Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (born June 13, 1986) are twin actresses who 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 is that they're not actually identical twins biologically speaking—they're just fraternal twins who happen to look identical. The twins have four other siblings outside of each other—an older brother named Jake, a younger sister named Elizabeth (who's an actress like her older sisters are), and two younger half-siblings named Trent (brother) and Courtney Taylor (sister) from their dad's second marriage. The Olsen twins also inspired the parody Web series Very Mary Kate.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have appeared on 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 the little girl was played by one actress. 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
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 beat everything".
- In New York Minute, Roxie finds a bootleg DVD of Holiday In The Sun, one of their TV movies.
- They've played sisters called Chloe and Riley in the TV movie Winning London and the sitcom So Little Time. Except that in the former Chloe is played by Mary Kate and Riley by Ashley, in the latter it's the other way around.
- Actor-Inspired Element: Michelle uses both hands to write because Ashley is right-handed, and Mary Kate is left.
- 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 who is a very stereotypical one.
- The Danza: As Mary-Kate and Ashley Burke in Two of a Kind.
- Dinner Order Flub: Passport to Paris does this in a strange way. One of the twins, who is learning French at a high-school level, accidentally orders fish (poissons) when she wanted drinks(boissons).
- 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: Quite a few of their roles, with Ashley being usually the responsible twin and Mary-Kate the wild twin (Two of a Kind, It Takes Two, The Challenge, New York Minute). Inverted in Winning London where Mary-Kate plays Chloe, the serious and competitive overachiever, while Ashley plays her lazy and fun-loving sister Riley.
- Former Child Star: Ashley has stopped acting in adulthood, while Mary Kate mainly does indie films.
- Granola Girl: Mary-Kate's character in The Challenge.
- 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.
- Kids Play Matchmaker: A rip-off of The Parent Trap called 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. As they got older, and the differences between them became 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 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 Olsens 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 a normal childhood. When they were offered a higher salary, she allowed them to stay on.
- Playing Against Type: In the Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling dynamic, Ashley is usually the responsible twin to Mary Kate's wild twin. The film Winning London inverts their usual personas, as Mary-Kate plays Chloe, the serious and competitive overachiever, while Ashley plays her laidback and fun-loving sister Riley.
- Polar Opposite Twins: The twins played this up in most of their shows and TV-movies.
- Reality Subtext: Their typecasting in their tween years reflected that on Full House Mary Kate would do the more comedic scenes, whereas Ashley handled the more serious ones.
- Runaway Bride: Their father in It Takes Two. He was marrying the Rich Bitch, so it's okay!
- 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.
- Strictly Formula: Much of the criticism from some of their teen movies like Passport to Paris, Winning London, Our Lips Are Sealed, Holiday in the Sun, and When in Rome is the plot. Twin teenagers go to a foreign country (e.g. Paris, London, Rome, Australia). They spend the entire movie shopping and exploring the country while hooking up with two cute boys, complete with kissing, and solving a mystery or stopping a robbery as a subplot. Luckily, other movies like New York Minute, The Challenge, and Switching Goals have more original plots (although the "hooking up with two cute boys" part is always there and it's lampshaded at the end of The Challenge).
- Take That!: "I Blame The Media" after getting caught making a mess in Larrypolooza in So Little Time.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: While they did sometimes switch, 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.
- It Takes Two: Mary-Kate is Amanda Lemmon, an orphan who plays street ball and resents having to act lady-like to get adopted while Alyssa Callaway (played by Ashley) 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.
- 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.
- New York Minute: Mary-Kate plays punk-rock rebel Roxy while Ashley plays classy and uptight Jane.
- 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 labour laws, they were replaced with the Krievins twins instead.
- Ashley considered returning to acting in 2009 and even was announced as playing Christie in The Informers. She dropped out and was replaced with Amber Heard.
- Witness Protection: Our Lips Are Sealed (the Australian one).