Disney Channel Stars Who Are Much Older Than We Realized


Disney Channel stars know well that, as the
saying goes, age is only a number. While many of these actors are within a couple
years of the characters they play, that’s not a hard and fast rule. Some Disney stars, like the following ones,
are in fact older than you think they are. Raven-Symoné played the title character on
That’s So Raven, but she was a little bit older than her fictional counterpart. She was previously best known for her work
on The Cosby Show, and she was a teenager when That’s So Raven premiered in 2003, placing
her at high school age just like Raven Baxter. But by the time the show wrapped in 2007,
she was in her twenties and thus definitely older than the young psychic she was playing. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when That’s
So Raven first aired, but it’s been gone long enough that it’s already seen a revival. In 2017, Symoné and costar Anneliese van
der Pol reprised their roles on the spinoff series Raven’s Home. Symoné still looked like she was in her twenties
when she portrayed a young mom on the show, but, in reality, she turned 32 in 2017. “It’s like my, my secret mommy power.” Lizzie McGuire was a tween favorite back in
the early 2000s. It aired two seasons from 2001 to 2004 on
the Disney Channel and was followed by a movie in which Lizzie and her friends go to Rome
the summer before they start high school. Believe it or not, Adam Lamberg, who played
Lizzie’s best friend-turned-love interest David “Gordo” Gordon, was born in 1984, making
him 17 during the show’s first season. Somehow, he still managed to convince audiences
that he was a middle school student even though he was already in his late teens when it debuted,
and therefore quite a bit older than his character. By the time The Lizzie McGuire Movie came
out, Gordo was going off to high school but Lamberg himself was getting ready for college. He graduated from UC Berkeley just a few years
after the show wrapped, earning a bachelor’s degree in geography in 2008. Disney Channel’s Sonny With a Chance was centered
on the characters on a teen sketch show. One of those teens was Tawni Hart, played
by Tiffany Thornton, who was quite a bit older than her comedic counterpart, as she turned
23 in 2009, the year the show debuted. That same year, she starred in the high school-set
Disney Channel Original Movie Hatching Pete. Even though she was playing a teen, Thornton
was living the life of a typical twentysomething. The year after Sonny With a Chance debuted,
she announced her engagement to her boyfriend, Christopher Carney. They got married in 2011, with Thornton’s
Sonny co-star Demi Lovato serving as a bridesmaid. After getting hitched, Thornton continued
to play Tawni on the Sonny spin-off, So Random!, which aired for one season starting in 2011. The last episode aired in March 2012, a month
after Thornton announced that she was pregnant with her first child. Considering its title, one might expect that
all the stars of High School Musical were high school-aged. While that holds true for many of the actors
in the trilogy, a few were quite a bit older than their on-screen counterparts. For example, Lucas Grabeel, who played the
snarky and ultra-talented Ryan Evans, was born in November 1984, making him 21 when
the first film debuted in January 2006. In the third film, which arrived in theaters
in 2008, Ryan graduates, but Grabeel was already well past his high school years at that point. Grabeel is thankful for the role, especially
because his character was a role model for many young people. In 2018, he told Billboard, “Ryan is not officially gay in any of the
movies, but I think anyone that watches him can identify with who he was in high school:
someone trying to figure it out. And I have young men in high school come up
to me saying that, though it’s hard to talk about their sexuality, seeing that kind of
character represented in a good light and a fun way was really helpful to them.” Ashley Tisdale rose to fame playing teenager
Maddie Fitzpatrick on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. The show debuted in 2005, the same year that
Tisdale turned 20. The following year, she began her time in
the High School Musical franchise as high school diva Sharpay Evans. Tisdale didn’t mind paying a character who
was much younger than she was. In fact, she’s revealed that she actually
preferred taking on such roles. She told The Star Scoop in 2005, “I never really felt comfortable, even before
I was on Disney, doing any like type of roles that are really mature. I always wanted to work for Disney my whole
life. It keeps you with such a safe feeling, that
you know, you don’t have to show skin, or do any of that stuff, and it’s comfortable,
and I love the characters I portray. I figure, this is where I want to be right
now. I don’t want to do all those mature roles
right now. I have my whole life to do that. Not right now.” Monique Coleman is another High School Musical
actress who had to act younger than her own age. When she first played science club president
Taylor McKessie, she was already 25. This role was special to her because it provided
some much-needed representation on the Disney Channel. In 2018, she told Billboard, “It was really important to me because, at
that time, there weren’t really any other African-American girls on the Disney Channel,
except for Raven. There also weren’t African-American female
characters like Taylor. The idea that I could portray a character
that anyone could see and say, ‘Yeah, a black girl can be the smartest girl in school. She doesn’t always have to be sassy’, that
was part of what really drew me to it.” If Coleman sounds wise beyond her years, perhaps
that has something to do with the perspective she brought to a teenage character while in
her twenties. Perhaps all actors should wait until they’re
a decade older than their characters if they want to keep their heads on straight. Garrett Clayton is pretty much a household
name to Generation Z. He catapulted to fame after a starring role
in the Disney Channel Original Movie Teen Beach Movie, which turned him into a teen
heartthrob overnight. But Clayton wasn’t actually a teen himself,
as he was already in his twenties when the movie premiered in July 2013. While Clayton was older than his character,
surfer boy Tanner, he still looked baby-faced enough to convincingly play a teen in the
original seaside flick and its 2015 sequel Teen Beach 2. Clayton might not have had a problem looking
younger than his age, but sounding young was a different story. He had to take some creative measures to land
the role. Born “Gary Michael Clayton,” the actor discovered
that his first name was holding him back. In a 2019 interview with Broadway World, he
revealed, “For the first six months of living in L.A.,
most auditions I would get close to booking, they would call my team and say that, while
I was very talented, my name wasn’t marketable, it sounded too old. So, about a year in, I changed it. Within that time, I started booking things.” Booboo Stewart became one of Disney’s seemingly
ageless stars when the first Descendants film premiered in July 2015 when he was already
21. He thus spent the first half of his twenties
playing Jay, the teenage son of iconic Aladdin villain Jafar, all the way through to 2019’s
Descendants 3. “So when it comes to being sneaky, tricky,
all-around, well, snake, nobody beats Jafar.” Being older than your character isn’t necessarily
a bad thing, and indeed, it seems that age has brought Stewart some wisdom. The Descendants franchise wasn’t his first
foray into a major film series, as he had previously had a role as a werewolf in the
Twilight films as a teenager. So he knows how to manage the many challenges
and temptations that can come with so much fame. In an interview with Sarah Scoop, he revealed, “I’ve been around [the industry] from such
a young age that I feel like I know how to handle it. I know who I am, so I try not to let that
affect me, and I have friends and family who can tell me when it’s gotten to my head just
a little bit. They’ll say, ‘Reality check here!’ I think it’s really important to surround
yourself with people who you know are your true friends.” It’s hard to imagine anyone but Sofia Carson
playing Evie in the Descendants franchise, but the role very nearly went to someone else. The filmmakers originally passed on Carson
because she was still a newcomer to the industry, and they didn’t think she had enough experience
to play the part. One thing that Carson did have experience
in, though, was being a high school student, as she had already graduated when she landed
the role of a high school-aged student in the movie. By the time Descendants aired in 2015, Carson
was 22 years old. Even though her high school days were behind
her, she still did an excellent job portraying a teenager. She continued playing the character well into
her twenties, with the third film in the franchise premiering a few months after her 26th birthday. Not only did Carson prove that she wasn’t
too inexperienced for the part, she also proved her ability to play a character younger than
herself to perfection. “They don’t call her evil for nothing.” Baby-faced Disney Channel star Mitchell Hope
was already in his twenties when the first Descendants film debuted in 2015. The actor played Ben, the son of Belle and
the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. Hope looked younger than his age, so it was
easy to believe that he was a teenager throughout the trilogy. Even though he was playing a high school student
in the film, his school days were long behind him, although he might’ve returned to student
life if he hadn’t landed the role. In 2015, he told the Canadian magazine Tribute, “I quit acting right before I got the audition. I was done with it, I was ready to go out
and get a ‘real’ job, you know what I mean? I was going to go back to university and stuff.” Fortunately for Hope’s career, he got the
part, and, instead of going back to university, he had an opportunity to relive his high school
days. Jason Earles played Miley Stewart’s older
brother, Jackson, on Hannah Montana. He made for a pretty convincing 16-year-old,
but he was actually 28 when the show premiered in 2006! That means that for most of the series’ run,
he was playing a teenager when he was already in his thirties. “It was a role that I didn’t think that I
was right for. I was like, ‘Hannah Montanna? What a weird name for a show. Who’s gonna watch that? That just sounds crazy to me.'” When the show started filming, Earles didn’t
have any idea it would become as popular as it did, so he probably didn’t think he’d be
playing a teenager for half a decade. In 2009, he told The Star Scoop, “I think we all were really optimistic that
the show would get picked up and that the kids would like it, but for it to turn into
as popular a family show as it has, I think we’re all pleasantly surprised by that.” As an adult, Earles was better able to appreciate
just how special the show was. He also told The Star Scoop, “It sort of reminds us of all those TGI Friday
shows. Instead of just a kid show on the Disney Channel,
it feels like something you could put on network television, 8:00 at night, and families would
sit around and watch together.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more List videos about your favorite
stars are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
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David Anderson

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