‘HSMTMTS’ and More YA Shows With Real Teen Casts

Picture this: You’re back in high school and you settle in to watch that hit teen show everyone is talking about. You’re greeted with an unfamiliar world of perfection: rock-solid abs, filled-out curves, clear skin. Meanwhile, you’re rocking braces, just started Accutane, and are holding out hope for another growth spurt.  

For years, teen shows would often cast fully grown adults to play characters as young as 15 (I’m looking at you, Jason Earles), so it’s no surprise we never looked like them during our adolescence. Even so, there’s a part of us that couldn’t help but feel small when we saw them on screen. There were a few shows here and there that got it, but luckily, it seems the industry as a whole has caught on, and more shows are casting actors and actresses who are much closer to the age they’re portraying.  

Scroll down for 10 teen shows that won’t make you feel so bad about that freshman yearbook photo that still haunts your nightmares.

NBCU Photo Bank

Freaks and Geeks (Hulu/Prime Video)

Although James Franco (aka Daniel Desario) and Linda Cardellini (Lindsay Weir) were in their 20s when they starred in this 1999-2000 cult comedy, 14-year-old Sam Weir was appropriately portrayed by John Francis Daley, who was 13 when they filmed the show and 14 by the time it aired. Seth Rogen was 16 when he auditioned for his role as Ken Miller and 18 by the time it aired. 

Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
Disney+/Fred Hayes

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney+)

Breakout star Olivia Rodrigo, who plays Nini Salazar-Roberts, was 16 when the hit series debuted in 2019. Sofia Wylie, who plays Gina Porter, was 15. And Joshua Bassett was 17 when he was first cast as Ricky Bowen. 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Kiernan Shipka

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)

Kiernan Shipka was 18 when she first started portraying Sabrina on the 2018-20 thriller. Supporting cast member Lachlan Watson, aka Theo Putnam, was a year younger. 

ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Boy Meets World (Disney+)

With the characters first starting out in sixth grade, 12-year-old Danielle Fishel was true to Topanga Lawrence’s age. Ben “Cory Matthews” Savage, the Boy in the title of the 1993-2000 TGIF sitcom, was 13. And Rider Strong was 14 when he played Shawn Hunter. 


Saved by the Bell (Peacock/Hulu/Prime Video)

Most of the original 1989-93 Saved by the Bell cast played a character close to their age IRL. Mario López was 16 when he starred as A.C. SlaterMark-Paul Gosselaar was 17 when he portrayed Zack Morris, and the late Dustin Diamond was 12 when he had the role of Samuel “Screech” Powers. Lark Voorhies and Tiffani Thiessen were 15 when they portrayed Lisa Turtle and Kelly Kapowski. 

Credit: Fox

That '70s Show (Prime Video)

Among an ensemble that played six main teen characters, Mila Kunis (Jackie Burkhart) was 14 when she first starred on the 1998-2006 comedy, and Laura Prepon (Donna Pinciotti) was 17.  

Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón in We Are Who We Are

We Are Who We Are (HBO)

Jack Dylan Grazer was 1when he portrayed Fraser Wilson and Jordan Kristine Seamón 17 as Caitlin in the 2020 coming-of-age drama. Both characters are 14 years old. 

Never Have I Ever Season 2 - Devi, Fabiola, Eleanor

Never Have I Ever (Netflix)

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was 18 when she made her 2020 debut as 15-year-old Devi on the Mindy Kaling comedy-drama.  

Freeform/Beth Dubber

The Fosters (Freeform/Hulu)

When they started on the 2013-18 family drama, Maia Mitchell (she plays Callie Jacob) was 19 and Cierra Ramirez (Mariana Adams) and Jake T. Austin (Jesus Foster) were both 18. 

Gilmore Girls - Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel - 'Kiss & Tell' - Season 1, episode 7
Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

Gilmore Girls (Netflix)

Alexis Bedel was 19 when she took on the role of 16-year-old Rory Gilmore for the dramedy’s original 2000-07 run.