10 Older Actors Who Still Managed To Play Teenagers On Screen Source:

It is understandable that you don’t want to cast unknown spotty teenagers in movies and TV shows, but sometimes an actor is cast that is near twice the age that they are playing. No matter how much wardrobe and makeup work is done, there is no hiding the fact that these performers are worryingly too old to be playing a character dealing with the tribulations of adolescence and high school. Life would have been much easier if we looked like these performers when we were 16, but in order to be believable, you must suspend your disbelief in these cases.

10. Leonardo DiCaprio – Catch Me if You Can

Due to the maturity of the character and the astonishing amount he accomplishes, it is easy to forget that Frank Abagnale was only 16 and 17 throughout the movie. It is also easy to forget because he is played by one of the most famous faces in Hollywood, Leonardo DiCaprio, who was 28 years old. It is a safe bet that most 16-year-olds would kill for the looks of 28 year old DiCaprio, but it is likely that the real life Frank Abagnale was not quite so glamorous. Due to what he accomplished, however, it is likely that he looked a lot older than he actually was, as it is hard to imagine a regular 16-year-old convincing an airline that he is a pilot. DiCaprio puts in a fantastic performance, and in this case, it is best that an older actor was used for the role. Source:

9. Trevor Donovan – 90210

First appearing on the show a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Trevor Donovan will have had to search the memory bank for what it was like to be the age of his character, 19-year-old Teddy Montgomery. Trevor was almost 35 years old by the time the show ended, but 90210 is known for relying on attractive and glamorous performers to play the roles of their young characters, and the audience must suspend their disbelief when watching. It is hard to blame shows such as this, and the countless others, as a huge reason why people tune into the series is to watch attractive people on their screens. The show would not be anywhere near as popular if unknown spotty teenagers were used. Equally, it can be frustrating for younger viewers to identify with those that have not been in high school for a decade. Source:

8. Taylor Kitsch – Friday Night Lights

For female fans of the show, the character of Tim Riggins was a big pulling factor and certainly helped its popularity. Played by Taylor Kitsch, Tim Riggins is a rugged, chiseled, brooding and muscular bad boy, but also still in high school and just a teenage boy (albeit a football player). Kitsch was 28-years old by the time his character graduated high school, and due to his frame and chiseled looks, he certainly wasn’t fooling anyone (particularly in the first season). If a high school football team had somebody that looked like Taylor Kitsch on their team, some big questions would be asked about his eligibility and proof of age would be demanded. Although painstakingly obvious that he is around 10 years older than his character, there is no denying that Kitsch masters the role of the tortured, beer guzzling and brooding fullback/running back. Source:

7. Charisma Carpenter – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In addition to her incredible name, Charisma Carpenter is best known for playing Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and later the spin-off Angel. When she started playing the role of Buffy’s fellow cheerleader and fighter of supernatural forces she was 27 years old, whereas her character was just 16. Despite the haircut and wardrobe, this wasn’t fooling anyone. However, nobody seemed to mind as between her and Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular character, there was enough eye candy to keep most happy and without asking too many questions. Carpenter appeared for three seasons on Buffy (making her roughly 30 by the time she left), and was then offered a larger role as the same character on Angel where she was a regular for four seasons. She later returned for the 100th episode of the fifth and final season to give the fans closure. Source:

6. Stacey Dash – Clueless

In the 1995 coming of age comedy classic Clueless, Alicia Silverstone was 18 years old playing a 15 year old. This is (kind of) believable, but Stacey Dash was 28 when she played the role of fellow 15-year-old Dionne. Although most of the audience would recognize the fact that Dash was clearly not in her teens, the majority were “clueless” that Dash was nearly twice the age of the character she portrayed. A large amount of this comes down to the hair, makeup and wardrobe, plus the immaturity of the characters. Stacey Dash also reprised the role for the TV series and continued to play a teenager until she was 33 years old. Now at 48, Dash unsurprisingly looks fantastic, but don’t expect to see her in a high school drama anytime soon. Instead, she is now a correspondent for the Fox News Channel. Source:

5. Alan Ruck – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

There is no doubt that Alan Ruck excels in the role of the moody Cameron in the ’80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but there is a huge age gap between his character and real life age. Cameron is a 17-year-old high school senior, whereas Ruck was 30 years old. Although this is partly concealed by giving him a fringe and putting him in a hockey jersey, it is painfully obvious throughout the film that Ruck hadn’t been a teenager for some time. Fortunately, the character’s personality helped the cause as he does not act like a typical teenager. Although it seems wrong to cast a 30-year-old as a teenager, it is hard to imagine anyone other than Ruck in the role as he did such a fantastic job with a very likeable and entertaining character. Ruck was six years older than co-star, Matthew Broderick. Source:

4. Gabrielle Carteris – Beverly Hills, 90210

Although Trevor Donovan was clearly not a teen in the later series, it is not the most notable example. Gabrielle Carteris was 29 years old when she started playing 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 in the ’90s. At the time, this made her the oldest person to ever play a teenager on television. By the time she left the show, she was 32 years old and still playing a teenager. Andrea was the studious newspaper editor, and by dressing her in a reserved fashion, it did not make her look any younger and it was quite clear to viewers of the show that Carteris had not been in high school for many years. Not that Carteris looked bad for her age, but there was an entire teenager between the age of her character and her actual age during the show. Source:

3. Henry Winkler – Happy Days

Although Fonzie is “the cool guy” high school drop out in Happy Days, in reality it would actually be a bit creepy for him to hang around a bunch of school kids as Henry Winkler was already 29 years old at the start of the show. The Happy Days timeline moves slowly too, which meant that Winkler was 39 years old when the show finished and his character was still just a young man. Although his character is supposed to be more mature than Richie Cunningham, this is pushing it a bit far and it is glaringly obvious that Winkler is of a different generation to his character. Despite this age gap being difficult to look past, The Fonz is perhaps the most iconic television character of all time and an enormous part of this comes down to Winkler’s unforgettable portrayal of the character. Source:

2. Stockard Channing – Grease

Perhaps the most famous example of somebody playing a teenager who really shouldn’t be, Stockard Channing was 34 years old when she played 17-year-old Betty Rizzo in the 1978 classic Grease. A girl half her age, there was no hiding the fact that Channing was not, in fact, a high school menace and leader of the Pink Ladies, and it would have been more realistic to have her play the character’s mother. However, age was clearly not an issue with Grease as Olivia Newton-John was 30 in the starring role of Sandy Olsson. Of course, it is now hard to imagine any other performers being cast in these roles as it is such a classic and all of the performances were praised (Channing won a People’s Choice Award), but it does require you to suspend your disbelief that these near middle-aged performers are just in high school. Source:

1. Bianca Lawson – Pretty Little Liars

Astonishingly, Bianca Lawson has been playing a teenager for 20 years. She has been on many of the major teenage TV shows dating back to the ’90s, including roles on Saved by the Bell: The New Class (Megan), Sister, Sister (Rhonda), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Kendra), Dawson’s Creek (Nikki) and most recently Pretty Little Liars (Maya). Although for many of these she was a teenager, in her role on Pretty Little Liars she was as old as 34 years old playing a 17-year-old. Bianca looks fantastic and has clearly aged remarkably well, but playing a character half your age is a stretch too far and nobody who was on Saved by the Bell should (still) be playing a teenager. However, as the name implies, the show relies on the attractiveness of its characters with a cast that includes Ashley Benson (26), Lucy Hale (26) and Shay Mitchell (28). Source:
Jonny Hughes

Jonny Hughes

Jonny Hughes has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2015.