Who are the Oldest Actors Playing High-Schoolers on TV?

It's a time-honored tradition for high school dramas to be populated with actors well out of their teens. Here, then, is a tribute of sorts, assembled by examining each big teen show on the air, then isolating its oldest cast member. Their characters may flirt at parties to the sounds of Lady Gaga and dance at the high school prom to Taylor Swift, but in real life, some of these actors haven't been in school since Kurt Cobain was alive. Who are they?



Oldest Cast Member: Trevor Donovan, 30

Until this season, the oldest high schooler on 90210 was the 29-year-old Michael Steger (Navid), who's actually several years older than the cast member playing his teacher, Ryan Eggold (25 in real life). Then 90210 had to go and add Trevor Donovan, who'll be turning 31 next month. Gabrielle Carteris would be proud!


Gossip Girl

Oldest Cast Member: Jessica Szohr, 24

On most teen dramas, it's usually a male cast member who's the elder statesman. Not so Gossip Girl, where Jessica Szohr holds that title, outranking next-oldest actor Chace Crawford by almost 16 months.



Oldest Cast Member: Cory Monteith, 27

For a high school show, Glee has an unusually young cast -- 18-year-old actor Chris Colfer (Kurt) could even be a senior in real life. And then there's Cory Monteith, who plays the school's male lead, Finn, and turned 27 before Glee's spring premiere.


The Vampire Diaries

Oldest Cast Member: Paul Wesley, 27

There's always been something unsettling about hundred-year-old vampires entering into romantic relationships with teenage girls, but at least it makes the real age of Paul Wesley (as Vampire Diaries' high-school-enrolled bloodsucker) seem like small potatoes.


The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Oldest Cast Member: Greg Finley, 24

ABC Family hit The Secret Life of the American Teenager has a provocative title, and it's one that may prove educational for Greg Finley (Jack); when he turns 25 next month, it'll have been six years since he was a teenager.


Friday Night Lights

Oldest Cast Member: Zach Gilford, 27

It's a good thing Zach Gilford is wrapping up his stint on Friday Night Lights this season, since the actor's way past graduation age at 27. Still, he wasn't always the wise old man of the group -- until 2008, that was an honor held by actor Scott Porter, who turned the big 3-0 this year.


  • a;skdjfkaj says:

    actually Minka Kelly is the oldest on Friday Night Lights...she's 29.

  • L W says:

    "I guess high school students are so immature that no one wants them on tv."
    Shows hire over 18 actors to play teens because minors carry a lot more legal restrictions regarding working hours, education, contract signatures from guardians, etc. 18+ also tend to be more experienced.
    It's cheaper and easier to hire 18+ because they can sign their own paperwork, and be on the set all day and night if needed.

  • Dave says:

    Well they can't hire real teenagers due to the long hours actors have to endure which is in violation of child labor laws.

  • Darth Chimay says:

    Isn't Miley Cyrus' TV brother actually 33 or 34 but playing a 16 year old?

    • teri rae says:

      Jason Earles was almost 30 when he first played Jackson Stewart, a high school junior. By the end of the series he was 34.

  • Nicole says:

    This isn't a TV show, but other people mentioned movies.
    Shirley Henderson, the actress who plays Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter, was 35 when she first started playing her according to IMDb. She's almost 44 now.

  • Anon says:

    I always thought that the actors in Freaks & Geeks were actually of high school age. Well, not quite. Linda Cardellini was 24. But she was the oldest. The youngest was her "brother" John Francis Daley who was only 14. The average age of the cast was 18. A rarity.
    Re: Friday Night Lights, Scott Porter is (according to the IMDB) eleven months older than Minka Kelly.
    None of the "kids" on FNL looked like they belonged in college, nevermind high school. It constantly bothered me hearing Jason Street referred to as a seventeen year-old kid when the actor was twenty-seven.
    In season two, there was a plot point about Tim was sleeping with an older woman. Brooke Langton was around 37-38 and Taylor Kitsch was 26. Not exactly robbing the craddle.
    Season three gave us a brief romance between Tyra and Cash. Cash was an older, already out of high school rodeo guy. She (Adrianne Palicki) was really 25 and he (Zach Roerig) was 27.
    Oh, and now Roerig is playing a high schooler again on The Vampire Diaries.
    If the producers are going to cast obviously older actors to play H.S. students, they should at least refrain from plots where their characters' ages are an issue.

  • Residentcynic says:

    Excuse me-- VERONICA MARS. Kristin Bell, people. She was playing a 17 year old when she was 24, so 3 years later she was playing a 20 year old when she was 27. And I think she pulled it off much better and in a much classier way than anyone else in this category.

  • angela says:

    Trina McGee, who played Shawn's girlfriend in Boy Meets World, played a senior in high school at 28 years old. Not only that, she was already married with 3 children.

  • Inga says:

    I remember how shocked I was when my mom told me how old Luke Perry was. I had a huge crush on this 30+ year old man and I had no idea!

  • BiggerGunn says:

    What's more worrisome/sickening? That 25+ actors are hired to play highschoolers, or that real 15 year old girls try and succeed in looking like 21 year olds, be it Taylor Momsen or your girl next door and classmate?
    Yes, 15 year olds have strong, strong desire to look and be treated older. So do 8 year olds.

  • SCTV for the win says:

    Al - righ - ty - oh - boy!

  • Dan says:

    Yeah, I had to look through the comments to see if anyone mentioned Strangers With Candy. I didn't want to have to say it, so good thing you did!

  • It really is astonishing that Kurt Cobain still has countless fans. His music is purely special and it are going to be memorable. Numerous wonder even now, why did Kurt committed suicide. I consider he was so depressed that he could not even conserve his music. Kurt, you're the finest!

  • It is astonishing that Kurt Cobain however has numerous fans. His music is purely one of a kind and it is going to be memorable. Numerous wonder nevertheless, why did Kurt committed suicide. I believe he was so depressed that he could not even conserve his songs. Kurt, you are the best!

  • Loral says:

    The guy that plays Mike Chang is older than the Cory Monteith... only by a a month but still!

  • jamie_m says:

    Yeah I always thought about this,,, in Tv shows and Movie's too,, it mostly seems to be an American thing. Why not take a leaf out of Harry Potter's book and have the teenage characters actually be played by actors roughly the same age.
    HAHA,,If Harry Potter had of been filmed in the US the actors picked play Harry Ron and Hermoine would of been about 40 by the time the series wrapped.
    It is kind of annoying though, it makes it hard to relate or find the characters believable when they look way too old,,
    Like last night I was watchin Falling Skies and main guy (history teacher hero guy), well he's got a son who I was convinced throughout the season was like 24, 25 or something, due to his looks, maturity and heroic and brave nature and all that nonsense,,, then, they say in the show,, he's 16,, I was like, fuck off,, it's just not believable!!! I know its a show about alien invasion but let us atleast relate to the characters. Doesn't really matter, the show's crap anyway

  • Mike says:

    C'mon....30 years old playing a high schooler??? There are plenty of 18 year olds who look their age and can act. Where are the 30 year old women playing 16? Doesn't happen does it? Why? Because Hollywood is obsessed with showing girls has pre-teens and boys as studs. Hollywood...You are now and have been for a long time messed up! When 13 year old Lindsay Lohan was going into clubs in L.A. that have a legal drinking age of 21 where was the Alcohol and Beverage Control to shut the place down? Stop glorifying underage (children) and start getting real about people looking and playing the age you put them in roles for. Remember: younger kids are looking up to them on and off the screen.
    Their partying ways are spread across the rags anyway. Why not have a professional child actor with a caring parent that molds and guides them to be good adults being role models instead? I'm sure I can't be the only one that is sick of hearing about re-hab for yet another 18-20 year old. They have an amazing chance that they piss away because of the excesses that are so abundant in tinseltown!

  • Cee says:

    Cory's not the oldest actor in Glee. I't Mark Salling. (He plays Puck.) He was 30 when he got accepted for the part.

  • Didy says:

    I think the oldest on Glee is Harry Shum, Jr. He's 29

  • Didy says:

    Oh just saw Cee's comments. Mark Salling is 4 months younger than Harry Shum Jr...they both are 29.

  • Lara says:

    Hmmm I beg to differ. I think casting older people to play highschool students probably increased the number of adult viewers. I'm turning 25 and I know I would not watch any of those shows if they had actual 18 year olds acting. I think the experience really shows.

    Harry Potter actors were awful at acting in the first few movies. They've really matured.

  • Mike says:

    Child labor laws eh? So when my dad makes me mow the lawn, clean the gutters, wash the cars, trim the hedges, and clean the house, and he calls it "house chores", he's actually enslaving me into forced labor because I'm under 18 and working is then wrong? American laws seem in fact to LOOK good, but in reality are stupid as hell.

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