05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
LET TIA AND TAMERA MOWRY, THE 15-YEAR-old twins who star in ABC's new Friday sitcom Sister, Sister, explain how they got their first commercial—for Chrysler—five years ago even though they had never jumped rope double Dutch as the ad required:
Tamera: We didn't know a...
Tamera:...of double Dutch. But we still had confidence.
Tia: Still had confidence.
Tamera: So we just used one rope and...
Tia: And got the job!
This isn't a script; these two simply trip over one another's lines as a matter of lifelong habit. "The kids at school are sick of it," says Tia, the more voluble of the two, "but I can't help it. We just know each other better than anyone else."
Indeed, it's the twins' ebullient interplay that has made Sister, Sister a favorite with the 'tween set. The idea was first conceived by writer Kim Bass and the show's co-executive producer, Irene Dreayer, 42, who discovered the girls two years ago when a friend at NBC told her about Tahj, the twins' younger brother, now 7, who had just landed a recurring role as Teddy on ABC's Full House. "I met the kid," says Dreayer, "fell in love and said to the mother, 'Anyone else at home?' "
Well, yes. Darlene Mowry had two darling daughters eager to break into TV. The moment Dreayer met the girls, she says, "they were so adorable, I wanted to go hang out at the mall with them." But Dreayer also had a more practical notion: "I wanted to remake The Parent Trap black."
They did, more or less, with real twins (versus Hayley Mills talking to her own image in 1961) playing sisters separated at birth and adopted by different families. The girls learn of each other's identities in an accidental meeting at a clothing store; Tia's feisty single mother (Jackee Harry) moves in with Tamera's widowed father (Tim Reid), and melded family fur begins to fly. In real life, Tia and Tamera (the producers decided to use their actual names in Sister, Sister to save confusion on the set) have enjoyed the same set of parents since day one: Italian-American Timothy Mowry and African-American Darlene Flowers, who met in high school in Miami and married after they both joined the Army and became NCOs. The girls were born in Gelhausen, Germany, moved to Fort Hood, Texas, at 2, then to Honolulu, then to Killeen, Texas, in 1986. Then came show business?
Tamera: Ti and I were really bored in Texas, and my mom saw an ad in the newspaper for [beauty] pageants. And we won.
Tia and Tamera: All of them!
Soon the girls were appearing in Sears, Kmart and J.C. Penney catalogs—and badgering their mother about TV. "We saw all the little actors and actresses on TV and we said, 'Mom, that looks like fun. Let's do that!' "
Mom made a deal. If the girls could land a TV commercial within a month, she would quit the Army and move the family to California. So, in the summer of 1988, Darlene took a 30-day leave and headed with the girls to Glendale, Calif., to stay with friends. Sure enough, within a month, Tia and Tamera were signed to do the double Dutch ad for Chrysler. Darlene resigned from the military and settled the family in Los Angeles in 1989.
At first, Darlene worked as a security guard, and Tahj, who had been doing print ads, got more spots than his sisters. (He is currently featured in the All Sport TV ad with Shaquille O'Neal.) When he got the part on Full House, the girls took turns playing the lesser role of his sister. Then along came Dreayer.
The family—including new addition Tavior, 9 months—has moved into a five-bedroom house in Van Nuys. The girls, 10th graders at Birmingham High, are trying to differentiate between themselves a bit—meaning they don't dress exactly alike. But their emerging goals are identical: they want to be partners in a criminal-law practice. "We got bored doing pageants, we got bored doing commercials, so we may gel bored doing acting," says Tia. But not for a while. "After we do the series for five years!" shouts Tamera.
KAREN BRAILSFORD in Los Angeles