Kurt and Cody Wetherill Aim For Individuality On and Off-Screen
by Michelle Erica Green
Kurt and Cody Wetherill have been assimilated by Star Trek Voyager, and they couldn't be happier about it. The two 14-year-olds play Borg twins Rebi and Azan, recurring characters who were rescued from a demolished Borg cube along with several other children. Now Seven of Nine is their guardian, and Neelix tells them bedtime stories.
Though they were originally supposed to be in only one episode, the young Borg proved so popular that they returned for a three-episode arc this winter, then several more appearances leading up to this season's Borg-heavy finale. Residents of Battleground, Washington, who now have an address in Burbank as well, the Wetherills have moved in a single year from playing soccer in high school to being sought out by Hollywood agents.
"We were taking some acting classes up in Portland, and we got a print agent who saw that they were casting twin boys for an Aaron Spelling project, Safe Harbor," explains Cody, the younger twin by 45 seconds. "We ended up doing the pilot, then we started doing more auditions. Star Trek wanted twins."
Young twins are highly desirable in the film industry, where child labor laws restrict the number of hours any child can work. For a studio, casting identical twins who share a single role allows production to continue for longer hours as the children take turns playing the part.
But Kurt and Cody didn't start acting until they were older - as their father Jim explains, "We heard that some kids burn out by the age of 12 because they've been crammed into it all their lives. People had suggested that they could do it, but we didn't want to just cram them in front of cameras when they didn't even know what was going on. Now these guys are just starting out fresh on it."
Drones in a Pod
For the Voyager episode "Collective," the Wetherills had to sit through nearly three hours of makeup in order to become Borg drones. "The makeup was kind of hard, but it was worth it," says Kurt. "It was really fun to do, and I like how it turned out. It's a really fun group. They're always making jokes and goofing around, then when the cameras are on, it's really serious."
Though no one was certain whether the Borg children would be seen again after Voyager rescued them from their dying cube, they returned in "Ashes to Ashes" and "Child's Play," receiving schooling from Seven of Nine in science and human behavior. During one lesson, she berated the twins for communicating telepathically, which she considered cheating.
Both boys have enjoyed working with Jeri Ryan and felt comfortable among the cast, although the leads have been working together for six years. "Jeri likes hanging out with the other actors - she's very different from her character," explains Cody. "She's very nice and funny, not strict at all. She's really good with kids. Every time the makeup person brings her baby in, she's off playing with the baby. She's awesome."
The twins have become good friends with Marley McClean, who plays the Borg girl Mezoti, but their favorite actor to work with is Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix. "His character is cool," says Kurt. "Ethan Phillips likes to make jokes and have you laughing when they say 'action.' I like everybody though. They're all nice, and they help you out a lot."
Help is necessary at times because "the language is sometimes a tongue-twister. 'Precisely one-one thousandth the size of a Borg vessel!' That's pretty hard to say," Kurt laughs. "We run the lines ourselves, or I'll run them with Cody. Sometimes our parents will help us."
Though they fit right into the Collective, neither of the twins were familiar with the Borg "until we became Borg," explains Cody. "We watched one of the movies after we got the role, just to see what they do. A lot of it was built into the suits. The walk is built in, because it's really hard to walk in those. Basically we just followed what other actors were doing. It's not very hard to become a Borg. If you go through the makeup, you are a Borg."
A New Universe
Since the parents of one Borg child were tracked down in "Child's Play," it is possible Rebi and Azan's parents could turn up as well in a later episode. In the meantime, they're passengers on Voyager. In the upcoming episode "The Haunting of Deck Twelve," Neelix tells the kids ghost stories when they're unable to regenerate due to ship's system problems.
"We haven't heard yet about next year, but I really hope we get to come back," Kurt states. His brother adds, "They didn't tell us about the second episode until the week before. They didn't say a word about next year either. They don't tell us much."
"They've had extremely good feedback from the producers and the other actors," notes their dad, Jim. "They booked them originally for one episode, and now it's five episodes and counting. When they get the scripts, they flip to the back and say, 'We're not dead yet!'
The twins recently were guests at the Grand Slam convention in Pasadena, giving them a taste of the scope of Trek fandom. "We did a 10-minute Q&A on Sunday. It was a lot of fun," reports Cody. "Sometimes we got stopped by people who wanted to ask how we got the makeup on and who did we like working with."
Adds Kurt, "I used to watch the old Star Trek, the original one, whenever it came on the Sci-Fi Channel. At the convention, we got to meet William Shatner and go into the green room and talk to him. That was cool!"
The Borg are the only bad guys the boys have ever played, something they would like to expand on. "I'd like to do comedy, too," says Kurt.
Cody concurs. Two of his main goals as an actor are to be on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. "I just like to act, and I like to be challenged, so I'd like to do a whole bunch of different roles."
"They think it's fun," observes Jim Wetherill. "The first session they had for still photography, they put them on a trampoline to bounce around so they could shoot them in different outfits, and the boys just thought it was a blast. 'You can get paid for this?' Then, they shot a national ad modeling sports clothes on location on Mount Hood. They got to spend a day playing in the snow."
When their agent saw that Aaron Spelling was searching the United States and Canada for twins to star in the pilot of Safe Harbor - a show about a single father - he sent photographs, then a taped audition. Two days later, the Wetherills were on a plane to meet Mr. Spelling. They filmed the pilot and got terrific feedback, but Warner Bros. decided to nix the idea of having twins on the series, "against Spelling's better judgement," says Jim. "The writer and creator ended up quitting the job because of the fallout."
Since they were already packed and ready to go shoot the series, the Wetherills instead headed down to Hollywood to see what it was like. "Hollywood isn't as scary as it seems on TV," notes Jim. "We had a very good reception here, The guys have a good attitude about it. The people on the set say, 'You're not from here, are you?' I take that as a compliment!"
Cody and Kurt both play soccer and were the Nike rookie tour doubles champions in tennis. They are both straight-A students who like math and hope to go to college on either a sports or dramatic scholarship. What's the major difference between the two of them? "I'm smarter and more handsome," announces Kurt.
"Kurt is not better-looking and more intelligent!" objects Jim, who is clearly proud of both his sons as well as 17-year-old daughter Kari, who has gone to Los Angeles with the family in the hopes of breaking into the music business. "Cody is a little more serious and meticulous. Actually, people have told me that it's difficult to tell in a room who's who, but I can tell the differences in their voices from the inflection."
There are minor differences of taste. Cody prefers Drew Carey, Kurt prefers Jim Carrey. Do they ever get tired of working together? "I like to work with my brother, but if I would have to work alone, I wouldn't mind it," says Cody. "I don't know any other twins in the business except the Olsen twins." Jeremy and Jason London have both had very successful careers so far, and Nicholas Brendan has an identical twin brother, but they were older when they became well-known.
The boys are home-schooled right now to keep their schedules flexible. Two weeks ago, for instance, the boys were called when a late-season Voyager episode ran several minutes short, so they could film extra scenes. "It's a cute one," Jim Wetherill explains. "They're more of an A-plot with Neelix, because they're the main characters that are being told kind of a horror story around the campfire."
Kurt and Cody have gone on five theatrical auditions; they got the roles three times, an extraordinary percentage. Recently they auditioned for a Disney movie of the week called The Other Me, about a 13-year-old boy who clones himself, for which the producers were considering using a single actor and a split screen before they saw the Wetherill twins.
"Who knows? We'll keep our fingers crossed," says Jim. "Of course, some suit at Disney may decide they want to go with the split screen so that they only have to deal with one kid. The boys are just as excited that they might get to do William Shatner's charity horse show."