The 5 Most WTF Casting Decisions For Teenage Roles

Hollywood hates casting teenagers to play teenagers. This is partly because they can only work a limited number of hours in a day, and partly because ew, teenagers. Because of that, most of the “teenagers” I grew up idolizing were actors and actresses in their 20s or even 30s. Some movies and shows have been able to make it work, but a lot of the time, a “teen” character looks closer to a senior citizen than a senior in high school. For instance …


Charlie Heaton And Dacre Montgomery In Stranger Things

Did the Duffer brothers go to high school? Were the streets their high school? That’s a thing, right? I’m really struggling to find an explanation for the casting of Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers in Stranger Things.

The mystery is Season 3 is how the fuck a 16-year-old has crow’s feet.

It’s not just that Heaton is 23. In the realm of adults playing teenagers on television, 23 is an ideal age to play the part of a 16-year-old. That Heaton doesn’t even look 23 is what bothers me. He looks like when he was 23, he worked at an all-night gas station, and all those sleepless evenings pounding energy drinks really did a number on him.

To be fair, it’s not just a Jonathan problem; it’s a Stranger Things problem. If they’re not casting the part of a preteen, they have no idea what youth looks like. During the new season, the first time I saw Billy speed into the school parking lot in that dope muscle car, I was pretty sure he was the cool, sexy new janitor.

“Know what I like about high school roles? I get older, while they stay casting me.”

Heaton says he won the Duffers’ attention during a Skype call at a burger restaurant. So I’m thinking that if it was late at night in a burger joint with good fluorescent lighting, sure, he passes for 16. Much in the same way I pass for someone who hasn’t just eaten three cheeseburgers.

As for the role of Billy, the only explanation I can fathom is that Carmen Cuba is the casting director for Stranger Things, and she also cast all of the abs in Magic Mike. Don’t you dare ever say a word against her. She has brought more joy into this world than you can possibly fathom. But it makes sense when you see Dacre Montgomery like this:

Dacre Montgomery/Instagram


Michael Schoeffling In Sixteen Candles

Molly Ringwald spends most of Sixteen Candles mooning over her stepdad.

I mean, that’s her stepdad, right? No? Are you sure? He’s got a real stepdad vibe. This picture of the two of them screams stepdad love:

Rewatching Sixteen Candles, I realized that WOW, this movie does not hold up. I’m not saying it’s not funny (although it’s not). It’s disturbingly devoid of any notions of consent. Michael Schoeffling plays Jake Ryan, the prince charming of this movie, and at one point he says of his passed-out girlfriend, “I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” God, they just don’t make men like Jake Ryan anymore. Sorry, I meant thank God they just don’t make men like Jake Ryan anymore.

Not only do Schoefflin and Ringwald look creepy together, they actually were creepy together. Schoeffling was 23 at the time the movie was made, while Ringwald was 15! I’m pretty sure when he picked her up from her sister’s wedding at the end of the movie, that was legally kidnapping.

This was pretty early in the career of casting director Jackie Burch, but she went on to cast some awesome movies, including Die Hard, Road House, Weird Science, and Coming To America. However, she also cast Hudson Hawk, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, and Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Damn, that’s not just a mixed bag; it’s a mixed bag of snickers and scorpions.


Stockard Channing In Grease

Grease will always hold a special place in my heart as the first rated PG-13 movie I ever saw, and Rizzo was my first and favorite female role model. I wanted to be needlessly mean to a sweet blonde girl and emotionally distant from my boyfriend. (Both goals I would meet later in life.) Unfortunately, watching Grease as an adult, I found a pretty deep flaw in Rizzo’s aloof tough girl act: She was played by a 33-year-old woman, and boy howdy does it show! She looks like Marty’s chain-smoking Aunt who won’t leave the pink ladies alone.

The ’70s were a different time, when age was just a number … a very high number that begins with a three for a lot of the cast members of Grease. I’m not saying that 30 is old; I’m just saying it’s old to be pretending to study for the SATs. I knew that Grease was a Broadway play before it became a musical, so I assumed that Channing originated the role on Broadway and the directors thought no one could do it better than her. That was not at all true. Then I figured they decided to cast the movie with all older actors for a sort of weird old people high school vibe. Maybe they cut a subplot where the water in this town was bad or something, so all the kids have wrinkles? This is also not true.

The age range of the main cast members jumps around from two 19-years-olds, to John Travolta at 23, to 33-year-olds. Channing is the oldest, and it definitely shows when she’s paired with the 19-year-old actress playing Marty. She looks like she’s there to try to sell her beer. Again, this isn’t age-shaming or look-shaming. She looks great. She’s an awesome actor. It’s just a really weird choice to cast someone who’s almost double the age of the character she’s supposed to be playing.


Andrea On Beverly Hills, 90210

Many people have complained about the geriatric “teenagers” walking the halls of West Beverly High School in Beverly Hills, 90210. Luke Perry’s receding hairline is often cited as a cardinal sin in the world of teen drama, but it was 29-year-old Gabrielle Carteris playing 16-year-old smart girl Andrea that really got me. I never really watched the show, and the first time I saw a picture of the cast together, I legitimately thought Cateris was the Mr. Belding character.

She just has the vibe of a wise teacher there to dispense advice. Yes, Perry’s head hair is trying to escape his eyebrow hair, but every time the camera switches from 19-year-old Jennie Garth to Carteris, I can’t help but yell “Narc!” at the television. It’s just an instinct.

Unfortunately, the Los Angeles police department refused to return my phone calls. However, I can tell you that the casting of Beverly Hills, 90210 was pretty bonkers in general. I had no idea Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty played twins, because they look like their families have never met. Several of the other “teenagers” on the show were deep into their 20s, although Carteris was the oldest in the cast.

90210 was the first big teen soap opera, so it was all kind of a big experiment. They obviously weren’t quite sure what they wanted from their actors, other than to look pretty and cry a lot. Both of those things everyone in the 90210 cast excelled at. But looking like teenagers? Not so much.


Hatchet Face From Cry-Baby

Cry-Baby‘s Hatchet Face was designed to be the butt of the classic joke “LOL, this woman is unattractive!” View how unattractive the world finds this woman and laugh. In the process of casting this hilariously unattractive woman, John Waters searched far and wide, eventually finding 35-year-old actress Kim McGuire to portray a high school senior.

If McGuire were cast as Johnny Depp’s grandmother, I wouldn’t bat an eye at that decision. I get that Cry-Baby was a fanciful movie. It’s a John Waters musical about a man who can only cry out of one eye, and it has all the camp you would expect to go with that. The problem is that unless the movie is called Benjamin Button, you cannot convince me that Hatchet Face is in high school.

A lot of people speculate that the part was originally written for John Waters frequent collaborator Divine, who passed away shortly before the film went into production. The character is often described as facially disfigured, which seems a little harsh. I’m pretty sure if I stood next to a young Johnny Depp, I would look facially disfigured as well. I have to say, I think the majority of this casting decision came down to “Fuck it, I’m John Waters, and I do what I want.” I should probably just be glad that Hatchet Face is a person and not a mannequin made out of dumpster bologna who ends up getting eaten by the rest of the cast.

You can follow Lydia on Twitter.

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