Janesville twins make the cut for Adam Sandler movie
It’s not the breakthrough role that Alex and Nathan Burkart have been working for since they moved to Los Angeles in 2008, but it could boost their careers.
“Jack and Jill” opened Friday. Sandler plays both the male and female half of a set of twins in the comedy.
The Burkarts are one of about 20 vignettes that are featured at the end of the movie while the credits roll. They act out a script in which they play themselves, discussing what it’s like to be twins.
Alex calls their bit a “mockumentary.” It is based on their lives but is not completely true.
Janesvillians might recall the twins gracing local stages during the 1990s and early 2000s. They graduated from Craig High School in 2004 and from Webster University in St. Louis in ’08.
They now hold jobs as managers of a restaurant while auditioning for roles in commercials, TV and movies.
The twins have had interesting times lately. They walked into their “Jack and Jill” audition not expecting to see Sandler himself.
“But there he was, lying on the couch,” Nathan said. “He said, ‘Hey guys, how are you doing?’”
Turns out, Sandler is one of the nicest celebrities the twins have met in L.A. He recalled their names when he saw them months later at a red-carpet event.
“I was honestly a little shocked at how nice he was,” Nathan said, because celebrities are often simply unapproachable.
Most of the twins who auditioned were ultimately rejected.
“So we were kind of blessed even to get into it,” Alex said.
Sandler seemed to like the Burkarts. Their improvisation during the audition made him laugh.
“He thought we were really funny,” Nathan said.
The Burkarts also recently worked with Edward Albee, considered by many to be America’s greatest living playwright, on a play that also is about twins.
“That is probably the thing I’m proudest about, and I didn’t even get the part,” Alex said.
Over a period of months, the twins lived with Albee in New York City, helping him develop the play and discussing what it was like to grow up being twins.
In a subsequent trip, they performed a reading, which is a step in the production process that helps producers see whether the play can work.
Albee loved them. After one poignant scene they performed, the playwright teared up.
The Burkarts were eventually passed over for non-twin actors who had more acting credits.
“We’ve learned that’s the way New York and L.A. are,” Nathan said. “You can be really good, and if you don’t have the resume to back it up, it can be tricky.”
Eliciting tears from a giant of the theater and laughter from one of the biggest Hollywood stars is not enough to jumpstart a career, it seems.
It’s often a case of who you know, Nathan said.
“You’re facing people who’ve been doing it since they were 6 years old out here, and they have credits on credits on credits,” Alex said.
The conventional wisdom is that aspiring actors must keep pushing for at least five years, Nathan said. “It’s about meeting people and building relationships. It’s like any business.”
Both twins have done commercials. Nathan was in a McDonald’s ad that not even he has seen. He also has done Internet commercials for Chase Bank and Hyundai.
Alex did a commercial for Hewlett Packard that Nathan said was “really, really good.”
Commercials pay well and help keep struggling actors afloat, Alex said.
The Burkarts are raising funds to establish their own theater company, L.A. New Court Theatre, in homage to Beloit’s New Court Theatre, where they performed and which folded in 2009.
Nathan said the vision is to develop a professional theater that pays its actors, something that is rare in L.A.
Nathan said stage work in Janesville when he was growing up prepared him for the challenges of the next level.
“Janesville was a nice spot where I had lots of opportunities to grow,” Nathan said.
Being an L.A. outsider, Nathan knows he has to work harder than someone who grew up as a part of Hollywood. That work ethic will pay off in the long run, he believes.
Alex added: “A lot of agents told us to concentrate on being good actors, and when your time comes, you have to be prepared for it.”