Not many people could lose their lunch on Roseanne and get away with it, but costar Kent Hazen did. Okay, it might have helped that Kent is a young, inexperienced actor. In fact, he’s only 10 months old.
Kent is one of several tots who’ve crawled onto prime time this season on Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, Party of Five, On Our Own, and Beverly Hills, 90210. Except in the case of 14-month-old Jocqui Smollett of On Our Own, each role is held down by twins; if one isn’t up for a scene, an understudy is always on hand. Sometimes the kids come with resumes: Kent and Garrett Hazen and Grace‘s 2-year-olds, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, all did work in commercials. Taylor and Brandon Porter, now a year old, cut their theatrical teeth at 3 months as baby Superman on Lois & Clark, before leaping to Party of Five in a single bound.
While the kids bask in the spotlight, it’s not all glam for the moms. Grace Under Fire provides an ”acting coach” for its toddling cast members, but on Roseanne and Party of Five it’s the parents who coordinate wardrobe changes and prepare the actors for scenes that call for, say, a sleeping child. ”One time, to make him cry, my baby was in a playpen, and they had me stand off camera so he would want me,” says Lisa Porter, mother of the Party boys who play Owen. ”That killed me.” Sometimes the tots get stand-ins: Roseanne has a professional crier (an adult who can wail like an infant), and Party used a ”stunt baby” for a walking scene when the Porters hadn’t quite mastered the technique.
What’s in it for the babies? An average of $1,500 per episode. ”It was a financial decision, I admit,” says Karen, mother of the Hazen twins. ”I don’t want to sound like we’re abusing our children or anything. But if we didn’t have this money from Roseann, I’d have to go back to work and leave my children in day care.” The parents say they’ll leave their kids in front of the camera as long as they’re smiling. For Porter, the proof is in the pouting — or lack thereof. ”I know they enjoy it,” she says. ”They’re more fussy at home than on the set.”