Dominique Charriau/Getty Images/Steve Granitz/Getty Images/Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Meaghan Kirby
March 05, 2019 10:46 am

Teenagers on television have long remained a baffling species. They almost never go through that dreaded “awkward” phase, and they somehow look like full-grown adults at age 15. And there’s a good reason for it: A ton of “teens” on TV are played by actors in their twenties—or even thirties. Here’s a run-down of the actual ages of the high-schoolers on some of our favorite TV shows—past and present.

1KJ Apa, Riverdale — 21

While Archie Andrews hasn’t been inside the classroom much during Season 3 of Riverdale (thanks to his stint in juvie), he’s still supposed to be 16 years old. And Apa, 21, is actually one of the younger “teens” on the show.

2Kiernan Shipka, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — 19

Because she spent most of her formative years on Mad Men, it should come as no surprise that Shipka is one of the few actual teens on the list, alongside costar Lachlan Watson. However, she’s still three years older than the character she plays.

3Alisha Boe, 13 Reasons Why — 21

Boe, who plays 17-year-old Jessica Davis on 13 Reasons Why, is four whole years older than her character.

4Cole Sprouse, Riverdale — 26

Sprouse, who plays 16-year-old Southside Serpent leader Jughead Jones on Riverdale, is an entire decade older than Jughead.

5Asa Butterfield, Sex Education — 21

Twenty-one-year-old Butterfield plays 16-year-old sex therapist Otis Milburn in Sex Education.

6Dylan Minnette, 13 Reasons Why — 22

Given that he’s spent the last several years on a number of hit shows—including Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy—it may not surprise you to learn that Minnette is five years older than 17-year-old Clay Jensen.

7Natalia Dyer, Stranger Things — 22

The actress has about five years on Nancy Wheeler, who will be preparing for her senior year of high school when Stranger Things returns for Season 3.

8Ncuti Gatwa, Sex Education — 26

As Eric Effiong, Otis Milburn’s unapologetically gay best friend on Sex Education, Gatwa is the clear breakout on the Netflix hit series. However, while he’s playing a 16-year-old on TV, the Scottish actor is actually one of the oldest “teens” on the series at 26.

9Katherine Langford, 13 Reasons Why — 22

The Australian actress, who plays the late, 17-year-old Hannah Baker, is 22 in real life.

10Lili Reinhart, Riverdale — 22

Reinhart, who plays Riverdale‘s best teen sleuth (and Serpent Queen) Betty Cooper, is a whole six years older than her character.

11Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things — 15

While she was the same age as her character when cast on the hit sci-fi series, Brown is now a few years older than Eleven.

12Chad Michael Murray, One Tree Hill — 22 during Season 1

Yep—we’re going retro on this list, too. The high school “junior” actually would have just been graduating college IRL.

13Camila Mendes, Riverdale — 24

Despite playing 16-year-old high school student (and speakeasy owner) Veronica Lodge, Mendes is 24 years old. Fun fact: Mendes and her Riverdale co-star Cole Sprouse attended NYU around the same time—although according to Mendes, the Suite Life of Zack and Cody star doesn’t remember meeting her.

14Casey Cott, Riverdale — 26

Cott is ten years older than the teen he plays on TV—so don’t feel bad if you don’t have Kevin’s six pack, guys.

15Ben McKenzie, The OC — 25 during Season 1

That’s right. The actor who played our favorite bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold Ryan Atwood was a full decade older than his character. Hey—we’re not complaining.

16Bianca Lawson, Pretty Little Liars — 31 during Season 1

In our biggest real-life versus TV age differential on this list, Lawson played 17-year-old Maya St. Germain on the hit teen drama. One word: Impressive.

[listeader nr=17]Ross Butler, 13 Reasons Why — 28[/listheader]

Zach Dempsey may be a 17-year-old high school junior, but the actor who plays him is more than a decade older in real life. Fun fact: Butler is the same age as Charles Melton, who took over the role of Reggie Mantle on Riverdale after Butler left the series to continue his work on 13 Reasons Why.

18Jaz Sinclair, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — 24

Despite playing high school sophomore Rosalind “Roz” Sinclair, Sabrina’s bespectacled best friend is a fair bit older at 24.

19Joe Keery, Stranger Things — 26

There’s a reason Steve Harrington brings a level of hair wisdom unmatched by all other teens on TV…the actor who plays him is nearly a decade older in real life.

20Ashleigh Murray, Riverdale —31

She may play high school junior and future pop superstar Josie McCoy on Riverdale, but Murray is nearly double her character’s age in real life at 31.

21Gaten Matarazzo, Stranger Things — 16

In the upcoming Season 3 of Stranger Things, Dustin Henderson may be a new middle school graduate, but in real life, he’s old enough to drive a car.

22Ross Lynch, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — 23

The Disney Channel alum plays the adorable high school sophomore Harvey Kinkle—but he’s well beyond high school age now.

23Charlie Heaton, Stranger Things — 25

Heaton is not only 25, but he’s a dad. Perhaps that’s why he seems like such an old soul on the hit Netflix series…

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