On Leave

On soaps, an actress’s pregnancy always presents a dilemma for the powers that be. First, whether to write the pregnancy in to the storyline or not. If you don’t, you’re forced to hide the actress in voluminous clothes, behind desks, chairs, or potted plants, or have her carry around a clutch purse. If you do write it in, of course, you’re stuck giving the character a kid.

Either way, you have to ship the character off canvas for awhile for the actress’s maternity leave. I’ve seen characters slide into comas, go on vacations, off to jail or to insane asylums. Mary Beth Evans’ first pregnancy was handled by having Kayla laid up in bed because her father-in-law, Harper Deveraux, was slowing poisoning her.

Sometimes writers get a little creative. Hogan Sheffer, when he was writing for As the Word Turns, sent three characters (three actresses pregnant at the same time!) off to a spa where they were injected with an aging serum. Ali Sweeney’s first maternity leave was handled by having Sami disguise herself as a man, rename herself “Stan,” and carry on wreaking havoc. This sounds like lunacy, but I have heard that Dan Wells, who played Stan, was eerily good at mimicking Sami’s mannerisms.

This time it looks like Ali Sweeney’s leave will be handled by sending Sami off into the Witness Protection program. Not a bad idea. The jarring thing is the fact that the pregnancy is being written in, but Ali is definitely further along in her pregnancy than Sami is supposed to be. Sami has been cavorting around in a hideous white tent for the last three episodes, and all the other actors have to pretend that it’s not perfectly obvious that she is pregnant.

Screencap NBC

If anyone knows of any particularly creative ways, on Days or any other soap, of writing in a pregnancy or writing out a character for an actress’s maternity leave, feel free to share it in the comments!

17 thoughts on “On Leave

  1. That top is horrible.

    You’ve got me wracking my brain trying to remember any creative ways shows have dealt with this. I’m not coming up with many… Will have to keep trying to remember.

  2. Is Ali really that much further along than Sami? On the episode where Sami found out she was pregnant, didn’t the doctor tell her she was already in her second trimester?

    I agree though that the ‘tentwear’ is ridiculous. I actually think the whole concept is silly, that viewers are supposed to buy into the idea that the residents of Salem, including Sami’s parents, haven’t noticed her apparent weight gain. If the pregnancy is being hidden by the ‘desks, chairs, plants’ method, then presumably the characters are seeing what the viewers are seeing, and it makes sense that the characters wouldn’t notice. But this way makes no sense at all.

    In terms of creative ways… my favorite example is the Cosby Show’s handling of Phylicia Rashad’s pregnancy. One one episode, Rashad was sitting behind this HUGE stuffed teddy bear, mending its ear with a thread and needle. Doesn’t get much better than that, lol.

  3. Yes I too thought it was particularly creative to send her off on maternity leave in the witness protection program.

    Sadly…that isn’t what they are doing. :sigh:

  4. LOL nolebucgrl, did they really do that? That’s hysterical! I remember there was an entire episode where Clair was in bed because she “threw out her back”. Come to think of it, there was no ‘baby bump’!

  5. Dan Wells was indeed excellent as Stan/Sami. He even played “Kate” perfectly for a few minutes.

    So, witness protection program huh? I haven’t watched in weeks so I have no idea what’s going on. That’s actually a pretty good idea, if only Higley hadn’t decided to write in that pregnancy.

  6. Yes, Ellie, they did it, I saw an interview with her about it and how hard it was to get her the heck out of it after they shot the scene! Creative though!

    Yeah, if they hadn’t made Sami pregnant, the protective custody thing would have made a lot of sense. From the sound of it though, she isn’t gonna be offscreen for long, if at all. Foolish show.

  7. That tent is the most horrible outfit I have ever seen on a soap! I keep thinking of it as a circus tent and she is actually writing a new chilrens book: Sami and the Circus Tent.

  8. On Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Eames was a surrogate for her sister, who couldn’t have a child herself. So they wrote in the pregnancy without having to explain who the daddy was.

  9. They did the same thing on Friends when Phoebe was the surrogate for her brother and his wife. They mined a lot of comedy out of that. And they didn’t have to deal with the baby afterwards. It’s win-win.

    I missed that about Sami being in her second trimester already, Ellie. I guess that makes it match up better with Ali’s pregnancy, plus the fact that Sami should be farther along than Nicole. But it really doesn’t make sense that no one has noticed anything — least of all Sami herself. Though I guess Johnny has now!

    Nice to see you around, lascuba! I wasn’t sure if you were still watching or not. I have been on the verge of giving up for months, but somehow I’m still hanging in there.

  10. I believe that Nicole, Lucas, and Chloe all briefly snarked about Sami’e weightgain — just a few throwaway lines. I think Nicole told Sami to “swing by the gym sometime”.

    MacMillan and Wife did it best. They just ignored Susan Saint James huge tummy. Sure, they tended to shoot her in close-up, but she was obviously pregnant. Of course, she went away to “visit family” for her maternity leave.

  11. Thanks, mp! I’m sure I’ll get around to watching again sometime soon. I took a break right after Kayla got pregnant, too. (I REALLY hate DOOL babies, in case that wasn’t clear.) I did tune in for five minutes a week or so ago, and had to tune right out when I saw Nicole having a heart-to-heart with Chloe. It wasn’t that those two can be friends that bothers me, since everything in soapland is forgivable eventually; it was seeing Nicole be so sweet that got to me.

  12. On JAG, they hid Catherine Bell’s pregnancy by having her go undercover as a diamond expert/pregnant wife of a CIA operative. She got to use her belly and make the male lead stew in his UST a little longer, which was kind of fun.

    The other one that comes to mind is Margaret, Leo’s assistant on the West Wing. She was a minor role, so they just let her show her pregnancy, and never really tried to elaborate on her circumstances or even mention the baby afterward.

  13. Oh lska, I forgot about Margaret being pregnant and its written in with no explanation. That was hilarious because honestly, the only character you could get away with that was Margaret!

  14. Call me crazy but I actually enjoyed Sami’s scenes today (Wednesday). I thought she was really cute interacting with her WPP cop. I was kind of hoping he might stay — we could have a different sort of love story, a little offbeat. But it seems like he’s gone. Oh, well.

    I actually enjoyed most of the show today. Very little FF. I watched entire Sami and Chloe scenes. Either they’ve broken my will or there was some good stuff there. Anyone else have this reaction?

  15. lascuba, I am getting sick of all the babies myself. I like the friendship between Chloe and Nicole — they seem partly to have bonded over a shared hatred of Sami — but I find Nicole too weak and needy right now. AZ is doing really well with it all, however.

    I am three days behind on Days right now. I will try to get caught up by the weekend.

    I love the JAG pregnancy coverup! What a great idea!

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