Hiding a Pregnancy in Television
What happens when the actress of a TV show gets pregnant? Actresses are not expected to put their life on hold just for a television role. Actresses that have a commitment to a television series can surely show off their pregnancy off camera all they want, but its’ another thing when it comes to onscreen time. This can be a somewhat of a problem to the creators of television series. The viewer will definitely question the show if the female character suddenly shows up with an unexplainable baby bump.In some cases, the writers opt to create a pregnant story arc for the character. For example, when Lisa Kudrow of Friends became pregnant, a storyline was created in which she was going to be a surrogate mother for her brother’s babies. Also in Alias , when Jennifer Gardner became pregnant on it's last season, her character Sydney Bristow also became pregnant on the show. For some series, this can definitely be a possibility. Maybe a pregnancy creates the perfect drama that is needed to move the story forward. But sometimes making the character pregnant doesn’t solve the problem because it would be completely uncharacteristic and because that’s just not where the story is headed. When this happens it’s the only choice is coming up with some crafty ideas to reduce the damage to the believability of the show.
Most of the time these techniques are not entirely effective, but I will give a few examples of some of the techniques that are used to hide the actresses ever growing bellies.
This is the most popular of the ways to hide a pregnancy. They use baggy clothes instead of form fitting wardrobe so that the baby bump isn’t as noticeable. Even though they do this, you can tell that the actress is pregnant. The stomach isn’t the only way to notice that someone is pregnant. You can tell that a woman is pregnant by noticing weight gain, a rounder face and even slightly bigger breasts. When actress Courtney Cox got pregnant on the last season of Friends , the writers of the show had already created a storyline that could not be altered. Monica and Chandler couldn’t get pregnant and the characters had already opted for adoption when Cox became pregnant with her daughter Coco. So, to hide her pregnancy Monica is seen wearing loose clothing until the end of the show. One show that did the change of clothing well was Sex and the City. Since the show was known for its amazing wardrobe, the costume designers had more liberty in dressing the character of Carrie when Sarah Jessica Parker became pregnant. She wears flowy dresses to hide her baby bump and they cut the season short so that she could go on maternity leave.
Another way to hide a pregnancy is to carry boxes or other bulky items in front of the stomach. You'll see the character suspiciously always covering themselves with objects. They sometimes are carrying bigger purses than they usually wore, if they wore them at all. You see them clutching those huge purses for dear life as if they were worried that they would be mugged. Sometimes you see them strangely wearing those large purses inside their own homes. On the fourth season of How I Met Your Mother , both Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders became pregnant at the same time. One of the techniques that were used to hide their pregnancies was the carrying of objects. You suddenly saw them wearing these extremely large and may I say ugly purses. Sometimes you saw them carrying around boxes or playing guitar, which we never knew they could play. In one episode a storyline of a hotdog eating contest was incorporated as to explain the Lily’s big belly.
Another technique that is popular is standing behind obstacles. Some of these obstacles include standing behind tables, kitchen counters, and even other cast members. The viewer suddenly notices these strange obstacles in the way that don’t let you see the character in a full body shot. In The Cosby Show , they went as far as installing a new kitchen counter for when Phylicia Rashad became pregnant. The counter was noticeably taller than the one in the previous seasons. This counter became very handy in that season. It was simple way to create an obstacle and soon they were constantly writing the character of Clair in the kitchen doing different things. Also they made a hole Clair’s side of the bed so that they could hide Rashad’s elevated stomach when the characters of Cliff and Clair were lying in bed. In Cheers both Rhea Pearlman and Shelly Long became pregnant. Pearlman’s pregnancy was written into the plot, but Long’s wasn’t. To hide Diane’s ever growing belly they had her standing behind the bar a lot. Another way was to be sitting down a lot. The characters were mostly sitting down behind a desk or on the couch. They do this in mostly every case.
Using camera angles is another cunning way to hide a pregnancy. All they have to do is make sure that the actress is only shown on camera from above the upper chest or to do close-ups. This may seem like the easiest way to hide a pregnancy but this cannot be done all the time. This might work on some occasions but wide camera angles are important for a television show, especially sitcoms. The interaction between the characters is needed. If the character is alone this is definitely the way to go, but when there are more people on the scene other techniques have to be taken into account.
Lastly removing the actress from the show for a while might be the simplest way to deal with this predicament. Some actresses go on maternity leave until they give birth to their child. This can work if the actress isn’t the main character of the show. The writers can come up with some creative storyline to explain her absence on the show. When Sarah Wayne Callies of Prison Break became pregnant, a storyline was put in motion that had her missing and presumed dead, only to return in season 4. When it’s the main character that needs a little break from shooting, they might cut the season short like they did on Sex and the City or begin the season later like they did when Amy Poehler became pregnant on the third season of Parks and Recreation . The season was pushed back to January 2011 instead of starting on September 2010.
As you can see hiding a pregnancy on television can be a tricky thing. A lot of effort has to be put to conceal a pregnancy and make it believable. Using props or clever storytelling are some of the ways that this can be done. Sometimes the audience notices, sometimes they don’t. But we learn to ignore it. After all, who are we to deny those wonderful actresses their bundles of joy?