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

tom holland spiderman far from home

  • Actors don’t always play characters that are close to their real age. 
  • Teens on shows and in movies are often played by adults.
  • Rachel McAdams was 25 when she played Regina George in “Mean Girls,” and Tom Holland plays teenage superhero Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” movies even though he’s 23. 
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

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

SEE ALSO: Actors who turned down movie roles

FOLLOW US: INSIDER entertainment is on Facebook

Tom Holland was 19 when he was first cast as teenage superhero Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” movies, starting with the 2017 reboot “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

But Holland, now 23, has continued to play the role, and most recently appeared in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Troian Bellisario was cast as Spencer Hastings on “Pretty Little Liars,” a high school student.

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.

Minka Kelly played high-school cheerleader Lyla Garrity on “Friday Night Lights.”

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: 39.

Rachel McAdams ruled the Plastics as queen bee Regina George in “Mean Girls.”

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

Gabrielle Union played a sophomore high school student and best friend to Bianca Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You.”

She was 26 when the film was released, while Larisa Oleynik (Bianca) was 18.

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.

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.”

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

Cam Gigandet portrayed Micah, a 20-year-old Christian high school student who contracts chlamydia in “Easy A.”

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.

Ferris’ day off could not be complete without his best friend Cameron, played by Alan Ruck, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Ruck was 29 when he played Cameron. In comparison, Matthew Broderick (Ferris) was 23 and Mia Sara (Sloane) was 18. Current age: 63.

Benjamin McKenzie’s Ryan Atwood was the bad boy with a big heart whose arrival rocked Newport Beach on “The O.C.”

McKenzie was 25 when he landed the role and 28 when Ryan finished high school. Current age: 40.

Lea Michele played the spunky and somewhat obnoxious high schooler Rachel Berry on “Glee.”

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

Stockard Channing earned a People’s Choice Award for her role as high school student Rizzo in the musical “Grease.”

She was 33 when she was cast in the role. Current age: 75.

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.”

Though he was portraying Hannah Montana’s teen brother, Earles was 29. Current age: 42.

Stacey Dash is known for being Cher’s best friend in the cult comedy “Clueless.”

Dash was 28 during the filming of the movie, 10 years older than Alicia Silverstone (Cher). Current age: 52.

Of the “Breakfast Club” teens, Judd Nelson, who played John Bender, was the oldest.

He was was 25 when the movie was being filmed. Current age: 59.

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

The 38-year-old actress was 32 when she played the college freshman.

Her co-star Anna Kendrick played Beca, an 18-year-old college freshman.

She was 27 at the time the movie was released and is now 33.

Most of the main teens in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” weren’t teens at all.

Mae Whitman, 31, 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 29.

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.”

He’s actually 27.

“Riverdale” may follow high schoolers, but most of the cast aren’t teens.

Ashleigh Murray, known for playing Josie, is 32.

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.”

She’s actually 30, compared to her co-star Yara Shahidi, who is 19 and playing a sophomore.

Much of the “13 Reasons Why” cast is older than their high school characters.

Ross Butler may play a 17-year-old, but he’s 29.