The twins have—forgive the cliché—had something of a storybook rise. Charlie was discovered when he was only eighteen while shoe shopping in Santa Monica, “I mean, you hear these stories happening and you secretly wish that you had an easy entrance into the entertainment business,” he admits.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening. I thought it was some kind of joke or something nefarious.” Two weeks after, he was auditioning for a role in Desperate Housewives, and when the producers got wind that he had a twin, they had Max audition via iChat and then fly out the next day. The twins spent four seasons on Housewives together before moving to MTV’s Teen Wolf in its third season, and most recently to HBO’s The Leftovers.
Along the way they both found time to attend and graduate from the University of Southern California—“With USC, we both accepted admission there completely independently of the other twin”—Max with a degree in English and minor in Cinematic Arts, and Charlie with a degree in Art History.
“It has been a crazy couple of years.” Max says, “We finally graduated last year. We wrapped up three regular roles back-to-back. Right now, I am enjoying a bit of downtime.”
The three of us are now squeezed into a booth at a modern Italian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Charlie is the older of the twins—by seven minutes—and I expect him to be the more serious one. In fact, it is Charlie who decided at 14 that he wanted to be an actor—despite pressures from their highly academic family—and left the prestigious boarding school that he and his brother attended for Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. In his words, “an art school in the middle of the woods.” And it is Charlie who casually comments on their regimented upbringing: “We weren’t allowed to watch TV. We had to read books. The part [that] I really appreciated [about] how our parents raised us was that creativity mattered just as much, if not more [than academics].”
But, alas, Charlie has a disarming goofiness about him, and, to boot, an obvious knack for the physicality of acting.
It is instead Max who is the more serious—the one who stayed at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, graduating Magna Cum Laude, and said, “For a while, I couldn’t imagine my life without grad school.” Max did the Desperate Housewives audition while he was working with his father—research physician and author Robert Martensen, M.D., Ph.D. —at the NIH in Washington D.C., “I was fine with [auditioning] because I thought that I was going to bomb the whole thing. I was expecting to disappoint my brother eternally and be the reason why he got the lucky break and I ruined it.”
Max is slightly taller, and although he seems more serious, they help each other out in different ways: “Charlie is really good at taking care of himself and being responsible. When it comes to business stuff, I’ll take the lead. We trust each other to be like ‘Oh, I’m not good at that, but Charlie is. He can handle it.’”
It’s hard to not be enthusiastic around these guys, if there’s something that they like they are utterly ecstatic. Speaking about their strict up bringing, Max casually lets it drop that he watched the entirety of Friends in a week recently.
“Because it’s great.” Charlie adds.
“That’s some good network TV.” Says Max.
Their propensity to go all out carries over to other parts of their lives. When I ask about an example of a transformative experience, Max mentions doing a 31-day backpacking trip in the wild when he was sixteen, and then a five-day walkabout in Death Valley with a Native American shaman and no food when he was 21.
“The more I started embracing what I was afraid of, all these things I’d never done before, the more I realized how much I’d limited myself and how many cool things were out there that I was afraid of, that I needed to try.”
For Charlie, his hero’s journey reached its arc when he traveled to Paris by himself and ended up staying for two months, “I’d learned French in high school but I hadn’t really practiced it and I ended up making this whole community over there. I feel one hundred percent confident and capable venturing into unknown territory [after that].”
In their career too, they’ve just recently learned how to put their foot on the brakes, “The main thing is,” Max says, “We are trying the regular grind of being an actor, just reading scripts, seeing what pilots are out there, and so on and so forth. I can speak for both of us, that we are open to wearing different hats.” Charlie adds, “We are kind of making peace with everything that has happened. We are trying to gain a bit of perspective and plan. Well, you really can’t plan. You have to roll with the jazz.”
When I ask them about the future, the brothers get reflective, they want to keep traveling (they just got back from a three week trip through Europe) and they are eager to expand into separate careers. “I think I can speak for both us when I say that we’d love to write and produce. We’d love to try that out and explore roles as individuals. I would happily take another twin role if it were right. But it’s not something that I am hell-bent on doing just for the sake of having a job,” says Max.
“I’ve got short-term goals.” Charlie replies, “I don’t know. Work is part of it. When I first started in the business, work was so overwhelming. What dominated my thinking was, ‘I have to do this; I have to be good enough.’ All of this crazy actor thinking that just sucks. I think at this point, work is becoming [just another] part of our lives.”
We are still picking on several plates of antipasti as the conversation winds down. While Max is in the bathroom, Charlie thanks me for doing my homework on them. It’s obvious that the Carvers get type cast outside the audition room as well. “It just pushes you creatively to work harder and strive for something bigger.” Charlie says, “I think it is part of the process. You have to be type cast because then you say, ‘Okay, I need to transform. I need to work on my craft. I need to get more motivated. Maybe I need to get pissed to break that mold.’ And then you get the next type cast.”
Photographer: Ian Morrison for opusreps.com.
Stylist: Dani Michelle for Dlmla.com.
Groomer: Christine Nelli for Eamgmt.com using Kevin Murphy Hair Care.