When casting a high school show, the vast majority of the time you’re not going to pull actors who are literally fourteen and fifteen years old. However, the least you can do is at least try to find someone who looks age appropriate. Nothing against these six actors, but often I was concentrating more on their wrinkles and age spots than I was on their acting.
6) Ryan Atwood on The O.C.
Played by Benjamin Mackenzie (age 25-29 while filming)
For the first season, Ryan was passable as a high schooler, but he aged absurdly fast, and by the time the show ended he looked like he could have been Seth Cohen’s father. I mean he was 29 when he was supposed to be a freshman in college, and that has to show at least a little bit. He only looks in place in the last five minutes of the series, where he is all grown up as an architect helping struggling youth. No faux-age makeup required.
5) Serena Van Der Woodsen on Gossip Girl
Played by Blake Lively (age 20-22 while filming)
OK, you know what? I don’t care that Blake Lively is pretty damn close to high school age in real life because she constantly looks and mostly act like she’s about 35 (except when she’s off on drunken benders). I think they were going for a lead girl who was “relatable” (read: not too hot) but she really just comes off…old. And that’s bad when she’s definitely the youngest person on this list. Most female actors can play younger easily, but not Miss Lively.
4) Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights
Played by Taylor Kitsch (age 25-29 while filming)
I didn’t want to make a CosmoGirl image the lead picture for Taylor, but seriously, are we supposed to believe that this guy is in high school? He looks like he should be off swimming the Olympics, cutting down trees, or fighting evil with a trench coat and bowstaff, not playing high school football.
3) Clark Kent on Smallville
Played by Tom Welling (age 24-32 while filming)
This has been one of the most horrendous age miscastings on TV ever for me, but the only reason it’s not higher is because it actually got better as time went on. The above picture was taken when Clark Kent was supposed to be a freshman in high school. Have you seen freshman in high school? Even the big ones will be staring directly at your chest, quaking at the possibility that you might stuff them in a locker.
As time went on, Tom Welling never really looked any older than he did at the beginning of the show, so eventually the age gap narrowed, but the “high school” seasons of the show were an absolute joke in terms of his towering physique.
2) Dylan McKay on 90210
Played by Luke Perry (age 25-35 while filming)
Did Dylan creep anyone else out as much as he did me? In high school he looked like a senior in college and after graduation he just got to be dad-aged and downright off-putting. You got used to it over time, I mean the show was on for ten years, but every once in a while it would just hit you and you’d shudder at how horribly out of place he looked.
And while we’re on 90210 here, I feel obligated to mention Andrea Zuckerman, who looks much more soccer mom than high school student. Her and Dylan should get a nice house in the suburbs together.
1) Arther Fonzarelli on Happy Days
Played by Henry Winkler (age 29-39 while filming)
Yes, Fonzie was almost FORTY when the show finished wrapping. I mean, I never really knew if Fonzie was supposed to be older than Richie and the gang. I figured a few years at most, but seriously, if he wasn’t the Fonz he would certainly have been “creepy old guy who hangs out around high school.” But most of the time he just looks like Edward James Olmos.
In contrast, the BEST example of appropriate high school age casting? Take a look at the entire cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Kids playing the age they actually are? Unheard of!