“I was so petrified because the ‘twin’ thing was sort of something that just happened,” recalls Dove Cameron about the early days of shooting LIV & MADDIE, the hit Disney Channel series that finds the 19-year-old actress playing the dual title roles. “They were like, ‘by the way, you’re going to be playing twins – we’ll see you on Monday!,’ and I was like Ha-Ha – I’m gonna get fired. I’m gonna lose my job. They’re gonna choose somebody else.” Originally cast to play a single role on a show called BITS & PIECES, Cameron found herself returning to work after a nine-month break between pilot and pick-up as twins in a show that had been completely re-worked from top to bottom, premiering in 2013 and becoming one of Disney’s most-watched original series. Nearly three seasons in, and the “twin thing” is still a challenge, but it’s all a part of the gig. “I’ve never gotten confused,” says Cameron, “but as the seasons go on, [sometimes] I’ll walk into a scene, and I’ll be like ‘Wait, who am I?”
On an afternoon deep within a soundstage at Hollywood Center Studios in Los Angeles, I and 24 fellow writers from the pop culture/parenting realm were crashing with the Rooneys – hanging out in the living room and kitchen that so many have become familiar with. Just outside the kitchen door, Joey Bragg is rehearsing scenes as brother Joey Rooney, moving through a group of teens who are camping and rockin’ out on guitar – musically appropriate since this episode, “SPARF-a-Rooney” features a guest appearance by singer/songwriter Andy Grammer as himself.
“What’s so crazy is that it’s been… [we’re working on] the third season,” comments Bragg. “We are right now where most Disney shows reach their peak and are finished and are wrapping it up and [the actors are] getting ready to start another Disney Show or to move on past Disney. But it doesn’t feel like that. We still feel new.”
Playing the youngest of the Rooney kids, Parker, 13-year-old Tenzing Trainor jumps in to throw down some beyond-his-age wisdom, knowing that while LIV & MADDIE is where it’s at right now, he’s completely self-aware when it comes to the enormous opportunity that comes with being part of a Disney Channel cast in terms of what’s out there, and what the future may hold.
“[A role on] Disney or Nickelodeon is something that everybody goes out for and some people are right for it and some people go on and do other things,” he says. “Some people come here and settle down. Some people come here and move on. It’s a court for young actors to do whatever they want after it because they publicize you so much and you really learn your craft and learn your voice. I think it’s a great jumping off point – a great thing for us to have gotten into, especially at this age.”
When the boys talk about spinning off into other projects, they need look no further than Dove to see that element of Disney stardom in action. Cameron scored big this summer as Mal, the daughter of Maleficent in Disney’s DESCENDANTS, which debuted in July to record ratings – a showing that practically created a new fandom overnight and has audiences demanding a sequel.
“SPARF-a-Rooney,” a special episode of LIV & MADDIE premieres Sunday, August 16, 2015 at 9pm on Disney Channel. In the episode, Maddie and Diggie try to “out-fun” each other at a local music festival as Liv tries to help Andie get over her breakup.