In 1986, journalist Marjorie Wallace published a book titled The Silent Twins about the life of June and Jennifer Gibbons, identical sisters who only communicated with one another through their own language. Born in Wales on April 11, 1963, the twins were sent to separate boarding schools as children to try to break their isolating patterns. As teens, they were admitted to a high-security mental health hospital where they lived for 11 years after committing a series of crimes such as petty theft and vandalism.
During those years and into young adulthood, June and Jennifer wrote a series of fictional works not available to the public before Jennifer’s death in 1993. However, for the film adaptation of Wallace’s book, which carries the same name, actresses Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance were given access to those writings as they prepared to play the Gibbons sisters.
“Marjorie Wallace who wrote the book is very close to the family and she allowed us to come to her home and sit with her and she showed us images and diary entries and private archived information that is not accessible to the public and we’re really grateful for that,” Wright, who plays June in the film which was released today, tells ESSENCE.
“She has a great close connection to June and in that we were able to keep updated about how June was feeling. She’s very private and we want to keep respecting her privacy, but we are honored that there’s a stamp of approval,” Wright adds. “There’s an appreciation for our version of the story that is rich and that is full of life and fully rounded. That’s something that the media didn’t do before and now we’re taking ownership of that and showing how beautiful these sisters are and I’m really proud of that.”
Both Wright and Lawrance grew up in London and say the duty of portraying real people on screen added to the weight of their roles.
“There is a huge honor and responsibility in depicting a true life story that we have to be careful to not make a caricature or bastardize an experience or judge your character,” says Lawrance. “It was fascinating to be able to get into the psyche of someone that really existed.”
Check out our full interview with Wright and Lawrance in the video above.