Whether it means sitting on the couch eating popcorn at home or going for a night out at the movie theater with friends, most people love the entertainment that film and television brings. From dramas to thrillers to comedies, our favorite shows and movies always have something great to offer. While we love what we see, sometimes the behind the scenes reality can also be interesting.
One big thing about this industry is finding the perfect people to fit the given characters. This can often mean choosing someone that is a bit unexpected, such as an actor or actress who is much to young or far too old to portray this role. In some of the best TV shows and classic motion pictures, you may never know how old the actors are that you’re watching on screen.
Hollywood obviously chooses the people they think are right for the production, even if they don’t fit the age requirement. This can lead to some pretty drastic age discrepancies, let’s say, between on-screen parents and their children. Sometimes the person playing the kid might only be a few years younger than the parent and other times they are actually OLDER than them. Keep reading to see some extreme age differences between fictional parents and their children.
John Lithgow and Lori Singer (Footloose)
In a world where dancing and rock music are banned, apparently there are also 12 year-old fathers. It’s probably best they left that theme out of Footloose. In reality, John Lithgow, who played Reverend Shaw Moore, is only just over a decade older than his on-screen teenage daughter Ariel, played by Lori Singer. In the film, Singer was portraying a high school student, though she was 27, and Lithgow played her father, who was 39 at the time. Lucky for them, Singer could pull off her role by looking significantly younger than she really was and, with her and Lithgow’s phenomenal performance, no one could pick up on the close age gap in this classic movie.
Mandy Moore and her on-screen children (This is Us)
This is Us is is one of the most acclaimed and beloved drama series right now, but the real life age gaps have us saying “This is Confusing.” Rebecca, portrayed by the lovely Mandy Moore, is the matriarch of the Pearson family and she requires three hours to cake on makeup for her to appear older because she is actually younger than all three of her on-screen children. Moore is 34, but the actors who play her children, Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, and Justin Hartley, are 37 or older. It all makes sense, though, because the series takes place throughout different stages of their lives and Moore plays Rebecca throughout, but the others require younger versions of themselves.
Andrea Navedo and Gina Rodriquez (Jane the Virgin)
While we understand that Xiomara Villanueva was only 16 when she had her daughter in Jane the Virgin, the actress who plays her, Andrea Navedo, is actually only seven years older than Gina Rodriguez, the actress who pays Jane. They may look more like sisters and be far too close in age to be mother and daughter, but we certainly could not imagine anyone else playing Xiomara and Jane in this hilarious show.
Drew Barrymore and Adam Garcia (Riding in Cars with Boys)
If you’ve seen Riding in Cars With Boys, you may have noticed somethings a little odd about Drew Barrymore and her son, Jason, by the time he gets to college. The story follows a young girl and her life as a teenage mother. In reality, Barrymore was 26 at the time and Adam Garcia, who plays Jason as a young man, is actually two years older than her. Her character may have been a young mom, but it’s pretty impossible for her to be younger than her own son.
The Van der Woodsens and Humphreys (Gossip Girl)
While 19 is not a completely unreasonable age to have a child, neither is 17 for that matter, we know that neither Lily Van der Woodsen nor Rufus Humphrey were teenagers when they had their oldest children, Serena and Dan. It’s not hard to notice that Kelly Rutherford (Lily) and Matthew Settle (Rufus) both look a bit young to have grown children, and that’s probably because they are. Even with all the scandals and drama of Gossip Girl, teenage pregnancy wasn’t one of them.
Aunt Viv(s) and Hilary (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
The famous Aunt Viv from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actually ended up being portrayed by two different women, both of which were rather young to be Hilary’s mom. Karyn Parsons was 24 when she first started playing Will Smith’s ditzy and spoiled cousin in the show. The original Aunt Viv was played by Janet Hubert, who is only 10 years older than Parsons. Daphne Reid replaced Hubert after season three, but in real life, Parsons was still only 18 years younger than the new Aunt Viv.
Frances Conroy and Peter Kraus (Six Feet Under)
Six Feet Under is a dark yet funny series following the lives of a California family who owns an independent funeral home. Possibly the most twisted part about the show, however, is the shocking age differences between the stars. In reality, Frances Conroy, who plays the mother, is only 12 years older than Peter Kraus and 18 years older than Michael C. Hall, the actors who portray her two sons in the comedic drama.
Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur (Golden Girls)
The late Estelle Getty may have portrayed a believable mother in Golden Girls, but she was actually a year younger than her on-screen daughter, played by Bea Arthur (deceased). It took 45 minutes to prepare Getty to play a character that was 20 years older than she actually was at the time. Regardless of how old the characters were, this show has made people of all ages laugh for decades and the hit comedy will probably always remain a beloved classic.
Phylicia Rashad and Sabrina Le Beauf (The Cosby Show)
With only a decade between Phylicia Rashad and Sabrina Le Beauf, it’s amazing that the two actresses were able to portray a mother-daughter relationship so well in The Cosby Show. The sitcom focuses on a wealthy family living in New York during the mid-1980s. Claire (Rashad) is the family’s matriarch and in real life, she is only ten years older than her TV daughter, Sondra (Le Beauf). While Lisa Bonet, who plays Denise, is 19 years younger than Rashad, we think the former is a bit more surprising.
Billy Ray Cyrus and Jason Earles (Hannah Montana)
Billy Ray is the real life and on-screen father of Hannah Montana, otherwise known as Miley Cyrus. He is not, however, related to Jason Earles, who plays his son and Miley’s brother in the show. If he was his real father, that would make him only 16 years older than his son. We are not sure what anti-agin products Earles uses because he was 35 when Hannah Montana began, though he was playing a character almost 20 years younger than that. The best part, he pulled it off!
Lea Thompson and Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future)
Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson are only nine days apart in age, so how could she possibly play his mother in Back to the Future? Marty McFly, a high school student, goes back in time to when his mom is a teenager, so it actually makes sense that the actors portraying these characters would be of similar age. In the “present time” scenes, Thompson wore makeup to appear older. The more alarming thing is they were both 24 at the time, playing 17 year olds (again, Hollywood?!)
Amy Poehler and Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls)
Apparently in order to be a “cool mom,” you have to be only seven years older than your child. This one isn’t so much about casting an actress too young to be a mom, but more about casting someone too old to be a teenager. Rachel McAdams, who plays high school student Regina George, was a whopping 26 when Mean Girls was released. Because the interactions between Poehler and McAdams were so genuine and believable, we didn’t even notice that there was such an unrealistic age gap there.
John Mahoney and Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Martin Crane from Frasier may seem mature and old enough to be a father of two adult sons, but in reality, he might not have been. In the sitcom, Frasier is a psychiatrist, and perhaps he chose that profession to cope with the fact that his dad was a teenager when he was born. That’s right; don’t let the white hair fool you, John Mahoney (Martin Crane) is actually only 15 years older than Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and 19 years older than David Hyde Pierce, his other TV son, Niles.
Tim McGraw and Alison Lohman (Flicka)
Alison Lohman does seem to look about ten years younger than she really is, so maybe that’s why she was cast as Katy in Flicka. That being said, Tim McGraw, is only 12 years older than her, clearly not old enough to be father, though he plays her dad on-screen. Despite the age difference, the two managed to make us believe their father-daughter portrayal in the film and we forget she was far too old to be playing a teenager and he’s far too young to be her dad.
Al Lewis and Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters)
Thank goodness for stage makeup, otherwise you might have been able to notice that Yvonne De Carlo (Lily) is actually a year older than her on-screen father Al Lewis (Grandpa). The Munsters is a fantasy comedy that centers around a family of friendly monsters just trying to fit in. Lily and her father are vampires, so that also helps hide their age gap because legend says they aren’t supposed to get older with time. Though both actors are deceased now, their legacy lives on in our hearts.
Idina Menzel and Lea Michele (Glee)
Did you know that Lea Michele and Idina Menzel are actually only 15 years apart in real life? We will let this one slide because they look and act too similar for us not to accept their mother daughter performances in Glee. In the musical sitcom, Rachel Berry meets her mother, Shelby Corcoran, while in her sophomore year of high school after not knowing her because she was raised by two fathers. At first, their relationship starts off a bit iffy, but the two grow closer as the show progresses.
Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls)
There probably could not have been a better pair to play Lorelai and Rory in Gilmore Girls than Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel. The two portrayed the mother-daughter duo perfectly and it’s shocking that they are not actually besties offset. They do meet up every now and then, but they don’t spend nearly every second together as they did in the show. Another shocker is they are not 16 years apart (Lorelai had Rory as a teen), but there actually only 14 years between them.
The Hastings and Montgomerys (Pretty Little Liars)
We wouldn’t change any of the Pretty Little Liars cast members, but we do wonder why Hollywood notoriously casts people in their twenties to play teenagers. Troian Bellisario was 25 when she began playing Spencer and Lucy Hale was 21 in the beginning days of Aria. Of course their on-screen mothers look great for their ages because they are only 16 and 14 years older than their daughters. You read that correctly, the women who play Spencer and Aria’s PLL moms are not much older than they are.
Moira Kelly and Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill)
We know that Karen Roe was 17 when her son Lucas was born, but the actors who portray the two are actually only 13 years apart in real life. While Moira Kelly was close enough in age to be playing a woman with a high school-aged son in which she gave birth to as a teen, Chad Michael Murray was a 22 year-old playing a teenager when One Tree Hill first began in 2003.
Laurence Fishburne and Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
Although we are used to this pair playing the father and son duo Pops and Dre, things might not be quite as they seem. The comedy-drama follows the life of Dre and his family, but in reality, actor Anthony Anderson is nine years younger than his on-screen father. Sure, the show is full of twists and turns, but we’re not sure that starting a family that young was the look they were after. Thankfully, careful makeup and wardrobe choices make this pair look a generation apart.
Rebecca Toolan and David Duchovny (The X-Files)
Sure, this sci-fi drama might be filled with all things supernatural, but what about this mother and son combination? Rebecca plays Fox Mulder’s mother, Teener, on the show. However, the actress might have been better suited to an older sister role as she is just one year older than her on-screen son and co-star, David Duchovny. As if that wasn’t enough, Rebecca was only 36 years old when she appeared on the show. The camera really does add some years!
Vicki Lawrence and Ken Berry (Mama’s Family)
Mama is everything you might think of when imagining an elderly lady. Sh has the silver curls, pursed lips, and floral dresses that many of us have seen over the years. However, what she doesn’t have is a son that matched up to her age. Amazingly, Ken Berry, who plays Vinton Harper in the comedy, is 16 years older than his on-screen mother. Yes, it seems as though these shows really can work miracles, even ones as great as being born before your mother.
Kevin Tighe and Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Lost was the drama show that left us with plenty of questions over the years. Would they ever make it off the island? What were all those mysterious noises at night? How is Kevin Tighe only eight years older than Terry O’Quinn? Wait, what? You read that right – Kevin, who played Terry’s father on the show, is less than a decade older than his on-screen son. John Locke was the master of hunting; perhaps he could hunt down the answer to the mysterious age gap?
Bonnie Franklin and her on-screen kids (One Day at a Time)
This sitcom was all about family life and drama in the Romano household. As well as having young pregnancies on the show, One Day at a Time featured one before the show even began. Daughters Julie and Barbara were teenagers on the show, but their mom, Ann, would have been just 15 when she first started a family. It seems as though there are plenty more secrets lying within the apartment walls than we ever could have guessed.
James Eckhouse and Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210)
Ah, it can be hard not to get sucked into a good teen drama. What with all the events of relationships, breakups, and maybe even a few arguments or two, there is plenty to keep us entertained. However, there was always something that left viewers scratching their head back in the ‘90s. James Eckhouse, who played the father of Jason Priestley’s leading character, is just 14 years older than his on-screen son. It seems what happens in Minnesota stays in Minnesota.
Len Cariou and Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods)
Although the cast of Blue Bloods are used to solving all number of crimes, it seems as though these officers have a question staring them in the face: is there something off about Henry and Frank Reagan? “Yes” is the answer they are looking for – how did they ever make it as detectives without us? In fact, Len Cariou, who plays Len on the show, is merely six years older than his son.
Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Boyz n the Hood)
It seems as though Laurence Fishburne can’t help but snatch up roles as fathers much closer to their on-screen kids’ ages than we ever imagined. Back in 1991, when the actor landed the role as the starring character’s father in this drama movie, Laurence was 29 years old. However, Cuba Gooding Jr. was not so junior after all as the actor was 23 years old. That means there were an incredible six years between this father and son combination, and we’re not buying it.
Heath Ledger and Kate Mara (Brokeback Mountain)
Brokeback Mountain was the film that had the world talking after its release back in 2005. The romantic storyline had many viewers on the edge of their seat, but also helped cover up one major plot hole in the story. Ennis (Heath Ledger) might have moved away from his love and started a family, but he somehow managed to do all of this at a young age. That’s right; there are just four years between Heath and his on-screen daughter, Kate.
Sally Fields and Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump)
Forrest Gump might be the film that almost never was, but it has still made its name as one of the greatest movies ever made. Tom Hanks plays the title character of the film, and we get to see his relationships develop with the other characters in the story. However, there was always one more confusing than the other. Sally Fields is just ten years older than the actor and relied on heavy makeup when playing the aged version of her character.
John Amos and Jimmie Walker (Good Times)
Unfortunately, tensions on set meant that after three seasons, John Amos made his final appearance on the show. Sure, Good Times might have been written for John to appear as the star, but that didn’t mean he was safe from the ax. Especially not when he raised his concerns about Jimmie’s character, J.J., becoming the star. At least his departure meant fans no longer had to watch the strange eight-year age gap between the two.
Mary Steenburgen and Will Ferrell (Step Brothers)
Back in 2008, we got to see Will Ferrell in one of his greatest roles to date: Brennan Huff. The character is shoved together his new stepbrother, Dale, after their parents fall in love and get married. However, we are still left questioning Will’s age gap with his on-screen mother. The actress is just 11 years older than her “son,” but thankfully Brennan and Dale’s childish antics are enough to keep us distracted from the truth.
Kelly Rowan and Benjamin McKenzie (The O.C.)
We’re back at it with the teen drama, and the O.C. was no exception when it came to plenty of action to keep us on the edge of our seats. Of course, one of the major storylines followed Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) as he finds his way to California after being kicked out of his family home. Thankfully, he manages to find a life for himself in the Cohen household where he meets Sandy (Kelly Rowan). Although they might be adopted mother and son, there is still only 12 years between them.
Winona Ryder and Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
A new Star Trek means Trekkies everywhere are lining up out the door to get tickets for the premiere. However, there was uncertainty about the characters back in 2009 thanks to a surprise announcement. Winona Ryder might be just six years older than Zachary Quinto, but she still managed to land the part of his mother in this sci-fi classic. Thankfully, a whole load of makeup and effects later and they pulled off the look with ease.
Merrilee McCommas and Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights)
There are many times when actors are cast to play characters much younger than their natural age. Having a baby face isn’t always a bad thing after all. Sure, you might get asked your I.D. at every opportunity, but you can be acting all kinds of roles well into your adult years. Perhaps that’s one of the ways Minka managed to land the role of a high schooler when she was still 26 years old. Amazingly, Merrilee was cast to play her mom, too, even though she is just ten years older than her on-screen daughter.
Annie Wersching and Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Stefan and Lily are both vampires that haven’t aged in hundreds of years, so perhaps it’s no wonder they are so similar looking in age. Stephan, played by Paul Wesley, was 17 when he was turned into a vampire, yet somehow the 27-year-old actor managed to land the part. As if that wasn’t enough, his mother, played by Annie Wersching, is just six years older than him in real life. At least this pair has an excuse for their age gap.
Johnny Depp and Rachel Griffiths (Blow)
Hollywood can do some incredible things, and apparently, it’s not always the parents that have to be older than their on-screen kids. At least, that certainly isn’t the case when it comes to Johnny Depp and Rachel Griffiths in the biographical crime movie Blow. That’s right, Johnny Depp might be playing George Jung, but he is somehow five years older than his on-screen mother. Rachel even admitted she had to use aging makeup to pull off the look for the film.
Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell (Alexander)
Alexander was the movie that really did let Hollywood down. The critics were harsh, and the finances were poor, so it might be easy to let the story and its characters slip from your mind. However, we can’t ignore the casting choice when it came to this flop. Colin Farrell was cast to play the lead with Angelina Jolie there by his side to play his mother. The only problem was Angeline is just 11 months older than her on-screen son, and it’s pretty hard to ignore.
Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman (Watchmen)
Carla initially appeared as Malin’s on-screen mother during flashbacks in this superhero movie. However, the production team decided they wanted to keep the actress on for all the modern-day scenes, too. Unfortunately, having just seven years between Carla and her on-screen daughter, Malin, meant the makeup team would have to work hard if they wanted to pull off the transition with ease. Thankfully, a host of facial prosthetics later and the movie found themselves a winner.
Nell Hudson and Lauren Lyle (Outlander)
This show was all going so well until it jumped forward 20 years back in season three. As Nell Hudson’s character now had two daughters, there was going to have to be some major changes in the makeup department if they wanted to pull this off. Rather than getting a baby-faced actress to step up to the role, the series cast Lauren Lyle – two years older than her on-screen mom Lauren Lyle. As if that wasn’t enough, the two women look so similar already they really could have played sisters.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his on-screen sons (Supernatural)
He might have only been in 13 episodes, but we still noticed the striking age difference between Sam and Dean Winchester and their father, John, in the ghost hunting thriller Supernatural. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who plays John, is 16 years older than Jared Padalecki (Sam), but much more shocking is that he is only 12 years older than Jensen Ackles (Dean). At least the unrealistic age discrepancy didn’t distract from the show and Morgan did a great job portraying this character.