Back to school! From Cole Sprouse to Leighton Meester, plenty of TV stars have played teenagers years after aging out of the demographic.
In fact, shows often gravitate toward older actors to fill roles that would be hard for actual high school students to fit into their schedules. There are also certain confines that create difficulties in the casting process when aiming to include young stars.
“It’s all because of the labor laws. The number of hours that children are allowed to work are highly restricted, which limits the amount of time that producers can actually have adolescents on set,” casting director Todd Thaler told Vice in May 2017. “Within those limited hours that children can work, part of that time includes education, rest and meals.”
However, placing older actors in teenage roles comes with its own set of issues. Crystal Reed, for instance, made her debut as Beacon Hills high schooler Allison Argent when Teen Wolf premiered on MTV in 2011. The actress was 26 at the time.
After three seasons on the show, Reed asked to leave, in part due to the age gap between her and her character. “I felt like, creatively, there were things I wanted to do differently, and I wanted to explore other avenues of film and TV,” she told Entertainment Weekly in March 2014. “I wanted to jump into different characters. You know, I’m 29. So I think the age difference was something I wanted to change as well because she’s 17. I love the show so much. So I went to [executive producer Jeff Davis] and talked about it and he said, ‘We’ll write you a great ending.’”
Other series — such as Pretty Little Liars — handled the problem with time jumps. The creator of the Freeform drama, I. Marlene King, explained the decision to age the characters by five years in season 6, calling it “a group consensus.”
The executive producer divulged at New York Comic-Con in October 2015 that Troian Bellisario, Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell were “ready to play close to their own ages” after the slow-moving timeline of Rosewood kept them as teenagers for years. “It was time to age up the show, make it a little edgier and more mature,” she said.
Scroll to see which actors played high school students long after leaving the actual hallways!