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Odd Job: What it’s like to be a professional twin

Brothers Gary and Larry Lane have been banking on their identical looks since the ’90s.

Twin actors Larry Lane (L) and Gary Lane (R).
Barry King/WireImage

Few people can claim a more fruitful career as professional identical twins than 44-year-old Gary and Larry Lane. The brothers have parlayed their matching features into countless commercial roles (most notably for Dr. Scholls, Snickers, and Virgin Airlines) and their IMDb credits include parts in Dawson’s Creek, The Patriot, Zoolander, Spider-Man, The Girl Next Door, and Jack and Jill. They’ve won $50,000 on a twins-themed episode of Fear Factor, they’ve taken home the top prize in a twins-themed episode of Wipeout, and the $150,000 grand prize in the scarcely remembered Jimmy Kimmel-hosted reality show Set For Life. The two were even named the “Vox Twins” for five years by the Danish spirit distillery Vox Vodka, though Vox Media itself has yet to name an official set of twins.

All together, this is the ideal career arc for Twins Gone Hollywood. Gary and Larry Lane will never be A-listers, but they’ve met show business on its own terms — happily marinating in the kitschy, silly, matchily-dressed work that the industry offers those who’ve shared the same womb. For over a decade, the brothers have scoured Los Angeles for any audition with decent pay and rhyming character names, and in that time they’ve built a small empire. Their appeal is obvious; the brothers are charming, handsome, and equipped with an approachably molasses North Carolina accent, which makes them a perfect fit for TV.

Recently, the Lanes have explored new frontiers in famous twindom. In 2017, they started TwinZZone, a homebrew entertainment startup where Gary and Larry conduct red carpet interviews across the country. More notably, they starred in Hollywood to Dollywood, a documentary that follows the brothers’ attempt to cast Dolly Parton in a screenplay they wrote, with a heartfelt B-plot centered around the relationship between their homosexuality and their Southern Baptist mother. The Lane brothers are currently at work on a spiritual sequel to Hollywood to Dollywood called Still Working 9 to 5, which is pitched as a meditation on Parton’s groundbreaking debut in 9 to 5.

The Lanes tell me that their late-career pivot to documentarians is motivated by two things: They’ve loved Dolly Parton for a very long time, and they’re no longer as young as they used to be. Already, they can feel the fresh-faced, up-and-coming twins on their heels, absorbing the roles they used to get. We talked about that, what it’s like to go to an audition dressed the same as your brother, and the nuances of mixing family and show business for 17 years.

How did you guys get your start in show business?

Gary: We lived in Goldsboro, North Carolina, that’s where we grew up. And when we were 18 we heard that Pepsi, which was based in New Bern, North Carolina, was going to do the national casting for its 100-year anniversary. They wanted to cast all local people, so we made the 45 minute drive to New Bern, and there were thousands of people there. The only thing that made us stand out is that we were twins. So out of thousands of people, eight people are cast, and me and Larry were two of those people. This was the first time we did anything like that. It let us know that as twins, we stand out.

Larry: We also did a little twins documentary thing, and everyone in our hometown started recognizing us from that. We just knew it was going to get us some attention, and that we could utilize the whole twin thing.

What do you think it is about twins that America loves? Why do you think there’s always going to be a thirst for twins in the entertainment industry?

Larry: I just think it’s a fascination thing. We were on the Jenny Jones show with 10 sets of identical twins, and we were all walking around Chicago. It just stopped traffic. Every time we do a show like Fear Factor, they want to have a twins-themed show. We even went in once for a Survivor. They never did it, but they were going to do a twins-themed Survivor with 12 sets of identical twins, with each of the twins on different tribes. We auditioned for that a couple of times. You’d really have equal tribes there.

What are the typical roles that show up for twins in Hollywood? What are the ways you guys get typecast?

Gary: Oh God. “Buy one get one free.” “Two for one.” Anything like that, we’ve done it. The one where we made the most money was the Dr. Scholl’s “you gellin?” commercials. We caught the tail end of that. It was a twins one. Some twin girls were like, “Are you gellin!” And we were like, “No we’re gellin gellin.” We made so much money, we’d be walking down the streets for months hearing, “We’re gellin gellin!” We’ve done all the gimmicks, but we’ve paid our rent, we’re out here pursuing it. It’s never a joke on us, because our bank account looks good.

Larry: We did one where he flew Virgin America and I flew the competitor. So I’m on a shitty airline, I don’t have any service. Meanwhile Gary is under the neon purple lights eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That was a funny one, too.

What’s it like to go into business with your brother like this? How does the family part of the relationship and the working part of the relationship interact?

Gary: We always feel like brothers, but it’s weird because we know each other so well. When you go into an audition, you have a set number of lines that you’re supposed to say, but they’ll also ask you to ad lib. We always find this zone where I throw something out and he hits it like a tennis ball right back at me.

Larry: We’re really competitive with each other, but if we’re on the same team, we’re competitive with everyone else. When someone is being competitive with Gary, I’m right there with him fighting.

Do you think there’s anything about you and your brother that’s allowed you to be more successful than other twins who’ve tried to make a living in Hollywood?

Gary: We grew up as good Southern boys, and when we got to New York, our management — who were these real cigarette-chomping New Yorkers — told us that we were the boys next door. So maybe because we have that Middle America appeal, and we’ve always stuck to that. People always say, “Why do you always sound like you’re fresh out of North Carolina?” And I say that our friends that don’t hear that accent every day lose it. But me and Larry hear it every day because we bounce it off each other constantly. We’ve never lost it.

When you’re working as twins in Hollywood, do you have an agent that specializes in twin talent? Or is that more generalized?

Larry: [We do work with] a set of twin sisters that run an agency called TwinsTalent. They’re specifically sought after for twin talent. A lot of people don’t realize that when you have an infant in a movie, it’s a set of identical twins because of the labor laws. One baby is on camera, the other one is backstage.

Do you guys tend to take specific roles within a set of twins?

Gary: Larry is the more bossy twin, the more organized twin. So when we get a script, I don’t give a crap. I’m like, “Which one do you want to be?” And I’ll play the other role. But so often we learn both roles, because when we go into an audition they’re like, “Okay, now you guys switch.” So we rehearse the lines and know it backwards and forwards before we go in.

You said earlier that you don’t really care about some of the kitschy or gimmicky stuff twins are often asked to do. Has it always been that way? Or was there a time in your life where you were annoyed to do yet another “two for one” commercial?

Gary: It’s never bothered us. But what did bother us was getting to and from the audition dressed identically. People are like, “Oh that was so cute when you were five.” That was annoying. We go to twin auditions, and we got other friends that are twins, and we’re all dressed alike. You kinda deal with it, because you make so much money you don’t care. But I do remember when we were auditioning in New York, me and him would ride on different ends of the subway train, because we were dressed identical.

Larry: We still get our haircut the same. We’ve had people before be like, “That’s kinda sad,” but I’m like, “It’s still paying my rent. I’m going to keep doing it until it doesn’t work anymore.”

So I would imagine that after decades spent in Hollywood, you guys have become friends with the twin community in show business, right?

Gary: Absolutely, but one thing I’ll tell you is that we have a lot of friends that are twin girls. And if there’s an audition specifically for twin girls, there can be a hundred sets or more out there. But when we would go to a twin audition with just guys, we might see the same seven or eight sets. But now that we’re a little bit older, we have these younger twins coming in nipping at our heels. That’s why me and Larry have to keep reinventing ourselves with the documentaries and the red carpet stuff. We’re like the Madonna of twins.

What’s it like knowing that you’re competing with those same few sets of male twins for the same jobs?

Larry: It’s crazy. So Gary and I did Fear Factor, and our very good friends Derek and Drew Riker did The Amazing Race. So forever, Gary and I would be at the airport and people would say, “We loved you on The Amazing Race,” because they look so much like us. We told Derek and Drew that, and they were like, “Do you know how many times people said they thought we were on Fear Factor?”

We’d book a job, and we wouldn’t book a job, but we’d always know who ended up landing the gig. Because we’re all in the same circle, we’d say, “Hey, if you guys get the callback, let us know, so we’ll stop looking for it.” There’s a twinship, but you still want the commercial.

Let’s talk about Dollywood, the documentary you made about Dolly Parton seven years ago now. When you were touring around with that movie, how did that feel different to the sense of accomplishment you get from commercials and movie roles?

Gary: It’s a passion project. You put the money in and write the script — when you look at it from that angle, it does feel great. But it’s the same as when you do a commercial and your English teacher reaches out and says, “I just saw you guys, I’m so proud of you.” Those are things that make you feel validated from the hard work. They don’t know that I used to work loading heavy stuff on the back of a truck.

Was it fun to chart your own path in Hollywood outside of the pure twin industry?

Larry: Yeah, we didn’t have to be on camera, but we could still create with each other. It’s a breath of fresh air, because you’re always worried if you said a line right or not. So here, there’s no pressure, and we’re still putting out something in the world that can make a difference.

What advice would you give to a pair of twins who want to get started in Hollywood today?

Gary: I would say to stay focused. I remember early on, we’d get invited out to parties and we’d have the audition the next morning. And we’d go to the auditions and we’d see twins that looked dragged from home by the back of a car because they’d been out all night. You also got to stick with each other. My brother and I have days where we’re arguing and fighting, and I just walk away to get away from them. Being a twin makes you unique. There might be 12 million people out here, but there are only so many twins.

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