Young Versions of Characters

Television and movies struggle with the younger-version-of-the-older-character. The struggle is the same one that haunts Beauty & the Beast: we get attached to the actual tone and sound and look of a beloved character. Replacing that tone and sound and look with someone else is going to disappoint.

There's only so much suspension of disbelief an audience can exercise.

Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Rascals" is a perfect example: the acting is high-grad across the board yet the belief that these kids are truly Captain Picard, Keiko O'Brien, Ro Laren, and Guinan proves something of a struggle.

With exceptions: Isis Carmen Jones is so magnificent as the young Whoopi Goldberg/Guinan, she should have won an award. On the other hand, David Birkin is a fine actor but he doesn't quite sound like Picard.

Of course, he couldn't muster up a baritone--that's the whole point of the episode. But "sounding like" is more than pitch (though that helps): it's cadence, speech patterns, body language, lilt, word choice, facial expressions. Without these, there is no recognition: "Ah, yes, here is the same person."

Likewise, on Stargate, Michael Welch IS the perfect replacement for Jake--who could possibly be better?--yet doesn't quite pull it off (though he comes close).

Aaron Pearl and Don S. Davis
Keep in mind that in both cases, the younger versions aren't the characters reverting in age but the characters remaining themselves whilst in younger bodies.

Perhaps it is easier to produce the younger-in-age versions. The younger version of General Hammond in Stargate's "1969" is so good, I always check to see if the two actors are related. They aren't. And yet!

Playing with time: Bea Arthur playing
her character's grandmother while
Lynnie Green plays her character and
Estelle Getty plays the 2nd generation.
I have the same reaction to Lynnie Green as the young Dorothy Zbornak. Are you sure she's not Bea Arthur's daughter?

Speaking of sons and daughters, in the NCIS episode "Broken Bird," W. Morgan Sheppard's character is seen as a young man in a series of black and white video clips that last about 3 minutes and mostly play in the background. The producers actually bothered to use Mark, his son, who is uncredited. I was mucho impressed.
The Sheppards

1 comment:

FreeLiveFree said...

Animation obviously has an easier time than this since they just draw a younger version of the character. They do have to sometimes cast different voice actors for the parts. This can be odd like in the English version of the anime Erased where not only is the younger version of the main character a different actor but, as is typical in animation, you have a woman do the voice of a young boy, while the older pretty much has to be played a male. Michelle Ruff does a good enough job that it's not to jarring, but the older version does sound different. Of course, his voice would change as he grew older.

As for how the characters act: The plot of Erased involves the main character going back in time to a younger version of himself in order to save a classmate from a serial killer. In it his younger and older version tend to get mixed up. He can act like a child sometimes but will unintentionally say things that an adult say.

There was a Justice League episode where the characters are aged down by magic. Because of this, while they have the memories as adults, they have their personalities as children. Only one who can keep his wits about him is Batman who points out that at that age he had already ceased to be a child in personality.