Photo courtesy of the Kinsmans

The 'Cheaper by the Dozen' Twins: From Hollywood Actors to Cal Poly Students

Video by Leah Horner and Cecilia Seiter

It’s 85 degrees out, but Brent Kinsman is wearing a sweatshirt with his hood up.

Brent speaks calmly and professionally, with precision and charisma. It’s clear he’s comfortable in front of a camera, keeping his hands folded in front of him and occasionally breaking into an easygoing smile as he speaks. Despite the heat, the hood stays on. He wants to be sure he can be told apart from his twin brother, Shane, sitting next to him.

The two are pretty much identical, both standing at the same height and sporting a dash of reddish-brown hair. They’re not quite as recognizable as they were when they were five, but perhaps that’s for the better — having acted alongside Steve Martin as kids, the twins from “Cheaper by the Dozen” have had their taste of fame.

“It gets hard sometimes, because people kind of label us as the kids from ‘Cheaper by the Dozen,’” Brent said. “Even though that was a job that we did when we were five years old and we’re much more than just that.”

When Shane and Brent arrived at Cal Poly as freshmen this fall, they enjoyed anonymity. Being able to slip virtually unnoticed into a school of 23,000 students was a confidence booster, they said. It wasn’t until about a week into school that someone posted on Facebook that the twins were students at the university. After that, they started getting approached more frequently by strangers, something both brothers have mixed feelings about.

“It’s fun and all, and I really enjoy it, but we’ve kind of had that our entire lives, so it’s like, who are your friends and who are not?” Shane said. “Who is interested in Shane and Brent Kinsman rather than the twins from ‘Cheaper by the Dozen?’”

It takes a bit of effort on their part, Brent said, to filter through people who have good intentions and those who don’t. It’s exhausting. They want to be seen as normal people who enjoy dirt biking and fishing together, staying active at the gym and hanging out with friends.

Having worked in the entertainment industry for years, Shane and Brent learned an important lesson about actors.

“You expect them to be larger than life, and then you see them in real life and it’s like, ‘Oh. You’re a human with the same qualities and genetics as I have,’” Shane said.

Working with Steve Martin, the Academy Award-winning actor who played the twins’ father in “Cheaper by the Dozen,” was a good reminder of that, they said.
“Steve Martin’s one of the most down-to-earth, awesome guys,” Brent said. “He treated us really well.”

He and Shane both laugh as they recall the days they spent with the big-shot actor on set. He was just a regular guy making time to entertain two spunky five-year-old boys with his banjo between shots.

Though Shane and Brent aren’t running around on movie sets anymore, they still attribute a large part of who they are to their past.
“It runs deep. It’s who we are; and it’s not, in a way,” Shane said.

Their professionalism around adults, their perfect composure in interviews — Hollywood has ingrained those into them. But, they’re still Shane and Brent Kinsman. They are just two brothers who came to Cal Poly to meet new friends, with its strong academics and ideal location in mind, just like how many others decided to make Cal Poly their home.

“How can you deny Cal Poly?” Brent said. “The area, location-wise, it just doesn’t get any better.”

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