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

Tom Holland plays a high-schooler in

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Tom Holland plays a high-schooler in “Spider-Man.”
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Sony Pictures

  • Actors don’t always play characters that are close to their real age.
  • Teens on shows and in 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 23.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Age is but 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 23 celebrities who are well-known for their teen roles, even though they weren’t teens at the time.


Tom Holland was 19 when he was first cast as teenage superhero Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” movies, starting with the 2017 reboot “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

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Tom Holland appeared as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War” and the most recent “Avengers” movies.
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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

But Holland, now 23, has continued to play the role, and most recently appeared in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

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Tom Holland has reportedly signed a six-movie deal with Marvel.
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Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

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

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Troian Bellisario also appeared on “Suits.”
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Eric McCandless/Freeform

In real life, Bellisario is 33. She was 24 when she was cast as the high school junior. The character graduated from college after a five-year time jump.

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Troian Bellisario married “Suits” costar Patrick Adams in 2016.
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Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

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

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Minka Kelly currently has a role on the DC web series “Titans.”
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NBC

She was 26 when the show premiered and was 28 when her character finally graduated from high school and headed off to Vanderbilt University. Current age: 39.

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

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

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Rachel McAdams also starred in “The Notebook.”
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Paramount Pictures

She was 25 when she was cast. Current age: 40.

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Rachel McAdams also appeared on the second season of HBO’s “True Detective.”
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Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images

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

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Gabrielle Union, left, appeared with a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “10 Things I Hate About You.”
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Buena Vista Pictures

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

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Gabrielle Union had a cameo in the 2017 film “Girls Trip.”
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Robin Marchant/Getty Images

The following year, she appeared in another high school role as the head cheerleader of the East Compton Clovers in “Bring It On.” Current age: 46.

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Gabrielle Union has also appeared in several music videos.
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Universal Pictures

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.”

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Chad Michael Murray appeared on six seasons of “One Tree Hill.”
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Warner Bros.

Though Lucas was supposed be 16 on the first season, Murray was 22 when the show premiered. Current age: 37.

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Chad Michael Murray also had a role on Ryan Murphy’s show “Scream Queens.”
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Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images

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

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Cam Gigandet appeared in the first “Twilight” film.
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Screen Gems

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. Current age: 36.

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Cam Gigandet also starred with Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester in the 2011 thriller “The Roommate.”
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Randy Shropshire/Getty Images

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

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Alan Ruck also had a role in the 1994 thriller “Speed.”
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Paramount Pictures

Ruck was 29 when he played Cameron. In comparison, Matthew Broderick (Ferris) was 23 and Mia Sara (Sloane) was 18. Current age: 63.

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Alan Ruck is currently starring on HBO drama “Succession.”
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Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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

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Benjamin McKenzie currently stars in the DC-inspired series “Gotham.”
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Warner Bros.

McKenzie was 25 when he landed the role and 28 when Ryan finished high school. Current age: 40.

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

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

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Lea Michele had a successful Broadway career before starring on “Glee.”
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Fox

She was 22 when the first episode aired. Current age: 32.

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

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

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Stockard Channing also appeared in “The West Wing.”
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Paramount Pictures

She was 33 when she was cast in the role. Current age: 75.

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Stockard Channing was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1993 film “Six Degrees of Separation.”
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Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for the McKittrick Hotel

Much of the “Grease” cast was older than their high school counterparts. For example, Olivia Newton-John was turning 30 when she was cast.


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

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Jason Earles guest starred on “Phil of the Future” before his role on “Hannah Montana.”
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Disney Channel

Though he was portraying Hannah Montana’s teen brother, Earles was 29. Current age: 42.

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Jason Earles got married in 2017.
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Mark Davis/Getty Images

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

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Stacey Dash also appeared in the TV version of “Clueless” from 1996-1999.
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Paramount Pictures

Dash was 28 during the filming of the movie, 10 years older than Alicia Silverstone (Cher). Current age: 52.

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

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

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Judd Nelson also starred in the 1985 film “St. Elmo’s Fire.”
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Universal Pictures

He was was 25 when the movie was being filmed. Current age: 59.

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Judd Nelson guest starred on “Two and a Half Men” in 2010.
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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

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Rebel Wilson also had roles in “Bridesmaids” and “How to Be Single.”
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Universal Pictures

The 38-year-old actress was 32 when she played the college freshman.

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Rebel Wilson’s role in “Bridesmaids” was written especially for her.
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John Sciulli/Getty Images

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

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Anna Kendrick got her first big break for her role as Jessica Stanley in the “Twilight” franchise.
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Universal Pictures

She was 27 at the time the movie was released and is now 33.

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

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

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Logan Lerman and Mae Whiman play a teenage couple at odds in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
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Summit Entertainment

Mae Whitman, 31, was 24 when playing a high schooler. Logan Lerman was 20 and played a freshman and Emma Watson was a 22-year-old playing a high school senior. Lerman is now 27 and Watson is 29.

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Mae Whitman also appeared in the 2010 film “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
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Christopher Polk/Getty Images

For context, 19-year-old Ezra Miller played a high school senior in the movie.


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

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Gregg Sulkin previously appeared on MTV comedy “Faking It.”
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Hulu

He’s actually 27.

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

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

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KJ Apa and Ashleigh Murray star on “Riverdale.”
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Katie Yu/The CW

Ashleigh Murray, known for playing Josie, is 32.

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Ashleigh Murray will reprise her “Riverdale” role on the CW’s new “Katy Keene.”
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Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

She tweeted about not looking her age in January 2018.

“48 hrs left in my 20s,” she said. “I hope to be blessed with ten more years so I’ll finally look 30.”

Casey Cott, who plays Kevin, and Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead, are 26. Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl) and Camila Mendes (Veronica) are both 24.


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

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

She’s actually 30, compared to her co-star Yara Shahidi, who is 19 and playing a sophomore.

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

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

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The show garnered controversy for its depictions of suicide.
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Netflix

Ross Butler may play a 17-year-old, but he’s 29.

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Ross Butler also appeared in season one of “Riverdale.”
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Christopher Polk/Getty Images