The shocking real-life age differences between 34 fictional parents and their children

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  • Meryl Streep, who turns 73 on June 22, is only three years younger than Cher, her mother in "Mamma Mia."

  • This isn't the only example of on-screen kids and parents being comically close in age.

  • Amy Poehler is only seven years older than her "Mean Girls" daughter Rachel McAdams.

Mandy Moore is younger than all three of the adult versions of her kids — Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, and Justin Hartley — on "This Is Us."

this is us cast
Metz, Moore, Hartley, and Brown.Maarten de Boer/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

On "This Is Us," a show which jumps around multiple different time periods, Moore plays Rebecca Pearson, the matriarch of the Pearson clan and mother to Randall (Brown), Kate (Metz), and Kevin (Hartley).

And though Moore rocked impeccable old age makeup when she was seen in the current time, it's still funny to realize that she, at 38, is younger than 46-year-old Brown, 45-year-old Hartey, and 41-year-old Metz.

Her on-screen husband, Milo Ventimiglia, falls in the middle of his kids at 44.

Bonus: She's also younger than on-screen daughter-in-law Beth, played by a 40-year-old Susan Kelechi Watson and her son-in-law Toby, played by 41-year-old Chris Sullivan.

"This Is Us" wrapped up in 2022 after six seasons and pounds of old age makeup for all.

"Succession's" Brian Cox only has 10 years on his oldest TV son, played by Alan Ruck.

logan connor succession
Ruck's character is a bit eccentric.HBO

In "Succession," Cox plays Logan Roy, the aging patriarch of the Roy family and controversial owner of the global media empire, WayStar Royco. Ruck plays his oldest son, Connor, who doesn't seem to have an interest in the company at all.

However, Cox is 76, while his character is supposed to be least 80. Ruck, on the other hand, is 65, when his character is probably in his mid-to-late 50s.

TV mother and daughter Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison are only one year apart.

jennifer morrison ginnifer goodwin
Time travel played a factor here.Sergei Bachlakov/Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

Time travel and magical curses played a part here, so the characters are actually supposed to be around the same age — but it didn't make it any less comical whenever Morrison's character, Emma, would call Ginnifer's character, Snow (or Mary Margaret), "mom."

Emma's dad, played by Josh Dallas, is also only one year older than her.

Cher, a legend, plays the mother of fellow legend Meryl Streep in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again," but they're only three years apart.

meryl streep cher mamma mia
They're close in real life.Universal Pictures

While both look great for their ages — Cher is 76 and Streep is 73 — you can see from their recent red carpet photos how laughable it is that Cher would play Streep's mom. It's even more confusing when you remember the two played best friends and roommates in the 1983 film "Silkwood."

In the 2019 film "Glass," Charlayne Woodard plays the mother of Samuel L. Jackson's character, Elijah (aka Mr. Glass). The only problem is that, at 68, she's five years younger than 73-year-old Jackson.

glass samuel l jackson charlayne woodard
They both reprise their roles from the 2000 movie "Unbreakable."Universal Pictures

Jackson looks great for his age, but that still doesn't make casting a woman a whole five years younger than him make any more sense.

This isn't totally the fault of "Glass" — the actors originally appeared in the 2000 film "Unbreakable," in which Wood had to portray the mother of a young version of Elijah as well. She donned old age makeup in that film.

The mother-daughter duo of Amy Poehler and Rachel McAdams is only seven years apart. McAdams was 26 when she starred as high school junior Regina George in "Mean Girls."

rachel mcadams amy poehler mean girls
"Mean Girls" was released in 2004.Paramount Pictures

When "Mean Girls" was released in 2004, Poehler was 33 and McAdams was 26.

Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful women on Earth, a 29-year-old Angelina Jolie played 28-year-old Colin Farrell's mother in notorious flop "Alexander."

angelina jolie colin farrell alexander
They look like they could be siblings.Warner Bros.

You'd be forgiven for forgetting about this movie — it was a critical and financial failure. Perhaps it had something to do with its ridiculous casting of Jolie and Farrell as mother and son, even though they're 11 months apart. They were also rumored to be dating.

Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham are intentionally close in age — just 15 years apart. In "Gilmore Girls," Lorelai was a teen when she gave birth to Rory.

Gilmore Girls
The two characters act more like friends.The CW

Lorelai and Rory Gilmore have one of the most iconic mother-daughter relationships on TV — they're more like best friends than family. According to the storyline, Lorelai got pregnant as a teenager, and ran away from home to raise Rory on her own.

So it was true-to-life that the people at The WB cast Bledel and Graham, who are only 15 years apart. But a more glaring age gap was between Lorelai and Lane, Rory's best friend, who was supposed to be the same age as Rory. However, the actress playing Lane, Keiko Agena, is only six years younger than Graham.

Stefan Salvatore and his mother, Lily, both play vampires who don't age on "The Vampire Diaries," so it's somewhat realistic that the two actors who played them (Paul Wesley and Annie Wersching) are only six years apart.

salvatores paul wesley annie wersching tvd
They were both well over 100 years old at this point.The CW

Stefan was turned into an immortal vampire when he was 17, so casting anyone for that role would be difficult: Real people age. Wesley was already 27 when he was cast as Stefan in "The Vampire Diaries."

Stefan's mother, also a vampire, is played by Annie Wersching, who is only six years older than Wesley.

Fans were confused when it was announced that Winona Ryder would be playing Zachary Quinto's mother in the 2009 reboot of "Star Trek" — she's only six years older than him.

zachary quinto winona ryder star trek 2009
Ryder was aged up with makeup.Paramount Pictures

In real life, Ryder and Quinto look approximately the same age — which makes sense, because Ryder is only six years older than Quinto. However, during her brief appearance as Spock's mother in "Star Trek" she looked much older thanks to age makeup.

In reality, Ryder was 38 playing mother to a 32-year-old Quinto.

Lesley Fera is only 14 years older than her TV daughter Troian Bellisario on "Pretty Little Liars." Bellisario was 24 in the show's first season, when her character was supposed to be a junior in high school.

hastings pretty little liars
Bellisario is the oldest of the "Liars."ABC Family

Bellisario was 24 when she was cast to play 16-year-old Spencer Hastings. Her mother, played by Fera, was 38 at the time.

Blake Lively and Kelly Rutherford (aka Serena and Lily van der Woodsen) are only 19 years apart on "Gossip Girl."

gossip girl
This won't be the last time "Gossip Girl" appears on this list.The CW Network (The CW)

Rutherford will turn 54 in 2022, and Lively is 19 years her junior at 34. In the show's canon, we know for a fact that Lily wasn't a teen mom — there was supposed to be an entire prequel show about her life in California as a teenager, with no mention of a pregnancy.

Drew Barrymore is two years younger than Adam Garcia, who played her son in "Riding in Cars with Boys."

drew barrymore adam garcia riding in cars with boys
Barrymore and Garcia look like peers.Columbia Pictures

In "Riding in Cars with Boys," Barrymore plays Beverly Donofrio, who is 15 at the beginning of the movie (Barrymore was actually 26). The movie tracks Donofrio's life from her teens into adulthood.

However, her college-age son is played by Garcia, who is two years older than Barrymore — he was 28 playing an 18-year-old at the time.

In "Footloose," the stodgy town reverend, played by John Lithgow, is only 12 years older than his fictional daughter, played by Lori Singer.

footloose john lithgow lori singer
"Footloose."Paramount Pictures

Not many people realize that the film's protagonist, Ariel (played by Singer), is only 12 years younger than her movie dad, Reverend Moore (played by Lithgow).

Johnny Depp is five years older than movie mom Rachel Griffiths in "Blow."

johnny depp rachel griffiths blow
They co-starred in "Blow."New Line Cinema

"Blow," the 2001 film about real-life drug dealer George Jung, follows the Jung family for decades. Griffiths plays Depp's mother, despite him being five years her senior. During Jung's later years in the film, she even needs to wear age makeup to look the part.

Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson are the same age — even though Fox's character in "Back to the Future" is Thompson's son. Her older look was achieved with facial prosthetics.

back to the future marty and mother
This choice was intentional.Universal Pictures

The fact that the two are the same age works since Marty eventually travels back in time and meets his mother as a teen (also played by Thompson).

In order to achieve the older look, Thompson "sat through three-to-four hours of prosthetic applications a day."

Merrilee McCommas is just 10 years older than Minka Kelly, who plays her daughter Lyla Garrity on "Friday Night Lights." Kelly was supposed to be a high school sophomore, but was 26 when the show premiered.

friday night lights minka kelly
They do look similar.The 101 and NBC

Kelly was in her mid-20s when the show began.

Her infrequently seen mother Patti was played by McCommas, who only has a decade on her TV daughter.

Even though Sophia looked decades older than her daughter Dorothy on "The Golden Girls," Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty are only one year apart — and Arthur was actually older.

golden girls bea arthur estelle getty
Two of "The Golden Girls."NBC

Arthur was a year older than her TV mom, Getty — they were born in 1922 and 1923 respectively. It took 45 minutes to transform Getty, who was in her 60s for most of the show's run, into Sophia, who was regularly cited as an octogenarian.

Karen Roe was a teen mom on "One Tree Hill." In real life, Moira Kelly is only 14 years older than Chad Michael Murray.

chad michael murray moira kelly one tree hill
The Scott-Roe family dynamic was complicated.The CW Network (The CW)

Murray was 22 when the series began, while his TV mom Kelly was 34 — just 14 years older. However, it made sense since it was established that Karen (Kelly's character) got pregnant with Lucas in high school — though, she was supposed to be a senior, and therefore 17 or 18 years old.

Lea Michele and Idina Menzel look remarkably alike, which is why Menzel was cast to play Michele's birth mother on "Glee." But Menzel is only 15 years older than Michele.

lea michele idina menzel glee
Fans lobbied for the Broadway legend to be cast.Fox Network

"I'm looking at the script and it says I'm going to play the mother of Lea Michele, who, in real life is 25 years old," Menzel told "The Talk," "I was like,'This is not the best day of my life.'"

Even though Al Lewis played Grandpa on "The Munsters," he was a year younger than his TV daughter Lily, played by Yvonne De Carlo.

lily and grandpa munster the munsters
"The Munsters" ran for only two seasons.CBS

According to the New York Times, Lewis fudged his age and pretended to be 13 years older than he actually was because he was nervous he wouldn't get cast as Grandpa since he was younger than De Carlo.

Only later was it revealed that he was born in 1923, one year after De Carlo was born.

Gregg Sulkin and his TV mom Ever Carradine on "Runaways" are only 18 years apart.

marvels runways gregg sulkin
They starred on Hulu's "Runaways."Hulu

Sulkin played Chase, one of the titular runaways. Chase is a high schooler, but Sulkin himself was 28. His TV mom, played by Carradine was 46.

"Flicka's" main character, Katy, is supposed to be a teenager. But the actress, Alison Lohman, was 27 at the time, making her just 13 years younger than her movie dad, played by Tim McGraw.

flicka tim mcgraw alison lohman
"Flicka" came out in 2006.Twentieth Century Fox

Lohman was almost 30 when she played teenager Katy in "Flicka" — her movie dad, played by country star-turned-actor McGraw, is only 13 years older than her.

Kelsey Grammer and John Mahoney of "Frasier" only had a 15-year age difference, even though Mahoney's character always seemed much older.

frasier kelsey grammar john mahoney
The Crane men.NBC

Grammer was 38 years old when "Frasier" premiered in 1993. Mahoney, who played Frasier's father Martin, was 53.

"Blue Bloods" father-and-son duo Tom Selleck and Len Cariou have an age difference of just six years.

henry and frank tom selleck blue bloods
Selleck and Cariou.CBS

Tom Selleck looks great for his age — he doesn't look anywhere near 77 — which is why this pairing works, despite the small age gap.

Cariou looks a bit more age-appropriate (he's 82), so it's semi-believable that the two are father and son.

Jason Earles was 29 when he began playing 16-year-old Jackson Stewart on "Hannah Montana." His dad, played by Billy Ray Cyrus, is only 16 years older than him.

jason earles billy ray cyrus hannah montana
Earles is 15 years older than co-star Miley Cyrus in real life.Disney Channel

The Stewart family on "Hannah Montana" is extremely spread out, age-wise. TV dad Cyrus is only 16 years older than TV son Earles, and Earles is 15 years older than TV sister Miley (even though they both play high schoolers). TV mom, played by Brooke Shields, is only 12 years older than Earles.

Matthew Settle and Penn Badgley, who played Rufus and Dan Humphrey on "Gossip Girl," only had a 17-year age difference.

matthew settle penn badgley gossip girl
The Humphrey men.The CW Network (The CW)

Nowhere in "Gossip Girl" canon does it imply that Rufus was a teen dad, making the believable 17-year gap between Settle and his TV son Badgley somewhat... less believable.

In fact, Lily (Serena's mom) and Rufus are said to have had a relationship before they had kids — and they were both out of high school when that happened.

Kelly Rowan played Benjamin McKenzie's adoptive mother in "The OC." While they weren't biologically related, Kirsten's biological son Seth was the same age as Ryan — so it's still ridiculous that she's just 12 years older than McKenzie.

kelly rowland ben mckenzie the oc
They look like they could be related.Fox

The 24-year-old McKenzie was such an unconvincing teenager that the show eventually made fun of itself in an episode, in which McKenzie's character Ryan makes a comment about another young actor. "How does that guy play high school? Hollywood, man," he said.

Rowan was only 37 when the show premiered, making her just 12 years older than her adopted son, and only 14 years older than her character's biological son Seth, played by Adam Brody.

Aunt Viv in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was played by two different actresses during the show's six seasons, neither of whom were much older than their TV daughter, Hilary.

hilary aunt viv fresh prince of bel aire
Aunt Viv was originally played by Janet Hubert, and then Daphne Maxwell Reid.NBC

The first (or "original") Aunt Viv was played by Janet Hubert, who is only nine years older than Karyn Parsons, who played Viv's spoiled daughter Hilary. After Hubert controversially left the show after season three, the role of Viv was taken over by the older Daphne Maxwell Reid. But Reid is still only 18 years older than Parsons.

The eldest Cosby child, Sondra, played by Sabrina Le Beauf, is only 10 years younger than Huxtable family matriarch Clair, played by Phylicia Rashad.

sandra claire the cosby show
Sondra was the least-seen member of the Huxtable clan.NBC

Sondra wasn't originally part of "The Cosby Show," but her character was included at the behest of Bill Cosby himself — he wanted to show that Cliff and Clair were successful parents, and had a daughter in college.

However, Rashad only had a decade on her eldest TV daughter — and Le Beauf is nine years older than the next oldest Huxtable child, Denise, played by Lisa Bonet.

"Pretty Little Liars" co-stars Holly Marie Combs and Lucy Hale are 16 years apart — Hale was 20 years old when she started playing high school junior Aria.

ella aria lucy hale holly marie combs pretty little liars
Hale is still playing a high schooler almost a decade later.ABC Family

Hale looks young for her age — she was still able to pass for a high school student at age 28, proven by her starring role in 2018 Netflix rom-com "Dude." But she's only 16 years younger than Combs, who played her mother Ella.

Even though Carla Gugino appeared much older than her "Watchmen" co-star and on-screen daughter Malin Åkerman, they're only seven years apart.

malin akerman carla gugino silk spectre watchmen
Gugino was aged with special effects.Columbia Pictures

Gugino first appeared as a young woman during flashbacks in "Watchmen," and the choice was made to keep Gugino as Åkerman's mother for scenes taking place in the present as well, even though the two actresses only have a seven-year age difference. Her elderly appearance was achieved with facial prosthetics.

Melissa Leo is only 11 years older than her "The Fighter" co-star Mark Wahlberg.

mark wahlberg melissa leo the fighter
"The Fighter."Paramount Pictures

Leo is barely more than a decade older than Wahlberg, one of her sons in 2010 film "The Fighter." And she's just 14 years older than her other son in the movie, Christian Bale.

Nell Hudson, who has played Laoghaire since the first season of "Outlander," is only two years older than her daughter, played by Lauren Lyle.

outlander marsali and laoghaire

A time jump in season three made actors have to appear 20 years older. The villainous Laoghaire, played by Hudson, had two daughters during that time. One of her daughters, Marsali, is played by Lyle, who is only two years younger than her.

Lyle spoke to Elle about this strange age gap, saying, "Nell Hudson, who plays Laoghaire, my mother, she's like two years older than me! We're almost the same age, and she's my mom! The two of us were like, 'We look the same! That's so weird! How is this going to work?'"

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