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26 Examples Of Teen Dramas Casting Teen Actors That Will Open Your Eyes To How Many Times They Don't

Still shocked Alexis Bledel was NINETEEN when she played Rory.

One thing that has always bothered me about teen dramas is that they always cast twentysomethings as teenage characters.

On Pretty Little Liars, Aria goes up to Ezra's desk
Eike Schroter / ABC Family / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Here's why this bothers me: A) It sets super unrealistic expectations for how we should look in high school, and B) a lot of storylines, like student-teacher affairs, don't come across as creepy onscreen because the actor playing the teenager is in their twenties. This is a huge problem because it romanticizes and normalizes things that are really messed up IRL and would come across a lot creepier if teen actors were actually used.

For example, here are shows that have absolutely no teenage actors playing main characters: The 100, All American, Riverdale, The Vampire Diaries, Cloak & Dagger, and Outer Banks.

Elena, Stefan, and Matt from The Vampire Diaries labeled "Not real teenagers"
Alan Markfield / CW / Courtesy: Everett Collection

A couple of those shows have a couple recurring younger characters/younger siblings that are supposed to be kids but were technically played by teenagers, but none of the high schoolers are played by teenagers. I do realize hiring actors who are 18-plus also helps with productions as they don’t have the same work laws as minors, but I don't get why shows have to hire 25-year-olds!

So I decided to make a list of times actual teenagers were cast in teen dramas. Read on to discover for yourself!

If someone is not mentioned here and they were a main character on any of the shows mentioned, they were not a teenager. Happy reading!

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

The WB

Of all the main characters, James was the only teenager. Bethany Joy Lenz, who played his love interest Haley, was four years older than him.

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

ABC Family

The actors for Hanna, Spencer, Emily, and Aria were all at least six years older than her.

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

Ron Batzdorff / Warner Bros./Everett Collection

This one shocked me, because I thought for sure I'd be able to put Rory and her friends on this list. But Alexis Bledel was NINETEEN when Gilmore Girls began airing. She was barely a teenager! And Keiko Agena, who played her best friend Lane, was 27!

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

Warner Bros./Everett Collection

The only other teen actor on Gilmore Girls was Jared Padalecki as Dean. He was actually younger than Alexis!

5. Michelle Trachtenburg was 14 during her first appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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 — so this was perfect! The only other teenage actor was Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was 19 when she first appeared as Buffy in Season 1 —  for all of three weeks before she turned 20.

6. Cody Christian was 15 when the Pretty Little Liars pilot aired.

ABC Family

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

7. Tyler Posey and Dylan O'Brien, who played main characters Scott and Stiles on Teen Wolf, were technically 19 (playing high school sophomores) when the series began airing, but only for a couple months.


Because they were basically out of their teens, I'm making them share a beat. Tyler Hoechlin, who played a character a decade older than them, was only four years older IRL. And Crystal Reed and Holland Roden, who played the female leads Allison and Lydia, were even older than Tyler Hoechlin.

8. And Dylan Sprayberry's first episode as Liam on Teen Wolf actually aired on his 16th birthday.

Liam on the lacross field in Teen Wolf

His girlfriend Hayden, played by Victoria Moroles, was 17 when she first appeared, and his best friend Mason was 18. So Teen Wolf wasn't too bad!

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

ABC Family

Shailene was only 16 when the first episode of Secret Life aired, which was actually cool, because at least she looked like a teen mom. The actors who played Amy's classmates (like Grace and Ricky) were in their twenties. Francis Raisa, who played Adrian, was 19 when the pilot aired, but only remained so for a few weeks.

10. Taylor Momsen was 14 when she appeared on Gossip Girl.

THE CW / courtesy everett collection

When the pilot aired, Taylor had just turned 14. The only other somewhat main character who was a teenager was Connor Paolo, who played Serena's brother Eric at 17 (his character, however, was supposed to be Jenny's age).

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

Lara Solanki / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

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

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


The only other main(-ish) character under 20 is Storm Reid, who plays Rue's little sister Gia. Zendaya herself (though she does an amazing job of portraying a teenager) is currently 24.

13. Tina Majorino was 19 when she began portraying Mac in Season 1 of Veronica Mars.


Amanda Seyfried, who played Lilly, was also 19 when the show began airing — though her character was already dead.

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


All of the other cast members were over 20, with some — like Christian Navarro as Tony — in their mid- to late-twenties.

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

John O Flexor / Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

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

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


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

17. Shenae Grimes was 18 when she first appeared as Annie on 90210.

Scott Humbert/ The CW / Courtesy: Everett Collection

She previously had a main role in Degrassi: The Next Generation.

18. And Tristan Wilds was 19 when he appeared as her brother, Dixon.

Patrick Ecclesine / The CW / Courtesy: Everett Collection

At least they were the same age!

19. As was Jessica Lowndes when she first appeared as Adrianna.

Darren Michaels / © The CW / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Though this was only for the first couple months of the show airing. Fun fact: Ryan Eggold, who played a teacher on the show, is four years younger than the actor for Navid, who played a teenager.

20. Katie Holmes was 19 while the first season of Dawson's Creek was airing.

The WB Television Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

Holmes was born four years before the stated birth of her character.

21. As was Joshua Jackson, who played Pacey.

The WB Television Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

Pacey was a high school sophomore when the show began.

22. And Michelle Williams, who played Jen, was only 17.

The WB Television Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

She was the only one who was actually high school aged!

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

Manuel Fernandez-Valdes / Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Ester is the only teenager member of the main cast.

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

Diyah Pera / Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Her character Sabrina is 16.

25. And Lachlan Watson, who plays Theo, was 17.

Diya Pera / Netflix / courtesy Everett Collection

Lachlan is actually still a teenager!

26. And finally...basically everyone from Skins and Degrassi.

Channel 4/Company Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection, CATV / courtesy Everett Collection

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

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