If your favourite female TV character is wearing baggy clothing, holding groceries, suddenly “getting fat,” or standing behind random props, a coverup may be in play.
Mindy Kaling recently confirmed that she’s pregnant. And while the sixth and final season of “The Mindy Project” premieres on Hulu September 12, she likely didn’t have to hide a bump because shooting was probably complete before she started showing. But that got us thinking about the lengths TV shows have gone to conceal pregnancies, or write them into the show.
Actresses, props teams, and everyone behind the camera do a lot to hide pregnancies during filming. Gal Gadot’s pregnancy had to be hidden while shooting an additional scene for “Wonder Woman.” But this is more frequently an issue for TV actors, as shows have season deadlines that aren’t always as forgiving as the ones for films.
Not every pregnancy can be written into a character’s storyline. So shows get creative in manoeuvring around baby bumps. Often that just means the actresses are draped in comically oversized clothes, winter lasts forever because the coats are convenient, or actresses are hidden behind randomly placed objects. Or they’re simply filmed from the chest up.
Take a look at which actresses were pregnant while filming and how their TV hid it:
Kerry Washington: The attempts 'Scandal' took to hide its star's pregnancy in season three were often laughed at by the media and fans. From the gigantic coats, ridiculously placed objects, and chest-up-only shots, 'Scandal' used every trick. And it took a toll on Washington. She said filming was a 'challenge' because her 'instrument was changing and evolving every day.'
Alyson Hannigan: She was pregnant twice in her 'How I Met Your Mother' career -- the first time it was hidden, while the second coincided with her character Lily's pregnancy. The first time around, the creators decided to take some humorous liberties. They hid her behind basketballs and globes, but then showed her full belly, pretending it was the aftereffect of a hot dog eating competition. Costar Cobie Smulders, however, didn't get to show off her baby bump in the show's fourth season. Instead, she was given loose clothing and big handbags.
Debra Messing: 'Will & Grace' received some criticism for its attempts to cover up Messing's pregnancy. Grace typically wore very tight clothing or crop tops, and the sudden wardrobe change to loose clothes didn't make for a smooth transition. Messing ultimately had to sit out of the last four episodes of the sixth season.
Sarah Jessica Parker: Carrie Bradshaw certainly couldn't get pregnant on 'Sex and the City' when Parker became pregnant in real life. And her fashion couldn't be compromised, so the costume designer altered Carrie's wardrobe to include baby doll dresses. The fifth season was also shortened from 13 to eight episodes.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Both times the actress was pregnant, 'Seinfeld' chose to hide Elaine behind large coats and inanimate objects (laundry baskets, boxes, etc.) in seasons three and eight. Dreyfus said that when Jerry Seinfeld suggested writing in that Elaine was just getting fat, she burst into tears. Though, in hindsight, she says it was a good idea.
Gillian Anderson: 'The X-Files' dealt with Anderson's pregnancy in the most sci-fi way possible: an alien abduction in season two. The show managed to hide Anderson in large coats and specific camera angles in season one, but her stomach grew too big to hide in season two.
Claire Danes: 'Homeland' didn't slow down at all when its star was pregnant. Instead, the show chose to use CGI to cover up her pregnancy and filmed the star from the shoulders up. Danes said filming a certain scene in season two 'sucked' because she was chained to a pipe and 7.5 months pregnant. Danes' costar Morena Baccarin also had her baby bump hidden via CGI and a body double.
Kristen Bell: The 'Veronica Mars' actress was pregnant twice during the filming of 'House of Lies' but fortunately only had to hide it once. In season two, Bell's character Jeannie hid behind large handbags and boxes, but in season four, Bell's real-life pregnancy coincided with the writers' decision to make Jeannie pregnant. Bell joked she was really just being very 'method.'
January Jones: 'Mad Men' went an extra step to hide its star's pregnancy. For season five, Jones' Betty Draper experienced a significant weight gain due to emotional distress. Jones had to sit through six to seven hours of prosthetic application for filming and was actually only pregnant underneath the fat suit for one episode.
Jane Leeves: The 'Frasier' star was also given a weight-gain storyline to cover up her real-life pregnancy during the show's fifth season. The writers chalked it up to Daphne's struggle adjusting to married life. So she went away to a spa and returned with her normal physique -- for Leeves, it was after her daughter was born.
Amy Poehler: The 'Parks and Recreation' shooting schedule for this other funny SNL alum was also adapted due to her pregnancy. The show's third season got an early renewal and began filming a few episodes directly after the wrap on season two, so that Poehler could have a nice-sized break. Leslie Knope already dressed mostly in suits, which helped to conceal Poehler's baby bump, and she more frequently sat behind tables and desks.
Phylicia Rashad: Thankfully, Rashad's pregnancy during the third season of 'The Cosby Show' occurred in the '80s when oversized outfits with large shoulder pads were the norm. The show used the usual camera tricks while also going to some extra lengths like scooping out the mattress of the set's bed so her stomach wouldn't show.
Courteney Cox: Cox's 'Friends' costar Lisa Kudrow got her pregnancy written into the show's fourth and fifth seasons via the surrogacy storyline. But Cox's pregnancy was not included in the final season because it was already established that Monica and Chandler were unable to have children. The show basically ignored Cox's slight weight gain.
Ellen Pompeo: The star of 'Grey's Anatomy' was almost only filmed in close-ups for the show's sixth season. Fortunately, those scrubs are naturally loose. A storyline was later written that had her character Meredith donate part of her liver to her estranged father in order for Pompeo to start maternity leave.
Zooey Deschanel: Interestingly, though Deschanel is the star of 'New Girl,' the sitcom actually replaced her for six episodes in the fifth season with a very different actress and character: Megan Fox's Reagan. In the storyline, Deschanel's Jess was bedridden after an injury and then sequestered for jury duty -- giving the actress time for maternity leave -- and Reagan was the new tenant. Now, Deschanel is back on the show, and Fox will stay on for the sixth season.
Julie Bowen: The now two-time Emmy-winning actress was actually 8.5 months pregnant with twins while filming the pilot of 'Modern Family.' The actress said she 'cried and cried and cried' after she read for the role because she didn't want to miss out on the best script she'd read in years. Ultimately, she was given the role and just hid behind laundry baskets, was filmed from the chest up, and wore a very loose cardigan.
Alyssa Milano: For the second season of 'Mistresses,' Milano's pregnancy was hidden with all the tropes of large handbags and snuggling with couch cushions. Milano joked and likened it to a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch.
Ginnifer Goodwin: The actress plays two characters on 'Once Upon a Time': Mary Margaret and her counterpart Snow White. When Goodwin was pregnant during the show's third season, the writers made Snow White pregnant but not Mary Margaret. So Goodwin went 50/50 with hiding and showing off her baby bump. Her current and second pregnancy will not be written into the show.
Keri Russell: During shooting for season four of 'The Americans,' Russell was pregnant in real life. Her TV husband Matthew Rhys and real-life partner is the real-life father. Hiding her bump involved a lot of coats, groceries, and a little bit of CGI.
Co-creator/co-showrunner Joel Fields told Vulture that they used 'cuts of her with groceries, cuts of her with a laundry basket, cuts of her with more groceries. Coats, lots of coats!'
Co-creator/co-showrunner Joe Weisberg added that they also used CGI shots to remove the bump entirely. 'If you do two or three CGI shots per episode,' Fields said, 'we hope the audience will think less about the coat, the laundry basket.'
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