Sunday, June 4, 2017

Joan Crawford's On-screen Twins Discuss "Feud: Bette & Joan"

Chelsea Summer & Brooke Star on the set of "Feud: Bette & Joan"

      The debut of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud: Bette & Joan” brought forth a new appreciation for Joan Crawford by an entirely new generation of fans. Perhaps the best representation of the generation now discovering Crawford is promising up-and-coming twin actresses Brooke Star and Chelsea Summer.
The twins perform alongside veteran actresses Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon as the series follows Crawford and Bette Davis’ alleged feud which cultivated in the early 60’s with the production of their film “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Brooke and Chelsea portray Crawford’s twin daughters, Cindy and Cathy.

     This webmaster sat down with the talented, bright-eyed young ladies for an interview at “The Grove” in Beverly Hills to discuss their experiences on the set of “Feud.”
     For the interview, the girls sat together dressed in the outfits worn to their audition for “Feud.”
They cited wearing the outfits especially for the interview. This act, in and of itself, adds to the perception that the twins take their roles and experiences with sincerity.
     Sitting nearby were the girls’ parents, who also maintain careers in the entertainment industry.
With five children (four of which have careers in entertainment) they form a very supportive and loving family unit.

      For their roles, the girls auditioned against a variety of other twins for the parts, all of whom arrived in full 1960s attire while Brooke and Chelsea wore modern outfits. Nonetheless, it was Brooke and Chelsea who caught the attention of the casting directors, and the girls received word the very next day of their casting.
   One requirement for portraying the twins was that the girls had to cut their long hair.
Brooke was eager to try a shorter look, while Chelsea was a bit apprehensive. However, afterwards she admits it was definitely worth the shorter hair for the wonderful experience.
    After they were cast, the girls were allowed to choose which actress would portray which twin. Brooke chose Cindy, while Chelsea picked Cathy.
     Perhaps it is cosmic that Brooke and Chelsea portrayed Joan Crawford’s twins, being that the actresses’ own interests parallel that of Crawford’s daughters. Brooke and Cindy Crawford are keen to sports and athletics; whereas Chelsea and Cathy view themselves as the more “girly” twin.

(Left) Crawford and her twins on the 1962 set of "Baby Jane" (Right) Chelsea Summer & Brooke Star on the set of "Feud"

      Like the other actors in the series, Brooke and Chelsea researched their parts in advance of the production. Research included searching the internet for information on Crawford and her children.
     In rehearsing for the show, the girls found themselves quoting their lines throughout everyday situations as to recite their lines as natural as possible for when filming began. Later during production, the girls based their reactions and responses off of Jessica Lange’s performance as Joan Crawford.

     Neither of the young actresses had seen a Joan Crawford film; however Chelsea in particular notated that she made a point to not watch the 1981 film “Mommie Dearest” in fear that it might engrain a negative image of Crawford into her mind that could influence her performance in the series.
     “Joan Crawford obviously wasn’t cruel to the twins as to how Christina said she was to her, so I wanted to create my own vision as to who Joan Crawford was to my character. I think watching “Mommie Dearest” would have given me a bad feel for her, so I think it was good to let Jessica Lange do the work becoming Joan Crawford and I could just work off of her.” explained Chelsea.

     The twins' most favorable aspect of production was the wardrobe process. The girls worked with Primetime Emmy-nominated costume designer Lou Eyrich, who has designed the wardrobe for a variety of Ryan Murphy television shows, including “Glee”, “American Horror Story” and “Scream Queens.”
The twins recounted how courteous Lou was to them; asking for their feelings on the wardrobe they would wear on the series, and then making alterations to accommodate their opinions.
     The girls also marveled over the recreation of the locations where Crawford and Bette Davis held court during the 1960s.
     Another production perk the girls enjoyed was having their own individual trailers, which made their mother’s work on the set all the more humorous as she continuously coordinated herself between the two trailers.
    It wasn’t all work, of course – several times the twins’ family visited the set for added family time between filming.

Chelsea Summer & Brooke Star pose in wardrobe on the set of "Feud"
(Photo Courtesy of Tamaira Danyluk) 

     Regarding their time on “Feud”, they consider it an excellent learning experience to watch the other seasoned actors perform their characters.  “You’re just sitting back and watching them.  It’s so mesmerizing.” recalled Chelsea.
     Both girls glowed as they thought back about the actors they had the opportunity to meet and work with on the series.  For instance, during filming of the Malibu beach scene local resident and actor Nick Nolte visited the set and chatted with the crew.
He was “a very nice and personable man”, recalls the girls’ mother.
    The twins agree that Alfred Molina was a very kind and humble man. He posed for candid photos with the girls, and he even volunteered to change an overflowing trash can he had spotted on the set.
     They also have happy memories of Jackie Hoffman who played “Mamacita”, citing she was a joy and so funny.
     Naturally the two seventeen-year olds clicked best with fellow teenager Kiernan Shipka who portrayed Bette Davis’ daughter B.D. Merrill, and who previously portrayed “Sally Draper” on the hit AMC series “Mad Men.” The three girls enjoyed chit-chatting throughout the day while on the set.
     It is no surprise that working alongside Jessica Lange on “Feud” was an immense pleasure for the girls, and in particular to Chelsea. She had become a big fan of Lange by watching her on FX’s “American Horror Story”.
     Of Lange’s work ethic, the girls said she was “Work first, talk after” – and talk they did!
The girls say that at first Lange was rather reserved and of a shy nature, however during the scenes in Perino’s restaurant Lange and the girls talked at length between filming, and the experience of filming that scene remains a favorite for Chelsea.
     For Brooke, the 1963 Academy Awards show filming remains a fond memory for her. Both enjoyed watching their fellow heavyweight actors recite their lines in front of them as the two girls sat on the sofa during the greenroom party scenes.

(Left to right) Jackie Hoffman, Chelsea Summer, Brooke Star and Jessica Lange in a scene from "Feud"
(Photo courtesy of FX Network)

     On point with Crawford’s own generosity to her co-stars and crew, on the twins’ last day of working on the set they passed around gifts to their cast and crew members.
     The girls gave Lange a scarf which she immediately placed around her neck in appreciation.
     Unfortunately, the girls didn’t get a candid photo with Lange on the set; however Brooke did get a big kiss from Lange on her cheek while Lange was in full makeup as Crawford – and in Crawford style, Lange left a big red lipstick kiss on her cheek, which Brooke was understandably proud to show off.

     Prior to “Feud”, Brooke and Chelsea had appeared in other hit television shows such as “Modern Family” and “The Middle” among other acting roles on television, stage and short films.
   Aside from their already impressive and growing acting resume, the young actresses maintain creative interests and talents in other areas of the arts.
     Brooke has a passion for music and enjoys composing her own original songs which has earned her top awards in music competitions. Chelsea admires poetry, and in particular modern poetry. Along with her interest in acting she is working on compiling her own book of poetry.
     Currently, the twins are working heavily on “School of Rock” and preparing for a guest appearance on “NCIS: Los Angeles.”
     For the majority of their larger roles, the girls have appeared together as twins, though they are not opposed to appearing individually. However, they admit to enjoying working together on film sets.
They laugh in saying that they always have someone nearby to run lines with.

Young actresses Brooke Star and Chelsea Summer pay tribute to late actress Joan Crawford
(Photo By Bryan Johnson, May 2017)

     The girls recently graduated high school in May of 2017 and are looking forward to a well-deserved summer vacation with friends and family. Perhaps a non-working trip to the beach will be in order.

     The twins are currently working on a book detailing their experiences on “Feud: Bette & Joan”.
Fans can expect the book to be available later this year.  
Stay up to date on the book's progress by following the twins' official Facebook page, and “The Concluding Chapter of Crawford” for continued details!