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Underage Casting

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You know how sometimes you're watching a show and you think, "Hey, isn't that person too young to be a doctor?" This is an example of under-aged casting, and it happens when an actor is far too young for the character that they're portraying. For example, a 22-year-old actor is playing a character who's said to have a doctorate degree; unless they were some kind of teenage prodigy, they would be in their late 20s at the absolute youngest, and if they're experienced and respected in their field, mid-30s.

This happens most frequently to characters who are doctors, lawyers or some other profession that requires several years of graduate/professional school, though this trope can be justified if the character is said to have skipped grades to get where they are.

Thanks to Hollywood double standards against middle-aged actresses, younger women tend to be cast in older roles more often than men.

It is not simply the opposite of Dawson Casting, because it doesn't only require that the actor is younger than the character. The actor must be too young to logically fill the character's role themselves.

Sometimes applies when the character being played is extremely elderly, such that an actor of equal age, if not retired, would be too physically frail to endure the rigors of a demanding production schedule.

See also Improbable Age.

Contrast with Age Lift.


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    Live Action Television 
  • Moon Lovers: Averted when Ha-jin first arrives in the past, since the characters are roughly the same age as their actors, but played straight later. Ha-jin spends at least twenty years in the past, but virtually no one visibly ages during that time. Reaches ridiculous levels in the epilogue, which takes place several years after Ha-jin's death but shows Baek-ah and Wang So looking exactly the same as they did over twenty years earlier.
  • House: Real doctors (not including Doogie Howser, M.D.) usually graduate from medical school in their mid-20s, and at that point they've still got years of residency ahead before they can do the kinds of jobs the characters on the show do. When their respective characters joined the cast, Olivia Wilde was 23, Jesse Spencer and Charlyne Yi were 25, and Odette Annable was 26.
  • This was inevitable in Home Movie: The Princess Bride with how much Colorblind Casting is in this production; most instances are actors' clearly too-young children either Fake Shemping or playing characters that are adults in the original, with no attempt to make them look older. Like everything else, it's Played for Laughs.
    • During Tom Lennon's turn as Humperdinck, his son Oliver, eleven years old at the time of the shooting, plays Count Rugen in the early search for Buttercup.
    • For Patton Oswalt's turn as Vizzini during the Battle of Wits, his daughter Alice, eleven years old at the time of shooting, plays Buttercup.
    • At 50, Sarah Silverman is the youngest of the actors to play the Grandfather. She wears a silver wig, graying bushy mustache and eyebrows, and a suit, and puts on something like an exaggerated East Coast or Philly accent ("Yes, you're very smaht."). Never mind that unless some people were having kids very young, fifty is pretty young to have an eleven-year-old grandchild, and makeup aside, she doesn't look fifty, anyway.
  • When she was cast on Law & Order, Jill Hennessy was twenty-four. The minimum age at which a normal person can graduate from law school is twenty-five. Although this is a minor example since the way a person aged 24 and one aged 25-27 looks isn't that much different if at all, someone aged 24 could conceivably play a person 3-4 years older and no one would notice.
  • Gillian Anderson was cast as Dana Scully on The X-Files at 24, though she lied and said she was 27 to make her seem more believable as an FBI agent with a medical degree; her character is 28 at the start of the series. A combination of Under Age Casting and Improbable Age for the character make for noticeable dissonance. Scully is a teacher at Quantico and a forensic pathologist, a career which requires 13-15 years of education. This is in addition to the two years she is stated to have been with the FBI in the pilot. Scully should be at least in her mid-30s in the pilot.
  • On Miami Vice, Helena Bonham Carter was twenty when she played a doctor who was supposed to be about thirty. At the time, she looked like she was twelve.
  • The Newsroom: Olivia Munn was 29 years old when she started shooting Season One when the character is supposed to have two PhDs and several years of real-world experience beside, before the start of the show, making her character at least a few years older than her actual age.
  • Rue McClanahan was only 51 when she was first played retiree Blanche on The Golden Girls, whereas her castmates were all in their 60s (however, in an early episode, Blanche does first encounter menopause, so early fifties might have been right). Her costar Estelle Getty was 62 when she started playing Sophia, the 80-year-old mother of Dorothy, despite being a year younger than her onscreen daughter Bea Arthur.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, episode "Whom Gods Destroy": Fleet Captain Garth of Izar, whose exploits have been studied by Kirk at the academy, is played by a 34-year-old actor. Steve Ihnat was in fact younger than William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "The Pegasus", Terry O'Quinn plays Riker's first commanding officer, Admiral (formerly Captain) Pressman. Pressman is presumably 15-20 years older than Riker, but O'Quinn is barely a month older than Jonathan Frakes, who plays Riker.
    • Within the show, Captain Picard is pushing 60 at the time the series starts. Patrick Stewart, on the other hand, was 47 at the time TNG premiered.
    • In "Half a Life", David Ogden Stiers played Dr. Timicin, who is soon to turn 60, at which point the people from his society commit ritual suicide. Stiers was 48 at the time he did the episode.
  • The majority of Power Rangers teams are high school students (played by 20-somethings), but the occasional season will have a team of rangers with other professions that require extensive training still played by the typical 18-25 actors they always have. Dana Mitchell of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue was a paramedic played by 20-year-old Allison McInnis, who was then a full-fledged pediatrician the next year. Dana's older brother Ryan played by Rhett Fisher is same age as McInnis and Captain Mitchell Dana and Ryan's father is played by Ron Rogee is only twelve years older. Similarly, by the time of Dino Thunder, Tommy Oliver (then-31-year-old-Jason David Frank) had finished college, gotten a Doctorate in Palaeontology, and developed the Dino Thunder technology, all in the six-year span since he graduated high school midway through Turbo. Power Rangers in Space, Astronema/Karone is younger sister of Andros but Melody Perkins is 4 years older than Christopher Khayman Lee. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Mike Corbett is older brother of Leo Corbett but Mike's actor Russell Laurence is 5 years younger than Leo's actor Danny Slavin.
  • General Hospital: Jason Thompson plays Patrick Drake, a well-known neurosurgeon, despite the fact that he premiered in 2005 when he was 29 years old...which is a few years younger than the average age of most attending physicians. Similarly, Kimberly McCullogh returned as Robin Scorpio at roughly the same time as an attending, though she (and her character) were 27 at the time, which meant that she would have been more likely to be a resident.
  • An in-universe example happens in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "T.R.A.C.K.S": Coulson and Simmons are under cover as a father/daughter couple. Simmons, who is in her mid twenties, remarks that Coulson (in his late forties) is much too young to have a daughter her age (he isn't, but she was mostly just saying it to make him feel better about the ruse)
  • The fictional Prime Minister Michael Callow in the first episode of Black Mirror was played by Rory Kinnear, 33 at the time. Not as improbable as some other examples, but the youngest British Prime Minister in the last century was 42 when he assumed office.
  • Strong Medicine's Dr. Lu Delgado is a full-fledged physician even though her actress Rosa Blasi was only 27 when the show premiered. At that age, she'd still be in her residency, not practicing on her own.
  • Part of the Tragic Backstory of Strike Back's Colonel Alexander Coltrane is an especially traumatic mission in the Balkans in 1992. He explicitly stated that he was a lieutenant, but at that time, his portrayer, Jamie Bamber, would have been only 19 and would have been extremely unlikely to be ranked that high.
  • The Nanny: Although C.C. Babcock's exact age was never mentioned onscreen (one episode suggested that she was in her 40s), it's still implied that she's at least several years older than Fran Fine, even though in real life, Lauren Lane (C.C.) is 4 years younger than Fran Drescher (Fran).
  • In Episodes, then 28-Year-Old Mircea Monroe portraying the very much aged (possibly 40s or 50s) actress Morning Randolph, who was said to have plastic surgeries to stay young.
  • Ultraman Gaia has one episode mention that it’s Georgie’s 20th Birthday. Maria Theresa Gow was only 16 during production of the show.
  • In Family Matters, Darius McCrary (Eddie) was only 13 in the first season but was playing a high school freshman. And even though Eddie was the eldest of the Winslow children, McCrary is actually a month younger than his "little" sister Laura's actress Kellie Shanygne Williams. The reason he got away with it is because McCrary was very tall as a boy, already as tall as his onscreen father Carl in the first season. By the time the show ended with Eddie as an adult, McCrary was 6'3 and towered over his castmates.
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor strangely casts the 26-year-old Alex Essoe as Charlotte, mother of Miles and Flora (who are twelve and eight respectively). Married to a man twenty years older than her, and having an affair with his similar in age brother, she comes across as wildly too young for the character; acting with a wise, motherly presence that suggests she's meant to be in her late thirties. Contrast with Victoria Pedretti, who's the same age, playing a character who was only recently about to get married.
  • Nos4a 2: Vic's parents in the series are played by actors only eleven and fourteen years older than her actor, respectively (though of course, Vic's actor is significantly older than her character).
  • Lynne Frederick was 22 when she played Shermeen Williams in the Space: 1999 episode "A Matter of Balance". If we assume that Shermeen is the same age as the actress, this means she would have been only a teenager at the time of the accident that launched the moon out of Earth orbit.
  • Kamen Rider BLACK SUN: Hidetoshi Nishijima played 80 something years old Kotaro Minami and Nishijima is 51 years old. Tomoya Nakamura also played 80 something years old Nobuhiko Akizuki and Nakamura is 35 years old.
  • Cobra Kai: Alicia Hannah-Kim plays Kim Da-Eun, a woman around her 40s, while Hannah-Kim herself was 35 by the time Season 5 rolled around.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Sara Canning was 21 when she was cast as Elena and Jeremy's aunt Jenna (played by 20-year-olds Nina Dobrev and Steven McQueen). Jenna is supposed to be in her late 20s, early 30s.
    • David Anders is only 8 years older than Nina Dobrev, who plays his daughter. Though, his receding hairline does make him look older than he actually his.
  • House of the Dragon:
    • Olivia Cooke was 28 when she first appeared as adult Alicent Hightower. Before the show jumped six years into the future in episode 8, her casting makes sense in-universe, as Alicent is a teenage mom and her eldest child, Aegon, is 13 years old (though played by a 19-year-old actor). After the time jump, however, she just looks far too young to be the mother of four young adult children.
    • To a lesser extent, Emma D'Arcy, who was 29 when they first appeared as adult Rhaenyra Targaryen. They continues to portray Rhaenyra after the timeskip in episode 8, in which her eldest son, Jacaerys, is 16 years old, even though it's been established that she had him when she was 18.
  • Neighbours:
    • Alan Dale, who played Paul Robinson's father Jim, is only 11 years older than Stefan Dennis in real life. Overlaps with Dawson Casting, as Dennis is about six years older than Paul was meant to be.
    • Nick Waters was only 34 when he played Fred Mitchell, several years younger than Anne Charleston as his estranged wife Madge, making him about 14 when he would have married her and not much older when their children Henry and Charlene were born.
    • Shane Connor (b.1959) and Carla Bonner (b.1973) played Joe Scully and his daughter Stephanie. Again overlaps with Dawson Casting in Stephanie's case.
    • Andrew McFarlane played Max Hoyland's father Bobby, despite being only 13 years older than Stephen Lovatt. He was also ten years younger than his ex-wife Rosie's actor Maggie Millar.
  • The Boys and Gen V: Claudia Doumit was 30 years old while filming the first season of Gen V, when her character is in the middle of a vice presidential campaign. In the United States, vice presidents must be at least 35 years of age. Amusingly, Doumit is only two years older than Jaz Sinclair, who plays a college freshman.
  • I Love Lucy: One of the most famous examples is Vivian Vance playing Ethel Mertz. While Ethel's age is never explicitly given, it's heavily implied that the Mertzes are an significantly older couple than the Ricardos. In reality, Vance was only two years older than Lucile Ball and 22 years younger than William Frawly playing her husband. Vance was annoyed at being presented as an old lady.
  • Only Murders in the Building: Mandy Gonzalez, who plays Mabel's mother Silvia, is only fourteen years older than her onscreen daughter Selena Gomez in real life. For an additional Double Standard, Mark Consuelos plays Mabel's father in flashbacks to when she is around twelve, would have been in his late 40s or early 50s at the time.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Robin (born 1980) is the youngest character of the main cast but she still actually a couple of years older than Cobie Smulders (born 1982) is in real life, presumably to shift her being a news anchor out of Improbable Age territory.
  • Corporal Jones from Dad's Army was in his late seventies at the very least but was played by Clive Dunn who was only 48 when the series started. Meaning that, ironically, the oldest member of the platoon was played by one of the youngest members of the cast.
  • Bread (1986): Grandad's actor Kenneth Waller was actually 14 years younger than the character he played. Grandad was born in 1913 while Waller was born in 1927.
  • Steptoe and Son: Wilfrid Brambell was only 49 when he began playing Albert Steptoe, who was supposed to be 63 when the series began; he was just 13 years older than his onscreen son Harry H. Corbett.
  • You Rang, M'Lord?:
  • Are You Being Served?: Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold) played the part of a middle manager who had served in the Second World War, but he was in reality only five months older than Trevor Bannister (Mr. Lucas), who portrayed a junior who had been at school during the War.
  • Home Improvement: Zachery Ty Bryan who played eldest son Brad is one month younger than Jonathan Taylor Thomas who played middle son Randy.
  • Both Blue Murder and its sequel feature Richard Roxburgh playing Roger Rogerson over a timespan of several years or even decades. By the end, Roxburgh was at most 55 playing Rogerson at age 75.

  • AOA: A good chunk of the dance unit members in the "Short Hair" MV (police woman, Scar mechanic, air stewardess), it's all in good fun.

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