.
Vanness Wu (Tuoba Yu) is ten years older than Mao Xiao Tong (Chang Ru), but their characters were childhood friends. Made even stranger when flashbacks to their childhood show Tuoba Yu and Chang Ru are the same age, while as adults they clearly aren't.
Luo Jin (born 1981) plays the grandson of Canti Lau (born 1964).
Lost Love in Times: The princes, from oldest to youngest, are played by Gao Yi Qing (born 1983), Ji Chen (born 1981), William Chan (born 1985), Wang Ruo Lin (born 1980), Xu Hai Qiao (born 1983), Zhang He (born 1984), Gong Jun (born 1992), and Xu Jia Wei (born 1989).
29-year-old Jeanté Godlock plays 19-year-old Simone Biles (doubled by Biles herself in the gym scenes) in Lifetime's Simone Biles biopic.
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."
The Jeffersons — Isabel Sanford (Louise) was 21 years older than Sherman Hemsley (George)!
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.
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 OperaAll My Children, 15-year old Sarah Michelle Gellar first appeared on the show as 16-year old Kendall, the the long-lost teenage daughter of the series' main character, Erica Kane (Susan Lucci), in 1993. Since Susan Lucci had been on the show as Erica Kane since its 1970 premiere and the show said 16-year old Kendall was conceived when her mother was a teenager, timeline errors were pointed out and Gellar's character was rapidly aged from 16 to her early twenties some time later (nonetheless, even after being rapidly aged, Kendall was still written as a teenager). After this, a teenage Gellar played a young adult character in her early twenties and nobody really bought it (Kendall still being written like a 16-year old didn't help much) but just wrote it off as Willing Suspension of Disbelief. However, Gellar was lauded in the role, called the "second coming of Erica" for her portrayal of Kendall, but decided to leave in order to pursue other opportunities. 6.5 years later, Kendall's character was recast with actress Alicia Minshew. At this time, Kendall's age was changed again with her birth year being reverted back to her original birth year, making her a 16-year old girl again in 1993.
Turn it around, and we are being asked to believe that Erica, who had Kendall when she was 14, was 30 in 1993. Susan Lucci was 46, and looked it.
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 20's, as well. Among the girls who bullied Violet there is 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.
In the FX drama A Teacher, 25-year-old Nick Robinson plays the 17 (later 18) year old Eric, which is justified given the show's subject matter. Later inverted in the finale, with the 10-year Time Skip making Robinson be younger than his character.
Arrow: 21-year-old Willa Holland was cast as Thea Queen, who started out as a senior high school student. She's actually older than Emily Bett Rickards, who played recent college graduate Felicity Smoak.
Ambassadorial aide Lennier from Babylon 5 is a young Minbari man, probably in his twenties or thereabouts; he is definitely significantly younger than Ambassador Delenn. He is played by Bill Mumy, who was almost forty when the show began and is actually a year older than Mira Furlan, who played Delenn.
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)
The four male protagonists of The Big Bang Theory are all presumably meant to be around the same age, as at the start of the show they're all implied to be post-doctoral (or equivalent) researchers who are just beginning to get established in their careers. In one early episode Howard states that he's twenty-six, which seems about right, and was roughly the actor's age at the time. However, Johnny Galecki (Leonard) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon) are, respectively, six and eight years older than Simon Helberg (Howard) and Kunal Nayyar (Raj) despite being portrayed as Raj's contemporaries - and furthermore, Sheldon is revealed to have been accelerated through the education system from an early age, meaning that if anything he would probably be younger than other researchers at the same level, despite being played by the oldest actor. However, Howard is the only character whose exact age has ever been stated, so there is arguably some room for vagueness.
At least Penny was known to have been younger.
Sheldon was born around 1980 according to Young Sheldon (season one takes place in 1989, when Sheldon was nine years old.) Jim Parsons was over 7 years older. In fact, Parsons would have been the same age as the high school students Sheldon went to high school with. It helped that Parsons looked a lot younger than his actual age.
While on the subject of Young Sheldon, this applies to Sheldon's academic rival Paige Swanson. Paige is supposed to be a month younger than Sheldon, but Mckenna Grace is two years older than Iain Armitage, and as of season four, is at least three years older than her character.
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.
Stephen Kramer Glickman, who played Gustavo, was 30 at the time of the shows start, however his character was active in the 90s, even signing acts such as Green Day.
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...
Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza was 17 when the series first began, and was portrayed by then-22-year-old Michael Landon. Additionally, Hoss Cartwright, who began the series at age 23, was played by then-30-year-old Dan Blocker; Blocker was less than a year younger than Pernell Roberts, who played the 29-year-old Adam Cartwright.
Trina McGee started playing high school senior Angela Moore on Boy Meets World at age 28; this is really glaring because every other major cast member was more-or-less age-appropriate, because the show started with them as kids.
While RJ Mitte was around the same age as Walt Jr. during the first few seasons, since the show relies on Comic-Book Time (taking place over two years while it aired over the course of five years) he quickly became older than Walt Jr., which began to get noticeable in season four. By the final season, Mitte was twenty-one playing a character who was still seventeen.
Jesse is twenty-four at the beginning of the series, and Aaron Paul was twenty-nine when it first began airing. Due to the aforementioned Comic-Book Time, Paul only got older, and by the end of the show, he was seven years older than Jesse. This got worse when Paul reprised the role six years later in El Camino, since he was forty while Jesse was still only twenty-six.
Later additions to the cast included Seth Green (23) as Oz (18), Marc Blucas (27) as Riley (22), and Amber Benson (22) as Tara (19). As for immortal/unaging characters, we have James Marsters (35) as Spike (27-29) and Emma Caulfield (25) as Anya (18-19), though it's mentioned in season 4 that Anya started aging again at some point.
On the show's spinoff, Angel, the role of Angel's 16-year-old son Connor was portrayed by 22-year-old Vincent Kartheiser.
The age difference between Carpenter and Cordelia becomes egregious in Angel by Season 3, in which Cordelia is supposed to be 21 and Carpenter obviously ten years older. Fortunately, by that point the story also seems to cut most references to her age for it to be jarring. The one exception is an episode referring to her 21st birthday, where in a parallel universe where she didn't join Angel or get the visions she's a very popular talk show host after her successful acting career, where just a little more than two years prior she hadn't gotten any acting gigs yet.
Senta Moses is an actress who is very short and has very curly hair... which contributed to her playing a 17-year-old at age 27 on the show Bull. She wasn't alone on this part, however: Her 16-year-old brother was played by 25-year-old Fred Koehler.
Similarly, she played a 16-year-old computer genius in an episode of Vengeance Unlimited two years earlier (at 25).
And in 2009, at 35, she's playing an apparently early 20-something computer tech on General Hospital.
Leo, who in series is 16 while actor Tim Oliver Schultz is 27.
And Toni who is also supposed to be 16 but because of his Aspergers acts much younger. Actor Ivo Kortlang is 21.
The plot of Caprica revolves partially around two 16-year-old girls. Of the actresses who play them, one was 21. The other was 23.
Class: Although playing high schoolers, nearly all of the main cast were actually in their early 20s (one even got married soon after filming ended), likely in part due to the fact several of them were required to do love scenes.
In Code Lyoko: Evolution, Quentin Merabet, Mélanie Tran, and Diego Mestanza, who play Ulrich, Yumi, and William, all characters in their early-to-mid teens, are 21, 20, and 19, respectively. This is made all the stranger by the fact that the rest of the main characters avert Dawson Casting — Gulliver Beverenage, who plays Ulrich's best friend Odd, is 14.
Cold Case — In the episode "Love Conquers Al," then-22-year-old Summer Glau plays a teen athlete.
In the first season, Annie is explicitly stated to be 18, but Alison Brie was three months and change shy of 27 when the first episode aired. Troy, who was in the same high school classes as Annie and in the second season is also revealed to be a year older, is played by Donald Glover, who is nine months younger than Brie. The real kicker is the fact that Gillian Jacobs, who is all of 78 days older than Brie, plays a character who's close to ten years older than Troy and Annie.
It's vague how old Abed is (around the same age as Troy), but Danny Pudi was 30 while filming most of the first season.
Control Z: The teenage characters are all played by actors in their twenties.
The first season of Cougar Town ends with Travis graduating high school, making him approximately eighteen. His actor, Dan Byrd, turned twenty-four that season.
The CSI episode "Neverland" heavily featured three fourteen-year-old characters. Two were played by actual kids of that age (one from Heroes). The last was played by an actor who's 18.
In CSI: NY "Grounds for Deception", Stella Bonasera is revealed to have been born in 1975, making her character 35. Melina Kanakaredes who portrays Bonasera is currently 42.
In Dad's Army, 17-year-old Frank Pike was played by Ian Lavender, who was 22 years old when the series started and 31 when it ended, while Pike had not aged.
Also inverted. The oldest members of the cast were Arnold Ridley (Charles Godfrey) and John Laurie (James Frazer), both into their seventies as the programme started, while 70-year-old L/Cpl. Jack Jones (having served in the Mahdist War, the Boer Wars and World War I) was played by Clive Dunn, 48. This meant that the oldest member of the platoon was actually played by one of the youngest cast members.
In Dark Matter, Five, stated to be 16 years old, is played by 22-year-old Jodelle Ferland.
The 1998 Made-for-TV Movie of David And Lisa has Lukas Haas (22 at the time) and Brittany Murphy (21) as the title teens (which is nowhere near as extreme as the 1962 cinema version elsewhere on this page).
In Matt and Foggy's flashback episodes, this means that Charlie Cox is about five years older than Matt is supposed to be at those points, and Elden Henson is about seven years (give or take) older than Foggy. This also extends to Élodie Yung for flashbacks in "Kinbaku" to Matt's college relationship with Elektra.
Karen's limelight episode in season 3 sees an 18 year old Karen being portrayed by a 33 year old Deborah Ann Woll.
Dark (2017): Jonas, Martha, and Franziska, all of whom are 16, were all played by actors who were 19 during the filming of the first season. Magnus, who is 18, was played by a 21-year-old.
Back to the trope namer, Dawson's Creek: Much worse than Dawson's leads were the actors introduced later on: Kerr Smith (26) and Meredith Monroe (29) playing siblings (and high school sophomores) Jack and Andie McPhee starting in Season 2. Worse considering that Andie was likely the younger sibling.
On the behind-the-scenes parts of the Series Finale movie, James Van Der Beek was amused that it was the first time he and Dawson were the same age (because there was a five-year time skip from the last episode to the movie).
Derry Girls is a comedy about a group of high school students in Northern Ireland. The main cast of students is played by actors who range in age from 23 (Saorise Jackson, as Erin) to 31 (Nicola Coughlan, as Clare).
A five year Time Skip between the fourth and fifth seasons of Desperate Housewives has led to this trope being inverted for several of the characters: 23-year-old Danielle Van de Kamp and 24-year-old Julie Mayer are now several years older than the actresses playing them (19-year-old Joy Lauren and 18-year-old Andrea Bowen).
23-year-old Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman (a Time Lord posing as a 15-year-old girl). A woman in one episode is said to be "only a few years older" than Susan. Her actress was in fact two years younger than Ms. Ford.
In one First Doctor story, "The Aztecs", we get a reverse-Dawson in Cameca. We find her in basically a retirement village; minimum age to live there is at least 51 and they are often consulted for their wisdom. We don't get a number, but as the first girl-of-the-week to fall in love with the Doctor, and the Doctor being the grandfatherly William Hartnell version, she is probably not intended to be a new arrival on her 51st birthday. Actress' age: 29. (No, she's not secretly a Time Lord.)
21-year-old Maureen O'Brien as 15- to 16-year-old Vicki.note Her exact age isn't given, but in "The Myth Makers" she says a 16-year-old character is 'hardly any older than me'.
Deborah Watling was 19 when she started playing Victoria.. Her age is never specified onscreen, but she is generally assumed to have been in her early-to-mid-teens.
21-year-old Wendy Padbury as 15-year-old Zoe Heriot (though her age is never given in the show itself, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart says Zoe looks "about 19").
And again at the age of 27 in the stage adaptation "Seven Keys To Doomsday", she played 17- to 18-year-old Jenny Wilson.
Matthew Waterhouse was nearly 19 years old when Adric was introduced in the latter half of 1980. Adric's age is never revealed, but he is generally assumed to have been around 15 years old. What's more, Matthew was 22 years old when he made his final appearance as Adric (in a scene where the regenerating Fifth Doctor has visions of his former companions) but, because Adric was Killed Off for Real, the character hasn't aged.
23-year-old Mark Strickson as Turlough. This one is perhaps less egregious, as Turlough was actually an alien of indeterminate age, but he was posing as a human boy in boarding school, and did not look young enough at all. For that matter, neither did most of his classmates.
The new series two-parter "The Empty Child" / "The Doctor Dances" has a subversion. Nancy, played by 21-year-old Florence Hoath, appears to be about 16, having a 5-year-old "little brother" and helping out a band of homeless children. The Doctor realizes she is actually about twenty, old enough to be the boy's mother.
30-year-old Mandip Gill and 26-year-old Tosin Cole as Yasmin Khan and Ryan Sinclair respectively, both aged 19.
The ultimate inversion, however, in the case of the Doctor. As pointed out in numerous interviews with the writers and actors in 2013 and 2014, whether it's 55-plus William Hartnell or Peter Capaldi playing the role, mid-30s David Tennant, or 20-something Peter Davison or Matt Smith, they're still hundreds, if not thousands of years younger than the character.
Of course, even within that, Doctors are sometimes played 'younger'. For one example, 40-year-old Tom Baker was supposed to appear to be in his early 30s, and started out dressed in a costume intended to resemble a university student in order to exaggerate his apparent youth (which soon got switched out for more mature Awesome Anachronistic Apparel as both he and the character aged). Expanded Universe books tend to describe him as appearing to be in his thirties, which is rather generous towards the end of his tenure — Chris in the "Shada" novelisation struggles to accept the idea of the Doctor being "any older than forty", causing Romana to observe that he's 760. For another example, Matt Smith was 27 when he started playing the role, but is described by other characters to look about 18 or 19, with his first outfit based on Hipster fashion. River even describes him to Amy as resembling a twelve-year-old, but she was exaggerating for tragicomic effect.
Similarly, the inversion also applies to the character of Romana who when she joins the Doctor is over a century old, but was played by two actresses in their mid-20s in the 1970s. Even 30-35 years later when the actresses, now in their 60s, reprised the roles for audio dramas, they still were too young for the part!
Downton Abbey starts out by doing this; for example, Lady Sybil is in her mid-teens at the time the show begins, but played by the 21-year-old Jessica Brown Findlay. Since the show's time progresses considerably faster than real time, this doesn't last; by the end of season 2, Sybil has actually passed Findlay's real age. There's also 25-year-old Sophie McShera playing Daisy, whose age isn't specified, but the character acts (and looks) like a teenager.
Although they played high school geeks who were best friends on Drake & Josh, when the show premiered, Scott Halberstadt, who played Eric was nearing 28, making him double the age of Alec Medlock, who played Craig.
Josh Sussman, who played the character of Clayton in a couple episodes, was around 23.
Taran Killam and Johnny Lewis, who portrayed Drake's bandmates, were 21 and 20 around the premiere.
When Ed premiered, Justin Long was 22 playing a high school student. He was 26 by the time it ended.
8 Simple Rules: Amy Davidson, who was 25 in real-life, played a 15-year-old.
The Mexican comedy El Chavo del ocho has all of its child characters (around eight years old or so) played by adults over 30. The result is, of course, hilarious.
Considering all the Amusing Injuries that the "kids" go through in the show, it'd be pretty disturbing otherwise.
Pretty much all the teens in Fate: The Winx Saga are portrayed by twentysomethings. Eliot Salt (Terra) was actually in her late twenties when she filmed her part; egregiously so considering the same year she starred in Normal People playing a college student. In fact, Sadie Soverall (Beatrix) was the only cast member to be under twenty; she was eighteen when she filmed her part.
The Flash's fifth season introduces Nora West-Allen, who is the daughter of Barry Allen and Iris West-Allen that came from the future. Nora's parents are in their late 20s-early 30s, which fit their actors' ages - Grant Gustin (29) and Candice Patton (31). Nora, who's still meant to only be in her mid-20s, was played by Jessica Parker Kennedy, who was 35.
Shaquille O'Neal guest-starred as himself on Fresh Off the Boat. However, since the series is a mid-90sPeriod Piece, this meant that he had to play himself as a 23-year-old despite being in his mid-40s when the show was being filmed. This is given a Lampshade Hanging when Louis is visibly shocked by Shaq's appearance, noting that he looks much bigger in real life than on TV (since 2015 Shaq is obviously a lot heavier than 1995 Shaq). Shaq attempts to play it off by saying that all he has to do is "Skip third lunch" to get back in shape for the next NBA season.
Friday Night Lights is way guilty of this; many of the actors playing juniors and seniors in highschool are in their mid-to-late twenties.
Parodied in an episode where Joey tries to play a 19-year-old at 31, but he is absolutely unconvincing.
Joey: Come on, am I 19 or what?
Chandler: Yes, on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the dumbest a person can look, you are definitely 19.
Also played straight, as every flashback to (and video evidence from) Ross, Monica, and Rachel's high school days featured the regular actors playing themselves at 18, with very little attempt to disguise it.
Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow were 30 and 31 when the show premiered, despite their characters being in their mid-20s. In fact, Kudrow is 6 years older than Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston. In one scene Monica is even offended by a suggestion that she couldn't pass as 22-year old (the character was 26 at the time, the actress 31), but the rest of the characters are realistic about it. Despite Monica being portrayed as Ross's younger sister, Cox is two years older than Schwimmer.
Phoebe's little brother Frank Jr is introduced saying he's 18. His actor Giovanni Ribisi was 22.
A season 2 episode has a subplot where Monica discovers her boyfriend Ethan is a high school senior (17 to be specific). His actor Stan Kirsch was actually 26 and was in fact a year older than Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry. He was at least passing for a college senior when Monica met him.
All the older teenage characters in the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones, such as Jon Snow, Danaerys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Samwell Tarly, Theon Greyjoy, Loras Tyrell, Gendry and for Season Two Margaery Tyrell, as played by Natalie Dormer. The characters are all between fifteen (aged up roughly two years from the books) and early twenties (in Margaery's case), the actors between 23 and 29.
Lampshaded(?) on Gidget. 15-year-old Gidget (played by 19-year-old Sally Field) fails to convince a job interviewer that she's 19.
At 27 years old Keiko Agena played the then 15- or 16-year-old character Lane Kim in Gilmore Girls. Milo Ventimiglia was 25 when he started playing 17-year-old Jess, and Liza Weil (Paris) and Shelly Cole (Madeline) were 23 and 25 respectively when they played 16-year-olds. Only Jared Padalecki (Dean) and Teal Redmann (Louise) were firmly in their teens at the beginning of the show, while Alexis Bledel (Rory) was growing out of them, at 19.
Glee is extremely guilty of this with most of their cast being High School characters. The youngest member of the original cast was Chris Colfer, who was 18 in the first season, nine years younger than his classmates Cory Monteith and Mark Salling, who were both 27. Made even more awkward when half of the series finale was a flashback to 2009, demonstrating just how much Colfer had physically matured over the show's run.
Justified/Lampshaded with at least one member of the rival glee club, Vocal Adrenaline, who is a 24-year-old "6th year senior" who has been repeatedly flunked because he's the only one who can do a particular dance move.
Lampshaded when Hunter Clarington is mobbed by reporters about a steroid scandal. One reporter asks "What about the report that you look way too old to still be in high school?" Hunter responds by punching the guy.
Hilarity Ensued with a Parents' Television Council statement on the "near pedophilia" of a racy GQ shoot starring Lea Michele and Dianna Agron. Both were 24. That said, their clothes and hairstyles were clearly designed to make them look as young as possible, so the legitimacy of this accusation is in the eye of the viewer. And that's putting aside the incorrect definition of pedophilia that they were using.
Of the season 4 additions to the cast, 20 year old Blake Jenner was playing high school sophomore Ryder Lynn.
Grey's Anatomy pulls this off with tweens: in season 1, the characters start their internship at the Seattle Grace, so they should be around 25 (give or take). Ellen Pompeo playing Meredith was 35 at the time of filming and the actors of Cristina, George and Alex were also in their thirties. Only averted with 26-year-old Katherine Heigl as Izzie.
Although the majority of the characters were played by teens in Hannah Montana, Jason Earles was nearly 29 when the show premiered and 34 when it ended.note When the show began, Earles' resume claimed he was 21, or eight years younger than he really was.
Romi Dames, who played Traci Van Horn, was 26 when the show premiered.
Arthur Fonzarelli in Happy Days was supposed, in the early episodes at least, to be eighteen/nineteen years old. The Fonz was played by Henry Winkler who was twenty-nine when the show started, and thirty-nine when it ended. His age seemed all the more obvious when he was seen romancing an actress clearly in her teens or twenties. Also featuring Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham, a high-schooler with a lacquered combover.
The Hard Times of RJ Berger is an American television comedy series about RJ Berger (22-year-old Paul Iacono) an unpopular sophomore at the fictional Pinkerton High School in Ohio who has an exceptionally large penis. Berger's two best friends are Miles Jenner (31-year-old Jareb Dauplaise), whose ambitions for popularity cause him to clash with Berger, and goth girl Lily Miran (29-year-old Kara Taitz), who has been lusting after Berger for several years. Berger's love interest is Jenny Swanson (30-year-old Amber Lancaster), a cheerleader who is involved with Max Owens (34-year-old Jayson Blair), a popular jock and bully.
The series also had 24-year-old Pamela Sue Martin as 16-year-old Nancy Drew. Her replacement, Janet Louise Johnson, was 19.
Hemlock Grove: 17-year old Roman Godfrey is portrayed by then 23-year old Bill Skarsgård in season 1. And although Peter Rumancek's age isn't explicitly mentioned, since they're both in their senior year he can be assumed to also be around 17-18, but Landon Liboiron was 22 at the time.
In Heroes, Nicholas D'Agosto was 27 years old when he started playing high school student West Rosen.
Hiro Nakamura is stated to be 24, but actor Masi Oka was 32 at the time.
In Hogfather, Mr. Teatime is a recent graduate of the Assassins Guild and implied to be around 20 at the oldest. In the TV movie, he is played by the 39-year-old Marc Warren. Warren was babyfaced enough to pull it off.
Played for Laughs in Home Movie: The Princess Bride- four of the seven actors portraying the Grandson, who was played in the original by a ten-year-old, are clearly adults, with the youngest two actors out of the seven being fourteen and looking a little too old to be requesting bedtime stories. One of those is the Grandson's original actor, Fred Savage, 43 years old at the time of this production. Taken to an extreme with Rob Reiner, who was 73 at the time.
Some of the younger patients on House have this. One example is the 15-year-old supermodel in the 2nd season episode "Skin Deep" played by a 25 year old actress.
Several of the doctors on the team invert this to some extent, at least presumably, being played by actors who would be extraordinarily young to be in their position.
The episode "Not Cancer" had an incredibly obvious example, with an alleged 4-year-old (who was only seen briefly) being played by a kid who was clearly, like, eleven.
A younger example, Cuddy's daughter was also played by a girl who was at least four years old. She was two at her oldest, and treated as such, which to some made it seem like the child had developmental difficulties.
How I Met Your Mother is a minor example in that Ted, Lily and Marshall are all supposed to be the same age yet Jason Segel is nearly 6 years younger than Josh Radnor and Alyson Hannigan. The age gap between Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris is 9 years, as opposed to the 4 between Robin and Barney. A more obvious example is the flashbacks to scenes in college, with the characters' younger selves still played by the same actors. The same goes for the flash forward scenes, though the actors are usually heavily made up to look older. In "Time Travellers" however, 20-years-from-now Ted and Barney, who'd both be in their fifties look pretty much the same as before.
Jennette McCurdy began playing Sam Puckett on ICarly when she was 14; by the time the series ended she was 20, and when the spinoff Sam & Cat ceased production she was 21. Similarly, her Sam & Cat costar Ariana Grande was 20 when Nickelodeon shut it down (they turned 22 and 21 - both actresses have their birthdays on June 26 - before the network officially cancelled the show).
Griffin, Carly's love interest and a high school senior in "iDate A Bad Boy", was played by 23-year-old Drew Roy and looked like it, especially in some shirtless scenes, is supposed to be a high school senior. The episode involved some heavy make out sessions with the star of the show Miranda Cosgrove, who was around 15 when they filmed them. Miranda apparently got to choose which guy they casted.
In I, Claudius, because the series takes place over nearly eighty years, this is both played straight and later inverted with many of the same characters. Just to name a few major examples:
Derek Jacobi, aged 38, played Claudius from the age of 19 to his death at 63.
Siân Phillips, aged 43, played Livia from the age of 34 to her death at 86.
George Baker, aged 45, played Tiberius from the age of 18 to his death at 77.
Margaret Tyzack, also aged 45, played Antonia from the age of 27 to her death at 73.
Some examples where this is purely played straight include John Hurt (aged 36) as Caligula from the age of 17 to his death at 28, Christopher Biggins (aged 28) as 17-year-old Nero, and Graham Seed (aged 26) as 13-year-old Britannicus.
An earlier series depicting the Julio-Claudian dynasty, The Caesars, also employs this. The events of the series span 27 years, so some actors go from playing this trope straight to averting it, or from averting it to inverting it, or both. Just to give a few examples:
André Morell, aged 58, played Tiberius from the age of 54 to his death aged 77.
Ralph Bates, aged 27, played Caligula from the age of 18 to his death aged 28.
Freddie Jones, aged 40, played Claudius from the age of 23 to his declaration as Emperor aged 50.
The television version made in Italy in the '70s of the book Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (Johnny Whirlwind's Diary) have 30-year-old people as 6-year-old children.
The Inbetweeners. The four main characters, 17-year-olds, are played by actors ranging from 22 to 26.
The WB's Jack & Bobby featured 24-year-old Matt Long as 15-year-old Jack McCallister. Made glaringly obvious by the fact that Logan Lerman, who played Jack's 13-year-old brother Bobby, was actually 12 at the time of filming.
Jeeves and Wooster has it both ways. Both Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were in their early 30s when the series started in 1990. The ages of the characters are never given in the books, but it would seem that Bertie Wooster (Laurie) was in his early-to-mid 20s and Jeeves (Fry) in his 40s. Of course, their ages are never given in the series, either, so Powers That Be could get away with it. By way of contrast, the Jeeves movies of the mid-1930s starred 40-year-old Arthur Treacher as Jeeves and 25-year-old David Niven as Bertie.
In "AKA I Want Your Cray Cray" in season 2, 36 year olds Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor play Jessica and Trish Walker in their late teens.
In season 2, Janet Mc Teer is likely much older than Jessica's mother is supposed to be. This is justified given that she's said to have undergone extensive reconstructive surgery following the car accident.
German actress Josefine Preuss (b. 1986) has not visibly aged since she was about 15. Guess which roles she usually gets.
While filming Just Shoot Me!, fiftyish Wendie Malick was just a couple years older than her character, Nina Van Horn, but the trope comes in when she had to play Nina in flashbacks to her glory days as a supermodel. Presumably, there was no other feasible option.
K9 features 19-year-old Keegan Joyce as 14-year-old Starkey, 16-year-old Philippa Coulthard as 14-year-old Jorjie Turner, and 20-year-old Daniel Webber as 15-year-old Darius Pike.
Kamen Rider shows usually avert this, since they have a habit of casting late-teens actors for their late-teens characters. However, Renn Kiriyama as Shotaro in Kamen Rider Double was 25 when the show was airing, and while Shotaro's never given an explicit age, he is only shown wearing a high-school uniform in a flashback- though the police officer chasing him seems to not have aged much since then. It's likely that Shotaro was meant to be in his early twenties, which would still be Dawson Casting, but to a smaller degree.
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has an inversion in that most of the main casts actors were younger than their characters ages: Taiga is 29 years old while his actor was 22 at the time (1994), Kiriya is 27 and his actor was 23 (1993), Emu and Hiiro are both 24 while their actors were 20 (1996) and 21 (1995), respectively. Kuroto is a rare aversion in this series as his actor (1986) was the same age as him - 30 years old.
Kath and Kim's Kim is supposed to be in her mid-to-late 20s. Gina Riley, the actress who plays her, is pushing 50.
Jane Turner, who plays her mother, is only five months older than her... but when the sketches the show originated from began, they were both in their early thirties, making Turner's Kath an inversion of this trope. She's only recently caught up with her character's age. In the second season, there were flashbacks to Kim's birth (when Kath would be in her early twenties) and to Kim as a teenager. Both actresses were 42 at the time.
Law & Order: In the season 13 episode 22 Sheltered,Sebastian Stan played a teenage sniper named Justin Capshaw. Justin is 15, according to the investigators, and he looks 15. Sebastian Stan was actually 21.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Tony Goldwyn played Vincent D'Onofrio's older (by several years) brother. Goldwyn is actually a year younger than D'Onofrio.
Subverted in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit which featured an adult conwoman who posed as a teenager in several different high schools to the point of having sex with her teenaged boyfriends, and had her current lover killed when he found out. The actress in question is actually younger than the role she was cast in, she was 26 and the character was 28. As many other cases, the plot was Ripped from the Headlines: here it is.
In an episode of Law & Order with a similar plot, the female murderer is played by a 20-year-old actress. The character is a 26-year-old woman pretending to be a 16-year-old girl.
The Ripped from the Headlines (sort of) precursor of the above, an adult writer posed as a teenager in order to sell her scripts; naturally this was made into TV movie.
In CSI: NYthis was gender-reversed; the conwoman was turned into a pair of paedophiles, the girlfriends were date-raped and the guidance counselor was killed when he found out.
27-year-old Peta Wilson as 18-year-old Nikita in La Femme Nikita. 31-year-old Marnie McPhail as her childhood friend of the same age in the second episode of the first season. Though it turns out she's an imposter, but this trope is still pretty glaring until the HeelFace Turn.
Julianna Rose Mauriello was 13 when she took on the role of 8-year-old Stephanie on the children's show LazyTown. By the second season, filmed when she was 15, it was obvious that Julianna was no longer a little girl, and in Lazy Town Extra, filmed when she was 17, the character mentions she's lived in Lazy Town for a year, which would make her 9. Her last song for LazyTown was released in 2010, when she was almost in her 20s. She left the show in 2011 because she had aged out of the role. Her replacement, Chloe Lang, was 10 at the time of casting.
The six main characters of the short-lived show Life as We Know It were all supposed to be high school sophomores (15/16), but all of their actors were 21 or 22 during filming, except for Jessica Lucas, who was 19.
Lincoln Heights has quite an extreme example with the 27- to 28-year-old (during season 1) Erica Hubbard playing 16-year-old Cassie Sutton. What makes this particularly interesting is that the actors portraying her parents where born in 1970 and 1974, making them only 9 and 5 years older than her. Even more interesting is the actors playing her younger sibling were born in 1992 and 1993, making her 13 and 14 years older than them.
Erica Hubbard's original birth date was thought to been in 1984 which would have made her about 22-23 during season 1.
Due to the fact that time on the show passes much slower than in real life, 10-year-old Walt Lloyd on Lost was played by roughly 14-year-old Malcolm David Kelly in season 3, who was 12 when the series began.
They try to disguise his aging... but in the season 4 finale, they don't disguise it, since it's in flashforwards set three years after he left the island, which still doesn't work because he's too old for 13. Prior to his appearance in the flashforwards he had appeared a few times and the show began to lampshade the changes to Walt; for instance, Locke described how Walt suddenly showed up, but was taller, more so than the few months that had passed on the show to explain.
Inverted in the case of Locke's father, played by Kevin Tighe, who is only eight years older than Terry O'Quinn.
Miles and Daniel were 27 and 26 in Season 4 respectively, but their actors were 38 and 39 during filming.
Ethan Rom was 27 in Season 1 but played by 39-year-old William Mapother.
It is worth mentioning that several actors play the younger versions of their characters in flashbacks, some of which are over 10 years in the past. For example, Jeremy Davies, at age 40, appeared as 17-year-old Daniel Faraday in a flashback in Season 5.
In the miniseries Love, Lies and Murder, a woman is murdered and two teenage girls are involved. 24-year-old Sheryl Lee plays 17-year-old Patti Bailey, and 23-year-old Moira Kelly plays 14-year-old Cinnamon Brown.
Lucifer: Season 5 reveals that 17-year-old Linda gave birth to a daughter in 1994, meaning she was born in either 1976 or 1977. Her actress, Rachael Harris, was born in 1968.
Maddigan's Quest is full of this: Jordan Metcalfe and Rose McIver were 18 and played Timon, aged 15, Garland, 14, respectively. Olivia Tennet was 14 and Zac Fox was 15 when they played 11-year-olds Lilith and Eden.
MADtv parodies and lampshades this repeatedly in "Pretty White Kids With Problems". The actors are obviously way too old to be playing teenagers, which they constantly make sure to point out.
Actor in his mid-30s: 15 can be a difficult age. And that's how old I am. 15 (he turns to glance at something behind him, showing the bald spot in the back of his head).
The Brazilian soap opera Malhação (Young Hearts in English) is infamous for this. Most of the seasons are set in the Ensino Médio (the brazilian equivalent of High School) with adult actors in their early-mid 20's playing students of ages around 15-17 years old.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian brought in 60-year-old Temuera Morrison as 41-year-old Boba Fett. The extensive scar makeup helps make it more believable, as does the fact he's aged like fine wine.
Gary Burghoff of M*A*S*H fame. He was already 27 when playing the teenaged Radar, and continued the role well into his 40s. Burghoff, however, had such a childish frame and voice, that little besides his thinning hairline betrayed his true age. The producers tried hard to get him to keep his hat on in later episodes.
There was a heavy dose for most of the cast, especially in the later seasons. The book establishes Hawkeye as 28 years old, but TV-Hawkeye was played by Alan Alda, born in 1936 — 36 when the series started (which would have made Hawkeye of draft age during WWII), 47 by the time it ended. Mike Farrell was 36 when he was cast as 28-year-old BJ Hunnicutt. Harry Morgan was 60 for Colonel Potter's introductory episode; Potter's exact age is never given, but it is stated that he was 15 during World War I, which would put him in his late 40s at the time of the Korean War.
These issues were exacerbated by the fact that the show ran almost four times as long as the actual Korean War, making the disparities in long-running characters even more striking near the end of the series. Not relevant in the cases of characters whose ages are not given.
In the episode, "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet," Hawkeye is adminstering care to a Marine named Wendell. Hawkeye asks Wendell's age, and Wendell replies with, "Twenty." When Hawkeye knows that Wendell is lying, Wendell changes the answer to, "Eighteen." Hawkeye replies with, "For somebody who's both twenty and eighteen, you look awfully sixteen to me." It turns out that Wendell is actually fifteen, and too young for the military. Wendell is played by twenty-year-old Ron Howard.
Matt LeBlanc played underaged boys from his first appearance at age 18 on TV 101, until he landed his role on Friends. He specialized in playing the boyfriend to underaged female characters on sitcoms such as Married... with Children and Just the Ten of Us. as the good-looking, Italian "hunk" (from some unspecified East Coast city).
McHale's Navy ran from 1962 to 1966. In peacetime, to find a Third or Second Class Petty Officer (E-4, E-5) in their thirties or forties, you would have to look extremely hard. Most are in their twenties. This is especially true in wartime when advancement is obscenely easy. Ernest Borgnine served in the real Navy during WWII, getting out as a First Class Petty Officer at age 28, but also played a Commander at age 45, which is not unreasonable. Another actor, Victor Mature, was in the Coast Guard in WWII, and he made Chief Petty Officer (E-7) in 14 months. Given this, some of the casting for "McHale's Navy" was extremely egregious. Carl Ballantine (PO 2 Gruber) was 47, in real world he would have been an E-7/E-8, not an E-5. Billy Sands was 51, too old for the military, peacetime or wartime. Surprisingly, most of the others were at least close to their appropriate age. I believe it was a case of the producers not caring.
The cast in The Middle are a lot older than they actually are. However to be fair, Brick's actor (Atticus Shafer) has Type IV Osteogenesis Imperfecta and is a lot shorter than someone his age would be otherwise.
Siblings Axl Heck (15 in Season 1) and Sue Heck (13 in season 1) are portrayed by actors born in 1990 and late 1991 respectively, even though both do a good job of acting and looking (almost) the right age. Brick Heck (8 in Season 1), is portrayed by Atticus Shaffer, who was 11 at the time. Shaffer is now 14 playing an 11 year old, but due to his small stature (a result of osteogenesis imperfecta), he pulls it off most convincingly.
The 19-turning-20 year old main trio, Bambang, Alan, and Prima, are respectively played by Madkucil (28, ironically playing the youngest), Rifat Sungkar (25), and Sakurta Ginting (23). In Bambang's case, people in-universe occasionally comment that he doesn't look his age.
Bambang's younger cousin Dian is played by Dian Sidik, who was 38. Alan comments how Younger Than They Look seems to run in the family.
The Mists of Avalon miniseries had an extreme example, where 13-year-old Morgause at the beginning was played by Joan Allen, who was 44 and looked it.
Modern Family mostly had the children played by actors approximately the same age as the characters, with the notable exception of Claire and Phil's eldest daughter, Haley, who was 15 in the first season but played by the already 18-year-old Sarah Hyland. Ironically, Hyland is so young-looking that early reviews criticised her casting for looking too young to realistically portray a high school student.
Furthermore, in season 5, they cast 30-year-old Adam Devine to play 21-year-old Andy. Just with Sarah, Adam is so baby-faced that he can successfully play a character much younger than him. Compounded with the fact that Andy was meant to only be 4-5 years older than Alex, yet Adam was actually double her actor's age.
In the Mini Series adaptation of Arthur Hailey's The Moneychangers, callgirl Avril Devereaux — a blonde in her twenties in the novel — is played by Joan Collins. While the hair colour can be overlooked, her being 43 years old at the time is another matter. (Then again, producer Ross Hunter was known for skewing older in his casting choices.)
Mr. Belvedere - Kevin is a sophomore in high school (around 16 years old) and played by 23-year-old Rob Stone, who had recently attended the University of Southern California.
When My Family began, only one of the Harper children was played by an actor close to the character's age; 21-year-old Daniela Denby-Ashe played 15-year-old Janey, and 27-year-old Kris Marshall played 18-year-old Nick. Averted towards the end of the series where Janey was "almost 30" and only two years younger than Denby-Ashe (thanks to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, since the show ran for eleven years.) Marshall left after three series of the show, and has stated in interviews that the fact that he was much older than Nick made it more difficult for him to play the character.
Despite Paxton of Never Have I Ever being around 16, his actor Darren Barnet was 29 when the first season and is over 10 years older than Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who played his love interest.
23-year-old Don Cheadle played the role of 16-year-old Jack in the April 1, 1988 "Jung and the Restless" episode of Night Court.
Also, the episode called "Crossroads," where the characters recount stories of their younger selves and then the middle-aged actors play the younger version of their characters in the flashback. Most notably 40-year-old Markie Post as a 19-year-old version of Christine.
25-year-old John Hensley playing 16-year-old Matt on Nip/Tuck (made glaringly obvious off-screen when Hensley began dating Joely Richardson, the actress, only 13 years his senior IRL, who played his mom on the show). Also made glaringly obvious when he started getting a receding hairline.
The O.C. is guilty of this, as mentioned in the quote at the top, with teens in their late 20s and parents in their early 30s. It hangs a lampshade on this trope, among many others, with their show-within-a-show, "The Valley."
Seth: That guy plays high school? Ryan: Hollywood, man.
In the first season, the show was criticized for having what looked like a 40-year-old actress playing 28-year-old Emma Swan, though the actress was actually more around the age of 32. In the second season, the same actress, now 33, is spending half an episode in a flashback to when Emma was 18. By Season 3, they cast a younger actress to play Emma's teenage self in flashbacks.
Though the age may not be explicitly stated like the Emma example, many of the actors play the younger version of their characters, at least a decade younger, for instance early 30s Ginnifer Goodwin playing Snow White as a young adult/late teens. Other people in their 30s playing much, much younger versions include Lana Parrilla and Josh Dallas.
And then there's 40-year-old Rose McGowan as "young Cora," who in the episodes where she plays the role is probably meant to be late-teens and in her very early twenties at most (it's a plot point in one episode that Cora is unmarried). She does look like "old Cora" (65-year-old Barbara Hershey) due to their matching plastic surgery.
26-year-old Parker Croft as Felix, one of the Lost Boys. The casting call describes him: "A few teen boy roles are being cast that might be recurring. One of the boys is named Felix, and he's their leader."
In the Frozen (2013) arc in season 4, 29 year old Georgina Haig is a 23 year old Queen Elsa (official Frozen tie-in material states that Elsa was 21 in the movie when she was coronated, and the flashback scenes with her and Anna take place 2 years later). Less so with 22 year old Elizabeth Lail playing 20 year old Princess Anna.
Jared Gilmore as Henry Mills is an interesting case: he starts off the same age as his character in season 1, ten years old, but the extremely compressed timeline of the show makes it so that, even with a few time jumps, his character stays behind Jared's real age in later seasons. Although how much is left ambiguous, Jared hitting puberty makes it all more obvious.
Lily is introduced as a teenager in a Season 4 flashback, played by Nicole Munoz at 20. Her adult self is played by Agnes Bruckner, who is seven years younger than Jennifer Morrison. Their characters are the same age.
Wendy Darling is meant to be twelve or thirteen. Freya Tingley was nineteen, but didn't look it.
Peter Pan has a Vague Age since he's the boy who never grows old, but his actor Robbie Kaye was already 18.
Ruby is treated like she's late teens or young adult in the first season, but Meghan Ory was nearly thirty.
In the Brit ComOn the Buses, Reg Varney played the role of Stan Butler, a bus driver in his late 20s, he was 53 years old when the series started.
At the start, the main teenaged characters on One Tree Hill were all played by actors in their early twenties; 22-year-olds Chad Michael Murray and Bethany Joy Lenz, and 21-year-olds Sophia Bush and Creator/Hilarie urton. The only one still a teenager was 18-year-old James Lafferty, and even he was an example since the characters were juniors in the first season.
Some of the more egregious examples were 26-year-old Danneel Ackles as Rachel in season 3, and Antwon Tanner as Skills, who was 28 when the show started and 37 by the time it ended.** Surprisingly, one of the only characters (and possibly the only main one) who actually looked like he was in high school (Mouth) was played by 22-year-old Lee Norris, who just happened to look young for his age.
The character of Quentin Fields was played by then 30-year-old Robbie Jones (though he surprisingly did look really young).
In BBC sitcom Open All Hours, David Jason plays Granville, nephew and errand boy of Ronnie Barker's Arkwright. Jason would have been around 35 when the series proper started and 44 or 45 when it finished. In itself, it's not technically implausible that he could be Barker's nephew (even without stretching their ten year age difference, although Arkwright was supposed to be around 58 in the pilot). However, although never(?) explicitly mentioned, none of Granville's character (obviously meant as young and inexperienced), the generational dynamic between the two leads and their obvious statuses — and the fact that no-one thinks it strange that he's still doing an errand boy job — but it is revealed in the pilot he is 24, and a 1981 episode confirms he was born circa 1950 and is a bloke in his thirties who Arkwright still treats as if he is a child. The revival series has now 75-year-old Jason play a visibly elderly Granville.
Orange Is the New Black: Dayanara is implied to be in her late teens, while the actress (Dascha Polanco) is in her early thirties — two years younger than her on-screen mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Polanco is definitely Older Than She Looks, but not to the extent of convincing anybody that she's a teenager.
Most of the flashbacks in Orange Is the New Black qualify since they take place years before. Particularly Sophia, who is portrayed by Laverne Cox's older-looking twin brother.
Our Miss Brooks began on the radio, where age and appearance weren't a factor. Even so, the sixteen-year-old students Walter Denton, Harriet Conklin and Stretch Snodgrass were played by actors in their late teens. Fast forward to the television adaptation and The Movie in 1956, and you have the 29-year-old Richard Crenna playing Walter Denton for the last time.
Parker Lewis Can't Lose — Older actors playing teens include Corin Nemic, Billy Jayne, Abraham Benrubi, Jennifer Guthrie, Harold Pruett, all in their early 20s.
Party of Five had the (then) 26-year-old Scott Wolf and 20-year-old Neve Campbell playing the respectively 16- and 15-year-old Bailey and Julia. Lampshaded in season 3 where Bailey's friend, seeing his fake ID, was very surprised that anyone would believe he's 27. On the other hand 11-year-old Lacey Chabert (Claudia) and 16-year-old Jennifer Love Hewitt (Sarah) were the same ages as their characters. They did intend to cast an age appropriate actress for Julia, but they liked Neve Campbell's audition so much that they cast her - and then wrote a storyline in where Julia is able to pass for over 21 with a fake ID and work in a bar.
An Exaggerated Trope on PEN15, with series co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, both 31, playing fictionalized versions of themselves as teenage best friends. The show is set in the early 2000s, a time period when both actors were actually teenagers. Every other teenage character in the show is an aversion, which serves to make the two leads seem more awkward.
Perfect Strangers episode, "Happy Birthday, Baby," 32-year-old Mark Linn-Baker plays Larry, who is depressed on his 24th birthday.
All of the secondary school pupils in the seventies Britcom Please Sir! were quite visibly in their late twenties or early thirties.
Power Rangers is a common offender, with the original season's 15-year-old characters being played by actors as old as 24. Operation Overdrive had an 18-year-old SmartChick being played by a 28-year-old actress (who, however, looks quite young and seems to actually be able to get away with it) and a guy of 19-20 being played by a 29-year-old (Dax).
The early seasons had most actors between 18-21, with subsequent seasons going off in many different directions.
As of recent seasons, the production team attempts to limit the age difference between adult actors and their teenaged characters in order to avoid potential Younger Than They Look situations, putting an age range for legible auditionees to be between 18 to 26 year old.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has an excuse: the characters were originally intended to be high school seniors, as evidenced by the original plot for the two-part episode "Doomsday" involving the Rangers going to Senior Prom. When the show became a hit, they needed to keep the characters around, so they refrained from actually giving ages for the Rangers in order to keep the high school setting as long as possible.
Though in that case, the trope still would've been played straight as several of the actors were a few years older than a high school senior. The trope would've been averted, though, with Austin St. John (Jason), who was 18 at the time.
As far as high school seniors go, some of the cast members weren't all that bad for the role. The male actors were the only problem. Walter Emanuel Jones (Zack) actually somewhat looked the part, even at 22, but David Yost (Billy), Jason Narvy (Skull), and Paul Schrier (Bulk) were 19 (Narvy), 23 (Schrier), and 24 (Yost) respectively and looked like it.
David Yost was 27 when Billy graduated high school a year early, making him at least an entire decade older than his character.note Depending on what month you were born in, it is conceivable in the United States to graduate at 17, meaning Yost could have been playing a 16-year-old at 27.
Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam) and Karan Ashley (Aisha) were also aversions, both actually being teens when they started on the show.
Rhoda Montemayor (Rose), the aforementioned 28-year-old actress from Operation Overdrive has stated in interviews that she was also given an audition for the Harry Potter films as 15-year-old Cho Chang...
The Rocca sisters in in Power Rangers Mystic Force were in their late teens. The actresses were both in their mid/ late twenties at tthe time of filming.
Played straight and inverted in the case of Olivia Tennet (Dr. K) from RPM, in which the 17-year-old actress (when production began) played her character at ages 14 (during a flashback in "Doctor K"), 18, 19 (as of "The Road to Corinth"), and then 20 (as of "If Venjix Won").
Power Rangers Dino Thunder actually wasn't bad compared to just about all the other seasons, though it was still sort of played straight. The characters were 18-year-old high school seniors, and Emma Lahana (Kira) and Kevin Duhaney (Ethan) were both 19 at the time of filming. James Napier (Conner), however, was 21 and (to an extent) looked it, and Jeffrey Parazzo (Trent) was 25. Except Jeffrey looked very young for his age, was arguably the youngest-looking of the cast members, and actually pulled it off the best.◊ Also, Jason David Frank was 30 playing Tommy at 25. He pulled it off, too.◊
Power Rangers Jungle Fury has Casey and Lily, both 18, played by Jason Smith (24) and Anna Hutchison (22). Theo, 17, was played by Aljin Abella (23).
Power Rangers S.P.D. has Bridge, canonically 21 (despite the Jetix website inexplicably listing him as 17), played by 27 year old Matt Austin.
Power Rangers in Space has Astronema/Karone as the younger sister of Red Ranger Andros. Not only was actress Melody Perkins in her mid-20's when played the role, she's also some 4 years older than Christopher Khayman Lee, who played Andros. Not that anyone would notice, however.
Taking this a step further, Christopher was born in 1978; the other four former Turbo rangers (who were still in high school at the time) were portrayed by actors and actresses who were born between 1975 and 1977 and Andros's best friend Zhane (Silver Ranger), who should have been the about same age as Andros, was played by Justin Nimmo, who was born in 1974 along with Melody Perkins. Christopher was the youngest actor on the set and seriously looked it compared to the other male characters.
In Power Rangers Wild Force, Max (Blue Ranger) is supposed to be younger than the other rangers, but is played by then-24-year-old Philip Jeanmarie. This is justified, however, as Philip looked reasonably young for his age.
Power Rangers Ninja Storm both averts and plays this straight. Dustin was played by 18-year-old Glenn McMillan, and Tori was played by 17-year-old Sally Martin. Shane, however was played by Pua Magasiva, who was 22 at the time and looked it, which made him appear noticeably older than the other two main characters. Adam Tuominen (Hunter) was also 22 and Jorgito Vargas Jr. (Blake) was 25.
Power Rangers Dino Charge averts is slightly, since most of the characters are in the 20-22 range and the actors are in the 21-25 range. And then it's Inverted with Kendall, who is listed on the official website as being 26 despite actress Claire Blackwelder being 22, the third youngest member of the cast (and only older than the second youngest by a little less than three months).
Power Rangers Lost Galaxy inverts this with Mike, who was played by 21-year-old Russell Lawrence and is supposed to be the older brother of Leo, played by 25-year-old Danny Slavin.
Most of the teenagers on Pretty Little Liars were played by people who were very much not in their teens. The Time Skip to five years in the future was a smart move, given that Troian Bellisario (whose character of Spencer Hastings was born in 1994) turned 30 in October 2015. That's not even the worst case, considering Tammin Sursok was 27 when she started playing Jenna Marshall.
Princess Silver has a mild example; Rong Qi is in his early twenties (and it's a minor plot point that he's so ill he'll die before he turns twenty-five), while his actor Luo Yun Xi was thirty during filming.
One episode of Psych quite possibly took advantage of this trope. The killer was a young-looking adult posing as a high school student. Because of Dawson Casting, it's easy for the viewer to dismiss his possibly looking older than he should, when in-universe, he IS older than he should be.
The Channel 4 docudrama series The Queen had a mild case with the 26-year-old Katie McGrath playing the 21-year-old Princess Margaret (though she is 25 by the end of the episode). More extreme is the 35-year-old Emilia Fox playing the 25-year-old Queen Elizabeth II.
The same two actresses played sisters again in the BBC's Merlin, although this is arguably more justified as the Arthurian legends tend to suggest a fairly wide age gap between Morgause and Morgan le Fay/Morgana
Queen for Seven Days: All three of the leads are older than their characters. This has the side-effect of making Lee Yeok and Lee Yung seem closer in age than they were in real life Lee Yung was twelve years older than Lee Yeok.
Chae-gyeong was nineteen when she became queen and was deposed, and is played by thirty-one-year-old Park Min-young.
Lee Yeok was eighteen when he became king, and is played by thirty-three-year-old Yeon Woo-jin.
Lee Yung was twenty-nine when he died, and is played by thirty-seven-year-old Lee Dong-gun.
Raising Hope - In the 2012 episode called Poking Holes in the Story, 31-year-old Kara Taitz and 28-year-old Igal Ben Yair play teen characters Natalie and Robert who are wrestling with the decision to take each other's virginities. Natalie discusses this issue with 38-year-old Virginia (played by 42-year-old Martha Plimpton). Virginia is married to 40-year-old Burt (played by 48-year-old Garret Dillahunt), as they both have a son who is 23, who was born when they were 15 and 17.
Actress Rachel True played teenagers when she was in her early 30s and young twenty-somethings when she was in her late 30s to early 40s.
Patrick McKenna was 31 when he started playing teen-aged Harold Green on The Red Green Show. Interestingly, Harold did slowly age as the series progressed, eventually going to college and getting various full-time jobs. In fact, one of the reasons McKenna temporarily left the show during the late 90s was that he found it ridiculous that he was still playing a teenage character in his forties.
Riverdale: Almost all of the actors are in their twenties playing teenagers, with the exception of KJ Apa, who was 18 playing high schooler Archie. The most egregious example is 29-year-old Ashleigh Murray playing fellow high schooler Josie. Season 5 features a seven-year Time Skip, because the showrunners realized that they could not keep the cast in high school forever.
In series three of Robin Hood, 29-year-old Clive Standen played 20-year-old Archer and 30-year-old Joanne Froggatt played Kate, whose age was never stated but it was heavily implied that she is supposed to be a young teenager.
Inverted to the point of absurdity on Rome where Vorena the Younger and little Lucius are played by children under the age of ten throughout the series, in spite of nearly 20 years passing from the pilot to the finale. Especially odd when Octavian ages properly, and when Caesarion, who is born when Lucius is at least four or five years old, appears to be played by someone older than the actor playing Lucius when he appears in the second season.
Roswell: not one of the members of the younger cast (supposedly 16-17 at the start) was a teenager, with the exception of 18-year-old Majandra Delfino and (joining in mid-season) Emiliede Ravin. Shiri Appleby, Nick Wechsler and Katherine Heigl were 20, Brendan Fehr and Colin Hanks were 21 and Jason Behr was a whopping 25 years old when the first season premiered.
Melissa Joan Hart was twenty when she first starred as Sabrina Spellman, who turns sixteen in the pilot. She does graduate high school and move onto college, and a career in journalism by the seventh season (where Melissa was now 27).
Nate Richert was a mild case, as he was 18 in the first season (Harvey is 16).
Jenna Leigh Green and Michelle Beaudoin were among the older high school cast members - twenty and twenty-one respectively. Lindsay Sloane however was the same age as Valerie.
The college seasons contain this as well. Morgan's age isn't stated but she has to be very early twenties, and Elisa Donovan was nearly thirty. Soleil Moon Frye was 24 as 19-year-old Roxie. Trevor Lissauer was 25 as Miles.
The infamous balding adult extra that appeared as a student in the background of a scene in Westbridge High School.
Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures features 20-year-old Daniel Anthony as 14-year-old Clyde Langer and 18-year-old Anjli Mohindra as 15-year-old Rani Chandra. Considering they had to write out two of the lead characters because their actors were taking exams, this is a rare justified example.
On Saved by the Bell (2020) Dexter Darden, who plays musical student Devante, was 29 when the reboot premiered.
Although Principal Ron Toddman was supposedly a high school student at Bayside around the time of the original gang, John Michael Higgins is about a decade older than the original gang.
Played straight, naturally in The Secret Circle. The youngest cast member of the main cast, Britt Robertson, was 21 and the oldest, Jessica Parker Kennedy was 27. The rest of the cast members include Thomas Dekker (24), Phoebe Tonkin (23), Louis Hunter (22), Chris Zylka (27), and Shelly Hennig (25).
Not to mention Adam Harrington, who was 42, portraying the younger version of Ethan from the 90s.
Exaggerated in a few October 1968 episodes of the soap opera The Secret Storm. Christina Crawford (of Mommie Dearest fame), the 29-year-old actress who played the 28-year-old Joan Borman Kane, called in sick for about a week. Her replacement was her adoptive mother, legendary actress Joan Crawford, who was 63 years old at the time. (Thankfully, few clips of these episodes survive.)
Amazon High with 25-year-old Selma Blair as a high school student.
Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane starring 27-year-old Selma Blair as high school student Zoe.
The American version of Kath and Kim with 36-year-old Selma Blair as twenty-something Kim (though this wasn't nearly as bad as the Australian version; see below.)
In 7th HeavenBarry Watson was 22 when he started playing high school junior Matt Camden, though the rest of the actors playing the Camden kids were of the right age.
On the UK "dramedy" Shameless (UK) 21-year-old Fiona Gallagher was portrayed by then 33-year-old Anne-Marie Duff. In an interview, the actress herself admitted that she was surprised to have been offered the role, as she thought she was "too old to be seen for it."
The show also gives us 15-year old Ian (played by 20-year old Gerard Kearns) and 16-year-olds Lip, Mandy and Karen, played by actors who were 22, 22 and 21 respectively.
Duff was 30 years old when she appeared in The Magdalene Sisters as Margaret, who ages from 16 or 17 to 20-ish. The film also starred the then 25-year-old Eileen Walsh as teenage Crispina.
In Six Feet Under, the initially high-school-aged Claire Fisher was played by the initially twenty-three-year-old Lauren Ambrose.
The rest of the teenage characters were also played by actors several years older, although not as blatant as Welling. Sam Jones III (Pete), Kristin Kreuk (Lana), and Allison Mack (Chloe) were all 18 when first cast, while Eric Johnson (Whitney) was 21.
Tom Welling is two years older than Brandon Routh (Clark/Superman in Superman Returns), yet plays the same character at a much earlier point in his life (although admittedly in a different continuity). Welling also began playing Clark at about the same age (maybe a year younger) that Christopher Reeve made his screen tests to play Superman in the mid-1970s.
Square Pegs is a show from the 1982/1983 season about the two groups of 14-year-old freshmen who vie for popularity. It is often overlooked for this trope because half of the cast is under 18 (though all older than their characters). However, the other half was over 18, including Tracy Nelson (Jennifer) who was born in 1963, Jon Caliri (Vinnie) who was born in 1960, Merritt Butrick (Slash) who was born in 1959, and Claudette Wells (LaDonna) who was born in 1954, making her 28, making her twice the age of her character.
The best known example is Ensign Pavel Chekov, who was supposed to be 22 years old when 31-year-old Walter Koenig joined the show in 1967.
In the episode "Miri", the Enterprise finds a group of children who age very slowly, so even though they are all several hundred years old, they all look like preteens. Miri believably looks 13-14 even though she's played by a 19-year-old (Kim Darby). Jahn is played by a 27-year-old actor (Michael J. Pollard) - granted, one who doesn't look 27, but he also clearly isn't 14.
In "Charlie X", the titular character, 17 years old Charles Evans is played by 26- year-old Robert Walker, Jr.
Nog was supposedly a young teenager as of the first season, but played by Aron Eisenberg, who was in his twenties when the series started. This is, however, something of an odd aversion: he was cast because a kidney transplant in his youth stunted his growth and they wanted him to remain short, since Ferengi are smaller than other humanoids, rather than casting a child actor who might become too tall to be plausible as a Ferengi. However, it got incredibly jarring, because his best friend Jake (whose actor was fairly close to his character's age) had some crazy growth spurts and ended up being 6'3" by the time the series ended. I guess they didn't expect Nog to stick around as a recurring character for that long.
When first introduced, 19-year old Ziyal was played by (then) 23-year old Cyia Batten and (then) 25-year old Tracy Middendorf. During her major appearances in seasons five and six, she was around 21-22 years old and was played by (then) 34-year old Melanie Smith.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Alexander Rozhenko is portrayed first by four-year-old Jon Steuer when he's supposed to be not even two, then by 9-11 year old Brian Bonsall when Alexander is 3-5, and finally by 21-year-old Marc Worden in Deep Space Nine when he should be about eight or nine. The in-universe explanation is that Klingons mature more quickly than humans, but this is the only case across the franchise where this is stated to be the case, and other references seem to indicate otherwise (not to mention that Alexander is one-fourth human).
Similarly, in Star Trek: Voyager, 3-5 year old Naomi Wildman is played by 10-12 year old Scarlett Pomers, who looks at least 7 at the onset of the role. As with Alexander, it's implied that her non-human ancestry causes her to age more quickly (which many fans found ironic since her mother's pregnancy was exceptionally long, a fact which was also explained by Naomi not being fully human).
As a fourth-year cadet (eventually comissioned and holding the rank of ensign in the Season 1 finale), Sylvia Tilly is supposed to be in her early twenties (most likely 22 or 23 by the end of the first season), whereas the actress who portrays her, Mary Wiseman, was actually 32 (the same age as Burnham's actress Sonequa Martin-Green) when the season was shot.
Adira is 16, played by Blu del Barrio, who's 23.
Strangers with Candy — 30-something Amy Sedaris plays 40-something Jerri Blank, who decides to go back to high school as a freshman. Jerri doesn't lie about her age, and this trope is mostly inverted by casting actual teens as the students to make the situation seem even more ridiculous. Until the last episode, when 30-year-old Winona Ryder played "Fran" the coolest girl at school.
In the Canadian series Student Bodies, all the actors playing teenagers were in their early 20s.
Inverted with Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger with 16-year-old Karin Ogino playing 23/24-year-old Yuko Yamada aka Yumeria Moegi. Justified and lampshaded in that she's supposed to look much younger then she is.
In Superstore, Jonah is 26 at the time of the first episode, having recently dropped out of a Master's program. Ben Feldman was 35.
Switched at Birth is about two teenage girls who were... you know. At the start of the series Bay and Daphne are both 16, but Katie Leclerc (Daphne) was 24 when it premiered (in "The Tempest," Daphne gets a fake ID so she can pass as being of drinking age. Yeah, alright). Lucas Grabeel (Toby, Bay's big brother/Daphne's biological big brother) is even more age-inappropriate, being as he was 26 come the debut.
Tabitha, the Spin-Off to Bewitched, follows 20-something Lisa Hartman as the 20-something Tabitha Stephens. So far, so good. Except for the intro that shows a photo album filled with images of Tabitha, sequentially to show her growing up, and focuses on one photograph in particular with the caption, "Tabitha with Jerry Goldberg at 15." The photograph becomes animated, showing 20-something Lisa in the picture, (with youthful pigtails and freckles, as pointed out in simultaneous narration), sharing a milkshake with a young man. Just one of several flashbacks in the one and only season that it lasted, though possibly justified as witches in the Bewitched franchise can alter how old they look.
Although not as egregious as the main cast of some other shows set in high school, the youngest of the main cast, Tyler Posey (Scott) and Dylan O'Brien (Stiles), were both 19 when the show started. Gage Golightly (Erica) was also 19 when she debuted in season 2.
This has gradually changed due to the show progressing only a few months over the length of four seasons. Colton Haynes (Jackson) was 22 during his first season, Holland Roden (Lydia), Keahu Kahuanui (Danny), and Charlie and Max Carver (Ethan and Aiden) were all 24, Daniel Sharman (Isaac) was 25, Crystal Reed (Allison), Sinqua Walls (Boyd), and Shelley Hennig (Malia) were 26, and Arden Cho (Kira) was 28. Well over half of the cast have been on the show for two or four years, so the majority of Teen Wolf's actors are late-20-somethings playing high school students over 10 or 12 years younger than them.
Although he was 23-years-old when filming started, no one's quite sure of the supposed age of Tyler Hoechlin's character, Derek Hale. He was stated to be 19-years-old in the first season, but it's bounced up and down the age brackets since then, randomly altering the age of both Derek and his older sister Laura depending on when the creators wanted the Hale family fire to take place.
Several actors and actresses, including Crystal Reed, have cited this as being one of the main reasons why they decided to leave the show. Playing a 16/17-year-old high school student while in your late 20s to early 30s, especially one who doesn't appear to be ageing or graduating any time soon, can be quite frustrating for an ageing performer. And depending on their appearance, it has become increasingly difficult for some of the show's actors to be passed off to audiences as still being in high school.
In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 26-year-old Summer Glau played Cameron Philips, who is able to pass as a high school student. Cameron's cyborg form is patterned after a teen named Alison. And one assumes that all teens from the future live a harsh life that causes crows feet and deep smile lines, as seen on Glau's face in closeups.
The British Children's series Topsy And Tim featured Jocelyn Macnab (7-9 at the time of filming) and Joshua Lester (7-8 at the time of filming) as the 4-6 year old titular characters.
A reporter for Boston's Fox affiliate referred to Glau and costar Thomas Dekker as the show's "teen stars" in a promo for an interview segment. Dekker was 20, playing 15.
In a second season episode, Cameron was seen being served alcohol in a bar. It's likely she has IDs to cover a wide variety of ages.
Similarly, but less drastically, is Glau's portrayal of River Tam in Firefly. She was 21 (23 during the filming of Serenity) but River was only seventeen. And in the R. Tam Sessions, it went even further, with Glau playing River when she was fourteen years old. Surprisingly, she plays all these ages quite convincingly as she still looks very much like a teenager now.
That '70s Show — Danny Masterson (Hyde), Topher Grace (Eric) and Ashton Kutcher (Kelso) were respectively 22, 20 and 20 in 1998 when the show debuted. Mila Kunis was 14, younger than her character was meant to be. However, because the show ran for 8 years but was set between 1976 and 1979, she soon caught up with her character's age, then overtook it.
On That's So Raven, 16/17-year-old Raven-Symoné played 14-year-old Raven Baxter and 18-year-old Anneliese van der Pol played 15-year-old Chelsea.
An egregious case on 13 Reasons Why, with Timothy Granaderos playing 17-year-old Montgomery de la Cruz at 32. Otherwise, the majority of the cast are in their mid- to late-20s, with Devin Druid (Tyler) being the youngest at 21.
A strange example in that Chelsea Alden (Mackenzie) is 30 and Bryce Cass (Cyrus) is 22, Mackenzie being Cyrus' younger sister.
Then-18-year-old Olivia Burnette was cast as a preteen Justine O'Neil in the miniseries The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years. While someone of her petite height could plausibly have passed for someone younger, her... development made it painfully obvious she was well past puberty.
While Titans averted this by having 14-year-old Teagan Croft portray the teenage Rachel Roth, her love interest Gar Logan is played by 23-year-old Ryan Potter, even though the character is also supposed to be a teenager around Rachel's age. This was presumably due to Gar's frequent nude scenes, which would have been more difficult to film with an underage actor.
Supposed teenagers in Tower Prep include Dyana Liu (29) as Suki and Ryan Pinkston (22) as Gabe.
Touched by an Angel always employed this trope, for example 21-year-old Alyson Hannigan in Cassie's Choice, 21-year-old Melissa Joan Hart in Angels on the Air, 23-year-old Lukas Behnken in Minute by Minute, and 23-year-old Joey Lawrence and 26-year-old Paige Moss in Fool for Love.
True Blood: Obviously inverted with most of the vampires, who are centuries old but are mostly played by actors born no earlier than the 1950s. Played straight, though, for Jessica Hamby. She is said to be 17 years old when she gets turned by Bill Compton. Deborah Ann Woll was 23 years old when she debuted as Jessica late in season 1, and 29 by the show's final season in 2014.
Kal Penn was 29 when he played a high school student in Season 6 of 24.
Widely employed in Twin Peaks. For example, Laura Palmer, seventeen, was played by Sheryl Lee, who was about twenty-three years old at the time
In Underbelly: The Golden Mile the initially 17-year-old John Ibrahim is played by 25-year-old Firass Dirani, although the character was 28 by the end of the series. Ironically, the show still attracted controversy by depicting Ibrahim having sex onscreen.
Italia Ricci is ever so slightly too old to play a high-schooler in Unnatural History at 24.
Period drama Upstairs Downstairs is an interesting justified case: at the beginning of the series, Elizabeth Bellamy is 17, played by 26-year-old Nicola Pagett. But there are frequent Time Skips forward, making the character around 29 at her final episode.
Pauline Collins is several years older than the age of her character, Sarah, in the first few episodes, but like Elizabeth, they line up better by her last episode. It seems less egregious with an adult actor, because it's perfectly legitimate to cast someone according to the age she appears, rather than her actual age, and Collins did look younger than she was.
An inversion seems to have been the original four series of Upstairs Downstairs, which covered thirty years of historical period but only four years of real time. The characters remained the same age throughout the series, frozen in time between 1903 and 1930. The only attention paid to the passage of time seemed to be James, who grew grey about the temples. In the modern remake, Jean Marsh, now forty years older, reprises her role as Rose Buck, meaning Rose ages forty years in only six between the end of the Bellamy era in 1930 and the beginning of the Holland residence at Eaton Place in 1936. It does help, however, that the cast changed periodically, with Hazel and then Virginia replacing Lady Marjorie as "her Ladyship" and the introduction of another young lady, Georgina, to take on Elizabeth Bellamy-Kirbridge's role in the story. In the servants' hall, the cast similarly gains and loses members (adding Frederick and Daisy in the 1920s), but as the series progresses we still never see Rose, Edward, Hudson, Mrs Bridges or Ruby age.
This is rendered extra absurd by the fact that 22-year-old Sara Canning plays an aunt in her late 20s to Dobrev and McQueen's characters, when she is younger than some of the actors who play their classmates.
May or may not be true with Katherine. Her age of turning is never stated. If nothing else she's done this In-Universe when pretended to be 17-year-old Elena.
In their junior year (season one), when you would expect them all to be about 16 or 17, some of the main characters of Veronica Mars were: the titular heroine (24-year-old Kristen Bell), Wallace Finnel (22-year-old Percy Daggs III), Logan Echolls (22-year-old Jason Dohring), and Dick Casablancas Jr. (23-year-old Ryan Hansen).
Which worked fine, except for the episode in season two, in which then 24-year-old Kristen Bell and 25-year-old Aaron Ashmore (Troy), playing high school seniors (~18), interact with 18-year-old Michael Cera and 17-year-old Alia Shawkat... who were playing college students. One of them at least in his sophomore year, as he was acting as a tour guide to profros. That was sort of disorienting.
The series actually had an even more prominent example in the first season; Amanda Seyfried was only 18 when the series started, yet Lilly was supposedly a year older than Veronica (and all of her contemporaries — again, as noted above, played by people in their 20s). Then again, Seyfried's voluptuous figure (which the writers and directors were not afraid to draw attention to) helped her look more developed than Bell, even though Bell's face was more mature. Which is interesting in light of Seyfried's role in Mean Girls (see above), made the same year.
There was also Charisma Carpenter who played the 25-year-old Kendall when she was 35 and clearly looked like she was in her thirties. The show was not above indulging in a little meta humour about all this:
Duncan: She's like our age.
Veronica: She's twenty-five.
However, it's later found out that Kendall had assumed the identity of a younger highschool student and was actually older than first thought.
Even then Kendall's 'real' is still about seven years younger than Charisma's and presumably she was supposed to at least look 25, in-universe if nothing else.
Kind of lampshaded in the mini-episode shot to promote a possible season 4. Veronica is supposed to be in her mid-twenties, having graduated both college and the FBI academy, yet as one of the younger new recruits, she gets picked to go undercover as a teenager.
The Walking Dead — Fans are usually shocked 27-year-old actress Emily Kinney plays the 17-year-old Beth Greene. This is a rare case where the older actress might even look younger than the young character she portrays.
Likewise, her sister Maggie was implied to be fresh out of high school. However, Lauren Cohen was 28 when she first appeared and is now in her mid-30's.
Carl was 12 when the series began, and Chandler Riggs was 10; two years younger than his character. However, as of the end of Season 6, Riggs is now 17, even though only two years have passed in the timeline of the show.
Word of God has it that Daryl Dixon is "about 35". Norman Reedus was 40 when the show began filming, and is now pushing 50.
Webster — Teenaged Emmanuel Lewis plays a seven-year-old.
Gabe Kaplan stated in interviews that he believed part of the reason the ratings for Welcome Back, Kotter began to decline in series three was that the Sweathogs, whose actors were now 24-29 years old, were simply too old to still be believable as high school students.
A truly bizarre example from The West Wing. In a season four episode, Joe Quincy is being assisted by a White House Aide whom He thinks looks about fourteen and who claims to be twenty-two. She is played by Kiersten Warren who was in her late thirties and looked it. The character is never seen again aside from that scene, almost pushing it into Big-Lipped Alligator Moment territory. Like one of the page quotes, Warren actually did have a child who was the same age as the character She played.
Both averted and played straight in What I Like About You. Extremely averted with Holly (who's in-universe birthdays were near her actress, Amanda Bynes'); played straight with Henry, Vince, and Gary, all of whom were played by actors who were 24/25 at the time of their introductions, and Tina, whose actress was 28 at the time of her introduction.
The main child characters in The Whispers were supposed to range from ages 5-7, maybe 8 at most. The character of Minx did seem to be one of the older ones...maybe it was because she was portrayed by 11-year-old Kylie Rogers.
The Wilds: All of the teenage main cast are played by actresses in at least their twenties.
I want to live in Dawson's Creek, where the kids are in their 20s and their parents are in their 30s.
There's also the episode Queens for a Day, where 16-year-old Salvatore is played by 25-year-old Josh Keaton.
Will Smith was 21 when he began playing the 16-year-old titular character of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His music had already established that trend, with story songs placing him in the role of a young teen in high school even though he was in his late teens and early twenties at the time.
J.D. Williams was 24 when he began playing then-16-year-old Bodie Broadus on The Wire. Julito McCullum was 17 when his character (Namond Brice) was 14, and Tristan Wilds was 18 when his (Michael Lee) was 14. Other characters were exceptions to this trope (see below).
Another adult example is the 35-year-old Michael K. Williams as the approximately-28-year-old (in season one) Omar Little. This seems like a fairly trivial age gap, but it seems more striking when paired with Ernest Waddell (who is almost twenty years younger than Williams, making him 17 during the filming of season 2), who played Omar's lover Dante in seasons 2 and 3.
D'Angelo Barksdale is another adult example. Prison records seen in season three indicate that he was approximately 23. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. was 31 during production of the first season, the same age as Idris Elba (Stringer Bell). What makes this more jarring is that he's supposed to be the nephew of Avon Barksdale, yet Wood Harris is only two years older than Gilliard.
Popular — A show about two opposite groups of high school sophomores, some explicitly stated as 15 and 16. From youngest to oldest, there's Carly Pope (19), Sara Rue (20), Bryce Johnson (22), Tamara Mello (23), Leslie Bibb (25), Christopher Gorham (25), Tammy Lynn Michaels (25), Leslie Grossman (28). Ron Lester was 29 in the first season, therefore 30 in the second season and still playing a teen.
In Telemundo's soap opera Marina, the main character of the same name played by Sandra Echeverría had a son called Chuy played by Alfonso Dosal and an adoptive daughter called Patty played by Ilean A Lmaguer. Curiously Sandra and Ilean were the same age (23) and Alfonso just one year younger (22) when the series was filmed.
Inverted with Maura West, who was born in 1972, playing Diane Jenkins on The Young and the Restless during 2010-2012, a character that was created when West was ten years old and was already an adult of at least 25. So not only was she playing a character old enough to be her mother, but she looked young enough that she could have been more convincingly Dawson cast than play a woman in her 50s.
A rare example from the other end of the age spectrum can be seen in Rescue Me when Jerry Adler joins the cast as Chief Feinberg. Feinberg is an old man, but since he is still working a regular shift in a firehouse he presumably must be a good deal younger than the 78 years Adler was when he took the part.
In the Tim Allen series Last Man Standing Middle daughter Mandy Baxter, who is supposed to be a senior in high school during the first season, is played by Molly Ephraim, who was 26 when the series started in 2011.
Head of the Class — Most of the cast members are in their 20s, but Dan Frischman was in his late 20s and early 30s during the show's run from 1986 to 1991. The creators and producers of the show have said this... Season One: 9th grade, Season Two: 10th grade, Season Three: 11th grade, Season Four: First semester of 12th grade, Season Five: Second semester of 12th grade. So they were all playing 14 year olds in the first season.
On Hawaii Five-0, Max hasn't been given a specific age, but his biomom was killed in the 80s and he has no memory of her, making it likely that's the decade he was born in; actor Masi Oka was born in '74. His love interest Sabrina is played by Rumer Willis, a full thirteen years his junior and actually born in the late 80s, but they look like they could share a birthday.
Grace Park is already an example, but a flashback takes it even further, having Park in her late 30s play Kono in her mid teens.
Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand and New Year's Rockin' Eve was called "America's oldest teen." Seriously at first back in his 20s, then humorously, then fondly with headlines like America's Oldest Teen Dead at 82
Rags to Riches is a 1980s TV show about a millionaire who adopts five orphan girls, each "girl" played by a woman over the age of 18, and most of whom were over the age of 20.
A weird example happened in Tru Calling: 22-year-old Tru is played by the 23-year-old Eliza Dushku, which is reasonable. However, she's apparently able to pass for 17 in the episode "Star Crossed".
Dark Matter: Five says a fifteen-year old boy is around her age. The actress playing her, Jodelle Ferland, is twenty.
You Can't Do That on Television, Christine "Moose" McGlade was kept on the show until age 23 due to her ability to "pass as 16" while most of the other actors were between the ages of 10 and 15.
Faking It: All of the teenagers in the cast are in their 20s...though their stated ages are 15 (Karma gets a 16th birthday in season 2). This not only allows them to tackle lesbian themes...and threesomes...but it also makes the first season finale extremely squicky in at least three ways (not the least of which is that the wedding party knowingly served alcoholic drinks to minors). It's also lampshaded a couple of times through Shane, who is often mistaken for a college student.
Gotham: Possible since Cameron Monaghan is 22 while his character of Jerome Valeska is 16-17.
Victoria: Jenna Coleman was 29 (and turned 30 during production) as she portrayed Queen Victoria starting from the age of 18 in this miniseries.
In the final season of The Twilight Zone (1959) two different episodes—Spur of the Moment and Number Twelve Looks Just Like You—feature a young woman who is explicitly said to be 18. In each case, the character was played by a 28-year-old actress. In Spur it could be justified since the same character, played by the same actress, is also seen 25 years older; in Twelve it seriously weakens the point of the episode.
2014's short-lived Star-Crossed has an example that trumps even Gabrielle Carteris from 90210: Matt Lanter portrays a 16-year old (admittedly alien) boy, despite Lanter himself being only a couple of months shy of 31 years old at the time (Carteris was 29). Made more hilarious by the fact that Lanter was on the 90210 reboot, playing a teenager when he himself was in his mid-20s.
The Sinner: 35 year old Jessica Biel plays Cora Tanetti, who's 26 or 27 (judging by the fact her parents said she left in 2012 at age 23, and the show is set in 2016).
The Lifetime Movie of the WeekI Am Elizabeth Smart has 20-year old Alana Boden as the then 14-15 year old Smart. Completely necessary, given the numerous rapes Elizabeth suffered during her captivity, which obviously could not be depicted with an underage actress (even then, Boden actually looks like a teenager, making a Rape Discretion Shot necessary anyway).
Accidentally drawn attention to on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Sixteen year old Indiana Jones joins the army by lying about his age and saying he was 22. He's eventually called out on this, with a character asking how old he really was and saying he was a "very young" 22 year old. The actor playing Indy was 27 when the episode aired and looked it.
Criminal Minds: Jamie Gray Hyder played a character who's about nine years younger than her. At the time she was 33, meaning she's playing a 23 or 24 year old at most.
Finding Carter: Kathryn Prescott was 23 when she played a 16 year old here. The actress playing her twin sister, Anna Jacoby Heron, was 19 starting out (which is admittedly not as big of a difference).
The School Nurse Files: The students of Mokryeon High were portrayed by adults. Song Hee-jun, who was casted in the role of Hye-min was 25 in 2020, and Park Hye-eun, who was casted in the role of Ara, was 23 in 2020.
Tom Hulce was 29 when he played John Doe #12 (David Stewart), who is about 16 or 17, in "Graveyard", "Release" and "Family History". Dr. Philip Chandler repeatedly refers to David as a kid. He is played by Denzel Washington, who is one year younger than Hulce.
Eric Stoltz was 21 or 22 when he played the 15-year-old Eddie Carson in "Under Pressure", "Entrapment" and "All About Eve".
The 22-year-old Lycia Naff played the 14-year-old Maddy Holmes in the Season Three episodes "Saving Face", "Give the Boy a Hand" and "Any Portrait in a Storm".
Robert Romanus was 29 when he played the teenager Nick Meose in the Season Four episode "The Naked and the Dead".
The early seasons of the entire Degrassi franchise are praised for avoiding this trope most of the time. In fact, both in the 80s and 2000s incarnations, it was actually the producers' intention to cast real kids. Except even those weren't safe.
In Degrassi Junior High we have 14 year old Christine "Spike" Nelson, played by then 17-year-old Amanda Stepto. However, apart from not being the biggest age gap in the world, you can't really tell. Amanda doesn't look older; in fact during the first season she looked and sounded younger than 14. But by the time Degrassi High began filming in the spring of 1989, Amanda would have been already out of high school before her character even began it. For context, Amanda was born in 1970. Degrassi High started in 1989.
In Degrassi High, we have Dwayne Myers played by Darrin Brown, who was only born a few months after Amanda. He too would have already been at university while his character was in high school.
Next Generation began continuing the trend of casting real kids as a backlash to other teen dramas, but even from the beginning it veered into this trope, with Sean and Hazel's actors already being 16 playing middle schoolers. Then in season 3, there is Jay Hogart, played by 19 year old Mike Lobel, and Rick Murray, played by 18 year old Ephraim Ellis. As for Rick, he doesn't look that much older than his character. As for Jay, people have cracked jokes about him looking 25 and still going to high school.
Starting from season 10 of Next Generation, when said subtitle was dropped, we have Eli Goldsworthy, played by Munro Chambers, who was already 20. By the time his character graduated, his actor would have been of or close to the age to graduate college. There's also countless other examples. It's worth noting that this is when they switched episode formats and the timeline began to move slowly, so this trope would gradually get worse over time.
When They See Us: Yusef Salaam is about 23 years old when we first see him out of prison. He's played by Chris Chalk, who was 39 during filming.
Sneaky Pete: In the final season, Carly is still a 17-year-old high school student, while the actress playing her was about 26 at the time of filming.
Euphoria: All of the actors are older than their high school-age characters, usually by at least four years, likely due to the nature and large amount of sexual content.
NOS4A2: In the series, Vic (who's seventeen at the start) is played by twenty six year old Ashleigh Cummings. Similar age gaps exist with the actors who play other teenage characters.
In the Mini SeriesQueen (based on the life of Alex Haley's paternal grandmother), Halle Berry plays the teenaged Queen even though she was in her early 20's at the time, though this is justified by her continuing to play the part as her character aged.
The Polish historical drama Crown of Kings has a 22 year old acctress play the 12 year old Jadwiga, King of Poland. This is deliberate to hide the Unfortunate Implications of the fact that the Jadwiga is about to marry Prince Jagiela who was 35 at the time of the wedding. Subverted with Jagiela's actor who looks to be in his twenties but is actually 34. The audience sees a couple who appear close in age and are not squicked out by the fact that the a child is about to marry someone 13 years older than her.
In "A Message from Charity", Robert Duncan McNeill was 20 when he played the 16-year-old Peter Wood while Kerry Noonan was 25 when she played Charity Payne, who is much the same age.
In "The Toys of Caliban", David Greenlee was 26 when he played Toby Ross, who is supposed to be in his early teens at most.
In "Joy Ride", Robert Knepper was 27 and Brooke McCarter and Heidi Kozak were both 23 when they played the teenagers Alonzo, Greg and Adrienne.
In "Private Channel", Scott Coffey was 22 when he played the 16-year-old Keith Barnes.
In "Time and Teresa Golowitz", Wallace Langham was 22, Grant Heslov was 23 and Gina Gershon was 24 when they played Nelson Baxley, Bluestone and Laura Schuppe, all of whom are 16 or 17.
In "Song of the Younger World", Jennifer Rubin was 25 when she played the teenager Amy Hawkline.
With one exception, listed below, Runaways (2017) concerns a group of high schoolers played by 20 year olds (up to 25 in Gregg Sulkin's case).
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.
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.
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. At the start of the show in 2006, he was approaching 29. 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. The show itself pokes fun at this trope in an episode when the characters goes to an award show and the category "Best Cast of Adults Portraying Teenagers" is said to be won by Glee.
Veronica Dunne is the only cast member of K.C. Undercover to play this trope straight - she turned 20 not long after the series began its run, which means come season 2 she'll not be a teenager, unlike her character Marisa Clark.
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 13 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.
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 (2003), 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.
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.
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 characters,note Although that may have just been an accident. There's a pretty large gap of time between when an episode films and when it airs, and their birthdays might have just happened in the meantime. 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.
This was a big issue with season 10 regular Cole Trenton who was supposed to be 11 years younger than Dean yet his actor Travis Aaron Wade is 3 years older than Jensen Ackles.
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.
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.
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 hit puberty... and his voice ended up being 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, M.D., 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.
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 and deconstructed in one episode, an adult woman in her early 20s poses as a student in order to bust drug dealers. Nobody is fooled.
Matthew in One Life to Live is canonically about a year older than actor Eddie Alderson.
Castle: 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. Richard's daughter Alexis is eighteen, as is her actress Molly Quinn. 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 Buechneris 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.
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.
New Zealand series The Tribe averted this with every one of the actors playing characters the same age, give or take a year.
Ramona, a short series based on the Ramona Quimby books, subverted this surprisingly well. Ramona is 8 years old and in third grade, as was her actress at the time. (On the other hand, another adaptation of the source material, Ramona and Beezus, plays the trope very straight!)
Breaking Bad's high school-age Walter White, Jr. is played by high school-age RJ Mitte, who was 15 at the show's outset. However, the show eventually played the trope straight as only two years passed in-universe over the show's five-year run, so Mitte was 4 years older than his character at the show's end.
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 Liarsaverts 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." With the five-year Time Skip, she's now four years younger than Alison. (It helps that Lucy Hale looks younger than Sasha Pieterse, despite being seven years older.)
Averted in Earth 2. 8-year-old Uly Adair and 10-year-old True Danziger were played by actors aged 8 and 10 respectively.
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.
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.
The episode "The Dicks They Are A-Changin'" has a series of flashbacks showing Mary Albright as a young student at Berkeley during the '60s. Rather than use a Timeshifted Actor, the episode features a middle-aged Jane Curtin playing her character's younger self.
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 MovieBirds 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!
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.
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 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.
Bay, Vanessa Marano's character on Switched at Birth, was born in 1995. Vanessa herself was born in 1992. Sean Berdy (Emmett) is also about right, since he was born in 1993.
Modern Family: The show notably averts this for everyone except Haley. Sarah Hyland was eighteen at the time her agent tried to get her the part for sixteen year-old Haley, and the casting department tried to deny her before she even auditioned. Her agent assured them that she didn't look eighteen. In fact, there were some notable flame wars claiming that Sarah was too young for the role.
Dylan Sprayberry as Liam on Teen Wolf was 15 when he first appeared on set and finished the series at age 18. Especially noticeable as he is the only main cast member to actually be of high school age. Compared to the rest of the male teenage cast (except for Stiles), he was noticeably less sexualized, which would have been awkward given that he was a minor.
Danish kids' show Klassen attempts to avert this trope so much that it almost inverts it by season 3. It's about a bunch of six graders, and in the Danish school system, most kids are 12 when they start sixth grade (a few are only 11 if they turn 12 during the fall). In the first two seasons, almost all of the cast members are 13 or 14. One year later when filming for season 3 started, the original cast members (now 14 or 15) were considered too old to play sixth graders, and all of them were written out of the show to be replaced with a bunch of new actors. In the hope that they could keep their role for more than one year before getting too old, most of the new actors are 11, some of them 12. While technically not too young to play sixth graders, the new season 3 class does have a disproportionately high amount of 11-year-olds compared to a Real Life sixth grade class, in which most kids would be 12.
Somewhat averted for the most part in Stranger Things with the younger kids, as the actors playing Will and Eleven actually were 12 and the others were 13 or 14 in the first season.
Raising Dion: Dion and other kids are played by child actors that are around the same age as their characters. JaSiah Young was 8 when filming the first season.
Northern Rescue: Zigzags this. Seventeen year-olds Maddie and Gwen are played by Amanda Williamson and Elianna Jones (who were about eighteen and twenty respectively during filming but look a little younger) while Maddie's fifteen year-old brother Scout is played by Spencer McPherson, who was twenty or twenty-one during the filming of season one.
American Housewife: Meg Donnelly (Taylor), Daniel DiMaggio (Oliver), and Julia Butters (Anna-Kat) were all born within a year of their respective characters.
Edutainment Shows broadcast on NHK generally cast child actors to play any kid characters:
The "big sister" in Inai Inai Baa! is always played by a female child. Usually, a pre-teen is cast, but there are some cases where she was younger, like how Yuki was 5 years old when she began her stint as host on the show.
Miitsuketa!! has Sui-chan played by a female child actor.
Cooking Idol Ai! Mai! Main! has then ten-year-old Haruka Fukuhara playing the protagonist in both the anime and cooking segments.
Kitchen Sentai Cookrun also features child actors playing the protagonists, but contained a very interesting case of this trope. While the actress who played Cumin in the first season was 7 years old, the character herself was a kindergartner.
Runaways (2017) has one actual teenager among the title group, 15 year old Allegra Acosta as Molly.
CBC Kids usually features real-life children in their music videos and segments. Some of them have notably gone on to pursue acting careers in Canadian entertainment.
Game of Thrones cast actual teenagers or children for the roles of the younger Starks (Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon), the Baratheon children (Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen), Robin Arryn, and Hot Pie. Since the show disregarded the books' Webcomic Time in favor of real time pacing, they never underwent this trope.