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10+ Ways TV Has Hidden Real-Life Pregnancies

10+ Ways TV Has Hidden Real-Life Pregnancies
10+ Ways TV Has Hidden Real-Life Pregnancies

When the star of a TV series announces that she is pregnant in real life, the writers of her show have two options: Write it in… or don’t.

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“Don’t,” though, can look like a lot of different things, as TVLine has detailed below.

CBS’ Ghosts chose the easy route when it became clear that Rose McIver would be pregnant during the filming of Season 3 — they’re ignoring it, and dressing the hitcom’s leading lady in increasingly blousy blouses and ever-billowy sweaters. Conversely, with Sheila Carrasco similarly pregnant when Season 3 started filming, Ghosts first hinted that Flower had been “sucked off” and only recently revealed that the hippie spirit actually is trapped (off-camera) in an outdoor well.

ABC’s The Rookie has thrice before written in cast members’ pregnancies, but has no plans to do same this season with expectant Jenna Dewan’s Bailey, despite the character’s young newlywed status.

Which path will The Rookie choose to obfuscate Dewan’s pregnant state? Simply conceal it with firefighter Bailey’s boxy turnout gear? Or… choose a more creative option?

With an eye on the ABC procedural’s decision ahead, TVLine has rounded up more than a dozen different ways how real-life baby bumps have been hidden from — or sorta-written into — TV actresses’ storylines over the decades. Which clever cover-up do you remember best, and which did you find most creative?

The Show Takes a Pregnant Pause

The Show Takes a Pregnant Pause
The Show Takes a Pregnant Pause

Though a wee one’s arrival date certainly isn’t negotiable, the shooting schedule — or length — of a TV season isSex and the City shortened its Season 5 run to just eight episodes when Sarah Jessica Parker became pregnant with her first child in 2002, Parks and Recreation started shooting Season 3 earlier (and faster) to head off Amy Poehler’s impending bundle of joy, and Homeland put a pin in its farewell run until after Claire Danes birthed her second child.

Sometimes these pauses come about unexpectedly, such as when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the industry for months and months, letting Supergirl not have to work around title star Melissa Benoist’s first pregnancy, which was announced in March 2020.

Loosen Up! (The Wardrobe, That Is)

Loosen Up! (The Wardrobe, That Is)
Loosen Up! (The Wardrobe, That Is)

Oftentimes, concealing a pregnancy is as easy as changing a character’s signature style. It certainly worked for Will & Grace‘s Debra Messing (for at least most of Season 6), King of Queens‘ Leah Remini, Ugly Betty‘s Ana Ortiz and, more recently, The Flash‘s Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin’s alter ego, Frost, started favoring flouncy shirts in Season 6) and Ghosts‘ aforementioned Rose McIver.

Get Some (Bed) Rest!

Get Some (Bed) Rest!
Get Some (Bed) Rest!

When Ellen Pompeo was expecting her first child in fall of 2009, Grey’s Anatomy at first shot around or hid her baby bump. But as Pompeo’s due date drew closer, Meredith donated her liver to her and Lexie’s ailing father, Thatcher, affording her portrayer some on-screen “bed rest” beneath sheets and in a billowy hospital gown.

Out of Sight, Out of… a Bind

Out of Sight, Out of… a Bind
Out of Sight, Out of… a Bind

Back in Puritan times, unplanned pregnancies in real life resulted in a visit to Aunt So-and-So’s, three states away. TV shows are a bit more subtle, such as when New Girl sequestered Zooey Deschanel’s Jess with off-screen jury duty, Chicago P.D. sent Burgess (Marina Squerciati) away to care for her sister, Grey’s Anatomy sent Arizona (played by Jessica Capshaw) on a trip to Africa, Glee admitted Brittany (Heather Morris) to M.I.T., NCIS: Los Angeles deployed Kensi to Afghanistan, New Amsterdam‘s Lauren (Janet Montgomery) entered rehab, and Lucifer‘s Maze (Lesley Ann Brandt) went on a bounty hunting spree at the start of Season 3.

Said trips can even be a bit more… subterranean… such as when All My Children buried Hayley alive, allowing an expectant Kelly Ripa to work short days, filmed only above the neck.

She Ain’t Heavy, She’s a Mother

She Ain’t Heavy, She’s a Mother
She Ain’t Heavy, She’s a Mother

Short of writing in an actress’ pregnancy, many a show has simply found another way to account for her character’s “growth” spurt. On Mad Men, January Jones’ Betty began stress-eating (and ultimately wound up a Weight Watchers client), while How I Met Your Mother’s Lily (during Alyson Hannigan’s first pregnancy) dabbled in competitive eating. (See also: Frasier‘s Daphne, played by Jane Leeves, and Mom‘s Jill, when Jaime Pressly was expecting twins.)

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Plan F: Strap on a “bogus” baby bump!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Amy went “undercover” during Season 3 as an expectant prison inmate, during Melissa Fumero’s first pregnancy. And when Monk’s Traylor Howard was with child, her Natalie in one episode “faked” a pregnancy (to fend off a guy who years ago crushed on her).

Get By With a Little Help From Some Friends

Get By With a Little Help From Some Friends
Get By With a Little Help From Some Friends

When Jennifer Garner got pregnant, the Alias writing team decided that Sydney Bristow should be with child, as well. Yet in order to continue the show’s break-neck pace and ass-kicking action sequences, they also brought in a new character — played by Rachel Nichols — to juggle some of the more physically strenuous storylines.

Similarly, when Jill Hennessy took maternity leave during her Crossing Jordan run, Jennifer Finnigan was brought in as a different character who served the same purpose, and during Law & Order: SVU Season 8, a pregnant Mariska Hargitay’s Detective Olivia Benson worked undercover off-screen for six episodes, while Stabler was given a temporary new partner played by Connie Nielsen.

Let the Situation ‘Deliver’ Comedy

Let the Situation ‘Deliver’ Comedy
Let the Situation ‘Deliver’ Comedy

When Lauren Lane was pregnant for much of The Nanny‘s fifth season, the sitcom played the conspicuous cover-ups for laughs — namely in the episode “Mommy and Mai” (watch on Max), where C.C. very overtly held in front of her belly huge pocketbooks, random potted plants and even an on-the-nose poster (above) for one of Maxwell’s shows.

Pocketbooks, Potted Plants and More!

Pocketbooks, Potted Plants and More!
Pocketbooks, Potted Plants and More!

Yes, potted plants, couches, handbags and other assorted belly-hiding objects all come in handy when an actress has a baby on board but her character needs to go solo. Twice, Scandal ignored Kerry Washington’s expectant state, a tactic also employed by Grey’s Anatomy (with Ellen Pompeo and Chyler Leigh), Seinfeld (twice with Julia Louis-Dreyfus), How I Met Your Mother (Cobie Smulders), Homeland (Morena Baccarin), Chicago P.D. (Marina Squerciati), Chicago Fire (Kara Killmer), Not Dead Yet (Gina Rodriguez) among many, many others.

She’s a Man, Baby!

She’s a Man, Baby!
She’s a Man, Baby!

In arguably the most innovative approach to keeping a growing belly off-screen ever, the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives had Sami disguise herself as a dude (named Stan!) — and then hired male actor Dan Wells to pinch-hit during star Alison Sweeney’s maternity leave.

Let Art Imitate Life!

Let Art Imitate Life!
Let Art Imitate Life!

Succession‘s Sarah Snook, The Rookie‘s Alyssa Diaz (twice!) and Mekia Cox, Riverdale‘s Vanessa Morgan, Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin and Emilie de Ravin, The Blacklist‘s Megan Boone, Nashville‘s Hayden Panettiere, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Kaitlin Olson, The Big Bang Theory‘s Melissa Rauch, Private Practice‘s Caterina Scorsone… and a great number of other actresses have had their real-life pregnancies written into their characters’ story arcs. (But that’s a whole other TVLine list!)

As the old saying goes, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” And by “it,” we mean a half-season’s worth of stork-fueled storylines.

Let Art (Kinda Sorta) Imitate Life!

Let Art (Kinda Sorta) Imitate Life!
Let Art (Kinda Sorta) Imitate Life!

A variation of the “Simply write in the pregnancy!” option detailed above, a few shows have had the actress’ character get pregnant — though under unique circumstances. Such was the case with Friends‘ very single Phoebe (played by Lisa Kudrow) offering to carry her brother and sister-in-law’s triplets, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Major Kira (Nana Visitor) serving as a surrogate for Miles and Keiko’s baby.

And then there was a supernatural variation on that variation, when pregnant Vampire Diaries witch Jo was murdered, but with her dying breath managed to “magic” her unborn twins into the body of vampire Caroline, played by an expectant Candice King!

Worst Case? Do What The X-Files Did!

Worst Case? Do What The X-Files Did!
Worst Case? Do What The X-Files Did!

Gillian Anderson’s Scully wore larger and larger trench coats at the start of The X-Files Season 2 — the character wasn’t pregnant — until the supernatural sleuth was abducted and missing off-screen for multiple episodes, then comatose in a hospital bed for one more.

But wait, there’s more: While Mulder was musing about what might be happening to his missing partner — or were we seeing her actual abduction?! — the series showed what was presumably Anderson’s own, probed (!) belly.

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