Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (born June 13, 1986, in Sherman Oaks, California) are twin American actors.
They became famous for playing Michelle Tanner in Full House. They parlayed that fame into a highly lucrative series of straight-to-VHS movies, leading them to become the top-earning stars under the age of 21 from the early 90's to the mid-2000s. They stopped acting as a duo in 2004, after the financial disappointment of New York Minute, but continued to profit handsomely from royalties, earning $40 million in 2006 even though they hadn't acted in anything. In 2007 Forbes ranked the twins as the eleventh-richest women in entertainment, with an estimated net worth of $100 million. Their success has led to a number of attempts to heavily promote other young twin actor pairs.
Their later teen years were common fodder for tabloid news. As adults, their focus shifted from acting to fashion, and they've used their considerable personal wealth to produce numerous clothing lines. In Fall 2008, the girls wrote a book called Influence as "a tribute to designers, artists, and other industry creative individuals who inspired them." Mary Kate continues to act occasionally in movies and TV shows, while Ashley has forgone acting entirely to focus on their fashion business.
A little-known fact about Mary-Kate and Ashley is that they're technically fraternal (non-identical) twins—although they look enough alike where they could easily pass for being identical twins. Mary-Kate and Ashley also have four other siblings outside of each other, two of whom are half-siblings through their dad's second marriage (the twins' parents got divorced in 1995):
- Two brothers (one older and one younger) named Trent and Jake, the latter of whom is one of their two half-siblings.
- Two younger sisters, Elizabeth (best known for playing Scarlet Witch) and Taylor, the latter of whom is the other of their two half-siblings.
The Olsen twins also inspired the parody Web series Very Mary Kate.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have appeared in these works:
- Full House (not (usually) on-screen at the same time)
- They were credited as "Mary Kate Ashley Olsen", leading many to believe that Michelle was played by one actor. Only in the last season, they are credited as "and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as Michelle".
- Two of a Kind, a short-lived sitcom, as pre-teens.
- So Little Time, a short-lived tween Sitcom starring the two.
- Mary Kate and Ashley in Action!, a short-lived Saturday Morning Cartoon starring the twins as Ink Suit Actors.
- Saturday Night Live (guest-hosted, at expense of their senior prom, in 2004)
- The Adventures Of Mary Kate And Ashley, a plethora of mystery works for children (literature and videos)
- You're Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley's, a plethora of party movies for children
- A plethora of Direct to Video tween comedies
- Beastly (2011) as Kendra
Some tropes used by their works:
- Actor Allusion:
- In an episode of Two of a Kind Mary Kate says of poker "I thought a full house beats everything".
- In New York Minute, Roxie finds a bootleg DVD of Holiday In The Sun, one of their DTV movies.
- They've played sisters called Chloe and Riley in the DTV movie Winning London and the sitcom So Little Time; the song "So Little Time" was first used as a soundtrack in Winning London, before becoming the theme song of the sitcom. However, in Winning London, Mary-Kate plays Chloe while Ashley plays Riley—in So Little Time, it's the other way around. And aside from the names, Chloe and Riley Lawrence from Winning London are very different characters from Chloe and Riley Carlson of So Little Time.
- Actor-Inspired Element: Michelle's ambidextrous because Ashley's right-handed while Mary-Kate's left-handed.
- Alpha Bitch: Jennifer in Two of a Kind, though later becomes a Lovable Alpha Bitch. A few characters of their movies also fit this, like Victoria from Our Lips Are Sealed (the movie where they go to Australia), who's a very stereotypical one.
- The Danza: As Mary-Kate and Ashley Burke in Two of a Kind.
- Dinner Order Flub: An interesting variation happens in Passport to Paris (the movie where they go to France). One of the twins is taking French at their school back in America, and while out at a restaurant in Paris, she accidentally orders fish ("poissons") when she was trying to order drinks ("boissons"). Though she said "deux boissons" (two drinks), and the waitress only brought one fish, so she could have been trolling.
- Dolled-Up Installment: The Game Boy Color game based on the franchise was originally developed as a South Park title, only for South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to put a halt to the release due to concerns about the game's mature subject matter being inappropriate on a device played mostly by children. Crawfish Interactive retooled what they have done so far into Maya the Bee & Her Friends which was based on the German cartoon franchise, which in turn was reskinned and modified as Mary-Kate & Ashley: Get a Clue!
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: In many of their movies and TV shows, the twins were typecast as this—Ashley typically portrayed the mature/responsible twin while Mary-Kate was usually the wild twin (Two of a Kind, It Takes Two, The Challenge, New York Minute). One of the only times they switched it up was in Winning London (the movie where they go to England), where Mary-Kate played Chloe (a serious and competitive overachiever) while Ashley played Riley (Chloe's laidback, fun-loving twin sister).
- Former Child Star: While the careers have shifted from acting to fashion, Mary-Kate still does some acting (though mostly in stuff like indie films) while Ashley has stopped acting entirely.
- Granola Girl: Mary-Kate's character, Shane, in The Challenge (the movie where the twins go to Mexico).
- I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: The twins often play up the Tomboy and Girly Girl dynamic. Mary Kate is the rebellious, edgy Tomboy and Ashley the uptight Girly Girl. Even Mary Kate's adult roles cater to this.
- Identical Twin ID Tag: Despite being fraternal, they look very much alike, especially during their time as Michelle Tanner. There are ways to tell which sister is which:
- Ashley is right-handed, while Mary-Kate is left-handed.
- Ashley has a beauty mark on her right cheek, while Mary-Kate has one on her upper lip, just under her nose.
- Mary-Kate's ears are more sharper and pointier than Ashley's, and her mouth is thinner.
- Whenever Michelle does her Happy Dance, Mary-Kate is the one to usually do it.
- Ashley's eyes are bigger and more closer to each other, while Mary-Kate's are bluer.
- Mary-Kate has a bigger and more angular face shape than Ashley's, whose head is more round.
- During most of their movies, their choice of clothing can be easily distinguishable, with Mary-Kate wearing more rebellious or tomboyish clothes while Ashley sticks to the girly and feminine side.
- Kids Play Matchmaker: Happens in It Takes Two.
- Lying Creator: ABC didn't want viewers to know that Michelle was played by twins, so they were credited as Mary Kate Ashley Olsen. But as the twins got older and the differences between them become more and more obvious, they were credited separately.
- Making Use of the Twin: When they just played Michelle, they're both used in several dream scenes. Another episode has an identical-looking cousin visiting from Greece.
- Missing Mom: The shows Full House and Two of a Kind as well as the movies It Takes Two and Billboard Dad have the Olsen Twins playing the daughter(s) of a widowed father.
- Money, Dear Boy: Their mother nearly took them off Full House after the first season, not wanting them to miss out on having a normal childhood. When they were offered a higher salary, she allowed them to stay on.
- Playing Against Type: As mentioned above, Ashley usually played the responsible twin to Mary-Kate's foolish twin—but, also as mentioned above, one of the only times this was switched up was in Winning London, as Mary-Kate plays Chloe, the serious and competitive overachiever, while Ashley plays her laidback and fun-loving sister, Riley.
- Polar Opposite Twins: Combined with Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling and/or Tomboy and Girly Girl, the twins played this up in most of their shows and TV movies. There are only a few averted times, like the movies Passport to Paris and Our Lips Are Sealed, where the twins act the same way, and there are no notable differences between their personalities.
- Reality Subtext: Their typecasting in their tween years reflected that on Full House—Mary Kate would do the more comedic scenes while Ashley handled the more serious ones.
- Runaway Bride: Their father in It Takes Two. He was marrying the Rich Bitch, so it's okay! They also make her suffer through a Humiliation Conga as she leaves the chapel. The Rich Bitch had badgered the guy into considerably moving up the wedding because she realized she had genuine competition.
- Star-Derailing Role: New York Minute was the twins' only theatrical release. It flopped at the Box Office and was savaged by critics, marking the end of their prominence. Their business Dualstar is doing well, however, and Mary Kate has continued with acting (albeit mostly for indie films) in addition to fashion.
- Strictly Formula: A lot of the criticism for their DTV movies that they starred as teenagers (like Passport to Paris, Our Lips Are Sealed, Winning London, Holiday in the Sun and When in Rome) is the plot—to go into greater detail:
- A pair of teenaged twin sisters go to some foreign country (like France, Australia, England, the Bahamas, and Italy, respectively, for the movies mentioned above) and spend most of the movie shopping in and exploring said country while hooking up with a pair of hot guys—and in quite a few of the movies, there's also a subplot involving the twins helping to solve a mystery and/or stop a robbery.
- While "hooking up with two hot guys" was always part of the plot in their movies, some of them did have more original plots—like New York Minute, The Challenge, and Switching Goals.
- The "hooking up with two hot guys" is lampshaded at the end of The Challenge (the last DTV movie that they made and, overall, the second-to-last movie that the twins did together). In a short scene at the end of the movie, some of the twins' boyfriends from past movies and TV shows they had done come in and start arguing over who they loved more. While the boys are all arguing, the twins leave and end the movie with a really sweet line: "Boys may come and go, but we'll always have each other—and that's not just in the movies."
- Take That!: "I Blame The Media" after getting caught making a mess in Larrypolooza in So Little Time.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: While they sometimes switched it up, Mary-Kate usually played the more tomboyish sister while Ashley usually played the more feminine sister. To name a few examples —
- In Two of a Kind, Ashley was presented as a very fashion-forward girl while Mary-Kate was a typical sporty tomboy.
- A mild case in So Little Time: Ashley plays Chloe Carlson, the girly, boy-crazy sister, while Mary-Kate plays Riley Carlson who is only slightly tomboyish (she wears less girly clothes than her sister, and is not as boy-crazy). However, the difference is not very pronounced, and the twins are more similar to each other than in other works.
- It Takes Two: Mary-Kate is Amanda Lemmon, an orphan who plays streetball and resents having to act lady-like to get adopted while Ashley as Alyssa Callaway is like a little princess, coming home from her boarding school's piano recital competition, expecting to meet her wealthy father at the airport but it's the butler instead.
- Billboard Dad: Mary-Kate plays Tess, who is better at most sports than her sister Emily (Ashley's character), although Emily is better at surfing.
- Switching Goals: Mary-Kate plays Sam Stanton, an athletic star soccer player, who is jealous of her sister's popularity with boys. Ashley plays Emma Stanton, a popular fashionable girl but terrible at sports, who is jealous of her sister's athletic achievements.
- The Challenge: Mary-Kate plays Shane, a laidback Outdoorsy Gal with a Tomboyish Name who lives with her mother. Ashley plays Lizzie, a prissy Go-Getter Girl who lives with her rich father.
- New York Minute: Mary-Kate plays punk-rock rebel Roxy while Ashley plays classy and uptight Jane.
- Winning London invert their usual roles. Ashley plays laidback, fun-loving Riley who is a bit of The Lad-ette, while Mary-Kate plays Chloe, a goody two-shoes who always wants to be perfect. It's probably the only work where Ashley is more tomboyish than Mary-Kate.
- Tomboy Angst: In Switching Goals, athletic tomboy Sam (played by Mary-Kate) admits she's tired of her You Go, Girl! reputation and that she would give away all her sports trophies to become a popular Dude Magnet like her girly sister Emma. Conversely, Emma (played by Ashley) would like to be good at sports like Sam. In fact, in this movie, the twins have an Adaptational Angst Upgrade of their respective roles in Two of a Kind.
- Twin Switch: Part of the main plot in It Takes Two and Switching Goals.
- What Could Have Been:
- They nearly starred as Creepy Twins on an episode of The X-Files. Due to strict child labor laws, they were replaced with the Krievins twins instead.
- Ashley considered returning to acting in 2009 and was even announced as playing Christie in The Informers. She dropped out and was replaced with Amber Heard.
- Witness Protection: The main plot in Our Lips Are Sealed (the movie where the twins go to Australia)—Abby and Maddie Parker (played by Ashley and Mary-Kate, respectively) witness a jewel heist and testify against the person who did it in court. Rightfully worried that the criminals will come after them, the twins and their parents are put into the FBI's Witness Protection Program and are (eventually) placed in Sydney, Australia.