Prop master recalls laughter in dramatic scenes
In 1995, we filmed “Love’s Labor Lost” about a couple — Sean and Jodi O’Brien — who were expecting their first baby. Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) was the attending physician on call during some very tense and surreal moments when a very pregnant Jodi (Colleen Flynn, nominated for a primetime guest acting Emmy) is brought in unconscious and seizing after being sent home from the ER just a few hours earlier with antibiotics.
It’s decided that an emergency C-section in the trauma room is needed immediately. Mark makes the call to do the procedure in the trauma room without waiting for obstetrics to arrive. Jodi starts losing blood, her blood pressure starts to nosedive, the doctors — including Lewis, Benton and Nurse Hathaway — are having an extremely difficult time keeping things under control. We have a prosthetic C-section belly molded onto Jodi, with a fake baby ready to insert into the belly for the C-section delivery that is approaching fast.
The mood is getting very tense. The crew, including myself, was very tense. I could see beads of sweat dripping down foreheads in the distance. Our makeup artist at the time, Werner Keppler, just happened to bring in one of his alien monster baby creations off a previous sci-fi show he had been involved with. I had been the only one to see the baby that day. We decided to have a covert meeting with Anthony about this little secret. We decided we would let the camera operator in on our little secret and, we said, “No matter what, keep on rolling.”
It was time for the delivery. Typically when we set up for this, we kick everyone out of the room so we can carefully insert the prosthetic baby into the abdomen for the delivery and also to give the actress as much privacy as possible. We covertly slipped the little monster alien baby into the belly with Anthony, Werner and me being the only people aware of what was about to happen.
Flash forward 10 minutes to the delivery. The camera is rolling, and most of the actors, including Julianna Margulies and Sherry Stringfield, are now surrounding the gurney trying to save Jodi and her baby. They try to pull the baby out and Jodi is bleeding uncontrollably.
Anthony makes the C-section incision and goes elbow deep into Jodi’s belly to forcefully yank the baby out before it’s too late. He finally brings the baby through the sterile drapes, and everyone is expecting the cute little baby — but instead Anthony pulls out and up into frame the scariest monster baby ever seen on film.
Julianna and Sherry start screaming uncontrollably while the rest of the room was horrified and in total shock at what was taking place. Every crew member and background artist rushed over to the trauma room, people were terrified and confused. It was total anarchy all while the camera was still rolling.
Later that week, Werner and I were presented by Anthony with the only framed, blown-up pictures, now hanging in my office, of the grotesque looking alien baby being held by Dr. Greene.
— Rick Ladomade, “ER” prop master