Have you ever thought about how the people portraying teenagers in so many teen TV shows are, in fact, grown ass adults? This bothered me as a teen, and as someone who could now be considered a grown ass adult myself, it bothers me even more. I know that I couldn’t pass for a 10th grader anymore, no matter how my makeup or wardrobe was curated. Sure, there are some people in their twenties who are mistakenly assumed to be way younger than they really are, but let’s be real: The people who are cast in TV shows don’t really have that problem. This has been a source of critique with teen TV for ages, but it’s been reignited thanks to Riverdale:
— _dannyboy77 (@_dannyboy77) February 26, 2017
sophomores on riverdale vs sophomores at my school pic.twitter.com/cH6Rw9Hhtm
— Ana ♡ (@livelyaesthetic) February 17, 2017
I mean…no lies detected: These glamorous AF 24-year-olds with six packs and perfect teeth just cannot pass for teenagers. Most of the dudes in my 10th grade class were lanky and wore band shirts, and even the ones with some muscle had it in an awkward, I’m-going-through-puberty type of way that still made them look sinewy. The girls? Even the most beautiful ones didn’t look like they could have been in a sexy GQ editorial. Oh, and none of them looked like they were old enough to rent a car. Does that mean that shows with adults as teenagers are inherently bad? No, of course not. Some of the best teen shows starred people who haven’t been teenagers for years. Plus, it’s worth noting that the reason why so many American teen TV shows star so few teenagers is due to child labor laws. Nevertheless, there are good teen TV shows out of past and present that managed to star actual teenagers. There aren’t many, but if you’re desperate for watching shows about teens starring teens, these teen TV shows that actually had teenagers in the cast are a good place to start.
SkinsSkins was an iconic British teen drama that consistently--through three major cast changes--starred teenagers. The first season alone starred a cacophony of young actors that would eventually garner larger roles and international recognition. Every single one of the young stars--including Dev Patel (Anwar), to Effy (Kaya Scodelario), to Tony (Nicholas Hoult), to Cassie (Hannah Murray)--were between the ages of 14 and 18 when the show aired in 2007. Now that's rare.
RiverdaleYes, believe it or not, the very show that has reinvigorated this conversation over 20-somethings portraying teenagers actually does have teenagers in its cast. Most notably, KJ Apa--who plays Archie--is 19-years-old. Plus, Shannon Purser--who plays Ethel and is known for her role as Barb on Stranger Things--is also 19. So, yeah, while most of the cast are in their twenties, there are at least a couple of technical teens thrown in there, including its star.
That '70s ShowThe age divide for the That '70s Show cast is pretty divided. The actors playing Eric (Topher Grace), Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), and Hyde (Danny Masterson) were all 20 and older when the show first aired in 1998. But the actors playing Donna (Laura Prepon) and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) were 18-years-old. Most notably, the actress playing Jackie (Mila Kunis) was only 15-years-old when the show aired. In fact, there's a fun story about that: Mila was 14-years-old when she auditioned for her role on That '70s Show, but she lied to the casting director and said she was 18-years-old, which was the minimum age for the audition process. Hey, sometimes lying pays off, right?
DegrassiWhile Degrassi definitely deserves to get dragged for some of its ultra cornball moments, there's one thing this show did that is definitely worth praising: Almost its entire cast actually consisted of teenagers. Yes, a show about teenagers actually portrayed by teenagers, effing amazing. Aubrey Graham (AKA Drake) was only 14-years-old when the first season of Degrassi aired. He played the role of a high school jock who would have definitely been portrayed by a 26-year-old with bulging biceps if it was a CW production, let's be real.
SkamSkam is a Norwegian teen drama that has quickly garnered a loyal international fanbase. Seriously, I'm pretty sure I see more Brits and Americans fawning over this show online than actual Norwegians! Nevertheless, it's refreshing to know that this show--often referred to as a Norwegian Skins--follows Skins footsteps with regards to its casting. Some quick Googling revealed that most of the show's stars were teens when the show first aired in 2015 and are still teens today. Again, they could have so easily hired some gorgeous 25-year-olds and called it again, but no, Skam keeps it real.
My So-Called LifeWhile much of the teen characters from My So-Called Life were 20 and older when this cult classic aired in 1994, its star Claire Danes--who played Angela--was only 15-years old! That's pretty funny considering the fact that her mega crush, Jordan Catalano (portrayed by Jared Leto) was 23-years-old. Plus, the actor playing her frenemy, Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall), was only 16-years-old. So, yeah, not all teens, but for a couple of the stars? We'll take it.
Freaks And GeeksI was surprised to discover that the actress playing teen Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) was actually 24-years-old. James Franco also wasn't a teen (he was 21-years-old). But Ken, Bill, and Neal were each played by then 17-year-olds Seth Rogan, Samm Levine, and Martin Starr respectively. Milly was portrayed by 16-year-old Sarah Hagan and Sam was portrayed by 15-year-old John Francis Daley. So, for the most part, a pretty teen-centric cast, at least as far as the "Geeks" were concerned.
Are any shows missing from this list? Are you bothered when teens are portrayed by people in their twenties on TV shows and in movies or not? Tell us in the comments!