40 Iconic Teenage Characters Who Were Played by Much Older Actors

Here's looking at you, Grease.

actors and actresses from famous movies
(Image credit: Getty/ALAMY)

The Hollywood casting process has always been flawed. You have white actors playing people of color, straight males playing the lead in LGBTQ+ narratives, and actors who have graduated from high school a decade ago playing teenagers. Tinseltown is trying to be better, but older actors are still playing teenagers. Why? Marcia Ross—who cast 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and Clueless (1995)explained to Teen Vogue in 2017 that "actors under the age of 18 need to have guardians on set and work a limited set of hours because of schooling."

Yeah, the answer isn't as scandalous as you think, so it will probably keep happening. We're not hating, though—some of the actors on this list made their show or movie totally timeless. (I'm talking about you, Chace Crawford in Gossip Girl.) What would our adolescence years have been like if we didn't have a bunch of hot 20-somethings moping around on our TV screens every week? I'm shuddering at the thought. Ahead, 40 actors a little too old to be playing high school kids on the big screen.


Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. In addition to spearheading commerce content across brands—from writing about wardrobe must-haves and sales at major retailers to strategizing—she is also an avid reader with a deep love and knowledge for books of all genres. More often than not, you can find her lounging with a good book on the weekend.