Actresses/Actors That Are Too Old for Their Characters

Raymond Lam Zhou Xun Lin Gengxin
As I was reflecting on the dramas I've watched over the past year (and there have been a quite a lot of them), I realized that most of them are quite long (50-70+ episodes).  For the most part, I do enjoy them since I think they really allow opportunity for the characters to develop, but often times they do drag a bit in the middle.  (Side note: A quick test for me to determine whether a drama is keeping me engaged is whether I start to lose interest in the middle).  

In any event, the downside to long dramas is that often times they start out with the main characters at a relatively young age (think early-mid teens, 14-16 years) and the drama takes us through the process of their growth.  The problem with this is that, depending on the actor/actress, they are simply no long convincing as a teenagers!  These are men and women in their mid to late 30s or early 40s and it is extremely difficult, even with good hair, makeup and acting, to convince the audience.  See below for some examples!

Rule the World - Raymond Lam

Raymond Lam Rule the World cdrama
At the risk of offending Raymond Lam fans everywhere, his character in Rule the World is probably one of the most egregious examples of this problem.  The book starts off with his character being only around 8-10 years old, which made sense since the main female character witnessed his birth and is his aunt.  I think Raymond Lam was around 37 when this series was filmed, making it virtually impossible to pull off this feat.  Honestly, he looked even older than the actors playing his two older brothers!  It also made his interactions with the various characters very weird, such as the main female character caring for him like a child in the beginning.  The show ends with his character being around 40 years of age, which is much closer to real age, so this does get better as the drama progresses.  I understand sometimes these choices are made for budget and marketing reasons, but I think this is one where it made sense to have a different/younger actor play the character at the beginning.  

Princess Agents - Lin Gengxin

Lin Gengxin Princess Agents cdrama
Next is Lin Gengxin in Princess Agents.  Again the novel starts off with a lot of the characters as children.  The main female character is only supposed to be eight years old and I am guessing Lin Gengxin's character is probably in his early teens (13-14 years of age).  This is evident from the patriarch choosing a female attendant for him - someone who is supposed to keep him satisfied in the sleep department, if we are trying to be delicate.  If his character is someone in his late teens/early 20s, I just feel bad for him.  To be fair, I actually think he can still pass as someone in his early 20s, but 13-14 is really pushing it.  Due to the way the novel is written, I think this applies to virtually all the actors/actresses on the show - Zhao Liying, Shawn Dou and Li Qin.  

Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace - Zhou Xun

Zhou Xun Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace cdrama
Finally, we have Zhou Xun from Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace.  I am sure I am not the first person to mention this, but the first few episodes starts with Ruyi being probably around 16 years old.  There's a lot that can be done with makeup, hair, lighting and costumes, but none of these can shave almost 30 years off a woman's age.  The drama jumps quickly to eight years ahead and I still find it believable for Zhou Xun to play a woman in her mid-20s.  Unlike Rule the World, I do not think it would make sense to have another actress play this character in the first few episodes.  It may also deter audiences from watching if the main leads do not appear in the first episode.  Sometimes this is just a choice that has to be made.  On the one hand, it may help to market the drama more easily if the leads are in more episodes and may be more cost effective to have less actors/actresses.  On the other hand, this sometimes causes the audience to raise their eyebrows and make the characters' actions and interactions a bit weird.

Do you agree or disagree?  Do others come to mind?  I can definitely think of a few others but did not want to make this super long.  Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!


  1. Yea i agree to disagree and agree lol.

    Alot of drama do this basically for audiences. Bc they want to c their actors there watching the show onscreen vs some newbie kid actors.

    In tribes n empire they casted the young actors very well.

    Most applies to jin yong series.

    In ashes of love it was weird seeing kathy act like 16 yr old when shes in 50 or 60s.

    I think if the age is only couple yrs difference its fine. But like 20 to 30 yrs from actors actual age is not believeable unless actor do look that age or they cgi em like tony stark in civil war.

  2. I agree.
    More examples:
    Hawick Lau in The Legend of Flying Daggers (but surprisingly, he played a teenage boy reaaaaally well... he acted all their mannerisms pretty well)
    Yangmi in The Legend of Fuyao --> Her character was 11-16 years old, and she is over 30 years old. She certainly looks young BUT NOT YOUNG ENOUGH TO BE A YOUNG TEENAGER.
    Tiffany Tang and Luo Jin in The Way We Were --> They look young, too, but not enough to be playing first-time university students.

    1. In the way we were Tiffany Tang & Luo jin are graduated student- study master degree. They are suitable for this role .

  3. I do agree that the actors are often actually too old for their roles, however, I wouldn't change the actors, they could just adjust the ages of the characters a little, ex. instead of a 16 years old lead girl, let her be in her early to mid-twenties. I don't want to watch rookies playing challenging roles that a veteran could have pulled off so much better. The scripts and novels that are being adapted could start telling us stories of more mature people, there is no need for the leads to be kids or teenagers.

    I just finished watching the Legend of Fu Yao and in all honesty, as long as the intended ages of the characters aren't mentioned, then everything is fine. The actors were great and not once did I consider the actors not being appropriate for their characters, everything was just perfect. I'm surprised to read that Fuyao was actually 11-16 years old throughout the series, I actually consider those ages to be almost too young for the type of maturity the series winded up presenting.

    Now finding out that they were actually supposed to be this young, I think I'm starting to understand why characters are often written to be just so plain dumb and irrational. It's not an excuse for the kind of crap I sometimes come across, but I guess teenagers appear that way in adults' eyes. That is actually pretty sad, because the people I interact with would never show the level of stupidity that some series show.

    1. Same, I had no idea Fu Yao was supposed to be so young (and it would honestly be kind of weird for such a young teenage girl to be in a relationship with a guy in his 20s?). I just assumed she started off in her late teens and over the series ended up around 20, since I don't recall her age being mentioned. So in that case, I wasn't taken out of the storyline like with some characters in other dramas.

    2. Even if Fu Yao's age is not supposed to be so young like 16...YM really have been aging and looking quite stiff ever since TMOPB (but she was styled better in that one).

      Same thing about Zhou Xun. The problem I have is not that she is playing 16, but she looks old for a main girl. Also, looks older than the husband Wallace Huo too.

    3. In Fuyao, the narrator keeps saying "五色石少女", which roughly translates to "five-coloured stone girl", but in China, the nuances between "titles" are very specific, which is often never translated into English (and doesn't need to be translated lol). 少女 (shao nv/nu)means specifically a young girl from 11-16 years old in Chinese. There are other terms like 女孩 (literally: female child),姑娘 (young lady),女人 (woman).
      Just an FYI :D

  4. There is not a rule a screenplay have to respect 100% the novel. As for PA, as time as in the drama the age of characters weren't specify, I enjoyed very much how Lin Gengxing was as Yuwen Yue. If you chose him as an example for who was ''Too Old for Their Characters'', then what about Zanillia Zhao Liying who is 31 old (few months older than her co-star in PA-Lin Gengxin) and in the novel her character was 8 years old ? Let's do a little arithmetic: 30-14=16 (Lin Gengxing ) but 30-8=22(Zanillia Zhao Liying) !!! So who is much older than the character ? Anyway, Lin Gengxin's acting skills are much, much better than her's.

    1. correction:...weren't specified...

    2. They had a child actor in the flashbacks for ZLY's character. They clearly made some changes from the novel. In a few of the earlier episodes they mentioned her being about 16/17 which I honestly think ZLY can pull off with the makeup and filters and also she just has a young cute looking face. I have no clue how old LGX's character was supposed to be but he never pulled me out of it either so I think he did a good job.

  5. I think it's about perception? I'll give you the two guys, no way could they pull off being prepubescent, but I was honestly shocked to discover Zhou Xun was in her forties. I thought she was mid twenties (and side note, the face swelling didn't bother me, I thought it looked like puppy fat, adding to the youthful vibe).
    Females, especially female actors, are pressured in both the east and the west to look younger than they are, and consequently, actresses can pull off younger roles for longer than males can.
    There's a limit of course; I'd have a hard time swallowing it if they try to pass off a grown woman as a 13-year-old, and so totally vote for child actors if the age is a plot point, or vague age if it isn't.

    1. I disagree. Zhou Xun's voice totally gives away her age and I couldn't stand the drama because of it. Not that I'm an ageist but she was supposed to be 15 years old and it looked ridiculous to have a 40 year old woman portraying that character.