There are a few concerns I have when it comes to age and television (and movies). In particular, I hate it when it is clear that an actor is too old for a role, because sometimes, it is far too obvious that a twenty-something is playing a 15-year-old. It just looks bad when some 28-year-old in heavy makeup is playing the most popular boy in school or a woman who is obviously over 25 is playing a high-achieving class president.
It might not have been as obvious [to younger viewers] when Beverly Hills 90210 first aired but it was shocking to first find out some of the actors’ ages. (I’ll let you decide what you think about Gabrielle Carteris’ role as “Andrea,” since she was the oldest to play a high-schooler on the show starting at age 29.)
However, it became clear that young adults would be cast in these roles. There would be many shows aimed at teens, including Dawson’s Creek, and most of the cast would be played by actors already in their twenties. Why? Many of these actors have more range than most teens do and are better prepared to deal with heavier material. Does it still bother me? Of course it does.
Here are a few glaring examples:
Ben Mackenzie Was in His Mid-20’s
I remember when The OC first came out, and I took a look at Benjamin McKenzie.
I immediately thought it was obvious that he was 26 years old. Then, I saw him give an interview in which he revealed that he was in age I had guessed him to be :zaru. It should be noted that this sort of thing was lampshaded during the run of the show.
I Wasn’t Surprised by Liz Weil
Another past example is Liz Weil on “Gilmore Girls.”
More has been made about Keiko Agena’s age (she played Lane and she is around 4 years older than Weil), but Weil stood out to me more. Originally considered for the role of Rory, Weil played Paris Geller — a role specifically made for her — for all 7 seasons of the drama. Weil was 30 when the show ended, and I could tell by her face (and her zeal) that she was significantly older than her character as the show progressed.
I Was Surprised by These Two
Consider Bianca Lawson on “Pretty Little Liars” from 2010-2012. She was about 33 at the end of her run there, but she played a teenager for close to 19 years.
If you can remember her playing on Saved by the Bell: The New Class, perhaps you saw the show during its original run over 2 decades ago.
I was particularly floored when I learned that Jason Earles was 32 in 2009.
I had seen episodes of Hannah Montana — and Earles in an earlier role — but I had no idea how much older he was than the characters he portrayed. He did have kind of an older look, though.
There Were Adults Playing Teens on Glee
Currently, there are notable instances of adults playing teens on network television, of course, but I will list another past example here.
Glee may have done the best job concealing the ages of its cast full of twenty-somethings portraying teens. Chris Colfer was the youngest original cast member. He’ll turn 26 in May, but he always looked exceptionally fresh faced. Harry Shum, Jr. (“Mike Chang”) will turn 34 near the end of this month, but one could not necessarily tell that he was close to 30 when he was on the show.
The late Cory Monteith was 31 when he died in 2013, but he was pretty convincing as an older teen. Still, it is pretty jarring to consider that two of the oldest “teens” were only a few years younger than Matt Morrison, who played their musical director.
Vampires Never Age…but Their Portrayers Do
I also have issues with vampire stories in terms of how the actors age. Maybe’s it’s just me, but to some degree, I feel that the aging of an actor ruins the illusion. Take David Boreanaz as “Angel” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and his character’s self-titled spin-off. Also, look at Paul Wesley on Vampire Diaries. He’s 33; he’ll turn 34 in July.
Stefan was supposed to be a 17-year-old when he was turned and it should be noted that Wesley had played a teen during the early seasons of Smallville.
Now, I’m not saying that adults should be kept out of these roles at all. It is understandable why young adults are often chosen for these roles over teenagers, but it shouldn’t be too obvious that the actors are young adults. On the flip side, there can be bad actors who are around the right age for the role…