It was 1997 and a friend of mine had two adorable twin boys. On a whim, she signed them to a talent agency when they were infants and they got picked up by Days of Our Lives to play baby Will Roberts/Reed. Shawn and Taylor were only 6 months old when they became actors. Being a high schooler with several years of kid-watching under my belt, their mom asked me to occasionally help out on set. I watched them on regular boring days, too, but I longed for the times when we strolled past security and onto the NBC lot.
Having watched cheesy soaps with my mom growing up, I was in-tune with the latest story lines. Plus, at just 17, I was easily star struck. The excitement was overwhelming when we’d drive all the way to Burbank, go past the Walt Disney Studios, and curve around to NBC. Kristen, the boys’ mom, would usually stop at Starbucks and we’d each get a venti frappuccino for the long day. Filming days were never short. As the hours ticked by, my excitement would slowly diminish.
Like many other lots, NBC is a series of warehouses and office buildings. We’d park in the back and walk down a hallway with old props stacked along the side aisles. There were pieces from Later with Greg Kinnear, among other shows. On the left was the hallway leading to the Days’ set. First was the costume department to pick up their matching outfits, then the makeup/hair room with several stations, and then there were a series of dressing rooms. Towards the ends of the hall was the beverage station and then at the veeeerrrry end, was the kids’ area. They had a dressing room, a play room, and when they got a little older, they also had a teacher. There was plenty of room to stretch which was great because we spent most of time stuck back there.
There was a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’. For instance, they’d have an early morning call time, but not be on the actual set filming until a few hours after we got there. There were always delays. Whether it be the actors, the set piece needing some work, the sound being off, or you name it.
I wasn’t just there because twins are a lot to handle for one mom. Kristen legally had to have two adults because during filming each child needed a guardian. She would be on set with one and I’d have the other. Because there are monitors everywhere, we’d follow the filming and wait for our scene. One time, Shawn had a toddler meltdown which I saw on the monitor, and I rushed down the hallway with Taylor for a quick switch. For this reason, the boys had to always be dressed and ready. Sometimes Kristen would have to choose which boy was in the better mood that day. She’d also have to make sure that the boys were being properly cared for and safe. These “stages” are warehouses filled with set pieces and equipment. Not baby-proofed at all.
The actors were very friendly and usually gave the boys plenty of positive attention. Alison Sweeney played their mom, Sami Brady, and she’d scoop them up without missing a beat. It gave the actors a chance to be silly between serious moments. Bryan Dattilo even put pencils up his nose to get them to laugh. It wasn’t hard watching Austin Peck goof around with the kids and then later watching him and Christie Clark film a steamy scene. We’d do our best to distract the boys while watching the fake lovebirds make out. After the 6th take, though, it was a lot less thrilling. The biggest problem with love scenes is constantly touching up the smeared makeup.
I loved lunchtime. We’d walk past the Tonight Show with Jay Leno stage to get to the commissary. Jay Leno’s crew would be setting up the stage, so there was a lot of action. The commissary was filled with actors eating in their robes. It’s the best cafeteria experience I will ever have. The food was good, but the celebrity-watching was great. The regular humans like me were in street clothes, but “the talent” was in full hair/makeup with their costumes hidden beneath the protective robes. Assistants were running around like mad assisting. And I was desperately trying to figure out who was who.
The glamorous life, of course, can be very unglamorous. As I mentioned before, we could spend the whole day trapped in the back children’s area waiting for our scene. While the boys actually worked very short timeframes, we could be there for 12 hours just waiting. When they filmed Sami’s wedding, we were there until midnight. The upside was that they catered dinner and we got to eat with the whole cast in a nearby empty stage. But every single person was exhausted.
In true “Hollywood” fashion, Kristen received a fruit basket one day with a note thanking them for being on the show. They decided to age Will a few years so he could be a teenager with his own story line. They didn’t need little kids anymore. No executives called to say goodbye. One day they were just done. I believe Alison Sweeney did connect with Kristen to wish them all well. I think even she was surprised her little boy was turning into a young man. Luckily, by this time the boys were 6 or 7 years old and were very aware that they were missing out on fun with their friends. They seemed ready to just be kids. Kristen was tired, too. She was at the beck and call of the studio. It was a full-time job and sometimes an unreasonable one.
Days was a very special and interesting time in their lives. The boys’ college fund was full and now they could go on to be regular kids. They are grown now and grounded thanks to great parents. (Dad, Chris, was a busy Firefighter, so mom was the studio runner). I loved visiting NBC and loved playing the young nanny a few times on set. I may never have a security guard wave me through again and none of those actors will remember me, but it was pretty darn cool to get access.