Actors have a job to do that requires loads of commitment, time, and effort. However, they’re people, too, and life doesn’t always go by the script. Especially when long-term projects, like TV shows, are the actor’s bread-and-butter, milestones can happen throughout its duration, like marriage, divorce, and childbirth. However, that last one can make it difficult for writers and directors to work around a burgeoning baby belly, especially if the character in question has already been determined to be unable or unwilling to have children. Plus, since so many actresses are slim, any weight gain becomes incredibly noticeable.
Thanks to the creativity of the writers, wardrobe department, makeup, and directors, though, pregnancies can be worked around, even when the actress in question is about to pop! Clever camera angles, set design, and wardrobe choices can all help disguise a baby bump if it’s not in the cards for a character to be pregnant as well. Sometimes, this is super successful, with audiences being none the wiser to an actress who just happens to be with child. Other times, it becomes noticeable and, in certain cases, impossible not to recognize! After all, your body changes in many different ways when you’re with child, and TV and movie magic can only work so well! These are the actresses who were able to maintain a secret pregnancy on-set, and the others who were bumpin’ all the way out!
18 Secret Pregnancy: Cobie Smulders, How I Met Your Mother
While pregnant with her second child by actor husband and Saturday Night Live alum Taran Killam, Cobie Smulders had to hide her pregnancy throughout season 4 of the hit TV show How I Met Your Mother. In fact, her costar, Alyson Hannigan was pregnant at the same time – but more on her later.
Dealing with dual pregnancies during the 2009 season made things a little challenging on the set, but the producers and directors stuck with the tried-and-true Hollywood methods of hiding a growing baby bump. For Smulders, that meant wearing lots of loose clothing (which was still chic in 2009) and carrying large purses to disguise her belly. Executive producer Craig Thomas admitted to the Chicago Tribune that, while the cast and crew were expecting Hannigan’s baby bump and had already figured how to work around it, Smulders’ pregnancy was much more unexpected, although still “delightful”!
In this image, taken from season four, thanks to a loose shirt, the purse on her lap, the fact that she’s sitting down, and that she’s holding something away from her tummy, it’s almost impossible to tell that Smulders has a bun in the oven, making this a successfully hidden secret pregnancy on the set!
17 Bumpin' Out: Courteney Cox, Friends
It must have been a pain in the butt to be a writer on Friends during its final tenth season when actress Courteney Cox fell pregnant – because her character couldn’t be! As Monica Gellar, Cox had learned that she had a “hostile uterus” and was unable to carry a baby to term, and so she and her on-screen husband, Chandler (played by Matthew Perry) had decided to adopt instead.
It was a sweet ending to their attempt to conceive, but, as the series wound down, it seemed like the costume department did everything they could to hide Cox’s growing baby bump, but to no avail. Cox is a very slim actress, and the weight she gained in her face and her torso became very evident. Plus, it wasn’t helped by the fact that the wardrobe department decided that winding skinny scarves around her neck – thus shortening her – made her look heavier, having the exact opposite of the desired effect.
Because of Monica’s character arc, Cox’s pregnancy couldn’t be written into the script, unlike costar Lisa Kudrow, who became pregnant during the hit show’s fourth season. For Kudrow, her pregnancy was actually enhanced with padding in order to accommodate the plot point of her character acting as a surrogate for her brother’s triplets!
16 Secret Pregnancy: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City
As a fashion plate, you might think that Sarah Jessica Parker’s turn as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City would be complicated by her pregnancy with her son James in 2002. Considering the perpetually unlucky-in-love character that Carrie was, having a baby didn’t exactly make sense to the script, and so the writers and crew had to find a way to work around it. Fortunately, thanks to some clever wardrobe manipulation and the fact that Carrie can wear pretty much anything the rest of us can’t, it was pretty much impossible to tell that Parker was pregnant during filming!
With babydoll dresses and Empire-waisted tops and frocks, Parker’s bump was basically invisible. Thanks to a naturally small frame, the wardrobe department found it relatively easy to work around the growing baby inside Parker’s belly. Plus, with clever accessorizing, hairdos, and styles that totally matched the early 2000s aesthetic, searching for a baby belly was the last thing on audiences’ minds!
Of course, as insurance – and as a way to allow their star actress to recover in the later stages of her pregnancy – the producers shortened the show’s fifth season from the standard 13 episodes to a mere eight.
15 Bumpin' Out: Kerry Washington, Scandal
Remember those tricks we mentioned that Hollywood has used time and again to conceal pregnancies on-camera when the character wasn’t supposed to be with child? Well, in Scandal’s third season, almost every possible method was used to disguise star Kerry Washington’s growing bump, to the point of ridiculousness.
The efforts the show took to hide Washington’s pregnancy became the subject of amusement by the media and fans alike, who would try and keep track of all the methods used to hide it. Gigantic coats and handbags, hiding behind objects like lampshades, wearing loose clothing, and even using a guard booth to hide behind are just some of the methods used to keep audiences from learning the truth. Unfortunately, it totally backfired, and made it all the more noticeable!
For Washington, working with her bump wasn’t any easier, either. Writing about the season in The Hollywood Reporter, Washington explained, “I had to figure out how to be this woman while my instrument was changing and evolving every day. It was like seeing the keys on a piano jump around on a daily basis. It was tough for me to even maintain Olivia’s walk because of the changes.”
14 Secret Pregnancy: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld
Julia Louis-Dreyfus must have been thanking her lucky stars that she got pregnant during the 1990s, when baggy clothing was a fashion statement and not an obvious method of concealing a baby bump, because she was able to disguise not one but two pregnancies throughout Seinfeld’s nine-season run.
At first, though, things we’re quite so smooth. Apparently, during the third season, when Louis-Dreyfus became pregnant with her first son, creator Jerry Seinfeld suggested writing her character Elaine as getting fat, which caused Louis-Dreyfus to burst into tears! Instead, they relied on a collection of large ‘90s style coats, and carry things like gifts, laundry baskets, and purses, or hide behind objects, like a block of knives.
Additionally, in order to give the actress some time to recuperate after giving birth, Louis-Dreyfus was absent from the beginning of season four. To explain this, her character Elaine was written to disappear on a trip with her psychotherapist boyfriend Dr. Reston, and she reappeared in episode three. In hindsight, Louis-Dreyfus admitted that the idea to make Elaine fat was a good one and that they should’ve done it. Well, it was done in another sitcom, but maybe not with much success!
13 Bumpin' Out: Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother
Unlike her costar Cobie Smudlers, Alyson Hannigan wasn’t under as much pressure to disguise her burgeoning baby belly. In fact, she was pregnant twice throughout the show’s nine-season run! The second time around, Hannigan’s pregnancy coincided with the pregnancy of her character, Lily, but the second time around, the writers took some, well, liberties when it came to hiding her belly.
In addition to hiding Hannigan’s growing stomach behind such things like a rack of basketballs and globes, the writers went all in and chose not to really disguise her baby bump at all – albeit under a pretty slim pretense. In order to reclaim her past glories, Hannigan as Lily enters a hot dog eating contest, and, when she finishes gorging herself, stands up to reveal her swelled midsection – allegedly the result of indulging in too many hot dogs! Of course, viewers who knew what was happening behind the scenes understood that there was a baby in there rather than a whole lot of food or padding, but, according to co-creator Craig Thomas, they figured, “Why be subtle about it – let’s make an extra joke out of it.” So in reality, this was a 50/50 split for a baby in disguise versus embracing all that baby bump glory!
12 Secret Pregnancy: Claire Danes, Homeland
In its first season, the TV show Homeland proved to be extremely successful, both critically and among audiences, but things got a little complicated once Claire Danes became pregnant when the second season was about to begin filming. Allegedly, Danes wanted to keep filming the show as if nothing was wrong, but soon executive producers decided that she was simply showing too much – she was near the end of her pregnancy, after all!
Rather than rely on objects to distract the viewer from Danes’ belly, the writers and directors got a little more creative with their attempts. They used tight camera shots, a body double for wider images of Danes’ stomach, and even CGI to conceal the fact that their star spy Carrie Mathison was carrying a baby! Finally, as the season began to wrap up, Danes’ character was kidnapped and chained to a pipe – while the actress was seven and a half months pregnant! Even Danes admitted that the grueling filming schedule and the fact that she was chained up in an old sewage factory, sometimes until four in the morning for the remaining episodes – the better to conceal her baby bump –totally sucked.
11 Bumpin' Out: January Jones, Mad Men
Heading into the fifth season of the successful AMC show Mad Men, January Jones didn’t want to try to hide her pregnancy. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jones said she thought it “would be comical and weird” to even try to use the Hollywood tricks that we’ve already mentioned. However, in the same interview, she admitted that it wouldn’t make sense for her character to become pregnant, having recently given birth already and having a pretty messy personal life.
So, to make lemonade out of those lemons, creator Matthew Weiner decided to have the character of Betty Draper gain weight. Like, a lot of weight. Cue seven hours of prosthetics to her face and body on every day of shooting to make it look like the naturally svelte Jones had ballooned up as the result of a thyroid condition. The weight gain – real for the character, fake for the actress – took a toll on both women, as Betty Draper had to reevaluate what she had to offer in life without the looks that had gotten her so far, and Jones didn’t handle it well, either! When she first saw herself on-air in the fat suit and prosthetics, Jones confessed that she “paused it, and went screaming into the other room”!
10 Secret Pregnancy: Angela Kinsey, The Office
If you’re a fan of The Office, you know that the character of Angela Martin became pregnant later in the show, with what was eventually revealed to be Dwight’s baby. With her tiny baby bump and record-breaking snap-back to her pre-baby figure, it seemed too good to be true. Well, that’s TV for you, because the actress who played her, Angela Kinsey, actually had a real pregnancy on screen well before that time – but we bet you never even noticed!
During season four of The Office, Kinsey became pregnant with her daughter Isabelle, whom she shares with ex-husband Warren Lieberstein (the brother of Paul Lieberstein, who played HR rep Toby Flenderson). Fortunately, thanks to the nature of filming in the show, it was impossible for viewers to tell! Sitting at her desk, peering over walls, and hiding behind objects like carved ice swans ensured that Kinsey’s pregnancy was kept completely under wraps. While her screen time was definitely reduced, she still managed to have a major character arc, with her love triangle between the characters of Dwight Schrute and Andy Bernard. If we hadn’t read that she was carrying a baby, we never would have guessed it!
9 Bumpin' Out: Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Another naturally slim actress on a sitcom that couldn’t rely on period costumes to hide her growing belly, Debra Messing and the people behind the show Will & Grace actually caught a lot of flak for trying to cover up the actress’s pregnancy during their sixth season in 2003.
As Grace, Messing was usually outfitted in tight clothes or crop tops. She was slim and fashionable, so it made perfect sense for her character. Cut to the sixth season when Messing became pregnant with her son Roman, and suddenly, Grace was wearing billowy outfits and other items of loose clothing in darker colors. (She would also hide behind objects, as seen here, where she’s covering her belly with a dishtowel.) While it’s a tradition to disguise an actress’s pregnancy this way, it was completely out of character for Grace, and criticisms arose with the change.
Finally, when Messing became eight months pregnant, it was decided that she would skip out on the final episodes of the season, when her baby bump became too large to work around. She ended up sitting out the final four episodes in total. Still, you have to admire that work ethic!
8 Secret Pregnancy: Betsy Brandt, Breaking Bad
On the set of Breaking Bad, it was an interesting dynamic to have two characters, one pregnant and one not, with the actresses playing them in reversed roles! Such was the case for Betsy Brandt and Anna Gunn, who played sisters Marie Schraeder and Skyler White, respectively, on the hit AMC show.
In season two of Breaking Bad, when Gunn’s character Skyler is heavily pregnant and awaiting the birth of her daughter, Holly, Brandt was actually the one who was pregnant at the time! With another hugely (fake) pregnant belly to focus on, audiences hardly noticed! Thanks to clever camera angles and dark clothing (and the fact that Brandt was a supporting character rather than a main one), it was difficult for audiences to tell which actress had a real pregnant belly and whose was faked! In fact, for up-close shots of Skyler’s belly, like when she was rubbing it or it was bared, the crew actually used Brandt’s real-life pregnant stomach to fill in for her on-screen sister for the sake of authenticity, rather than risk faking it with a faux baby bump. Hey, if you have the real thing, why bother, right?
7 Bumpin' Out: Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation
As any fan of Parks and Recreation knows, Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope had a uterus that was ready for triplets, as she is told by her ultrasound tech date (and real-life ex-husband) Will Arnett. As the show progresses, we do in fact see Leslie become pregnant with triplets, but in real life, Poehler is a proud mama to two boys, born at separate times. And, while her character did become pregnant eventually, it wasn’t when Poehler herself was actually with child.
With tight shots and dark, baggy clothing (and the fact that her character was often seated behind a desk), the people behind Parks and Rec did their best to conceal Poehler’s pregnancy but, unfortunately, it was pretty easy for viewers to tell that their favorite city councilwoman was pretty far along.
Fortunately for the star of the show, the people behind it were pretty nice! Once they learned that the show had been given an early renewal for season three, they began immediately filming episodes following the second season’s wrap, in order to give Poehler a nice-sized break following the birth of her son. Working and mothering like a boss? We wouldn’t expect anything less from the SNL alum!
6 Secret Pregnancy: Ellen Pompeo, Grey’s Anatomy
When it comes to a must-have pregnancy wardrobe, for comfort, you can’t beat scrubs! Luckily for actress Ellen Pompeo, filming a TV medical drama means you get to be almost exclusively outfitted in scrubs, and there’s nothing a growing baby bump likes better!
During the sixth season of her show Grey’s Anatomy when Pompeo was pregnant with her first child, daughter Stella Luna, she was shot almost exclusively in close-ups or above the waist. In addition to the scrubs and the fact that Pompeo just got a little bit fuller in the face and not really anywhere else, audiences weren’t the least bit suspicious about the show’s star.
Finally, when her baby belly became a little too big to conceal beneath those loose blue scrubs, a storyline was written in which Pompeo’s character, Meredith, donates a portion of her liver to her ailing father. As a result, the actress – and the character – was allowed to recuperate in bed. The time in which Meredith was allowed to stay cozy in bed was extended as well, with her camera time cut short to allow for other storylines, so that Pompeo could begin her maternity leave.
5 Bumpin' Out: Gilliam Anderson, The X-Files
Unlike comedy shows, which can come up with all manner of silly excuses to disguise a pregnant belly, dramas can be a little more hard-pressed to invent something believable, especially if the baby bump belongs to a main character.
As the second season of The X-Files got underway, star Gillian Anderson was entering the later stages of her pregnancy. While the costume department attempted to conceal her weight gain and belly with heavy coats and other baggy 1990s clothing, it became too obvious for the audience to look away from, so the writers of the show did the only thing they could – they had her abducted!
At first, the directors wondered if they should recast the role of Dana Scully before settling on having the character be abducted by aliens, which allowed Anderson to have a very abbreviated maternity leave, absent for just one episode. However, while it seemed like a bit of a contrivance to have the FBI agent get abducted, producer Frank Sponitz declared that Anderson’s pregnancy actually spurred The X-Files in a mythological direction: “There had been some mythology episodes the first year of the series, but…[Anderson’s pregnancy] really began the mythology in earnest, or kicked it into a higher gear anyway.”
4 Secret Pregnancy: Keri Russell, The Americans
Thanks in large part to advances in technology, the need to conceal pregnancies has gotten easier as television shows have embraced CGI. Rather than use it for major special effects, this CGI happens on a smaller scale, by making an actress’s baby bump virtually disappear.
That’s what the creators of The Americans did, after their costars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys – playing a couple in a sham marriage who actually fall in love – did fall for each other, and ended up having a baby together! In addition to using the tried-and-true methods of groceries, laundry baskets, and “lots and lots of coats” to cover up Russell’s bump, showrunner Joe Weisberg also used some CGI, to make it more natural for the viewer. “If you do two or three CGI shots per episode, we hope the audience will think less about the coat, the laundry basket.”
Clearly, it worked, because, although viewers learned that Rhys and Russell were an item, it wasn’t evident on-screen that their chemistry had translated into a real-life baby! In 2016, the couple welcomed son Sam, who joins Russell’s two other children, who she had with ex-husband Shane Deary.
3 Bumpin' Out: Jane Leeves, Frasier
Remember how Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner decided to put January Jones in a fat suit to conceal her pregnancy? Well, Jane Leeves didn’t need a fat suit, and instead had her baby bump showing in all its glory – except that her character didn’t! Instead, Leeves’ character Daphne Crane (née Moon) was given a storyline in which she gained a lot of weight, through intense overeating brought about by her struggle to adjust to married life. The thing is, viewers didn’t exactly love the idea of a fat Daphne.
In season eight of the sitcom Frasier, Daphne is stated to have gained sixty pounds and her husband, Niles, is so infatuated that he doesn’t notice the weight gain, until she faints, and it takes the three main male characters to lift her up. While Daphne was always a likeable character on the show, this storyline divided viewers, many of whom saw it as offensive. Daphne was later sent to a weight loss camp, which allowed Leeves to enjoy her maternity leave. When the character returns, with her figure restored, it is joked that she lost “9 pounds, 12 ounces”, which was actually the birth weight of her daughter, Isabella!
2 Secret Pregnancy: Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Another actress who is naturally tiny (noticing a pattern here?), you’d think that it would have been shockingly obvious to learn that actress Julie Bowen was pregnant during filming the pilot episode of the hit sitcom Modern Family. In fact, she was pregnant with twins! But, would you have known it if we hadn’t told you? It’s doubtful.
Bowen admitted that when she first read the script, she “cried and cried” because she didn’t want to miss out on the best thing she’d read in years, since she was heavily pregnant at the time. But, would Claire Dunphy let that stop her? No way! At eight-and-a-half months pregnant, Bowen filmed the pilot episode, and viewers hardly noticed that she was carrying a child, let alone that she was that far along! Thanks to being filmed from the chest-up and concealing her tummy with laundry baskets, boxes of cereal, and pillows, as well as wearing loose cardigans and other “mom clothes” Bowen’s real-life pregnancy went pretty much undetected! Fortunately for Bowen, since pilots are usually filmed well before the rest of the series, since it waits for the green light, Bowen was able to give birth and recover in time for the second episode!
1 Secret Pregnancy: Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman
Possibly the most well-known case of a secret pregnancy in recent history, we have Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. For the 2017 film, much of it was filmed prior to Gadot’s pregnancy, but, like many big-budget movies, reshoots for certain scenes were required, and by that time, Gadot was six months pregnant!
Initially, Gadot wanted to keep her pregnancy a secret from the cast and crew, so as not to have special treatment. The thing is, when you’re rushing off to vomit on account of morning sickness, and have hormone-induced migraines, being discreet can be next to impossible! To her credit, though, Gadot powered through, telling Marie Claire, “I gutted it out. I started to come to work with sunglasses. I had this jug of water with huge pieces of ginger. One of the producers kept on asking, ‘Why are you drinking that potato water?’ They thought I’d gone Hollywood.”
That work ethic and commitment to hiding her pregnancy could only go on for so long, though, and eventually, CGI had to be called in to pick up the extra work. The iconic Wonder Woman suit had a hole cut out of the belly and was replaced with a green screen, which allowed the technicians to remove Gadot’s belly in editing!