Skip To Content
  • Viral badge

Hollywood Is Allergic To Casting Actual Teenagers, So I Pulled Together All The Real Teenagers In Teen TV Shows And Movies That I Could Find

Almost none of the teenagers you see onscreen are actual teenagers.

Hollywood loves to make TV shows and movies about teenagers — but labor laws make it a little hard to cast actual teenagers in these roles.

Damon, Stefan, and Elena in a promo shot for the vampire diaries labeled "not teenagers"
Kharen Hill / CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

Still, sometimes this casting is out of control — like, they'll have 30-year-olds playing 15-year-olds.

Sandy and Danny in Grease
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

To show just how rare it is to have actual teenagers playing teenagers, here are a bunch of examples of some age-appropriate* casting!

*A lot of these people are technically teenagers at 19, but they're playing 15- or 16-year-olds. Still, better than someone in their 20s or 30s!

1. When Mean Girls was released, Lindsay Lohan was 17 and Amanda Seyfried was 18.

Cady and Karen labeled "actual teenagers" next to Gretchen and Regina in Mean Girls
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

2. Lindsay was also 17 when Freaky Friday came out.

Logan screaming in a mirror in Freaky Friday
Walt Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams was 25, and the rest of the teenagers were in their early 20s.

Regina
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

3. Emily Alyn Lind, who plays high schooler Audrey in the Gossip Girl reboot, was 19 when the show began airing.

Audrey on the show
RCF / Everett Collection

4. And Whitney Peak, who plays 15-year-old Zoya Lott, was 18 when the Gossip Girl reboot began airing.

Zoya on the show
HBO

The rest of the cast are in their 20s.

5. James Lafferty was 18 when the first episode of One Tree Hill aired.

James as Nathan in a letter jacket
The WB / Courtesy Everett Collection

Of all the actors in main roles, James was the only teenager. Bethany Joy Lenz, who played his love interest Haley, was four years older than he was.

The main cast of Season 1 labeled with their ages — all cast members are 21 or 22 except James, who is labeled 18
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

6. Amanda Bynes was 19 when She's the Man was released — for about a month.

Amanda circled in She's the Man
DreamWorks / Courtesy Everett Collection

Channing Tatum, who played her love interest, was 25.

Channing in She's the Man
DreamWorks / Courtesy Everett Collection

7. Chaneil Kular was 19 when Sex Education came out.

Chaneil labeled "only actual teenager" in Sex Education
Sam Taylor / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

8. And when Sami Outalbali and Lino Facioli joined the Sex Education cast in Season 2 as Rahim and Dex, they were 19 and 18, respectively.

9. You'd think at least one of the teenagers from To All the Boys I've Loved Before would be an actual teenager, right? WRONG!

Peter, Josh, and Lara Jean drinking Starbucks
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

The only teenager in the movies was Anna Cathcart, who played Kitty — Lara Jean's kid sister. She was 15 when the first film came out.

Kitty
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

10. Similarly, the only actual teenager in Love, Simon is Simon's kid sister. Talitha Bateman was 16.

Simon and his family with his sister circled
Ben Rothstein / 20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

Cassady McClincy, who played minor character Jackie (Simon's ex), was 17.

11. Hunter Schafer was 19 when she first appeared as Jules on Euphoria.

Jules
HBO

12. The only other main(-ish) actor under age 20 in Euphoria is Storm Reid, who plays Rue's little sister, Gia. She was 15 when the show began.

Gia
HBO

13. None of the main Veronica Mars cast members were teenagers.

Main cast of Season 3
Patrick Ecclesine / Warner Bros. Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

The only teenagers were Tina Majorino, who was 19 when she began portraying Mac in Season 1 of the show, and Amanda Seyfried, who was also 19 when she first appeared as Lilly.

Warner Bros. Television / Courtesy Everett Collection, UPN

14. Ezra Miller was 19 for a week when The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out.

Emma Watson and Logan Lerman labeled "fake teenagers" and Ezra Miller labeled "actual teenager"
Summit Entertainment / Summit Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

Julia Garner and Erin Wilhelmi — who played minor characters Susan and Alice — were also under 20.

This is actually pretty age appropriate, considering that Ezra played a high school senior. Logan Lerman, whose character was a first-year high school student, was older than him at 20.

Logan in the film labeled "definitely not 14"
John Bramley / Summit Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

15. Logan, however, was a teenager when he played Percy Jackson in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: He was 18.

Logan holding a water trident in the film
Fox 2000 Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The rest of the cast members were in their 20s and above.

16. Shailene Woodley was 16 when she first appeared as Amy on Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Amy looking in the mirror
ABC Family

The actors who played Amy's classmates (like Grace and Ricky) were in their 20s. 

17. Francia Raisa, who played Adrian, was 19 when the pilot aired, but only remained so for a few weeks.

Adrian on the phone
ABC Family

18. Kirsten Dunst was 18 when Bring It On was released, and Eliza Dushku was 19.

Kirsten and Eliza standing together in the movie
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Meanwhile, Gabrielle Union was 27.

Torrance and Isis in Bring It On, with Isis labeled "almost a full decade older"
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

19. Ester Expósito was 18 when she first appeared as Carla on Elite.

Ester in the show
Manuel Fernandez-Valdes / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Ester is the only teenage member of the main cast.

20. Hilary Duff was 16 when A Cinderella Story came out.

Hilary in the film
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

This one may not be a surprise, since Hilary was already a Disney Channel star as a preteen.

Chad Michael Murray, who played her love interest, was 22.

Hilary labeled "literal child" and chad labeled "college graduate-age adult" in the film
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

21. Selena Gomez was also 16 when Another Cinderella Story came out.

Selena in class in the film
Warner Premiere / Courtesy Everett Collection

Again, this is pretty on par for Disney, which casts age-appropriate teens a lot more often.

Drew Seeley, who played her love interest, was 26.

Selena and Drew Seeley dancing on opposite sides of a mirror
Warner Premiere / Courtesy Everett Collection

22. Brittany Murphy was 17 when Clueless came out, and Alicia Silverstone was 18.

Brittany and Alicia in the film
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

Stacey Dash, who went on to reprise her role as Cher's bestie Dionne on the Clueless TV series, was 28.

Stacey Dash labeled "10 years older" and Brittany and Alicia labeled "teenagers"
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

Paul Rudd was 26 — but he was supposed to be playing a college student, so this isn't quite as bad.

23. Austin Abrams was 18 and Justice Smith was 19 when Paper Towns came out.

Nat Wolff walking with Austin and Justice in the movie with the latter 2 labeled teenagers
Michael Tackett / 20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

But Q's besties were the only ones in the film to play close to their actual age.

24. Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald were both 16 in Sixteen Candles.

Anthony and Molly in the movie at the dance
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Michael Schoeffling, who played Jake, was 23, and Haviland Morris was 24.

25. They were also both 16 in The Breakfast Club!

Molly and Anthony circled as everyone sits on the ledge in The Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

In contrast, Judd Nelson, who played John Bender, was almost a decade older at 25.

Nelson in the film
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy were both 22, meaning the average age of the "teenagers" was 20.

26. KJ Apa was 19 when Riverdale began airing...

Archie
Dean Buscher / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

The other main cast members were in their 20s.

27. ...as was Shannon Purser.

Ethel
Diyah Pera / The CW Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

The only other actor under 20 was Trinity Likins, who played Jughead's younger sister, Jelly Bean.

28. Mia Sara was 18 — for a few days — when Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out.

Mia as Sloane
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

Meanwhile, Alan Ruck, who played Cameron, was weeks away from turning 30. Matthew Broderick was 24.

Sloane labeled 18, Ferris labeled 24, and Cameron labeled 29
Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

29. Kat Graham was 19 in 17 Again.

Kat circled in 17 Again
New Line / Courtesy Everett Collection

But no members of the main cast — including Zac Efron, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight, and Hunter Parrish — were teenagers.

30. Cynthia Davis was about the age of her character, Brenda, 17, in Cooley High, as was Corin Rogers, who played Pooter.

American International Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection, American International Pictures

31. Michelle Trachtenberg was 14 during her first appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Dawn
20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved / Courtesy Everett Collection

Dawn, who was introduced in Season 5 as Buffy's little sister, was supposed to be 14.

32. The only other teenage actor was Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was 19 when she first appeared as 16-year-old Buffy in Season 1 — for all of three weeks before she turned 20.

Buffy being attacked by a vampire
20th Century Fox Licensing / Merchandising / Everett Collection

33. Penn Badgley was briefly 19 for John Tucker Must Die.

Penn in the film
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

But he was the only teenager.

Brittany labeled 20, Jesse labeled 27, Sophia labeled 24, Ashanti labeled 25, and Arielle labeled 21 in the film
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

34. Taylor Momsen was 14 when she began starring on Gossip Girl as Jenny.

Jenny
The CW / Courtesy Everett collection

When the pilot aired, Taylor had just turned 14. This was about the right age for her character, who was a first-year high school student.

35. And Connor Paolo was 17 when he first appeared as Eric on Gossip Girl.

Eric
Giovanni Rufino / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

Connor played Serena's brother Eric at 17 (his character, however, was supposed to be Jenny's age).

36. Bella Thorne was 17 in The DUFF.

Bella showing Mae her phone in the school hallway in the film
Guy D. Alema / Lionsgate / Courtesy Everett Collection

In contrast, Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell were both 26.

Robbie and Mae labeled "not even close to being teenagers
Guy D. Alema / Lionsgate / Courtesy Everett Collection

37. Devin Druid was 19 when he first appeared as Tyler on 13 Reasons Why.

Tyler
Netflix

All of the other cast members were over 20, with some in their mid- to late 20s. Timothy Granaderos Jr., who played Montgomery, was 30.

Montgomery
David Moir / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

38. Morgan Turner was 18 in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Morgan looking serious
Sony Pictures Releasing

Everybody else was 20 or older — Ser'Darius Blain was actually a full 12 years older than Morgan.

Fridge in the basement before they go to Jumanjii
Sony Pictures Releasing

39. Tina Majorino was 18 when Napoleon Dynamite premiered at Sundance.

Tina eating lunch in the cafeteria in the film
Fox Searchlight

Haylie Duff, who played a minor role, was also 18.

Most of the rest of the cast was much older. Jon Heder, who played Napoleon, was 26, and Efren Ramirez, who played Pedro, was 30.

Pedro labeled 30 and Napoleon labeled 26
Fox Searchlight / Courtesy Everett Collection

40. Kiernan Shipka was 18 when The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina first aired.

Sabrina
Diyah Pera / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Her character, Sabrina, was 16.

41. And Lachlan Watson, who played Theo in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, was 17.

Theo
Diya Pera / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

The other "teenage" cast members were in their 20s.

42. Josh Hutcherson was 19 in The Hunger Games.

Peeta lying on the ground covered in dirt
Murray Close / Lionsgate / Courtesy Everett Collection

Amandla Stenberg was 13 (she was supposed to be around 12), and some of the other tributes were also teenagers (Alexander Ludwig was 19 and Isabelle Fuhrman was 15), but out of the main characters, Josh was the only teenager.

43. Redge Green and Dedrick D. Gobert were both about 19 when they played Little Chris and Dooky in Boyz n the Hood, respectively.

44. Alexis Bledel was 19 when Gilmore Girls first aired.

Rory
Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

45. And Jared Padalecki was 18 when he first appeared as Dean.

Dean
Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

He was actually younger than Alexis!

Shockingly, Keiko Agena, who played Rory's best friend, Lane, was 27!

Lane and Rory
Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

46. Sasha Pieterse was 14 when the Pretty Little Liars pilot aired.

Alison in Pretty Little Liars
ABC Family

The actors for Hanna, Spencer, Emily, and Aria were all at least six years older than Sasha, who played Alison.

47. And Cody Christian was 15.

Mike in Pretty Little Liars
ABC Family

Funnily enough, he was actually older than Sasha, even though his character, Mike, was younger than hers.

The actors for Hanna, Spencer, Emily, and Aria were all in their 20s.

Emily (labeled 23), Spencer (labeled 24), Hanna (labeled 20), and Aria (labeled 20)
ABC Family / Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Troian Bellisario (Spencer), the eldest of the four, was almost 30 when the last episode with the four in high school aired.

48. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was 18 when Never Have I Ever dropped on Netflix.

Devi
Lara Solanki / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

The actor who plays Paxton, Darren Barnet, is more than 10 years older than she is.

Paxton
Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

He turned 29 the day the first season dropped.

49. Ryan Gosling was the only one of the football players under age 20 in Remember the Titans.

all the football players on the field
Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

He was 19. 

50. However, Kate Bosworth, who played Emma, was also younger than 20, at 17.

Kate in the film
Tracy Bennett / Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

51. Jacob Latimore was 18 when The Maze Runner came out.

Jeff and Thomas holding Alby in the Glade
Ben Rothstein / 20th Century Fox Netherlands / Courtesy Everett Collection

52. And Blake Cooper, who played Chuck in The Maze Runner, was 12 — but he was supposed to be really young.

Chuck
20th Century Fox Netherlands

The Glade was supposed to be entirely made up of teenagers, but it looks like there were only two.

53. Sierra Capri was 19 when she first played Monse Finni on On My Block.

Monse
John O Flexor / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Sierra was born in 1998, while her character was born in 2004.

54. And Ronni Hawk was 18 when the first season of On My Block aired, in which she played Olivia.

Olivia
Netflix

The other recurring character that was under 20 was Jahking Guillory, who was 16 when he played Latrelle.

55. In Twilight, Kristen Stewart was 18, and Taylor Lautner was only 16.

Summit Entertainment

Robert Pattinson, in contrast, was 22.

Edward
Summit Entertainment

56. Shenae Grimes was 18 when she first appeared as Annie on 90210, and Tristan Wilds and Jessica Lowndes were 19.

However, the show had a large ensemble cast, and many of them were older. The oldest "teenager" in Season 1 was Michael Steger, who began playing Navid at age 28.

Navid in Seaosn 1
Patrick Ecclesine / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

Fun fact: Ryan Eggold, who played a teacher on the show, is four years younger than Michael.

Trevor Donovan would join the cast the next season at age 30.

Teddy
Michael Desmond / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

57. And finally, let's end with a few films that were legitimately good at casting teens. Most of the teenagers in 10 Things I Hate About You were played by actual teens!

Touchstone Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Julia Stiles was newly 18 when it was released. Heath Ledger was 19 for a few days. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was 18, and Larisa Oleynik was 17.

58. Basically, all the high schoolers in The Princess Diaries were 17 or 18!

Mia, Lily, and Michael in the movie outside the limo
Walt Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo, Robert Schwartzman, and Erik von Detten were all 18. Meanwhile, Mandy Moore was 17. 

59. While star James van der Beek was 20, all the other main characters of Dawson's Creek were teenagers when the show began airing.

Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, Michelle Williams, and James van der Beek in a press photo for the show
Courtesy Everett Collection

Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson were 19, while Michelle Williams was 17.

60. Tyler Posey and Dylan O'Brien, who played main characters Scott and Stiles on Teen Wolf, were 19 (playing high school sophomores) when the series began airing.

Scott and Stiles
MTV

Dylan Sprayberry and Victoria Moroles were 16 when they first appeared, and Khylin Rhambo was 18. So Teen Wolf wasn't too bad, even if Holland Roden, Crystal Reed, and Colton Haynes were in their 20s.

61. And finally...basically everyone from Skins and Degrassi was under the age of 20!

Channel 4 / Company Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection, Steve Wilkie / Nickelodeon / Everett Collection

Finally, two shows that did a good job of casting teen actors.

Did any of these surprise you? What age gaps did you find the strangest? Let us know in the comments below!