The surprising real ages of actors when they were cast in famous teenage roles

Sony PicturesTom Holland plays a high-schooler in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’
  • 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.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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.”

Neilson Barnard/Getty ImagesTom Holland appeared as Spider-Man in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and the most recent ‘Avengers’ movies.

But Holland, now 24, has continued to play the role, most recently in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Gregg DeGuire/Getty ImagesTom Holland reportedly signed a six-movie deal with Marvel.

Troian Bellisario was cast as high school student Spencer Hastings on “Pretty Little Liars.”

Eric McCandless/FreeformTroian Bellisario also appeared on ‘Suits.’

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.

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty ImagesTroian Bellisario married ‘Suits’ costar Patrick Adams in 2016.

Minka Kelly played high school cheerleader Lyla Garrity on “Friday Night Lights.”

NBCMinka Kelly currently has a role on the DC web series ‘Titans.’

She was 26 when the show premiered and was 28 when her character finally graduated from high school and headed off to Vanderbilt University.

John Sciulli/Getty ImagesMinka Kelly is the daughter of Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay.

Rachel McAdams ruled the Plastics as queen bee Regina George in “Mean Girls.”

Paramount PicturesRachel McAdams also starred in ‘The Notebook.’

She was 25 when she was cast.

Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty ImagesRachel McAdams also appeared on the second season of HBO’s ‘True Detective.’

Gabrielle Union played a sophomore high school student and best friend to Bianca Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You.”

Buena Vista PicturesGabrielle Union, left, appeared with a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ’10 Things I Hate About You.’

She was 26 when the film was released, while Larisa Oleynik (Bianca) was 18.

Robin Marchant/Getty ImagesGabrielle Union had a cameo in the 2017 film ‘Girls Trip.’

The following year, she appeared in another high school role as the head cheerleader of the East Compton Clovers in “Bring It On.”

Universal PicturesGabrielle Union has also appeared in several music videos.

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.”

Warner Bros.Chad Michael Murray appeared on six seasons of ‘One Tree Hill.’

Though Lucas was supposed to be 16 on the first season, Murray was 22 when the show premiered.

Joshua Blanchard/Getty ImagesChad Michael Murray also had a role on Ryan Murphy’s show ‘Scream Queens.’

Cam Gigandet portrayed Micah, a 20-year-old Christian high school student who contracts chlamydia in “Easy A.”

Screen GemsCam Gigandet appeared in the first ‘Twilight’ film.

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.

Randy Shropshire/Getty ImagesCam Gigandet also starred with Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester in the 2011 thriller ‘The Roommate.’

Ferris’ day off could not be complete without his best friend Cameron, played by Alan Ruck, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Paramount PicturesAlan Ruck also had a role in the 1994 thriller ‘Speed.’

Ruck was 29 when he played Cameron. In comparison, Matthew Broderick (Ferris) was 23 and Mia Sara (Sloane) was 18.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty ImagesAlan Ruck is currently starring on HBO drama ‘Succession.’

Benjamin McKenzie’s Ryan Atwood was the bad boy with a big heart whose arrival rocked Newport Beach on “The O.C.”

Warner Bros.Benjamin McKenzie currently stars in the DC-inspired series ‘Gotham.’

McKenzie was 25 when he landed the role and 28 when Ryan finished high school.

Nicholas Hunt/Getty ImagesBenjamin McKenzie is married, and has one child.

Lea Michele played the spunky and somewhat obnoxious high schooler Rachel Berry on “Glee.”

FoxLea Michele had a successful Broadway career before starring on ‘Glee.’

She was 22 when the first episode aired.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesLea Michele is currently married to president of clothing brand AYR Zandy Reich.

Stockard Channing earned a People’s Choice Award for her role as high school student Rizzo in the musical “Grease.”

Paramount PicturesStockard Channing also appeared in ‘The West Wing.’

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.

Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for the McKittrick HotelStockard Channing was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1993 film ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’

Jason Earles is best known as Miley Cyrus’ goofy older brother on Disney’s “Hannah Montana.”

Disney ChannelJason Earles guest starred on ‘Phil of the Future’ before his role on ‘Hannah Montana.’

Though he was portraying Hannah Montana’s teen brother, Earles was 29.

Mark Davis/Getty ImagesJason Earles got married in 2017.

Stacey Dash is known for being Cher’s best friend in the cult comedy “Clueless.”

Paramount PicturesStacey Dash also appeared in the TV version of ‘Clueless’ from 1996-1999.

Dash was 28 during the filming of the movie, 10 years older than Alicia Silverstone (Cher).

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesStacey Dash ran for Congress in California in 2018.

Of the “Breakfast Club” teens, Judd Nelson, who played John Bender, was the oldest.

Universal PicturesJudd Nelson also starred in the 1985 film ‘St. Elmo’s Fire.’

He was was 25 when the movie was being filmed.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesJudd Nelson guest starred on ‘Two and a Half Men’ in 2010.

Rebel Wilson was supposed to be 19 in “Pitch Perfect.”

Universal PicturesRebel Wilson also had roles in ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘How to Be Single.’

The actress was 32 when she played the college freshman.

John Sciulli/Getty ImagesRebel Wilson’s role in ‘Bridesmaids’ was written especially for her.

Her costar Anna Kendrick played Beca, an 18-year-old college freshman.

Universal PicturesAnna Kendrick got her first big break for her role as Jessica Stanley in the ‘Twilight’ franchise.

She was 27 at the time the movie was released.

Craig Barritt/Getty ImagesAnna Kendrick got her start in Broadway musicals.

Most of the main teens in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” weren’t teens at all.

Summit EntertainmentLogan Lerman and Mae Whiman play a teenage couple at odds in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’

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.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesMae Whitman also appeared in the 2010 film ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.’

Gregg Sulkin played a high schooler on “Marvel’s Runaways.”

HuluGregg Sulkin previously appeared on MTV comedy ‘Faking It.’

He was 24 when he was cast in the show.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty ImagesGregg Sulkin is a dual citizen of the U.K. and the U.S.

“Riverdale” may follow high schoolers, but most of the cast aren’t teens.

Katie Yu/The CWKJ Apa and Ashleigh Murray star on ‘Riverdale.’

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.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty ImagesAshleigh Murray will reprise her ‘Riverdale’ role on the CW’s new ‘Katy Keene.’

Francia Raisa plays a college sophomore on “Grown-ish.”

Eric Liebowitz/Freeform‘Grown-ish’ is a spin-off of the ABC series ‘Black-ish.’

She’s actually 31, compared to her co-star Yara Shahidi, who is 19 and playing a sophomore.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesFrancia Raisa donated one of her kidneys to her best friend Selena Gomez, who suffers from lupus, in 2017.

Much of the “13 Reasons Why” cast is older than their high school characters.

NetflixRoss Butler stars on the show, which garnered controversy for its depictions of suicide.

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.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesRoss Butler also appeared in season one of ‘Riverdale.’

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