When Smallville began in 2001, Clark (aka Superman) was a 15-year-old high school student; Tom Welling, the actor who played him, was a 24-year-old who had left a career in construction to become a model-turned-actor. Now 33, Welling is losing the race towards middle age; Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) turns 38 this year. They’re really bringing a touch of irony to the show’s secondary title, Superman, the Early Years.
Smallville season eight premieres on June 26 at 10pm on America Plus
Perhaps the classic example of a teen drama with a cast who had long waved goodbye to adolescence, Dawson’s Creek was continually criticised for its unrealistic portrayal of American youth. The youngest cast member, Michelle Williams (who played Jen), was at least still in her teens when filming started. Kerr Smith, who played Jack, was barely holding onto his twenties (he’s now 38). Pair this with a script that was more Nietzsche than Nickelodeon, and soon Dawson, Pacey and co became some of the most serious teens ever represented on screen. Perhaps this could explain actress Katie Holmes’s consequent life choices: she exhausted all rational thought pretending to be Joey Potter.
Dawson’s Creek airs Monday to Friday on America Plus
The producers of The OC may have chosen not to employ underage actors for sensible reasons – the show’s teenage characters saw more scandal than even the average showbiz mom could condone. But hiring actors in their late twenties (Adam Brody and Ben McKenzie) seemed a little excessive, that is until you see what Mischa Barton, who played Marissa, is doing now. The clothes. The hair. The rehab stint(s). Perhaps at 17 one is too young to know the difference between a script and a how-to guide.
The OC is available to buy on DVD
One Tree Hill
Due to a very confusing timeline, which saw characters who were 16 in 2003 turn 18 in 2007, One Tree Hill’s actors began to move further away in age from their characters. The fifth season jumped ‘forward’ four years. This left audiences still unsure as to the year, or perhaps the nature of the space-time continuum within Tree Hill. However, whatever year we are supposed to be watching, the characters and actors are now all in their mid-to-late twenties – Michael Chad Murray (pictured), who plays Lucas Scott, is a far-from-teenage 28. We retain a sneaking suspicion that, far from deliberately closing the gap, the writers simply knew nobody could bear to watch these self-obsessed, over-analysing teens during their college years.
One Tree Hill is available to buy on DVD
Much is made of the age of Gossip Girl’s leading actors; so much, in fact, that you may find they are younger than you thought. Blake Lively, for example, is only (only!) four years older than her character, Serena. And despite some risqué movie roles (see Lively in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee), the older actors are frequently outdone by the younger cast members when it comes to scandal. Sweet 16 just like her character Jenny Humphrey, Taylor Momsen has come a long way since her role as Cindy Lou Who in The Grinch. All heavy kohl and ripped fishnets, Momsen recently swore live on UK daytime TV show This Morning. Offending presenter Phillip Schofield and following in the footsteps of Rupert Everett? We feel for her parents.
Gossip Girl is available to buy on DVD
The need for a cast of seasoned professionals necessitated that the all-singing, all-dancing stars of Glee be chosen on talent, rather than year of birth. The ages range from Chris Colfer, at 20 a forgivevable four years older than character Kurt Hummel, to Corey Monteith, who is 28 to character Finn Hudson’s 16. Luckily, most of the glee club manage to pass for 10th graders. And it’s hard to complain about the kids’ unrealistic ages when maniacal cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (played by Jane Lynch, pictured) spends so much time insisting she’s 29. Not that we’d want to argue.
Glee airs on Saturdays and Sundays on America Plus
And finally… Grease
Not exactly a TV drama, but this film’s stats are too ridiculous not to mention. At 24, John Travolta was practically a spring chicken amid a cast more likely to need a bus pass than a hall pass. The crown has to go to Stockard Channing. At 34 she was almost twice the age of her character, Betty Rizzo.
Grease is available to buy on DVD