The Best of Adults Playing Teens

It might be one of my secret goals in life to play a teenager on a high school drama on TV or in a movie. Some would say my time has passed, as I am well beyond my teen years. But to those nay-sayers, I say nay to you! Some of our most beloved and best teens on TV and film were full-grown adults who happened to capture the spirit of the American teen far better than an actual and authentic teenager ever could. Please enjoy this selection of some of the best adults playing teens in the business.

Stacey Dash in Clueless

I saw this movie as a child and when you’re a kid, teenagers look so old and sophisticated – and that’s because some of them actually are so old. Stacey was able to express her teen queen pizzaz so well because she was 28 years old at the time of playing a 16-year-old Dione “Dee” Davenport. Yes, apparently her character had a last name. I would’ve felt so much better about my 16-year-old awkward frizzy self had I known Dee was really a fully-formed adult at the time of her portrayal.

What was Stacey doing when she was really a teenager?

Being on The Cosby Show, duh. Well, at least for one episode.

Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls

When Rachel McAdams portrayed the ultimate teen queen of mean, Regina George, she was actually 25 years old. That’s how she was really able to do car commercials in Japan without flunking out of school.

In reality, during her real teenage years Rachel was livin‘ it up in Canada, figure skating and directing children’s theatre.

But she started playing a teen right when she hit 20, with a gig on The Famous Jett Jackson. The perfect training ground to work up to the honor of playing Regina George.

Keiko Agena in Gilmore Girls

Keiko played Lane Kim, the best friend we all wanted to have, who was Rory Gilmore’s BFF on Gilmore Girls. The only thing is, we would’ve been one of the few 15 year olds around with a 27-year-old best gal pal. Although I still kind of want her as my best friend these days, because everyone needs a bestie who got married in a freakin‘ helicopter over a freakin‘ volcano. Yeah.

When she was really a high school student she was living in Hawaii, attending high school like a regular girl.

She started acting when she was 10 and made her TV debut at 20 playing, of course, a teenager.

Shirley Henderson in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Shirley takes the cake of being the most adult of these “teen” actors, playing a 14-year-old at the grand old age of 37! A dead 14-year-old at that, so Shirley will forever be the 37-year-old teenager. While not the most familiar name, Shirley Henderson’s face and voice should be – among her many roles she’s played Bridget Jones’s best friend, Jude, a catty woman of the court in Versailles in Marie Antoinette, and Spud’s really unfortunate gal pal who has inarguably the worst breakfast ever in Trainspotting.

As an actual young girl she performed locally in her hometown as a singer, eventually graduating to drama school and embarking on a stage career.

She made her TV debut with Alan Cumming when she was 22. This leads me to believe Shirley really is a witch who has cast an anti-aging spell upon herself.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can

Being as amazing as he is Leo played 16-year-old Frank Abagnale Jr. when he was already 26. It must’ve helped him con people in the film into thinking he was an adult, since he really was.

We all know and love Leo enough to know that when he was really 16 he was already in the acting game with a recurring role on Growing Pains. But as an actual 16-year-old he definitely didn’t have the face or bod to fool anyone into thinking he could fly a plane or had gone to medical school. Sometimes you have to grow up to act your pretend age.

These are a few of my favorites, who are some of yours? Taylor Kitsch in Friday Night Lights? Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing? Perhaps the classic cast of 90210? Discuss!

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