It's been 50 years since anyone has attempted what Dove Cameron is doing on her new Disney Channel series "Liv and Maddie."
You have to go back to the 1963 comedy "The Patty Duke Show" to find another TV series where the star plays both identical twins. Lisa Kudrow played twins on "Friends," but only on an occasional basis.
In "Liv And Maddie," debuting Sunday, Sept. 15, on the Disney Channel, the 17-year-old actress portrays Liv, a popular television star whose hit show has ended, and Maddie, an outstanding student and basketball phenomenon. Maddie's growing popularity gets sidelined when her twin sister returns to their Wisconsin high school.
Cameron knows her TV twin history. Before filming started, the director gave her a DVD set of "The Patty Duke Show." She feels a real connection to the series because she's long admired Duke, who, like Cameron, was 17 when she started her work playing twins.
Also, while it's been a half century of technological advancements since "The Patty Duke Show," many of the camera tricks used to make Duke a twin are being used on the new show.
Cameron always has wished that she was a twin.
"I saw 'The Parent Trap' (both the Lindsay Lohan and Hayley Mills versions) when I was young and I became convinced that I had a twin somewhere out there. I kept trying to trick my mother into admitting that I had a twin," Cameron says. "I think I wanted a twin because I was a lonely child because I felt so different."
Cameron discovered another way to fill the void — performing. The Seattle native began acting in community theater when she was 8 and moved to Los Angeles when she was 14. Along with the starring role in the new series, Cameron has appeared on "The Mentalist" and will be in the Disney Channel original movie "Cloud 9."
Before landing the series, Cameron was going through the angst so many actors face. Months had passed since she filmed a pilot for a different new show on the Disney Channel and there had been no word. The phone finally rang while she was sitting in stalled traffic.
"It was from a private caller so I knew it was from Disney. She said that the show had been picked up. I started screaming," Cameron says. "Then she said, 'Also, you are playing twins. Bye.' "
Her joy at getting the job soon gave away to self-doubt. She was going to have to work twice as hard. She finally realized that the Disney Company has been making successful TV shows for years and she should trust their judgment.
She found out playing twins isn't as complicated as you would think. The characters are so different that Cameron never gets the characters confused.
Besides, there is a tradition of making the world believe the twins are different people. It started with Patty Duke 50 years ago — and that's something Cameron wants to uphold.
"Liv and Maddie": 8 p.m. Sunday, Disney Channel
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.