If you’re anything like I am, you have a question about any show or movie you’re watching. Why are there palm trees if this is set in New York? Is his girlfriend supposed to know he cheated on her? Wait, why is the mom crying right now? (Yeah, I’m really bad to watch any kind of TV with.)
Anyway, I recently spent a morning catching up on Fuller House, the Netflix sequel to the beloved 80s/90s classic Full House, and I began to wonder about baby actors.
In Fuller House, there’s baby Tommy, and in Full House, we all know that’s where the Olsen twins began their claim to fame. Not only are baby actors are always so dang cute, but, especially in TV shows like the latter, the baby is usually one of the most memorable characters in the show (Michelle Tanner is basically the face of the 90s).
But with literally zero life experience and barely even an ability to speak, how is it that babies even get the job in the first place?
Turns out, casting a baby isn’t the same as casting an adult actor. Don’t worry: We researched it for you so you don’t have to deliberate this every time you watch a movie.
Behold, extremely interesting facts about where babies in movies come from:
- Show business is the only industry that can legally employ children under the age of 14 (with a few exceptions like newspaper delivery, babysitting, and the incredibly random career of wreath making).
- Babies can only be on set for two hours at a time, and the actual work they do can’t exceed 20 minutes. Because of this, twins and triplets are typically casting director’s first picks (so that explains Mary-Kate and Ashley as Michelle Tanner). The reason? Sets of multipls can either switch off back and forth, or call times will be split (i.e., one baby comes in for morning shift, and the second baby takes the afternoon). This essentially extends how many baby scenes can get done in one day.
- According to state child labor laws, a baby must be a minimum of 15 days old to get their own work permit. I mean, they’ve at least got to get on a good poop schedule before being cast, right? (side note: that’s probably not the real reason).
- If a newborn is needed for a scene, directors will typically opt for premature babies, who might still look like a newborn after 15 days (whereas a baby who was born on their due date or later won’t still look quite like a newborn after that time).
- In approximately 16 states, there are actually zero regulations regarding a minimum age for baby employment in films. And many other states have laws that are pretty lax. For example, in New Jersey, a baby just a month old can work five days a week, five hours a day. Say what? That’s longer than most teenagers work these days.
- While many states don’t do much to protect the money that babies make, some follow what’s called the Coogan Law, a blocked trust account which requires 15 percent of the baby’s gross wages to be deposited into an within 15 days of employment. This protects the baby from parents who think that money is theirs (hey, it’s happened before).
Want to know even more about how babies are cast for movies and TV shows? The video below will answer all your questions (it definitely answered mine)—plus how much babies are actually paid and what the heck a robotic baby is (hint: they’re creepy, but useful!).