The CW built its empire on casting ridiculously attractive 20-somethings as high school students, which definitely led to some confusion when we started our sophomore year and still looked more like Disney Channel extras than runway models. Teen soaps like 90210, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill gave your older siblings some unrealistic post-puberty expectations, and now Riverdale is doing the same for a new generation of drama-loving students. Check out what your fave Riverdale actors looked like when they were *actually* teenagers to remind yourself that it does get better.
We all remember that hilarious meme comparing KJ Apa and Cole Sprouse in their teens. KJ reposted it on his IG, commenting that seventeen-year-old KJ could absolutely crush seventeen-year-old Cole, and Cole responded by pointing out that he had enough money to knock him out with the weight of his wallet. It was a good time. It's low-key unfair that KJ was this ripped when he was a teenager because guys at our high schools could only dream of muscle definition like his. To be fair, KJ was already a series regular on Shortland Street by the time puberty hit him like a bus, so he wasn't exactly your average secondary school student.
Lili Reinhart is another Riverdale star who had already made her way to the screen by her seventeenth birthday, pictured here celebrating her special day on the set of Surviving Jack, a 2014 mid-season replacement on Fox. The blond beauty does not age, with posts dating back to 2012 showing Lili looking roughly the same as she does today. Insta stalking the starlet also shows a penchant for SFX makeup — from gory, sawed-off fingers to a better Shinigami face than Netflix’s Death Note could have dreamed. Billie Eilish, is that you?
Unlike the rest of the Core Four, Camila Mendes wasn’t acting professionally during her teen years. She famously attended NYU alongside castmate Cole Sprouse and celeb BFF Maggie Rogers before landing Riverdale as her first job out of college. Our first job out of college was as a “Brand Ambassador” for Abercrombie & Fitch, so you could say we’re a little jealous. We couldn’t find a photo of Cami as a high school junior because she wasn’t famous and we don’t work for the FBI, but we did find a clip of her senior year high school yearbook, which was honestly probably a picture taken when she was still seventeen. Peep the factoid that she was born with a chunk of white hair à la Anna from Frozen. Leave it to Cami to be a literal Disney princess.
Do we even really have to include this one? Everyone under the age of thirty knows what Cole and Dylan Sprouse were up to in their teen years. We watched the Cole grow from a literal child on Friends into high school graduates in The Suite Life Movie. Cole was seventeen during Suite Life on Deck’s second season, and KJ was right — he could crush high school Cole like a bug. Cole's *true* awkward phase ended up happening during his time at NYU, where there were unfortunate experiments with a ponytail, Tumblr, and what he later described to Seventeen as "a pubey mustache." At least he realized he was going through a cringe phase and turned into the artsy photographer we know and obsess over.
Like Cami, Madelaine Petsch didn’t get into professional acting until her twenties, when she booked a national Cola-Cola campaign in 2014. Madelaine did do some on-camera work before then, however, with a bunch of professional photoshoot from 2013 and earlier floating around the interwebs. Every actor’s gotta get headshots, right? We don’t know where @PET5CH on Twitter found this vintage shoot of Mads, but it’s a doozy. We’re glad we can shut down #haters accusing Madeline of dying her hair or getting lip fillers because the natural beauty still has her trademark pout and her luscious locks even in these pre-fame shots, but this also proves that styling is everything. We love Madeline, but whoever gave her those heinous falsies and that amateur over-sprayed curl job needs to retire.
Riverdale Fans Online
We learned a lot in our desperate deep-dive attempt to find a picture of Charles Melton during his high school football days. Like, for example, we had no idea the Riverdale stud even *had* high school football days. Mr. Cami Mendes was apparently a superstar athlete in high school and there’s tons of game footage online from when Charles was reaching out to college recruiters. That obviously panned out because this photo is from when Charles was playing football his Freshman and Sophomore years at Kansas State University. It’s not exactly a picture of Reggie 2.0 at seventeen, but it’s close enough to let us know that he might’ve actually been able to take teenage KJ in a fight.
See that teen sitting next to Broadway’s Corey Cott? Yeah, that’s his brother Casey. We barely recognized the clean-cut Riverdale star with that Beatles bowl cut, but this adorably midwestern photo of the future superstar siblings and their sister is heartwarming, adorable, and refreshingly looks like a picture of real people. Casey was just a sweet high schooler, his brother was probably the hot college guy, and we have no idea how old their sister is because we're only interested in #clout, but we're sure she’s lovely. Casey's been open with #TBTs to his awkward phase, but he's always been perfect to us.
Family Channel via IMDb
Cole isn’t the only child star gracing our TV screens on Riverdale. Vanessa Morgan got her start at eight years old when she appeared alongside Vanessa Williams in a televised Christmas film. During her teen years, she appeared on a Disney Channel-esque series called The Latest Buzz about a teen magazine that replaces its editorial staff with actual teens, ignoring all kinds of fictional child labor laws. She also appeared on a Harriet the Spy film, two My Babysitter’s a Vampire reboots, a DCOM, Degrassi, Saving Carter, and as a contestant on The Amazing Race Canada. Our girl has been *employed*.
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We honestly assumed that the Riverdale parents were way younger than their fictional counterparts because they’re all. so. hot. As it turns out, Skeet Ulrich is only one year younger than FP Jones at 49-years-old. While Cole portrayed his fictional pops at seventeen, this photo from when Skeet was in his late teens gives us a better idea of FP might’ve looked when he knocked up Alice during his high school days. Before Riverdale, Skeet got famous in his twenties for roles in horror films like The Craft and Scream, making him a real Scream King.
Poor Barb. While Nancy Wheeler’s best friend didn’t have the best luck on Stranger Things, she did manage to become a fan favorite IRL. Shannon Purser was cast in her acting debut on the Netflix hit when she was just one year older than her Riverdale character, Ethel Muggs, who come to think of it doesn’t have the greatest luck either. While we can’t find any photos of Shannon from her pre-fame days, we’re pretty sure her Riverdale look is pretty close to a real high school senior’s.
Mädchen Amick has never not been beautiful. To be fair, she was eighteen or nineteen years old in this picture from before Twin Peaks days during a guest spot on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Lili-as-Alice was practically the spitting image of her on-screen mom in her youth. Mädchen is only two years younger than her Riverdale character, which just doesn’t seem possible. Someone tell us what Keratin treatment she uses, because Mädchen has the hair (and the BDE) of a thirty, flirty, and thriving former gang member, just like Alice.
The CW Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library via Us Magazine
We have US Magazine to thank for this gem from 1989. That’s right, the year Taylor Swift was born, Mark Consuelos was about to graduate high school. Naturally, the actor who portrayed Mark in “The Midnight Club” is his spitting image since it was his real-life son, Michael Joseph. The resemblance is truly uncanny, but unfortunately, hair and makeup gave Michael a hairstyle befitting Hiram Lodge instead of his pop’s side-swept ‘80s bangs. As for present-day Hiram, Mark is two years younger than his on-screen counterpart.
Marisol Nichols’s episode of MTV’s When I Was Seventeen would’ve been a doozy. Marisol credits growing up in the suburbs of Chicago (rather than its tough downtown) as the only reason she wasn’t sent to juvie in her teens during an intimate essay for Chicagoly Mag. She recounts skipping class, abusing substances, and destroying school property all before she even hit her late teens. Marisol realized that wasn’t the life she wanted to be living right before she turned eighteen, went to community college, and found her talent in acting. The rest is history, but we wish Cami would have sported these killer bangs in “The Midnight Club” in homage to Marisol’s look from her early 20s.
Luke Perry might have become a household name for portraying a high school student on 90210, but in classic teen soap fashion, Luke was already in his mid-twenties by the time he was cast as bad boy Dylan McKay. The real-life sweetheart was his high school mascot at seventeen before moving to Los Angeles after high school and working odd day jobs while he auditioned that would have made Fred Andrews proud including gigs at a doorknob factory and an asphalt paving company. Luke was two years older than Fred when he died, so his season one portrayal is the exact age of present-day Fred Andrews.
Jordan Calloway might have been Unfabulous in his mid-teens, but his face has barely changed in the twelve years since Emma Roberts’s tween comedy went off the air. Today’s teens might not remember that before Victoria Justice, Miranda Cosgrove, and whoever the reigning queen of Nick is at the moment (Google did *not* help us with this one), Emma had one of the most-watched tween shows in the United States. Jordan has gained about a hundred pounds of muscle since Unfabulous ended in the most realistic cast glow-up we’ve seen so far.
Assuming fan theories that Edgar Evernever and Charles Smith are roughly the same age can be trusted (and since the Riverdale writers are absolutely “inspired” by Reddit theories, we’re thinking it’s a safe assumption), Chad Michael Murray’s deeply sexy charismatic cult leader is probably 33 years old. We thought Chad was going to be much younger than his character, but when they revealed that his teenage daughter was actually in her mid-twenties and his *wife*, the casting made a lot more sense. When Chad was 33, all the way back in 2017, he was still a series regular on Agent Carter. Time flies when you’ve looked the same since 2007.