2009-03-20 / Family

Twins double the fun on set of soap opera

By Michelle Knight knight@theacorn.com

LITTLE STARS—Twin sisters Ella, left, and Anna Gietzen, 2½ years old, began appearing on the daytime soap opera "Days Of Our Lives" earlier this year. The Camarillo sisters also appeared on ABC's short-lived drama "Eli Stone." LITTLE STARS—Twin sisters Ella, left, and Anna Gietzen, 2½ years old, began appearing on the daytime soap opera "Days Of Our Lives" earlier this year. The Camarillo sisters also appeared on ABC's short-lived drama "Eli Stone." Identical twins Ella and Anna Gietzen, 2½ years old, can't tell each other apart when they see themselves on TV.

The Camarillo toddlers have appeared since January in five episodes of the daytime soap opera "Days Of Our Lives."

"To them it's just fun," said their mother, Leslie Gietzen, 35. "It's been a good experience."

Producers like to have twins play younger characters because they can switch between the child actors if one is temperamental or uncooperative that day, Gietzen said.

Paloma Jackson, the girls' agent and director of the baby division at Jet Set Management Group, said the twins are cooperative, comfortable around the crew and not too vocal—a benefit that saves the production from making costly edits to delete their ramblings, Jackson said.

But the parents are just as important to the production as their children, she said. Because soap opera productions are like a well-oiled machine, producers interview parents to make sure they won't disrupt the production, will be professional, arrive on time and have their kids prepared and wellgroomed, she said.

Gietzen "does everything she needs to do to get the girls in a good light," Jackson said.

Gietzen and her husband, Dale, had earlier considered taking the twins to auditions for TV or movies but then dismissed the idea because they were too busy.

Two months premature, Ella and Anna stayed in the hospital for eight weeks after they were born, coming home in the summer of 2006. The couple also have two other children, 6-year-old Cole and 5-year-old Tanner, to care for. Between caring for the girls and shuttling the boys to and from school, baseball games and karate class, it took quite a while for the Gietzens to set up a family routine. What's more, the couple coowns a popular Camarillo eatery, and Dale works with his father, managing a chain of restaurants. Life in the Gietzen household calmed down only last spring.

A few months later, Gietzen met a father of triplets in a local park who suggested she hire an agent for the girls. He'd done it for his sons, he said, and they worked for several years and now have money for college. Gietzen called the agent, and the girls were sent on a couple of auditions.

Anna and Ella have a weekto-week contract to play "Ali," the daughter of "Sami" on "Days of our Lives." Gietzen said her daughters look more like actress Alison Sweeney, who plays their mother, than they do her.

Before landing a recurring role on the daytime soap opera, the twins appeared as extras on the first episode of "Eli Stone."

When the girls are called to the Burbank set, Gietzen tells them they're going to play dress up and pretend. Ella is more excited than Anna to be on camera and so appears more often, Gietzen said. The girls are on set for a couple of hours one or two days a week and some weeks not at all—a schedule Gietzen can handle. When the occasional scheduling conflict arises, Gietzen has a baby sitter pick her sons up from school.

"It's worked out; it's been fun," Gietzen said. "It doesn't interrupt our life right now."

Gietzen takes a friend or family member to the set with them, so an adult is with each girl at all times. She has no shortage of escorts, who are enthused about watching a TV show in production.

On set, the girls are spoiled, lavished with attention from the crew and greeted with a lollipop each time by the casting agent, Gietzen said.

Anna and Ella have no speaking parts—they're more "like glorified props" at this age, their mother said—but occasionally Gietzen rehearses with them, such as the time she prepped the girls to act excited when they saw their "pretend mommy" on set, because the script had called for the mother to be separated from "Ali" for the past nine months.

The girls are easygoing and comfortable around the actors, though both have different personalities, Gietzen said. Anna, the go-getter and more daring one of the duo, is a tomboy, while Ella is all-girl and a bit bossy.

When the family watches the show, Cole and Tanner laugh at the sight of their sisters on TV. Ella and Anna can't tell which of them is appearing on camera, though the rest of the family can, Gietzen said.

Should the girls' career take off and consume more of their time, the Gietzens will decide then whether their daughters can continue. Gietzen doesn't want to stop Anna and Ella if they enjoy the work; on the other hand, she can't neglect the needs of her sons.

"It will just have to be the right thing for everybody at that time," Gietzen said.

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