During my trip to LA last month, I visited the set of Baby Daddy, heading into its fourth season on ABC Family. The cast is unique – unlike any other – and was so much fun to interview.
Melissa Peterman is hilarious and a pro at physical comedy, there’s no denying that – even her co-stars agree. Admittedly, she’s the mom-type for the cast members and doesn’t apologize for it. We asked her how being a mother in real life influences how she treats the younger cast members.
“They would say too much [laughter], because I tend to mother them – all of them. Like, I say ‘Is that what you’re wearing? Do you have socks?’ Like, you know, Jean-Luc will go to Canada to visit home, ‘Do you have warm enough clothes?’ I’m friends with Derek and Jean-Luc’s mothers and Tahj’s mom on Facebook… I’m more like Chelsea’s older sister. Or more like, maybe, kinda fun aunt. I think it’s been very helpful. I tell them stories, about, you know, about my son. My son is also like Derek. They think he’s going to be like, 6’5″ like I… I’m not a sample size. He’s 9 years old and he’s almost 5 feet tall.”
As moms, most of us could relate to Melissa likely much easier than we could the other cast members, most of whom are in their early 30s – just babies to many of us!
“I don’t want to wear pants after 8 o’clock at night,” Melissa says about her downtime; something that anyone of any age can relate to. “Anyone can come to our house to hang, but I just don’t want to go so we just, you know, end up hanging out with friends usually. I rarely go out. If I do, it’s because I have to but I like to hang out at my house. I like my house and I like my husband and I like… I still like him. I like to be at home. I’m a little bit of a homebody.
I’m not talking sweat pants… I’m talking pants with actual zippers… I think they can make a better pajama jean that looks… let’s put that out there. They need to make that look more like a jean. ‘Cause it doesn’t.“
Many of Melissa’s most memorable scenes on Baby Daddy involve physical comedy, at which she is very talented.
“I loved the Ranger Roos episode where Tahj and I were auditioning for the mascot for the Rangers… that was physical and that was very fun. There was one we just shot that I really like that hasn’t aired yet and it’s about… I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert… it gave me one of those heartwarming scenes that you kind of… it earns the big broad funny… you can get away with that if you have those moments of real heart and humanity. I had a really great episode with Danny where I had lied about a birthday. And it was basically how I just wanted time with my son and it was really sweet moment and I really do cry at those moments like it’s hard for me because you do think of those.
But I love those moments so that’s from this season… and any one with ‘Brad The Pad’ ’cause – I don’t know if you’ve seen him but Peter Porte who plays my boyfriend on- and off-again – he’s ridiculously beautiful and also just very fun so, we enjoy those weeks when he’s around.“
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Derek Theler is the resident heartthrob on the set of Baby Daddy. He’s often in scenes without his shirt which seems cliché at times, but most of his female viewers – this one included – don’t mind the eye candy. What he lacks in clothing sometimes, he always makes up in comedic talent.
“I’ve never done anything like this before. And as we got used to it, as we grew into the characters, as the seasons went on, now it’s just pure fun. All week we lead up to our big Friday show when we’re ready, we know our lines, the audience is here and they’re totally involved with it and it brings a whole different energy to the show. The laugh track is real, the fans that come here regularly are real and it’s a really cool thing to be a part of.“
Derek is just one of the cast members that has to regularly and realistically interact with the babies on set. We asked him what it’s like for him being near, and having to handle, the babies on set.
“It’s amazing. It’s great. They’re a set of twins playing one character. As the seasons go on, every finale to one season and premier of the next is supposed to be one week, so we have to change twins. Otherwise, our original babies are 4 1/2 years old, so we change them.
The one’s we’re using now, they’re beautiful and they’re amazing. They hit all their cues and know all their lines better than we do.
It’s funny, this episode especially, they have tricks that they have to do. Like, they have to burp on command and put her arms up in the air like ‘bring me a basket of french fries’ so it’s been a little bit longer than normal waiting for the babies to hit all of their cues, so we’re a little bit behind schedule. Everyone has a good time.”
Because Derek is, it seems, often shirtless, we asked him about his favorite scenes, wondering if being shirtless is something he’s gotten used to after several seasons.
“One of my favorite scenes… I got to beat up a guy who was mugging these two [referring to Jean-Luc and Chelsea’s characters] this season and I came up in a back alley and had to fight him. He was padded up and I was throwing him up against the wall. It was really fun! That’s my favorite stuff. I had a scene where I got to kick a door down. Also, with the costumes, I got to wear a full-blown centaur costume; I had a horse body. I’m bare chested and I have horse legs and a horse bottom and I had to walk around the whole set…
Melissa [Peterman] – who you guys spoke to plays my mother – we had this whole thing going on when she’s eating an apple and we had all these horse jokes that never made the show. She’s like, feeding me an apple so I’m like, wandering around, whinnying like a horse. It’s funny. Yeah.”
Since the show is the first regular sitcom for much of the cast, we asked Derek what it’s been like starring on Baby Daddy.
“At this point, I feel a lot more comfortable than I did before. But it’s kind of nerve-wracking getting up on the set for the first time, for the first, you know, few weeks and performing in front of a packed place. [The audience] comes to laugh, to see comedy, and sometimes the jokes don’t hit and if nobody laughs, then it’s time to re-write the joke. To try something else. So, that happens, too.
If something doesn’t hit as we think it will, or it’s not as funny as we think it is, or the audience just doesn’t ‘get it’, we have to change the joke quick and bring them something else as soon as we can. We have to tell a story every week so it’s not a whole lot of time so things get cut because of time issues and then everything get rearranged a little bit.”
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Tahj Mowry is no stranger to television and being in the spotlight. He’s been acting since he was toddler, appearing in popular television shows like Full House and his own series, Smart Guy. He even made appearances on Sister, Sister, the show that starred his real-life sisters’, Tia and Tamara Mowry. So what it’s like working with this cast?
Tahj said that he and many of the cast members are super close and hang out in real life. He’s even co-star Melissa Peterman’s next door neighbor and both said they carpool to work together. But, despite living in the limelight of Hollywood most of his life, there are things about Tahj that many of us weren’t aware of.
“A lot of people don’t know – I was a lot heavier and bigger, like muscle bigger. Like, 40 pounds heavier; I got a football scholarship like, right out of high school so I probably would still be playing football… naw, I’m just kidding. It just wasn’t as fun anymore.”
His director, Michael Lembeck, who they affectionately call ‘Lem’ points out what a hard worker Tahj really is. “He was sick all week. This is his first day. He shot out of a cannon today. And ACTION! [laughing] Strep. Don’t kiss him. I’m not… Did you have a high fever?”
Tahj: “No, I didn’t have a fever…”
The two talked about the fact that ‘Lem’ had previously directed Tahj when he appeared in an episode of Friends, one of the many amazing shows on which Lem was a director.
‘Lem’: “On Friends, we loved coming to work. Everyone loved seeing each other every day and, uh, it was… it is delightful like that. That group of six was tight like this group of five. They really counted on each other.”
Since Tahj has acted since he was a child, we wondered what advice he’d offer his own children (though he is currently not a dad in real life) should they ever want to go into ‘the business’.
“Just to make sure that it’s something that they actually something they want to do and not get into it for the glitz and the glamour and the fame of it all because it doesn’t matter. All that can change very quickly and this business is very up and down sometimes, and so you have to have tough skin, you know. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a good actor if you don’t get this part, you know what I mean, so you gotta like,be prepare to be told ‘no’ and, you know, do it because you like it and because you’re passionate about it not just because you watch your favorite television show and you want to be that person, you know?”
Having worked on so many popular television shows and appearing in numerous commercials, we asked Tahj what he liked best about working on Baby Daddy.
“Probably just the people. Like, we have the best crew, the best… I have the best co-stars ever. I hang out with the crew members also off the set. It’s just a good environment, a good energy, everybody’s fun and loving.”
Director Michael Lembeck adds, “I’m here to tell you having done 400 of these, it’s like that rarely and uniquely. It just doesn’t happen that people have the same kind affinity for one another like these guys do – cast and crew – it just doesn’t happen. It’s really rare and quite wonderful to come to work every day knowing everybody wants to be here, everybody roots for everybody and it’s really not like that.”
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Jean-Luc plays the Ben, the character around whom the show is centered. This isn’t the first ABC Family project that Derek has starred in; he also played Josh Trager on ABC Family’s Kyle XY. This role, however, is far different from any that he’s played, so we asked him about his experience on Baby Daddy and what he loves most about his role.
“I think it’s because it’s a multi cam and it’s my first sitcom experience. I predominately have just a single cam background, so it’s a lot of drama stuff, longer set hours and everything. Here, everyone’s super cool, you get to hear laughter – that’s something you don’t get on any other set that’s not a sitcom. And the audience every Friday is really fun. That makes it really enjoyable and the cast is awesome, too, and the food is great [laughter].”
As many of the cast has admitted, being on the set of Baby Daddy can change how you view kids and parenting; we asked Jean-Luc if it’s the same outcome for him.
“Oh yeah! [laughter] I already liked kids to begin with, I’ve just never picked up an infant. So, you know, doing this show, I think that it’s warmed me up to the idea of having a bigger family than I originally planned on. I’m really good at holding the kids now and playing with them. So, I wanted a family, it’s… it’s good practice. Although I’ve never changed a diaper, though, so that might just change the whole thing.” [laughter]
Since Jean-Luc has a more extensive acting background, we asked if the career he chose is something he’s always wanted.
“My mom got me an agent when I was nine so I started in this business before I even knew what it was or before it was even a career like, option for me. I was just doing commercials, so it wasn’t until I was about 15 that I decided that was, you know, an option for a lifelong career. I don’t even know what I wanted to become. I love cars, I’m always working on cars my whole life so I think I wanted to become a mechanic for a while. My mom’ like ‘Stay in acting.’ [Laughs] So, it wasn’t until I was about 15 that I actually decided that acting was, you know, my jam.
I want to direct and stuff… it’s something I want to tackle in the next couple of years. It’s one of my goals for the next few years. I would love to [direct an episode of Baby Daddy]; I’m not ready, but I would love to.”
As he watched director Michael ‘Lem’ Lembeck work, he seems enthralled. “This is actually – it’s interesting, because Lem’s job – he’s gotta operate four cameras, right? And so, when he does all his camera coordinating, it’s like geometry. There’s so much, like… it looks like trigonometry. It’s crazy. So, that’s a whole new level of directing for sitcoms because a single cam just has one camera facing one direction. It’s a lot easier. It’s different, but it’s fun.”
When asked about how she got the role of Riley Perrin on Baby Daddy, Chelsea Kane attributes it to luck.
“I was doing a movie of the week for ABC Family called ‘Lovestruck‘. It was a musical; I was on-set and I could hear the execs talking about this new comedy that they were doing called Baby Daddy. I said ‘I’d really love to read that, it sounds really interesting,’ and luckily we had such a good time working together on ‘Lovestruck‘, actually, that I was able to walk right into this.
It really makes me believe that someone else has a plan for me ’cause it really did just fall into my lap. And, I feel so incredibly lucky that it’s turned into what it has. It’s been the biggest blessing.“
Regular viewers of the show know that there has been an ongoing love triangle between Chelsea’s character, Riley, and Ben (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) and Danny (Derek Theler). It’s kept audiences wondering whom she will choose, though neither actor is shabby looking.
“Oh, it’s so hard!” Chelsea laughs. “And I go back and forth, even, because I love them on the show and off the show, I love those boys so much. I think the writers have done such an amazing job giving them each qualities that are so lovable and so different. I mean, on paper it’s like ‘professional hockey player, 6’5″, super hot’ or, you know, ‘single dad, bartender’ [laughs]. No, but I think the fact that ‘Ben’ has really taken the reigns with raising… you know, being a single dad… I love that about him, and i really do understand why Reilly’s kinda torn.”
Chelsea said that she feels that this could be the season where viewers finally get a little closure on the Chelsea-Ben-Danny love triangle.
Chelsea’s character, Riley, seems to be the more organized, driven, and responsible one of the show’s characters, so we asked her if she sees herself any of those qualities.
“I think we’re a lot alike in which we’re a type A personality, a real go-getter, almost to the point of getting a little crazy at times. I think I’m kinda a guy’s-girl, too, you know; a little more drama-free. Especially with this show, I honestly do like hanging out with these boys a lot after work. We have a really good time together. But outside of that, um, I mean, definitely not a lawyer.” [Laughs].
Being around the twins that share the role of Emma – for which there have been several sets to maintain the age for the timeline of the show – we wondered if the experience has changed her outlook on parenting.
“Um, a lot! [laughs] First of all, it’s probably the most unfair introduction to child care. There’s like, a huge closet of tutus and anytime they’re upset, you pass them off and never have to change a diaper. So, I know that when I have one of my own, I’m gonna be like, ‘Wait a minute, this is way harder than I thought it would be.’ But at the same time, when we started the show, I had never held a baby, ever, in my life… I’m supposed to be like, the confident girl who knows what she’s doing and it was just the opposite. Tahj has nephews and Derek… he worked in a daycare, so everyone was really good with kids except me. So, I was just terrified and plus you’re holding someone’s newborn baby with them right there… it’s just, it was so much pressure.“
She told us of her experience during the first couple of seasons, not wanting to hold the babies at all because she was aware of how awkward she looked with them. Over time, she said, she’s more comfortable holding the babies and actually asks to hold them now.
“It’s just amazing and we’ve been so lucky to have such cool parents to, you know, lend us their children. You know, they’ve been really, really great. I feel a little ready to, you know, have kids at some point.”
Every show has its die-hard fans and Baby Daddy is no exception. Chelsea shared with us a story about a few fans that show up to every taping and have become a sort of cheerleading gang, inciting competition amongst the cast.
“We actually have girls that come to the show… every week. They haven’t missed an episode. They keep a list of mess-ups, and who makes the most mistakes and every night after the taping… they keep track through the whole season, and now they give us awards at the end of the season. So, now we’re all in serious competition to not screw up. You know, they’ve really helped us stay on our game during taping because last year, Derek won and got a cool little trophy. I’m a virgo and a perfectionist so that is mine. [Laughs] We have incredible fans. They come back every week, and the fans online… we’re very, very lucky.”