We know that actors and actresses adopt different approaches to the craft. And sometimes they like to immerse themselves completely in roles. This often works well as it adds a layer of authenticity and helps you to engage with the character and the story more. But sometimes this dedication to a role can be a little creepy, and this is where we get to adults playing children.
We don’t mean Sean Connery trying to play an 11-year-old, that would just be dumb. But, in certain cases, it actually makes a lot of sense for adult actors to play kids. Either, they just make the character slightly older, or they hire an adult who looks young; either way, it sometimes works pretty well. As long as the age discrepancy isn’t too much, it’s usually hard to tell – here are some of the most passable adults playing kids.
Stacey Dash – Clueless
Clueless was one of the best teen comedies ever, and actually paved the way for many of the high school comedies we have today. Back in 1995, the producers needed someone for the role of Dionne, the best friend of Alicia Silverstone’s Cher, and Dash got the part. Now, aging up is a common thing in Hollywood, and it was on the set of the movie too. Now, from watching Clueless, you’d be forgiven for thinking Stacey Dash was around 16, the same age as her character. Well, you’d be wrong; staggeringly, she was 28 at the time of filming! Talk about aging well!
Shirley Henderson – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Anyone familiar with the Potter-verse will certainly know about bad-tempered ghost Moaning Myrtle. She is one of the many ghosts at Hogwarts and first appears in Chamber of Secrets as the ghost haunting the girls’ lavatory on the first floor. Thought to have been around 13 or 14 when she died, who did the producers choose to play her? A 37-year-old of course! To be fair, Shirley Henderson is excellent, and being a ghost we suppose it doesn’t matter overly, but that’s still a huge gap!
Jennifer Grey – Dirty Dancing
Classic 1987 schmaltzy cheese-fest Dirty Dancing is the movie that launched a thousand relationships, and (we’re guessing) made mambo dancing cool, at least for a while. Frances “Baby” Houseman is the lead character, and it was important to get a great actress alongside Patrick Swayze. As history tells us, the role wound up going to Jennifer Grey, who was a full decade older than 17-year-old Baby. Lookin back no though, it’s hard to argue with the casting; it’s also obvious that Grey looks young for her age, so we think she gets away with it.
Of course, there are plenty of other examples like this as well, but these are some of the best-known examples. It’s not always obvious when an adult is playing a character who is considered a child, and it works best when you don’t even notice it. Often it doesn’t work at all, but we think that the examples we’ve given all show examples of how well this type of thing can work when you get it right.