Top 10 Oldest Actors to Play Teenagers on TV

Script written by Q.V. Hough When it comes to age, these television stars prove that looks really are deceiving. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 oldest actors to play teenagers on TV. For this list, we're focusing strictly on the small screen and the performers that managed to trick us by playing characters much younger than their actual age.  Special thanks to our users dundunDUN or submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Q.V. Hough

Top 10 Oldest Actors to Play Teenagers on TV

When it comes to age, these television stars prove that looks really are deceiving. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 oldest actors to play teenagers on TV.
For this list, we’re focusing strictly on the small screen and the performers that managed to trick us by playing characters much younger than their actual age. 

#10: Charisma Carpenter in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)
Born July 23, 1970

Cast alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar to lead Joss Whedon’s groundbreaking series about a demon-slaying cheerleader and her “Scooby Gang,” Charisma Carpenter was more than a few years removed from high school.  Carpenter was 27 when the first season aired, but her fresh face presented the ideal look for the would-be transformative show. Before then, Charisma had only a few credits to her name, including “Baywatch” and “Boy Meets World,” but it was on “Buffy” where she was able to show off more than just her good looks.

#9: Minka Kelly in “Friday Night Lights” (2006-11)
Born June 24, 1980

Before melting the hearts of both men and women alike in the NBC hit TV series, the daughter of former Aerosmith-er Rick Dufay was relatively unknown. When the first episode of “Friday Night Lights” premiered in 2006, however, Kelly beautifully captured the essence of high school drama when she starred as Lyla Garrity, despite already having 26 years under her belt. Kelly's looks may attract a certain demographic, but her graceful beauty emits a sweetheart vibe as well. She wasn’t the only one on the show who pulled off a significantly younger character either; her co-stars Lucas Black and Taylor Kitsch were also born in the early 1980s.

#8: Paul Wesley in “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-)
Born July 23, 1982

Before he was known for his leading role on the hit CW supernatural drama, the average TV viewer probably recognized this man as Stephen from “24” or Tommy from Everwood, and maybe even some of his other recurring roles… back when he was playing characters closer to his actual age. Paul Wesley hit it big when he landed the role as a 162-year-old bloodsucker named Stefan Salvatore on “The Vampire Diaries.” Of course, Mr. Wesley wasn’t actually THAT old, but he wasn’t quite the 17 years old he appeared to be either – as he was in fact 27 when the pilot aired.

#7: Bianca Lawson in “Pretty Little Liars” (2010-)
Born March 20, 1979

It really seems that this actress just doesn’t age at all, considering she’s been playing a teenager on television for the past 20 years. Bianca Lawson made her TV debut way back in 1993 on “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” where she played Megan Jones, while also having a number of guest and recurring roles on both sitcoms and dramas throughout the 90s and 2000s. So, once Lawson joined the team of “Pretty Little Liars” in 2010, she was already a veteran of the business, although not necessarily a recognizable face. The name Maya St. Germain has now become popular among millennial viewers and beyond, but her Rosewood journey began when the apparently teenaged Lawson was already 31 years old. 

#6: Cory Monteith in “Glee” (2009-15)
Born May 11, 1982

As one of the more heartbreaking examples of celebrities who suffered from addiction, Cory Monteith went Hollywood in the mid-2000s and sustained a working career in both TV and film. It's Monteith's role as Finn Hudson on the FOX sensation “Glee” that gained not only earned critical acclaim, but also stunned viewers once they learned that Cory had recently turned 27 years old when the series premiered in May of 2009. For 4 seasons, he delivered time and time again, but unfortunately Cory passed away in 2013, at only 31 years old.

#5: Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones” (2011-)
Born October 26, 1986

Believe it or not – at least considering the character’s general lack of clothing – our dear Khaleesi is actually supposed to be 15 years old in the first season of “Game of Thrones.” But considering the overall package that is Emilia Clarke, HBO didn’t seem bothered by facts and stats from the source material in this case. Clarke may’ve appeared to be in her late teens when the pilot first aired, but she was actually 24 years old at the time. It’s the youthful presence that makes Daenerys such a polarizing figure; and though she’s technically be 21 in season 6, that’s still considerably younger than her real age. 

#4: Stacey Dash in “Clueless” (1996-99)
Born January 20, 1967

After the massive success of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film “Clueless,” ABC quickly developed a sitcom version for their TGIF lineup. While Stacey Dash beautifully displayed how Dionne Davenport got down at Bronson Alcott High, she was close toreaching the big 3-0 by the time the premiere episode aired, which is like, way too old to be in high school. Dash was one of the few cast members to return to the series in her original role, and she continued to play the part perfectly, despite being 32 by the time the series wrapped. 

#3: Emily Kinney in “The Walking Dead” (2010-)
Born August 15, 1985

As a character specific to only the AMC series and not the original graphic novel, Beth Greene emerged in season 2 and instantly endeared herself to viewers, and certainly to ol’ Daryl. A recurring character for two seasons, Emily Kinney’s character is a devout Christian teenager who is Maggie’s half sister, and she was and was promoted to series regular in the show’s fourth year. Beth is supposed to be 16 years old when she’s introduced, yet Kinney was cast for the role at 25, but it proved to be her breakthrough performance nonetheless.

#2: Jason Earles in “Hannah Montana” (2006-11)
Born April 26, 1977

At one point this guy was primarily known for being the ancestor of Nicolas Cage in the 2004 film “National Treasure.” It wasn’t too long after that Jason Earles appeared in the sensation known as “Hannah Montana”- taking the part as Miley’s 16-year-old brother Jackson at 29 years of age. With the help of a blossoming superstar, he found his groove in the form of a goofy, teenaged brother. By the end of the show’s five-year run, nobody really seemed to appreciate the inexplicable, Benjamin Button-type appearance of the real-life Jackson Stewart, mainly because he doesn’t seem to age whatsoever.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Keiko Agena in “Gilmore Girls” (2000-07)
Born October 3, 1973

Ben McKenzie in “The O.C.” (2003-07)
Born September 12, 1978

Henry Winkler in “Happy Days” (1974-84)
Born October 30, 1945

James Van Der Beek in “Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003)
Born March 8, 1977

#1: Gabrielle Carteris in “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000)
Born January 2, 1961

Unfortunately for Gabrielle Carteris, it’s likely that no other performance in her career will outweigh the 147-episode run of “Beverly Hills, 90210”. Sure, Andrea Zuckerman wasn’t the most popular of the bunch, as viewers adored the likes of Luke Perry and Ian Ziering even more – both of whom were in their early to mid-20s while playing teenagers on screen – but the general public always seemed to wonder the true age of Gabrielle Carteris. Sure, she’s wasn’t quite an old lady, but she was nearly 30 when the first episode aired, as was Trevor Donovan when he played “Teddy” on the show’s reboot that aired in 2008.

Do you agree with our list? What actor or actress on our list surprised you with their real age?

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