Act(ing) Your Age or the Part

spring chicken

Stop it Irene... You're not a spring chicken.

Social structure demands that we act our age. In Japan I was told that at some undefined, though understood, time in life ice cream became a thing of the past. Oddly enough the experience I had reflected that sentiment. In the USA it can be heard on the playgrounds, in academic institutions, and the office space. We’re supposed to act our age.

When something silly annoying immature happens that we think is inappropriate it is common to say something akin to “this isn’t high school…” followed by a rant or an exhausted gasp or pent up anger or dot dot dot. “Act your age.” In the day to day world we expect it and seem to find it odd when the someone does not match with our established expectations.

And so it is what it is.

There is one place where people don’t think to or haven’t thought about acting one’s age – in the performing arts. Specifically — acting.

Cast of Glee

Cast of Glee

It was recently suggested that I watch Fox’s new show Glee. With some hesitation I sat down with emma and found ourselves laughing at a ridiculous and lighthearted show. Recommendations FTW!

While watching the show something got to me. For those not in the know the show is about a high school glee club. The character Rachel stood out to us very quickly. We recognized her from ‘Spring Awakening’ a Broadway musical. She plays a sophomore… A sophomore… In high school. Wait-a-minute. She was on Broadway a few years ago… She doesn’t look 15/16.

Trigorin in The Seagull

Trigorin in The Seagull - mid/late 30's

Type, type, type. Click, click. Thanks IMDb. She was born on August 29, 1986. For those math challenged that puts her at 23. That’s right, twenty three. Browsing through the rest of the cast  one member stood out to me Chris Colfer (plays Kurt) was born May 27 1990 making him 19. The lead high school guy Cory Monteith (plays Finn) was born on May 11, 1982 making him 27.

So a 27, 23, and a 19 year old are playing the same age and we, the viewer don’t mind. Dare I add into the mix that a 30 year old is playing a guidance counselor on the show – Jayma Mays (playing Emma) born on July 16, 1979.

The show is great fun and I’m willing to put the age reality aside but I wonder if this bothers anyone. Or even more curiously, has anyone even thought of or noticed this type of thing?

Trigorin in The Seagull

Daniel in Tallgrass Gothic mid/late 20's

A great example of leaving well enough alone, aka relative age = actual age, is Dawson’s Creek. The actors that played the roles of the teenagers were in fact teenagers. The show was critically acclaimed and watched by a wide variety of demographics. So, why is it that roles are commonly filled by actors that ‘look’ the part but in fact are much older or younger than the part.

As an actor I know the limitations of casting pending the talent pool available. If you only have young people available, they will have to play someone older. Posted are two pix of me from roles I played within a year. At the time I was in my early 30’s, about 32. The cast of each show was made up primarily of under-grad students. In ‘Seagull’ I was meant to look a bit older, hence the full head of hair and in ‘Tallgrass’ younger aka sans facial hair. The ages were not a stretch for my actual age, give or take a handful of years in either direction, and enough beyond the ‘awkward’ teenage years.

When I think about TV and film I’m sometimes confused by casting choices because the talent pool is nationwide… Is this type of casting acceptable? Does it change the way kids think about themselves and their abilities which are most often still developing. The rare gem stands out sure — in Glee everyone can sing very well.

What are your thoughts?


Gary Ploski is an actor, blogger, and instructional technologist living and working in the CT and NY area.

1 Comment

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