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July 8, 2013 9:51 AM   Subscribe

While it's widely known that US television likes to hire actors in thier 20s to play characters in thier teens, have you ever wondered what actors playing teenagers actually looked like as teenagers? Actual Teen Vs Adult Teen has you covered.
posted by The Whelk (78 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
...so what you're telling me is Juno Temple is incapable of aging?
posted by Kitteh at 9:57 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


love this! if you browse by the actual teen pics tag you can skip the text posts (although that also misses 18 year old christian bale which the tumblr author seems to deem "not a teen").
posted by nadawi at 10:07 AM on July 8, 2013


In case you want to see the actual pictures.
posted by alms at 10:07 AM on July 8, 2013


I'm always amazed that someone born the year Bianca Lawson started playing teenagers is NO LONGER A TEENAGER.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2013


The reversal they did showing the 15-year-old Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is fantastic.
posted by gladly at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2013


AKA pre-plastic surgery vs post-plastic surgery.
posted by DU at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2013


To clarify she is still playing teenagers at 34.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2013


Julie Benz was another holdout, I was shocked when she finally evolved to playing a mother on Dexter.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2013


lots of people look doofy as teens and better in their 20s without the aid of plastic surgery - in fact, looking at the list, most of those people still have the face they were born with.
posted by nadawi at 10:11 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the text posts from people outside the US saying they just assumed High School took place a lot later in life in the US then they expected cause everyone always looks so grown up.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on July 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


They really should do one post for the entire cast of Grease. I saw Stockard Channing's but the entire cast could all have high school aged children during the filming.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Teenagers certainly seem more baby-faced than the actors portraying them. Hollow-cheeked 15-year-olds seem rare.
posted by grubi at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2013


Baby Klaine always makes me squee out loud. I didn't even ship them (very hard) on the show. Jenna and Amber looked like my friends in high school.

LOLed at 14-year-old Jon Snow and 15-year-old Rob Stark. Then remembered teens abusing steroids is a serious problem.

omg Jesse Eisenberg, could he look more my-feels-behind-wall? Now I must find pics of teeny Andrew Garfield looking soulful and emotionally accessible.
posted by fatehunter at 10:16 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Snow and Stark aren't 14 and 15 in the show. Every character has been aged up a number of years. That said, I'm on record LOLing myself at the occasional knee slapper, like Cersei asking if Sophie Turner's Sansa has hit puberty yet.
posted by Justinian at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Love it. I have to assume a lot of parts get cast older simply because then the actor has more acting as well as life experience, so if they can (sort of) get away with a 25-year-old pretending to be 16 so much the better, since they're more likely to a) be a better actor and b) have reached a point where they fully understand in context what it was like to have been a teenager and so can more effectively convey that to an audience. Being in the midst of adolescence one is often...not so self-conscious (at least not in the right ways).
posted by Mooseli at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2013


Glad you mentioned Grease, Sophie1. I was pining for the Sweat Hogs, but then realized I may be a little old for the site.
posted by Melismata at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2013


Luke Perry made me laugh out loud. Oh, Dylan, with your forehead wrinkles and receding hairline.
posted by something something at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was 29 years old?!? I always thought that Alan Ruck had a level of sophistication to his performance that most teenage actors lacked. I guess now I know why.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:28 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Snow and Stark aren't 14 and 15 in the show. Every character has been aged up a number of years.

Exhaustively covered in the link.
posted by DU at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2013


I'm a big fan of shows where teenagers are played by actual teenagers (all incarnations of Degrassi, The Tribe, Space Cases,--whose biggest exception was Kristian Ayre at 20ish playing a 9 year old alien who was meant to look about 16, this ancient show called The Odyssey). It is always so jarring to go from these shows--mostly filmed in other countries--to American teen shows. I recently saw the ad for the newest reboot of the Tomorrow People and it was completely shudder-worthy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:32 AM on July 8, 2013


Exhaustively covered in the link.

Yes, but many people will not bother to read the words. Or maybe I'm just a pessimist.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gabrielle Carteris is older than President Obama.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This goes a long way to explaining why actors go from "teenagers" to middle aged in just a few years. It's not hard living, it's just living.
posted by tommasz at 10:36 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, but many people will not bother to read the words. Or maybe I'm just a pessimist.

Read the words; didn't care. 14-year-old Jon Snow is funnier, and the red wedding is on a whole new level with a younger Robb Stark.
posted by fatehunter at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2013


Cersei asking if Sophie Turner's Sansa has hit puberty yet.

I know! I was like "Woman, she is six damn feet tall!!"

One of the things I really loved about Arrested Development was that George Michael and Maeby were played by actors who were the actual ages of their characters. It was quite refreshing.
posted by KathrynT at 10:41 AM on July 8, 2013




They should do The Wire. Particularly D'Angelo and Bodie and a number of the guys in Season 1 who are supposed to be quite young.
posted by furiousthought at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2013


A lot of the reasoning behind this is because some of the strict union rules regarding limited working hours and other special requirements make it extremely difficult (or more expensive) to use actual child actors.
posted by cazoo at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


yeah - that would explain a bunch of 18 year olds playing 15, but doesn't really explain 27 year olds playing 16.
posted by nadawi at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2013


Finally, someone is daring to tackle the great crisis facing Hollywood of actresses over 20 getting too much work.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:54 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


When Bianca Lawson showed up on Teen Wolf--not playing a teen, mind you--I was stunned that she looked as though she hadn't aged a day from playing Kendra on BtVS.
posted by Kitteh at 10:55 AM on July 8, 2013


If the headline is a Kids In The Hall reference, I love you.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:05 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since the first few seem to reference a movie called Maze Runner, I thought I would help with a link
posted by z11s at 11:06 AM on July 8, 2013


Apparently Luke Perry didn't even look young enough to be a teenager when he WAS a teenager.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:10 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Since the first few seem to reference a movie called Maze Runner, I thought I would help with a link

My sole interest in The Maze Runner lies with Dylan O'Brien. Oh, Dylan O'Brien, how I wish to...oh wait, this is a public forum.

Oops.
posted by Kitteh at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Dylan O'Brien looks too old in the Maze Runner, I think. He looks convincingly high-school in Teen Wolf though.
posted by fatehunter at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2013


How about some old-timey teenagers. I'm vaguely convinced that the Bowery Boys played teenagers for fifty some years. Elisha Cook, Jr. played the psychotic punk kid in Maltese Falcon when he was 37.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing I liked about the first season of Teen Wolf is that they had 18 year olds playing high school students so most of them looked at least within spitting distance of actual teenagers.
posted by The Whelk at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, then you get The Xander Effect, wherein you wonder who's Dad this is....
posted by The Whelk at 11:17 AM on July 8, 2013


This is a great idea! Corvette Summer recently left us gobsmacked - at 27 or so Mark Hamill just wasn't convincing as a teenage shop kid.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2013


One thing I liked about the first season of Teen Wolf is that they had 18 year olds playing high school students so most of them looked at least within spitting distance of actual teenagers.

Except for Crystal Reed, who is nearly thirty. (Her Wiki page used to say her age and then a couple of weeks ago that info disappeared.) If I hadn't learned she was 28, I would never have guessed.
posted by Kitteh at 11:19 AM on July 8, 2013


The sister tumblr, Actors in Age Makeup, is cool, too. Old pictures of young actors in old age makeup next to the same actor at the age they were playing back then.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:22 AM on July 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


That is so cool, The Underpants Monster! (Hope they add Richard Dreyfuss soon.)
posted by Melismata at 11:24 AM on July 8, 2013


Vincent Kartheiser's hair gives new insight into his reading of the Pete Campbell line: "Not great, Bob!"
posted by wensink at 11:24 AM on July 8, 2013


In a related matter, I've always thought that having 30 and 40 year old actors in war films inures us to the fact that wars kill a lot of 18 to 22 year olds.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:31 AM on July 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have to assume a lot of parts get cast older simply because then the actor has more acting as well as life experience

It's very expensive to hire minors because they can only work so many hours a day, which means more days of filming, which means all the other costs go up. So adults get hired to play teenagers, and sometimes they keep playing the role for several years because that's how series TV works, and then they get cast for other teen roles because that's where their fan base is. But movie casting directors do take it too far. I was in high school when Beverly Hills 90210 was on, and many jokes were made. Luke Perry's forehead lines always did drive me crazy, and not in a good way. And then there was Head of the Class, which hired adult actors to play academically gifted teenagers and then kept them in high school for like, six years. I mean... isn't that a remedial class?
posted by orange swan at 11:31 AM on July 8, 2013


I knew adults playing teens was a thing, but seeing the actors as teenagers drives it home. A lot of it goes over my head since I don't watch teen-oriented TV, but wow, Cameron from Ferris Bueller was a shock. (Also agreed about Grease, and I would love to see all the John Hughes films from the 80s.)
posted by immlass at 11:31 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


LOL at Luke Perry. Weren't most of the members of the cast in their 20's, playing teenagers? I remember that Ian Ziering was in his mid 20's in the first season, too.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:31 AM on July 8, 2013


SMG was at most one or two years older than Buffy. And Dushku might have been actually younger than Faith.

If I remember right, Mila Kunis actually lied about how old she was to get on That 70s Show.
posted by kmz at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2013


Fred Savage looked about forty even when he was on "The Wonder Years."
posted by wenestvedt at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2013


Yeah Mila Kunis lied about her age, and was the only person who was actually the same age as her character.
posted by The Whelk at 11:39 AM on July 8, 2013


Freaks & Geeks didn't have all age-accurate casting, but they often came pretty close, and it made a huge difference in how the show played. Among other things, most high school shows make high school look like an incredibly sexy place, because it's full of people age 20-28, the peak sexy years for most people. But actual high schools are filled with people age 14-18, who mostly look like horrifying mutants.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:39 AM on July 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


Yes, F&G was great for that, if you watch American TV you'd assume all freshmen students are six foot tall underware models and not spotty, barley-out-of-short-pants kids.
posted by The Whelk at 11:41 AM on July 8, 2013


if you watch American TV you'd assume all freshmen students are six foot tall underware models and not spotty, barley-out-of-short-pants kids

My family moved to the US when I was 14. Back in Taiwan I'd learned about American high schools through imported American shows like 90210. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I started going to a real American high school.

The Canadian secondary school I attended a year later was even less hot; but by then I'd switched back to "omg I lost two marks on that exam my life is worthless" mode, so the hotness of fellow students no longer mattered.
posted by fatehunter at 11:47 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Teenagers in real life look like children. Which is what they are. Teenagers in movies look like polished fully grown adults, which is unconvincing once you are no longer a teenager.
posted by windykites at 11:50 AM on July 8, 2013


20-28, the peak sexy years for most people

Hell no. Most women imo are at their best in their thirties, most men peak somewhere between 35-50.
posted by windykites at 11:52 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's very expensive to hire minors because they can only work so many hours a day, which means more days of filming, which means all the other costs go up.

It's the same reason babies and very young children are usually played by identical or near-identical twins, and why many former child actors tend to be of shorter-than-average stature (you can get cast as a child/teen longer if you're not taller than the actors playing your parents).
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:52 AM on July 8, 2013


20-28, the peak sexy years for most people

If this is peak sexy, by 40 I'll have to spare people the sight of me.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:54 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Guys it's alright, if we hit Peak Sexy we can research new technology and methods to Bring Sexy Back.
posted by The Whelk at 11:57 AM on July 8, 2013 [33 favorites]


One thing I liked about the first season of Teen Wolf is that they had 18 year olds playing high school students so most of them looked at least within spitting distance of actual teenagers.

Pretty sure the only actual teenage person who has ever been on that show was Gage Golightly in season 2.
posted by elizardbits at 12:00 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Teenagers in real life look like children.

Seriously. Seeing all the younger pictures (and the blog owner could do well to cut down on the "look at the contrast between 17 and 21!" comparisons) really hit home that a lot of these actors--like most people--were not attractive until after 20. I am a full partisan of Aging Into Your Looks, but of course opinions may differ.
posted by psoas at 12:01 PM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


this 28 year old is happy his adult features have finally decided to come in, actually
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on July 8, 2013


Guys it's alright, if we hit Peak Sexy we can research new technology and methods to Bring Sexy Back.

I saw this TED Talk and was not impressed. The choreography was good, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2013


Freaks & Geeks didn't have all age-accurate casting, but they often came pretty close, and it made a huge difference in how the show played. Among other things, most high school shows make high school look like an incredibly sexy place, because it's full of people age 20-28, the peak sexy years for most people. But actual high schools are filled with people age 14-18, who mostly look like horrifying mutants.

Basically, yes. It's hard to write a show about the sexy fabulous lives of beautiful teenage hearthrobs in high school when most everyone who is actually high-school aged looks like awkward children.

Hard to have a show about your fantasy teenage boyfriend when an actual teenager looks like the guy on the left.
posted by deanc at 12:57 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I watched the first two seasons of the UK Skins (which I loved, BTW), that these were actual teens was almost astonishing to my American eyes. But I feel that way about the normal looking folk on Brit shows, too. Personally, I find it more comfortable and believable to not be beaten over the head by Beautiful People all the damn time.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:40 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My self-esteem as a teenager might have been a lot better if I'd realized that the difference between Awkward Dorky Teenager and Sexy Confident Teenager in the movies was that Sexy Confident Teenager was 27 years old. (And that on top of that, that same 27-year-old probably played an Awkward Dorky Teenager when s/he was actually 15.)
posted by KathrynT at 1:40 PM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because I inexplicably grew up as a child of the radio drama era (accident with a time machine and a contraceptive), my big shocker was to realize that the smart alecky kid that I identified with in The Phil Harris - Alice Faye Show and The Great Gildersleeve was in fact someone very different than I might have imagined.
posted by sonascope at 3:26 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting that the male teens still have that indefinable touch of geeky awkwardness that all teen boys have...
posted by BlueHorse at 3:31 PM on July 8, 2013


My gosh, I feel so dorky - I never actually thought about this! I guess I always assumed that they REALLY WERE TEENAGERS!!!

Then proceeded to wonder when I would look all cool and confident... maybe when I was 17-18?? Or maybe only American teenagers looked sexy like that? I thought maybe it was just ME and the people I hung out with that didn't blossom into highschool hotties.
**naivety**
Guess I can now go watch Clueless with a grain of salt...

(I remember thinking that people looked too young to be at university when I finally got there - I had imagined it to be all sophisticated late 20s people, and it was just like my Grade 9 homeroom, except with a lot more bongs. I am 26 now, and I find most people are just starting to look like handsome/gorgeous creatures)
posted by NorthernAutumn at 4:45 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't this also reversed at older ages? Aren't younger actors cast for older parts? The idea is to appeal to the viewer right? Teenagers want to be hot young twentysomethings and middle aged people want to feel like they are in their middle to late thirties?
posted by hiddenknives at 11:22 PM on July 8, 2013


I marathoned Friday Night Lights last month. On the whole, the show was fantastic, but the actors' ages was a constant annoyance. The show played it really fast and loose with everyone's timelines. When season 3 arrived and Tim Riggins was still in high school, I kept waiting to hear about how he failed his senior year and was held back or something, but it never came. They just expected us to believe that this guy and all his friends, stars of the school, were sophomores in the pilot. I can totally understand why they would do that, because just watch any Taylor Kitsch scene and you pretty much have your answer. Julie was the only young person that seemed to be in the right ballpark age-wise. According to IMDB, Aimee Teegarden turned 17 on the same day that episode two of the first season aired. She was apparently supposed to be a freshman in the beginning of the series because she's still in high school in season 4, so that puts her at around two and a half years older than her character, so even she was playing younger.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:48 AM on July 9, 2013


Isn't this also reversed at older ages? Aren't younger actors cast for older parts? The idea is to appeal to the viewer right? Teenagers want to be hot young twentysomethings and middle aged people want to feel like they are in their middle to late thirties?

Oh, certainly. One of the most famous examples is Dustin Hoffman (30 playing 21) and Anne Bancroft (36 playing 40+) in The Graduate.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:55 AM on July 9, 2013


TV Tropes now calls this casting "Dawson Casting" but it clearly could have been called "Buffy Casting" (SMG was young; rest of cast were I their 20s) or "90210 Casting." My So-Called Life was remarkable in that two of the actors (Claire Danes and the guy who played Brian) were actually 15 playing 15-year-olds, and Wilson Cruz was a very young-looking 18.

But cost and the demands of time makes it just about impossible to cast minors. I've heard that they didn't even consider it for Glee because their schedule was even more demanding than other TV shows.

Consistency of appearance may also be a factor - the one teenager (Chris Colfer, who was 18) cast in Glee went through a massive growth spurt in the first two seasons. The producers rolled with it, but if they'd cast an older actor, he probably would have had a more consistent appearance (which is sometimes important).

I'd personally like to see more age-appropriate casting (at least truly teen-looking - awkward, etc - 18 yos), but then I'd also like to see a more British-style casting in general: more average looking people of all ages. The perfection of "teens" on American TV is damaging to the self-esteem of actual teens, or at least it was for me. (Perhaps ironic: I was one of those baby-faced young adults who really did look 16-17 when I was 20, but left acting partly because I didn't look like actors on tv).
posted by jb at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2013


I was told by a very nice agent man that I'd need to spend a couple thou fixing my teeth before I could get in the door, which pretty much decided "whelp, no more acting time to do chemistry!" decision.
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2013


if you watch American TV you'd assume all freshmen students are six foot tall underware models and not spotty, barley-out-of-short-pants kids

I think it's more confusing for British viewers as our mandatory education finishes at 16 here, and nearly all schools (and some sixth-forms where you can stay on for education between 16-18 that will get you into college) have uniforms. Despite the sexy schoolgirl trope, uniforms are very infantilising, and so we got the impression that US high schools were full of gorgeous cool kids and not fifteen year old boys in fat-knotted ties.

(The cast of The Inbetweeners are in their 20s - the actor playing Will was 25/26 in the first series. That's how childish everyone looks in uniform.)
posted by mippy at 8:51 AM on July 9, 2013


Despite the sexy schoolgirl trope, uniforms are very infantilising

I thought the infantilization was, creepily enough, supposed to be the appeal.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:55 AM on July 9, 2013


I was roughly the size of the average adult woman by the time I was 11, so in my case, no. I looked like a young-looking woman in incredibly unflattering clothing.
posted by mippy at 10:05 AM on July 9, 2013


The appeal of the trope in cheesecake, porn, etc., not the uniforms themselves, which seem to exist to show schools' authority over their students. Sorry for not being clearer.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:13 AM on July 9, 2013


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