When a leading TV or film actress announces her pregnancy, the producers of her show or movie have two options. Do they conceal the fact she’s expecting, or write it into the plot? Time and time again, the arguably easier first option has been taken. Giant handbags or other props are used to hide obvious baby bumps, as are clever camera angles and sneaky editing. You can watch an entire season of something without realizing the lead actress was about to pop out a baby – think of Cobie Smulders on How I Met Your Mother! Did you notice her bump in Season Four? Me neither! Robin certainly had a wide array of strategically placed handbags.
However, sometimes producers take the more challenging and arguably more entertaining route of writing cast pregnancies into their scripts. Unplanned babies can add a whole lot of drama to a TV show. What better opportunity is there to use this scandalous plot device than when an actress is actually pregnant? These lucky ladies managed to circumvent the stress of having to conceal their bumps thanks to some convenient creative decisions. You’ll be surprised just how many actresses actually were pregnant when they played pregnant! From 1950s star Lucille Ball to Hollywood superstar Julia Roberts, here are 15 actresses that weren’t just pretending to have a bun in the oven.
15. Alyson Hannigan Hid One Pregnancy, But The Show Rolled With Her Second
When Alyson Hannigan became pregnant with her first child, How I Met Your Mother’s producers decided to cover it up. It wasn’t the right time for her character to have a baby, so her bump was carefully hidden behind handbags and other props. Sometimes, it was hidden in plain sight: one memorable episode saw Lily showing off a ‘food baby’ she’d gained after winning an eating contest! However, it was a different story when Hannigan’s second pregnancy rolled around. She apparently timed it perfectly – by the time she announced she was expecting, her character was already pregnant! The showrunners admitted that they were thrilled by the timing of it all, and were relieved that they wouldn’t have to use any more strategically placed bowling balls or massive purses to hide the real-life pregnancy!
14. Jennifer Garner Had A Dramatic On-Screen Birth
Back in 2005, the producers of Alias saw Jennifer Garner’s first pregnancy as a huge marketing opportunity. While they initially floated the idea of digitally editing Garner’s head onto a non-pregnant actress’s body, the showrunners eventually decided to rewrite the upcoming season to incorporate the pregnancy. With Garner’s character, Sydney, being a top-class international spy, adding a baby bump into the mix certainly made things a bit more dramatic. Sydney now had to protect not only her own life but also that of her unborn child. She ended up giving birth in pretty traumatic circumstances – Syd’s parents deliver her child while they’re all under attack in a high-rise! Luckily, Garner’s own birth was a lot less stressful; she welcomed a daughter with then-husband Ben Affleck in much safer circumstances. Phew!
13. Lisa Kudrow Was Really Pregnant – But Not With Triplets!
When Lisa Kudrow announced she was pregnant with her first child, the showrunners of Friends had quite the conundrum. They didn’t want to go through the hassle of hiding her growing baby bump, but her character was nowhere near ready to have kids. Their solution was ingenious: they had Phoebe become a surrogate for her brother! While Phoebs ends up carrying triplets, Kudrow had just the one baby – her son, Julian. Her real-life bump wasn’t quite big enough to suggest triplets, meaning the actress had to wear extra pregnancy padding under her clothes. She must have been sweltering under all that foam! Kudrow also had to miss out on the trip to London to film Ross’ wedding at the end of Season Four due to her condition, hence why Phoebe has to follow the ceremony via phone.
12. Katey Sagal’s Tragedy Was Glossed Over On-Screen
In the case of Katey Sagal, what started out as the gleeful incorporation of a pregnancy into a sitcom ended in a well-publicized tragedy. Katey fell pregnant shortly before filming the sixth season of Married With Children, and the show’s writers decided to roll with it. Both her character, Peg, and her on-screen BFF, Marcy, announced they were expecting in the first episode of the season. However, Katey sadly suffered a stillbirth six weeks before her daughter was due. She took time off from Married to deal with the loss, and her on-screen pregnancy was written off as a dream sequence. Happily, Sagal went on to have two healthy children with her then-husband, drummer Jack White. However, neither of these pregnancies were included in Married With Children due to the previous tragedy. Sagal’s absences were explained by her character taking a couple of extended vacations.
11. Chelsea Peretti Nearly Lost Her Job
When Chelsea Peretti announced that she was expecting her first child with husband Jordan Peele, Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans were happy and devastated in equal measure. While baby news is always good news, fans feared that this spelled the end for Peretti’s character Gina. Gina had last been seen getting run over by a speeding bus, and fans speculated this she’d been killed off due to her impending new arrival. Bosses admitted that they weren’t quite sure what to do when Peretti told them the news. Killing her off would have been a simple solution to the problem. However, they eventually decided that Peretti was simply too good to let go, and Gina survived her bus accident. Not only that, writers decided that the best way to deal with Peretti’s growing bump was to make her character pregnant too! Peretti and Peele welcomed a son, Beaumont, back in July, while her character Gina is on maternity leave. Happy news all round!
10. Molly Ringwald’s Middle-Aged Pregnancy Was Added To This Teen Drama
The Secret Life of The American Teenager may be a show about teenage pregnancy, but one of its older stars ended up with a baby bump of her own! Molly Ringwald became pregnant with twins shortly before the show’s second season started filming, and The Secret Life’s producers decided that another on-screen pregnancy couldn’t hurt things! Ringwald’s character Anne had a lot to deal with from the very start of the show: her mother developed Alzheimer’s, her husband cheated on her, and her 15-year-old daughter became pregnant. However, the biggest shock was Anne finding out that she herself was expecting her estranged husband’s baby. While Ringwald gave birth to both a boy and a girl in late 2009, Anne only brings one baby into the world: little Robbie. The storyline might not have been planned, but it ended up fitting well into the overall arch of the show.
9. Hayden Panettiere’s Baby News Thrilled Nashville’s Producers
Nashville actress Hayden Panettiere’s real-life pregnancy may have turned her character Juliette’s life upside-down, but the show’s producers were totally thrilled by the news! When Panettiere first announced she was expecting her first child with fiancée Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014, fans of Nashville speculated furiously about what this meant for her country-crooning character. However, the show’s writers saw the pregnancy as an opportunity rather than a hindrance and decided to incorporate it into the plot. Juliette ended up having a tumultuous pregnancy, culminating in surprise labor after a disastrous baby shower. Panettiere didn’t have the easiest ride either, admitting to the media that she suffered from post-partum depression. However, after two bouts of treatment, she’s now doing much better. Props to Hayden for speaking out about her struggle – it’s a brave thing to do!
8. Jenna Fischer’s On-Screen Pregnancy Was A Total Coincidence
As one half of TV’s most adorable married couple, The Office’s Jenna Fischer was going to have to play pregnant at some point. For lovebirds Jim and Pam’s first child, the bump was faked and the pregnancy total fiction. However, things were a bit different the second time around. Shortly after producers informed her that Pam was going to have a second child, Fischer found out that life was going to imitate art! She was pregnant with her and husband Lee Kirk’s first child. The timing was a total coincidence – Fischer actually found out she was expecting on the day they shot her character’s first pregnancy scene! However, the situation worked out perfectly. There was no need for padding or faking of any kind: Pam’s bump grew naturally with Jenna’s!
7. Rachel Bilson’s Pregnancy Was a Lot More Planned Than Her Character’s
Hart of Dixie executive producer Leila Gerstein never intended for the show’s lead character, Zoe Hart, to get pregnant. However, when actress Rachel Bilson revealed that she was expecting, some hasty rewrites were ordered so that the pregnancy could be incorporated into the show. It was portrayed as the result of Zoe desperately trying to convince her love interest Wade to fall for her – her plan was to offer him sex. However, this led to a rather unexpected baby to deal with, and a VERY awkward conversation happening between the two lovebirds. Bilson’s pregnancy was nowhere near this haphazard. She gave birth to a daughter, Briar Rose, with long-term love Hayden Christensen in October 2014. Zoe and Wade ended up together, too. They recited their wedding vows while Zoe was in labor, and had a gorgeous son to show for it.
6. Candice King’s Real-life Pregnancy Caused On-Screen Controversy
Candice King’s pregnancy back in 2015 was a pretty standard affair. It was her first baby with husband Joe King, and her nine months went pretty smoothly. She gave birth to a daughter, Florence May, in January 2016, and took a period of maternity leave from The Vampire Diaries. All nice and normal! However, the way that the show incorporated King’s pregnancy into its storyline was a little bit more controversial. Her character, Caroline Forbes, became pregnant not with her boyfriend Stefan’s baby, but with the twins of her ex-teacher, Alaric Saltzman, and his dead fiancée! Ew! That definitely breaks some kind of moral code… After Caroline gave birth to Alaric’s children, she became so attached to them that she raised them as her own. Obviously, this put a bit of strain on her relationship with Stefan, and the two temporarily broke up. Whew! The showrunners sure loved a bit of drama.
5. Ginnifer Goodwin’s Life Reflects Her Art – Again
Ginnifer Goodwin has a lot to thank Once Upon A Time for! It’s where she met Josh Dallas, her on-screen and real-life Prince Charming. The two are possibly the most adorable couple ever to exist, and really are relationship goals for all of us. When Goodwin was pregnant with the couple’s first child, it was decided that it was the right time for Charming and Snow White to bring a little prince or princess into the world. Charming and Snow White gave birth to an adorable son, Neal, while Dallas and Goodwin welcomed their real-life boy, Oliver, in 2014. The two actors have stated that being real-life new parents seriously helped them to get into their on-screen parenting zone. It’s unclear if the storyline was totally planned before Goodwin made her announcement, but it worked out all the same!
4. Sarah Drew Gave Birth On The Same Day As Her Character
When a show has a huge ensemble cast, it’s likely that it’s going to face a fair few cast pregnancies over the years. Grey’s Anatomy is no exception. One of the most memorable on-screen pregnancies was April’s back in Season 11. When actress Sarah Drew informed the Grey’s producers that she was expecting her second child, the decision was made to write the pregnancy into the show. Things ended tragically for April and her husband Jackson’s pregnancy: the baby was born with major genetic defects and died shortly afterward. Just a few hours after filming this dramatic scene, Drew herself went into premature labor! Baby Hannah was born the next day, and had her own health issues, being admitted to the NICU with a lung infection. However, she made a full recovery, and was soon allowed home with her proud parents!
3. Jenna Elfman’s Pregnancy Was No Accident
Jenna Elfman’s character on Accidentally on Purpose may have found herslef saddled with an unexpected baby, but the actress herself definitely planned her second pregnancy! Elfman announced she was expecting shortly after the show was filmed. She practically admitted that she got pregnant when she did due to the convenience of it all. She didn’t have to hide her growing bump while filming, and found it very easy to get into character! Co-star Ashely Jensen wasn’t so lucky. While Jensen was also pregnant while the show was filmed, the producers couldn’t really get away with two major characters having a bun in the oven. Jensen had to hide the fact she was expecting through carefully placed props and sneaky camera angles, while Elfman could let it all hang out. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t as successful as Elfman’s baby-making skills and got canceled after just one season.
2. Julia Roberts Had The Most Meta On-Screen Pregnancy Ever
The producers of the blockbuster sequel Ocean’s Twelve worked actress Julia Roberts’ pregnancy into the storyline in the most meta way possible. See if you can wrap your head around this: the pregnant Roberts plays a character who isn’t actually Julia Roberts, but has to pretend to be her (and fake her baby bump) as part of the plot. Actual Bruce Willis also drops in, playing himself, of course. The on-screen Willis is totally fooled by Roberts’ ‘disguise’, and fully believes he’s conversing with the actual actress (which he was. Man, my head hurts). This incredibly complex state of affairs allowed Roberts to keep her bump on show, avoiding the hassle of concealing the fact she was expecting. It also had the side effect of confusing moviegoers everywhere. Surely hiding the pregnancy would have been simpler for everyone?
1. Lucille Ball Started the On-Screen Pregnancy Trend
Turns out the ‘playing and being pregnant’ trend has been around for quite a while – over 65 years, in fact! Back in 1952, the producers of I Love Lucy decided to incorporate lead actress Lucille Ball’s pregnancy into the show. Thing is, the topic of reproduction was still a pretty scandalous one in the 50s. Raunchiness was so staunchly avoided that Ball and her on-screen husband were shown as sleeping in separate beds. To avoid scandal, it was decided that while Ball’s growing bump would be acknowledged on-screen, the word allegedly vulgar word ‘pregnant’ would not feature in the script. It seems like a bizarre solution in hindsight, but it worked! The ‘p’ word wasn’t used once: instead, writers opted for the French term, enceinte. The pregnancy storyline was a huge success, and Ball gave birth to a healthy son, Desi.
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