Ever come out of a movie house, thinking “Wow! She was such a great actress. She nailed that action scene!” and afterward end up Googling the actress’ name, bio, other films? Then you also chance upon the ‘latest news’ on this actress and your jaws drop because…she was actually pregnant while filming?! So you end up scrolling through BuzzFeed or Vulture, stalking different actress’ names- those who were actually pregnant while filming, but the film or show just didn’t show it! And there you sit thinking: how could I have missed that? And wow- that is an unbelievable and endlessly amusing practice in the film industry.
So how does the industry do it? If actresses got pregnant in real life, sometimes the actresses either take a leave, and so their characters won’t appear on screen for a while; or, the show just writes a storyline that makes them end up getting pregnant in-show too. But for some shows that just can’t fit a pregnancy into a storyline and their characters need to appear in the show for the whole season, they do all kinds of things to try and hide that ever-growing belly bump. Here are 15 actors who got pregnant on screen (and we just didn’t know it yet)!
15 January Jones
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January Jones’ character on Mad Men, Betty Draper was a woman who very much cared about her image and body figure. January on the other hand, well, didn’t particularly care about hiding her baby bump- which would be a problem for the writers if her character was not supposed to get pregnant at that point in the show. So, in true creative fashion, the writers wrote in a weight gain storyline for Jones in order to hide her pregnancy!
So while working while pregnant, January Jones wore a lot of prosthetics to accentuate her weight gain. So if we are all wondering why Betty Draper suddenly became heavier in season 5- there’s our answer. In a report to Hollywood Reporter, Jones claimed that it would have been ‘comical’ if they tried to hide the bump, or get the character pregnant too. It looks like the weight gain technique worked well for the character, as it became an “emotionally grueling arc” for Betty.
14 Gal Gadot
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We may all be in for a shock – but it is true! In the Wonder Woman re-shoots, Israeli actress Gal Gadot was already five months pregnant, which would not make sense for our dear Diana of course. With lots of action sequences, moving around, fighting, and wearing some not-so-full body armor, the bump is sure to peek around once in a while, and audiences would notice! And a five-month pregnant belly won’t really be just a tiny bump that can be magically hidden by the metal armor as well since the bump was already swelled and showing. So what did Wonder Woman’s production team do? Well, let’s say thank God for technology!
The production team “wrapped her baby bump in green fabric”, which then would serve as a mini green screen! Imagine, some action scenes would contain Gal’s pregnant belly- but we’d never know as they would have been digitally altered! Moreover, her belly was also slimmed down during pre-production.
13 Cobie Smulders
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Cobie Smulders’ Robin Scherbatsky in our beloved show How I Met Your Mother is known as someone who expressed that she really was not one for children. This would be a conflict with Cobie who, in real life, was very much pregnant with her child! So how did ‘HIMYM’ deal with it? Well, there was the classic ‘hide the bump behind clothes and things’ practice!
In an episode of season 4, we can clearly see that Robin is wrapped up in a ridiculous amount of clothing- a multi-colored scarf and a light blue coat on top of her very black shirt (black is a good color to hide bumps, indeed)! In another episode, however (which also involved a heavily pregnant Alyson Hannigan), we see her sitting down in the pub, and though it is not too obvious, there’s a little bump peeking just on her lower belly!
12 Alyson Hannigan
Alyson Hannigan was also a star on the show How I Met Your Mother, and was pregnant almost the same time as Cobie was! But for character Lily, however, who wasn’t as opposed to children as Robin was, the HIMYM production and writing team had much more fun and creative ways to deal with her pregnancy! From basketballs to globes to eating contests, there were increasingly ironic and ridiculous situations to hide the bump!
In one episode, Alyson’s pregnant belly was hidden behind a rack of basketballs, or “intentionally echoed” by a globe she was standing behind. But perhaps one of the best ways they ‘hid’ the pregnancy was by making Lily win an eating contest! This means of course that her belly would be humongous (and decidedly pregnant looking) – but the show spun it in a way that was hilarious!
11 Courtney Cox
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We all know that Courtney Cox’s character Monica Geller on Friends was unable to conceive. This is why later on Monica and Chandler (played by Matthew Perry) proceeded to adopt babies when they wanted their family to grow. But what may be unbeknownst to some viewers is that for a good part of the final season of Friends, Courtney Cox was pregnant in real life! So in an attempt to hide her baby bump, producers and costumers had to find a way around it.
Since Monica was a central character to the show, they can’t just send her off or cut down the episodes of the season. So their solution? Hide her behind copious amounts of loose clothing! There was a lot of black clothing thrown in there too. But if we look closely at some episodes, like a scene in the season finale, we can still see a little bit of the bump in her belly!
10 Ellen Pompeo
Though we know that Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey and her love interest and husband Derek Shepherd (played by Patrick Dempsey) will have three children (one of which was adopted) on the show Grey’s Anatomy, sometimes an actress’ pregnancy just doesn’t add up to a storyline in a particular point in time in the season’s plot. And so, the writers had to hide Ellen’s baby bump with a creative twist instead!
In the Grey’s Anatomy season in 2009, one of the storylines included Meredith undergoing an operation which involved her giving part of her liver away. This meant that there will be some away time for Meredith as she recovers- and Ellen in real life, as she would start her maternity leave! Oh, and thank goodness those hospital scrubs were naturally loose too because they did quite a swell job hiding her bulging pregnant belly!
9 Julia Roberts
When Julia Roberts was filming Ocean’s Twelve in 2004, where she plays the character Tess Ocean (wife of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean), she was actually very much pregnant. But her character Tess? Not so much. So, in order to hide the swelling baby bump, the production and writing team of Ocean’s Twelve came up with a very clever way to deal with it!
Described as “going meta”, the story included a portion where Tess was to play an actress called “Julia Roberts” who ‘happened to be pregnant’ at the time! What! That’s crazy clever and hilarious. So, in order to ‘play Julia’ the character, Tess had to ‘wear some padding’ so as to look pregnant. To some viewers that would make sense, but to those in the know, well, they would know that took no padding effort at all because Julia was preggers for real!
8 Helena Bonham-Carter
What with all the singing and shaving beards and murdering, Helen Bonham-Carter’s belly surely is not one would pay attention to in the film Sweeney Todd. And after all, she was wearing a corset, a normal thing to wear in that era, plus her figure looked great despite her clothing being a bit ragged and torn in some places. But unbeknownst to many, the murderous pie-baker was actually pregnant! Well, Helena was, but her character was not.
So how did the costume team do it? Well, her corset was enough of a tool to be able to hide her bump. But the filming crew had to go in and help too; they shot scenes out of sequence, which meant they had to film Helena’s scenes when her pregnant belly was not too obvious yet. Unfortunately for Helena, she was “often nauseous” while filming on-set.
7 Kerry Washington
The way the show Scandal tried to hide Kerry Washington’s pregnancy is probably one of the most hilarious and meme-worthy ways a show could try to hide a pregnancy- and only because they “tried every trick in the book”! Kerry’s character, Olivia Pope, was known to be quite the fashionable power woman, so one would think that it would give them a hard time to fix her wardrobe (we can’t see a not-pregnant Olivia in maternity clothes!). But the belly did not stop them!
In the show, we had numerous moments of Olivia wearing “structured, trapeze jackets”, or Olivia with her back to the camera, or Olivia with only her upper body being shown. There were also many scenes with Olivia holding huge purses, or Olivia’s belly coincidentally being hidden by a lamp, or Olivia’s midriff being strategically concealed by a knee! Yes, that’s right, a strategically placed knee. Kudos to team Scandal for their efforts!
6 Zooey Deschanel
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Our beloved quirky girl Zooey Deschanel is New Girl Jess, and while Zooey was pregnant in real life, sadly her character Jess was not. So, team New Girl had to think of a clever way (perhaps more clever than team HIMYM and Scandal?) to make sure the baby bump will not be noticed on the show. And while their midriff concealing tricks might not be as, er, rigorous as team Scandal, or as ironic and tongue-in-cheek as HIMYM and Mad Men, their solution was still quite good.
The fifth season was filmed immediately after season four’s end, so as to capture Zooey while her belly still wasn’t so huge. Then they’ve had Jess fall down some stairs (oh, she’s stuck in bed!), and then have her on jury duty, which means she’d either be sitting inside a nice, strategic jury box which could hide her midsection, or ‘sequestered in a hotel’ because the trial was a bit lengthy. Then Megan Fox came in so as to “shake things up” while Zooey was on leave.
5 Lisa Kudrow
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Lisa Kudrow was pregnant in real life during the 4th season of Friends, and unlike her co-star Courtney Cox (whose Monica was unable to have children with Chandler), they did not have to hide her pregnant belly with large amounts of layered clothing or camera angles or things to carry. What they did was write the pregnancy into the storyline- and that arc proved to be one of the most heart-warming, funniest, and iconic arcs of the show!
Instead of making Phoebe pregnant with her own child, which the writers decided would not quite do for the story, they made her a surrogate for her half-brother instead! So in the show, it was made to appear that Phoebe was pregnant with triplets (her belly was huge), and emphasized her bump even more. Though called ‘unusual’ and often noted that the move was ‘not originally planned’, audiences loved the way the story went.
4 Ginnifer Goodwin
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Once Upon A Time co-stars, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are just absolutely adorable on-screen, and even more adorable in real life! The husband and wife were actually expecting a kid when they were filming ‘OUAT’ around 2014. Magical and exciting, this is a sure source of joy for the couple; but for the show, it’s a little bit of a speed bump when it comes to shooting scenes. So how did they go around her very pregnant belly?
Good thing that Ginnifer plays two characters on the show – Mary Margaret and Snow White – so it was easier for the production team to write and shoot Mary as pregnant. But Snow White can’t be; so instead, they opted for extremely large and long coats and dresses for our princess! While in the Enchanted Forest as Snow White we can’t see the huge abdomen, but in Storybrooke, it’s all for the world to see.
3 Gillian Anderson
X-files star Gillian Anderson had announced her pregnancy while the show had ended filming its season 1, and while many would simply note that the way they handled it was sorta obvious, there was more to it behind the scenes. So what did they do, anyway? Well besides the usual hiding behind things, wearing huge loose clothes, and shooting at strategic angles, they had Scully abducted by aliens!
Thought it made sense in-show (X-files was a science fiction show after all), the writers debated a while when it comes to dealing with Gillian’s character. Wondering if they could still re-cast her, and how to shoot her, they ended up throwing caution to the wind and getting her abducted! This meant she could lie down in bed comatose a few episodes later, and get experimented on, which made use of her baby bump. Of course, this decision ended up growing a whole new mythology for many seasons in the show- a good decision on their part, no doubt!
2 Elizabeth Banks
Thankfully Elizabeth Banks starred in a comedy show – 30 Rock – when she was pregnant, because then they did not have to do with various tricks in the book such as strategic camera angling, or writing a pregnancy storyline, or writing a storyline that needed her to go away. What they did do, however, was use various large objects for her to hold in order to cover up her belly; and this being a comedy show, the objects were getting more and more ridiculous!
Called a ‘parody of the hidden pregnancy trope’ the writers of 30 Rock made sure to make Banks’ hidden pregnancy as ironic as possible. This was their way to make fun of the whole thing of hiding pregnancies behind chairs or grocery bags- so, they had her character Avery Jessup hold various items. Most notable was when she was holding a large ham with a hat on top of it!
1 Scarlett Johansson
Action babe Scarlett Johansson is best known as Black Widow in the Marvel franchise films The Avengers, and with that, she was also known to don a black, skin-tight catsuit in order to go on spying and saving the world from aliens or robots. So if our girl got pregnant on screen, well, that would not do for action sequences, and we’d most definitely notice, right?! Well, it seems like we haven’t because she was very much pregnant while filming Avengers: Age of Ultron!
In an interview with E! News, Johansson explained how she “did as much as she could do” and the crew just “filled in the blanks” afterward. This meant that when she couldn’t do a scene, one of her body doubles would take her place, their faces mapped with dots. This would give way for the visual-effects team to graft ScarJo’s face onto their bodies! Amazing right?