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

Do you know how old Gabrielle Union was in

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Do you know how old Gabrielle Union was in “Bring it On?”
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Universal Pictures

  • Actors don’t always play characters that are close to their real age.
  • Teens on shows are often played by adults.
  • Rachel McAdams was 25 when she played Regina George in “Mean Girls,” for example.

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


Troian Bellisario was cast as Spencer Hastings on “Pretty Little Liars,” an 18-year-old high school student.

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Troian Bellisario on “Pretty Little Liars.”
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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 in 2017.
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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 on “Friday Night Lights.”
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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: 38.

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Minka Kelly in 2017.
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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 in “Mean Girls.”
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Paramount Pictures

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

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Rachel McAdams in 2017.
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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 (L) 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 in 2017.
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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 in “Bring it On.”
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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 on “One Tree Hill.”
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Warner Bros.

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

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Chad Michael Murray in 2017.
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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 in “Easy A”
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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 in 2016.
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Randy Shropshire/Getty Images

Source: IMDB


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 in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
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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: 62.

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Alan Ruck in 2016.
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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 on “The O.C.”
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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 in 2017.
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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 on “Glee.”
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Fox

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

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Lea Michele in 2018.
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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 in “Grease.”
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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 in 2015.
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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 on “Hannah Montana.”
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Disney Channel

Though he was portraying Hannah Montana’s teen brother, Earles was 29. Current age: 41.

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Jason Earles in 2014.
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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 in “Clueless.”
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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 in 2016.
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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 in “The Breakfast Club.”
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Universal Pictures

The 58-year-old was was 25 when the movie was being filmed. Current age: 59.

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Judd Nelson in 2017.
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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

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Rebel Wilson in “Pitch Perfect.”
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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 in 2018
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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 in “Pitch Perfect.”
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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 in 2018.
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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 in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
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Summit Entertainment

Mae Whitman, 30, 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 28.

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Mae Whitman in 2018.
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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 on “Marvel’s Runaways.”
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Hulu

He’s 26.

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Greg Sulkin in 2018.
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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 on “Riverdale.”
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Katie Yu/The CW

Ashleigh Murray, known for playing Josie, is 31.

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Ashleigh Murray in 2017.
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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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Francia Raisa on “Grown-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 in 2018.
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Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The “13 Reasons Why” cast is older than their high school characters.

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Ross Butler on “13 Reasons Why.”
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Netflix

Ross Butler may play a 17-year-old, but he’s 28.

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Ross Butler in 2017.
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Christopher Polk/Getty Images