How refreshing to see a TV teenager being played by an actual, real teenager. That's unheard of in television, unless you are watching the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Most primetime shows instead use young looking actors in their late teens and early twenties to portray sons and daughters and younger siblings.
This practice goes back to classic shows like “Welcome Back, Kotter” (yes, it's technically considered a classic now), where the sweathogs looked like they had been let back in school for ten years straight. Then, of course, there was “Happy Days,” where Richie Cunningham began losing his ginger hair in high school.
Why not cast age-appropriate actors in teen roles? It all comes down to money, silly. Doesn't everything? Child labor laws in most states allow performers under eighteen to work only four hours a day; also requiring them to be tutored on the set between scenes. Since an average workday on a film or one-camera TV show is between eight to twelve hours, this can get costly, not to mention inconvenient. There is also the argument that adult actors playing kids are more disciplined, reliable and better at retaining lines.
The producers of CBS’s “Under the Dome” were smart to cast sixteen-year-old Colin Ford as sixteen-year-old Joe McAlister. In a sci-fi series like this one, where an audience has to suspend their disbelief, Colin helps sell the absurd show premise with his pitch-perfect portrayal of a geeky, all American boy. He lends the show an authenticity that an older actor playing younger would not be able to pull off.
Colin’s resume reads longer than those of some of his older co-stars on the series. He has been modeling since the age of four and made his film debut at five in “Sweet Home Alabama” (uncredited). You probably remember him as young Sam Winchester in the TV series “Supernatural” or as Matt Damon’s lookalike son in the 2011 feature “We Bought a Zoo.”
Aside from being teen idol material, Colin is a wonderful naturalistic actor. He comes across as believable in every role he plays, reminiscent of a young Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart. If he makes it through the horrid Different Strokes Child Actor Curse, Colin could make a seamless transition to feature film leading man roles. For now, let’s hope that Joe and the rest of the residents of Chester’s Mill stay under that dome for a long time.
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