- Actors don’t always play characters that are close to their real age, and teens in shows and movies are often played by adults.
- Rachel McAdams was 25 when she played Regina George in “Mean Girls,” and Tom Holland plays teenage superhero Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” movies even though he’s 24.
- Other stars, like Emma Watson and Rebel Wilson, have also played significantly younger characters.
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Age is just a number, and you don’t have to be a teenager to play one on TV or in a movie.
While some actors are closer in age to their character counterparts, others can be two or even 15 years older than the characters they portray.
Here are 43 celebrities who are well-known for their teen roles, even though they weren’t teens at the time.
Anjelica Oswald contributed to an earlier version of this article.
Tom Holland was 19 when he was first cast as teenage superhero Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” movies, starting with 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
But Holland, now 24, has continued to play the role, most recently in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
Troian Bellisario was cast as high school student Spencer Hastings on “Pretty Little Liars.”
In real life, Bellisario was 24 when she was cast as the high school junior. The character graduated from college after a five-year time jump.
Minka Kelly played high school cheerleader Lyla Garrity on “Friday Night Lights.”
She was 26 when the show premiered and was 28 when her character finally graduated from high school and headed off to Vanderbilt University.
Rachel McAdams ruled the Plastics as queen bee Regina George in “Mean Girls.”
She was 25 when she was cast.
Gabrielle Union played a sophomore high school student and best friend to Bianca Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You.”
She was 26 when the film was released, while Larisa Oleynik (Bianca) was 18.
The following year, she appeared in another high school role as the head cheerleader of the East Compton Clovers in “Bring It On.”
Chad Michael Murray won the hearts of teen girls everywhere as Lucas, a brooding basketball player with a penchant for writing on “One Tree Hill.”
Though Lucas was supposed to be 16 on the first season, Murray was 22 when the show premiered.
Cam Gigandet portrayed Micah, a 20-year-old Christian high school student who contracts chlamydia in “Easy A.”
Gigandet was 27 during filming. Because of his real age, there’s a joke incorporated into the film where Olive (Emma Stone) asks what a “22-year-old” is still doing in high school.
Ferris’ day off could not be complete without his best friend Cameron, played by Alan Ruck, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Ruck was 29 when he played Cameron. In comparison, Matthew Broderick (Ferris) was 23 and Mia Sara (Sloane) was 18.
Benjamin McKenzie’s Ryan Atwood was the bad boy with a big heart whose arrival rocked Newport Beach on “The O.C.”
McKenzie was 25 when he landed the role and 28 when Ryan finished high school.
Lea Michele played the spunky and somewhat obnoxious high schooler Rachel Berry on “Glee.”
She was 22 when the first episode aired.
Stockard Channing earned a People’s Choice Award for her role as high school student Rizzo in the musical “Grease.”
She was 33 when she was cast in the role, and some of her costars, including Olivia Newton-John, were also older than their characters.
Jason Earles is best known as Miley Cyrus’ goofy older brother on Disney’s “Hannah Montana.”
Though he was portraying Hannah Montana’s teen brother, Earles was 29.
Stacey Dash is known for being Cher’s best friend in the cult comedy “Clueless.”
Dash was 28 during the filming of the movie, 10 years older than Alicia Silverstone (Cher).
Of the “Breakfast Club” teens, Judd Nelson, who played John Bender, was the oldest.
He was was 25 when the movie was being filmed.
Rebel Wilson was supposed to be 19 in “Pitch Perfect.”
The actress was 32 when she played the college freshman.
Her costar Anna Kendrick played Beca, an 18-year-old college freshman.
She was 27 at the time the movie was released.
Most of the main teens in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” weren’t teens at all.
Mae Whitman was 24 when she played a high schooler. Logan Lerman was 20 and played a freshman and Emma Watson was a 22-year-old playing a high school senior.
Gregg Sulkin played a high schooler on “Marvel’s Runaways.”
He was 24 when he was cast in the show.
“Riverdale” may follow high schoolers, but most of the cast aren’t teens.
Ashleigh Murray, known for playing Josie, is 32. Casey Cott, who plays Kevin, and Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead, are 27. Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl) and Camila Mendes (Veronica) are both 25.
Francia Raisa plays a college sophomore on “Grown-ish.”
She’s actually 31, compared to her co-star Yara Shahidi, who is 19 and playing a sophomore.
Much of the “13 Reasons Why” cast is older than their high school characters.
Ross Butler may play a 17-year-old, but he’s actually 30. His costar Christian Navarro (Tony) is 28, while Brandon Flynn (Justin), and Miles Heizer (Alex) are both 26.
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