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The emotionally fraught teenage years are an ideal time of life for TV shows to explore, dramatically speaking. But all too often, showrunners will sneak in a slightly more polished twentysomething to play an awkward high-schooler.
Here are 19 TV stars who played high school students much after their own teenage years. And they say there are no good roles for older actors.
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Jason Earles in Hannah Montana
Though Miley Cyrus was a perfectly acceptable 14 when she started playing tween icon Hannah Montana, Jason Earles, who played her older brother Jackson, was more than twice her age at 29 when the show started its run in 2006.
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Gabrielle Carteris, Ian Ziering, and Vincent Young in Beverly Hills, 90210
While Ian Ziering and Vincent Young only just made this list, both having been 26 when the iconic series first aired in 1990, Gabrielle Carteris was the oldest “teenage” cast member at 29.
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Michael Steger and Trevor Donovan in 90210
When Beverly Hills, 90210 got an update in the form of the CW’s 90210 in 2008, the new series kept up the franchise tradition of having some much-older cast members: Michael Steger and Trevor Donovan were 28 and 30, respectively, when the series started its run.
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Henry Winkler in Happy Days
Henry Winkler was 29 when he first started playing the Fonz in 1974. Got a problem with that? Sit on it.
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Scott Porter and Minka Kelly in Friday Night Lights
While most of Friday Night Lights’ Texas teenagers were in their early twenties when the beloved high school football drama began its run in 2006, the golden couple of the series’ pilot, Minka Kelly and Scott Porter, were 26 and 27, respectively, at the time.
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Arden Cho and Crystal Reed in Teen Wolf
While most members of the Teen Wolf cast were in their teens or early twenties in 2011 when the series began, Crystal Reed and Arden Cho were both 26. More like Twentysomething Wolf, am I right?!
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Keiko Agena in Gilmore Girls
Keiko Agena was 27 when Gilmore Girls premiered in 2000. And all this time we thought Rory was the precocious one!
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Cory Monteith, Harry Shum Jr., and Mark Salling in Glee
While much of its “teenage” cast was in their early twenties when Glee premiered in 2009, Cory Monteith, Mark Salling, and Harry Shum, Jr. were less believably adolescent, all 27 years old at the time.
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Bianca Lawson in Pretty Little Liars
While the four main Liars were all in their early twenties, Bianca Lawson, who plays Emily’s first girlfriend Maya, was 31 when Pretty Little Liars first aired in 2010.
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Charisma Carpenter and Nicholas Brendon in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Apparently high school on the Hellmouth has no age requirement: Nicholas Brendan and Charisma Carpenter were 26 and 27, respectively, when Buffy began its run in 1997. (David Boreanaz was 28 at the time, but his role was, in fact, a centuries-old vampire dating a high school student rather than a high school student himself, so he is excused.)
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Stacey Dash in Clueless
Stacey Dash was 29 years old when she reprised her role as Dionne for the Clueless spinoff series, which started in 1996 — just a year after the release of the movie, for which she was also a bit mature to play a teenager at 28. Whatever, Dionne!