Take Two: The Acting Twins of Ridgefield
Parents of young children bond over shared concerns such as pacifiers and potty training. While friends Eleni Kalandranis and Jen Vaccorro talk about these topics, they also compare notes on call times and set locations. They are both moms to identical twins involved in film and television. You see, identical twins are often sought out as a way to extend film sessions with easily tired toddlers: directors just switch one twin out for the other and keep the camera rolling.
The journey started for Eleni and her husband Rich when a maternity nurse suggested their sons Hudson and Bodhi get into film as a creative addition to their baby books. She put the new parents in touch with agent Debbie Ganz of Twins Talent in New York. In short order, the boys, eight months at the time, were booked for their first job on an episode of the FX show, “The Americans.” The whole experience lasted about 45 minutes, but paid handsomely. “It took me longer to park and unpack the car,” says Eleni. From there, the boys made appearances on another TV show “Blacklist” and on the Amazon series “Red Oaks.”
The two moms first met on Main Street when Jen noticed Eleni also pushing a double stroller. “There’s kind of kindred spirit between twin moms,” says Jen. A few weeks later, Eleni asked if she could share Jen’s information with her agent. Jen and her husband Ryan decided to give it a try. Their daughters, Sasha and Olivia, now two years old, first appeared on the TBS show “Search Party” and recently wrapped up a principal role on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.”
“It’s kind of surreal to watch the show in our living room and the next day we’re on the set with Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight,” says Jen. The shooting mainly takes place in Brooklyn, but, says Jen: “You have to be okay with call times and set locations that sometimes aren’t decided until the night before.” She has found the entire cast of “Ray Donovan” to be like family. While they’re assigned a production assistant to help, the actors often spend time with the girls in the trailer. “They bring toys or coloring books to keep them busy,” she says.
Hudson and Bodhi, now almost three, also appeared in an independent film “To The Night,” starring Caleb Landry Jones. The movie is a dark, psychological thriller, but Eleni was quick to note that it didn’t always seem that was on set. “They can do a lot with editing afterwards,” she says. Once, the sound of one of the boys crying off set during a diaper change was recorded so it could be used at another point in the movie. Addtionally, there’s always one adult per child present, so parents retain a certain amount of control. Says Eleni: “It’s helpful to have a good relationship with the director.” In one scene, Rich requested they take a break and try a different approach, and the director agreed.
It’s not easy to balance time on the set with real life; food shopping and laundry can be hard to fit in when you’re regularly traveling to a shoot in the city. In addition, Jen and Eleni both also juggle working full time. Jen is an oncology registered nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Jen handles global learning and development for MasterCard. Luckily they are often able to manipulate their schedules. Rich and Ryan, both in sales, have flexible schedules as well.
The terrible twos are a reality—meltdowns come with the territory. Eleni and Jen understand this and approach it in a hands-on manner. While some parents rush their kids to get on set, Eleni has said to a director, “I need five more minutes to get them ready. It will be to your benefit.”
Although a bit skeptical about the whole industry at first, both moms have had great experiences, and more importantly their children are enjoying it. Having a great and supportive agent really helps. Most of their casting happens through Facetime or email so going on exhausting casting calls doesn’t happen often.
Up next for Bodhi and Hudson is a Netflix movie while Sasha and Olivia are going to take some time off. The moms see continuing as long as their children are happy. “At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for your kids, because as their parent, you know them best,” says Jen.