Have you ever had a crush on a teenage character only to find out that they’re 10 years older than you in real life? Many times, actors play characters that are significantly younger than their real age. For example, teenagers all around the country love the characters JJ and John B from the Netflix TV series “Outer Banks.” What they may not know, however, is that JJ is played by 23-year-old Rudy Pankow and John B is played by 28-year-old Chase Stokes. Characters such as these who are played by older men and women are odd because, not only does it make minors adoring these characters a bit disturbing, but decreases the believability of a young character if they are played by a 20 or 30-year-old.
In many television series, a common theme audiences love and directors thrive off of is a love interest because it makes shows more exciting and dramatic. However, this can become weird when the actors have a huge age gap. On “That 70’s Show,” two of the main characters Kelso and Jackie, played by Asher Kutcher and Mila Kunis, dated throughout the eight season series. Both of their characters were teenagers on the show, but that was not the case in real life. In reality, Kutcher was 20 while Kunis was 14. This not only became awkward at times, but could have been resolved by hiring an actor that was a suitable and legal age.
Actors play a variety of characters in different shows and movies, but that can detract from a film or show if the actors also play a variety of ages. In 1995 for example, Gabrielle Union played a 47-year-old character named Sydney Burnett in the movie “Bad Boys.” Five years later, she played a 17-year-old character named Isis in “Bring it On.” This vast difference in age can become confusing for viewers. In one movie, she is a 47-year old DEA agent, and then five years later she’s playing a teenage cheerleader in high school. As a result, reality in both films is shattered a bit for the audience.
It is also not realistic when two characters who are supposed to be a mom and daughter are close in age. In the movie, “Mean Girls,” Amy Poehler and Rachel McAdams have a seven year age gap, despite playing mother and daughter respectively. This can come off as weird for viewers when watching the movie.
Occasionally, an actor can pass for a teenager, such as the case with Jackson Stewart, who played Hannah Montana’s brother in the hit series “Hannah Montana.” Stewart’s character was 16 years old, but at the time of filming, Stewart himself was actually 29-years-old. His case is rare, however, as for every Jackson Stewart there is a Ben Platt. Platt’s performance as the high school student Evan Hansen in the recent film “Dear Evan Hansen” has earned the film a lot of criticism, simply because the 28-year-old looks too old. If they had cast a younger actor, that could have been avoided.
Some may say that it is better to have an older actor play a teenager mainly because they are not enrolled in school, and they are often more attractive as well as mature. Even though this is usually true, older actors do not have the same mindset of a teenager. If the character is a 17-year-old in high school, it would make the most sense for a 17-year-old to play that role.