Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ages and Stages

I'm kind of surprised that I haven't paid closer attention to the ages of people on Angel. I'm always fascinated by the differences between a person's chronological age and his or her apparent level of maturity. A further wrinkle with TV shows and films is how most actors do not share the same ages as their characters, which can throw my perceptions off a bit. Here are some thoughts that I have about a lot of the human regulars on Angel, along with their presumed ages. (Since birthdays fall in different times of the year, I'm not going to be too obsessed with wondering if I'm off by a year.)

Any corrections or additional insight from readers will be much appreciated.

One final note: I appreciate how the producers made sure that the years in the TV series usually roughly matched the same years as the air date. For example, if you see a piece of paper in Angel and it gave the year as being 2002, that was probably the same year that the episode originally aired.

Cordelia Chase (1999-2004). Ages 19 - 24. Actress Charisma Carpenter (born July 23, 1970). My ages for Cordelia are based on several fan sites claiming she was born in 1980, and on the fact that her character turned age 21 in the 2001-2002 season. Just as an aside, I remember in Season 1 she hinted that her birthday was in May when she was giving Angel the password to the security alarm. However, her 21st "Birthday" episode originally aired on January 14, 2002, leaving me to wonder. When did she turn 21 - in 2001 or 2002?

I've blogged before how surprised I was when Cordelia turned 21 in Season 3 since actress Charisma Carpenter looked considerably older. With Cordelia, I probably had the hardest time reconciling the age to the character. I had only started watching Angel towards the end of the second season, and I wasn't aware of the timeline of Cordelia being a high school cheerleader in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although she was ditzy, I thought Cordelia's character was really quite mature at times.

Although I love Cordelia as a character, and I love Charisma Carpenter as an actress, it looked like Carpenter had a bit of a challenge portraying someone 10 years younger than herself. Although I thought she pulled off that feat quite well in Season 1, I never lost sight of the fact that it was an older actress trying to act like a teen.

Which brings me to a pet peeve of mine. If a producer is casting someone to be 20 years old, why not cast someone who's close to being 20? If they need a more mature actor with better acting skills, why not rewrite the part so the character is closer to the actor's real age? It's not the end of the world if a TV series is populated by the 30+ crowds rather than 20-year-olds.

Although Cordelia was a flighty, self-centered bitch, her character was also capable of a great deal of emotional maturity. She certainly seemed a lot older than Connor when they had sex in Season 4. In general, I'll say that Cordelia Chase was closer in maturity level to actress Charisma Carpenter.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. (1999-2004). My best guess based on dubious evidence- ages 23 - 28. Actor Alexis Denisof (born February 25, 1966). In my short forays around the web, I was surprised that I wasn't able to find one reference to Wesley's age anywhere. (I could swear that, somewhere or another, I heard or read that Wesley was 22 years old when he arrived in Sunnydale.) The only clue is that when he arrived in Sunnydale in 1999, he appeared to be a recent, inexperienced graduate of the ill-defined Watcher's Academy. Since he was "head boy" at age 17 per this dialogue clip from Season 4's "Spin the Bottle", one would assume that at least part of his training was pre-university.

I have no idea if, when he was 17 years old, he was in his first year of training, his final year of training or his only year of training at the Academy. My best guess is that he had Watcher schooling in his pre-university years, and attended some sort of Watcher Council finishing school afterwords, where he received more practical training in the use of firearms, hand-to-hand combat, etc. I doubt that Wesley actually attended a real university, since it was never mentioned in the series, though it's possible he attended a university and received his Watcher Council training concurrently.

Wesley was unquestionably brilliant, and seemed to have had a great classical education to match. He had the demeanor of a university graduate, but he may have been self-taught in many areas since he was a hopeless bookworm. The Watcher training might have possibly equalled something close to a university education as well. Regardless, I doubt if the Watcher's Council would send out an 18-year old into the world on his own, so I'm guessing Wesley was sent to Sunnydale after he reached the age of 21. I'm also making a wild assumption that he reached Sunnydale at age 22, and hit Los Angeles at the age of 23.

Another clue that could leave me to believe he was in his 20's was in "Guise Will Be Guise", when it was revealed to one and all that Wesley and Virginia had slept with each other. (Virginia had told Wesley she was 24 years old). Wesley stammered in his defense, "Things happen. Two young people, danger ... ", which to me implies that they must have been close together in age. I know that when I was in my 30's, I never called myself a "young person", but that could just be me.

I made a comment in a previous post that I found the idea of Wesley being in his early 20's even more unbelievable than the thought of Cordelia being in her early 20's. However, for whatever reason, the shock of that idea has worn off somewhat, (though I still find it pretty unbelievable). Wesley always looked like Alexis' age. As far as maturity, as the series went on, Wesley certainly acted like he was much older than his mid-twenties. Although he could be incredibly naive, I figure his lack of maturity in some areas could be explained by the fact that he started off his life in an extremely sheltered, upper-class environment. He could have arrived at Sunnydale at age 30 and still have been quite believable.

Of all of the major Angel characters, I think Wesley's age is the biggest enigma for me. (He could have been an avator for all I know.) In my mind, he was always roughly somewhere in his early 30's.

Lilah Morgan (2000 -2003). Ages 28 -32. Actress Stephanie Romanov (born January 24, 1969). I was startled to find out that Stephanie Romanov was the actress who was the closest to her character's (somewhat) verifiable age. Our clue is that in one of the episodes, Lindsey McDonald pulled up her personnel file on the computer screen and we found out she graduated with highest honors from the fictitious Mortenson School of Law in 1994, presumably at the age of 24. I mean no offense whatsoever, but I thought Stephanie Romanov looked older than both her actual and her character's age in Angel, particularly in Season 4. When I first saw her in Season 3, I thought she was a well-established professional, rather than someone who had just nicely graduated from the new, rising-star junior associate role.

I had guessed that Lilah was supposed to be slightly older than Wesley, based on some half-assed guesses on their ages that I made earlier. In reality, I thought the two characters were perfectly matched in both age and maturity. Lilah might have seemed like she had the upper hand early on, possibly due to her (supposed) older age. She was the one who was on the hunt, and Evil people always initially seem more cunning than Good people. However, it was easy to tell almost right away that Wesley was simply watching (and perhaps appreciating) how she operated before he made his moves.

Charles Gunn (2000-2004). Ages 22 - 26. Actor J. August Richards (born August 28, 1973). This one was easy to figure out, since we found out Gunn was 24 years old in the Season 3 episode "Double or Nothing", which aired in 2002. (He had cut a deal with a demonic loan shark seven years earlier when he was 17 years old in order to buy his pickup truck.)

Again, I was surprised at Charles' young age when it was revealed in "Double or Nothing" since I figured he was a bit older. When I see Richards in some scenes, I have a distinct feeling that he was trying to portray someone younger than himself. The writers even made a big deal out of his recklessness, which is a stereotypically youthful trait. For the most part, I just sit back and enjoy his acting. I'm not totally convinced that Gunn's a younger person, but I'm not distracted by the idea either.

Winifred "Fred" Burkle (2001-2004). Ages 27 - 30. Actress Amy Acker (born December 5, 1976). Fred was the only major human character on Angel that I'm aware of who was portrayed by a younger performer. We know that in 1996, she was a physics grad student at UCLA who got sucked into Pylea, where she stayed until she was rescued in 2001. Presumably she was about 22 years old when she disappeared, but she could have been older, since we don't know how long she had been a grad student when she disappeared.

It really is startling to see how old Fred was in relation to the other characters, particularly since she was so naive and girlish. She looked quite young too. I realize that she may have suffered from a considerable case of stunted development (or perhaps even regression) after disappearing into a near-hell dimension for five years, but her age still doesn't quite ring true with just that explanation alone. We also know that she was a much-loved but pampered only child, which may have done a lot to help her keep her innocent charm. Similar to Wesley, Fred spent a lot of her time in an insulated academic environment, which would also have prevented her from getting jaded by the real world.

I think the creators introduced the idea that she was a pot fiend at the age of 17 in "Spin the Bottle" as a device to shock the audience and to try to take some of the impossibly bright goodness away from her. It didn't quite work for me, though, and it really didn't change any of my attitudes about her.

Cordelia was much younger than Fred, but seemed much more mature, simply because she was more worldly than Fred. Wes seemed much older than Fred, almost like a father figure at times, and his maturity level in relation to Fred's gives me my best argument that he must have been much older than my best educated (but non-convincing) guesses. Wesley couldn't have possibly been younger than Fred! She seemed younger than Charles, but their ages didn't seem that far apart either. I thought Charles had the higher maturity level, but that could be explained by the fact that his poverty-stricken background forced him to grow up a lot quicker than Fred.

Connor (2002-2004) Ages 18-20. Actor Vincent Kartheiser (born May 5, 1979). At some point, while everyone was still at the Hyperion Hotel, it was revealed that Connor was 18 years old. I believe the producers dropped that little tidbit in so that we knew he was of legal age when he slept with Cordelia. I choose to believe he was 18 when he first came back from Quor-Toth, but he could have been 17. Although Kartheiser was a little older than his character, he brilliantly portrayed a troubled teenager. To be honest, when Connor first showed up at the Hyperion Hotel, I thought he was closer to 15 or 16 years old, but, like with Fred, that could be explained away because he was raised in a hell dimension. As the show went on, I thought he acted more like his character's chronological age. Kartheiser wins the award for looking and acting the most like his character's real age.

Lindsey McDonald (1999-2001; 2004) Roughly Lilah's age, 28 - 33? Actor Christian Kane (born June 27, 1974). I feel like I should know Lindsey's approximate age, but I don't. I don't even know where to look outside of Googling "How old is Lindsey McDonald?". Christian Kane is and looks younger than Stephanie Romanov. I could make a case that Lindsey's character is a few years younger than Lilah, even though they were of roughly equal rank at Wolfram & Hart. I was always under the impression that Lindsey was on the fast track at Wolfram & Hart while Lilah had to work her way up. Unfortunately, my best guess is that he had been out of law school at least a few years by the time we saw him in Season 1.

Holland Manners (2000 - 2001) Ages 48-49. Actor Sam Anderson (born May 13, 1945). When Wolfram & Hart hosted the fundraiser for Anne's teen shelter in Season 2's "Blood Money", they flashed Holland Manners' name, image, and "1951 - 2000" across the big screen during a short tribute to him. Sam Anderson was fairly close to Holland Manners' age. My only quibble is that I'm close to Holland Manners' age when he died, and I don't look nearly as old as he did. (Or so I like to tell myself.) I just hope an entire generation of the world's youth don't think that people in their late 40's are as gray and wrinkled as Holland Manners.

Kate Lockley (1999 - 2001) Ages 26-28? Actress Elisabeth Rohm (born April 28, 1973). Similar with Lindsey, I feel like there must be some clue as to how old Kate was in the series, like, a reference to how many years she'd been on the force. The most information I could find was in Kate's Wikipedia link above where Elisabeth Rohm referred to Kate as being "an incredibly powerful young woman". "Young" women are usually in their 20's. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that her character's age is roughly the same age as Rohm's age. Kate seemed more mature (like she was at least in her younger 30's) because she was quite an experienced detective. However, that might have been because she got a lot of training when she was younger from her dad. There were many times I looked at Kate and remarked to myself "She looks really young." Kate and Lilah are co-winners of the award for actors who are probably closest to their characters' ages.

(Photo above via Shorpy.)

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