One day, on a commercial  – PAMPERS PULL-UPS, to be exact – I had an adorable little guy named Tyler.  He was just over 2, and was very verbal – as I was to find out. 

The commercial was all about the “I’m a Big Boy Now” aspect of diaper training, and showed him dressing himself, sitting on the potty himself.  You get the picture – you might even remember the spot.  What you don’t know – though you’re about to find out – is that our cameraman almost dropped the camera into the bath tub due to general hysterical laughter.  This is how that came about:

 We were shooting the “on the potty” segment  – seeing him sitting there, cutting to a view of his pull-ups around his little ankles as he sat, and then cutting to a shot of him pulling them up.  If you don’t have any particular inside knowledge of shooting commercials, you may not know that the only guarantee of a commercial is that you’ll shoot the scene over and over and over again.  Which meant, in this case, that I had to come out of my hiding place in the bathtub, where I was smooshed next to the cameraman, about 17 times and lift little Tyler up about 17 times to set him on the potty before he would then hop off and pull up his diaper.  EVERY single time I sat him down on the potty chair, Tyler peed into the toiler.  EVERY time.  SEVENTEEN TIMES. 

 In amazement, I finally blurted out, “My goodness, Tyler – where is all that coming from?”

“My penis,” he calmly replied, his expression clearing communicating that I had asked a very silly question.

Duh, Dawn!

And thus, simultaneously, a camera was almost dropped in a bathtub.










©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013


All Rights Reserved





Amazing and Hilarious Kid & Baby Stories or CONFESSIONS: THE WORST THING I EVER DID FOR A FILM

I do have the word “Confessions” in the title of this today’s blog . . . .

SO – I’m about to tell you the worst thing I ever did in show business (well, next to that classically and historically, hysterically and horribly  delivered line of mine in Tourist Trap  – – –  but that’s a whole other story. and one of my other careers).

The confesstion?

I taught a set of 2 ½ year old triplets how to snort cocaine and inhale pot.

Yeah.  I did.  For a feature film.

In my defense:  the girls had absolutely no idea what they were emulating.

OF COURSE emulating . . . . you don’t think I’d REALLY teach them about real drugs, do you??  Fer Heaven’s sake!

By now you’ve probably seen the movie, so I’m not ruining any plot lines!!  It’s Harold and Kumar – A Very 3D Christmas . . . . and the character is little Ava.

I had gotten a call on a Monday night from the wonderful Toni Casala of CHILDREN IN FILM – an INVALUABLE organization for children and parents in the Industry.  http://www.childreninfilm.com.  I’m not vested in your going to this website.  But if you have children in the Industry – you are! DO NOT fail to go there!!!

Toni said that she might have a referral to a film job for me  – was I avail?

Was I???? You bet . . . !  Thirty minutes later I’m speaking to the production manager/producer on the phone: One of the triplets had accidentally been frightened on set (NO abuse or dangers whatsoever had occurred, I promise)

But she had become frightened, and all three of the girls had stopped working. They realized they needed a baby wrangler. The entire crew – from Producers on down – were absolutely dedicated to the girls’ safety, comfort and enjoyment of the experience. As was the cast – especially the brilliantly talented actor/writer Tom Lennon who is “Ava’s” daddy in the film , and  with whom I was soon to work  again. (didn’t know it at the time!) He was absolutely amazing with the girls. Of course cast and crew  wanted to get their shots – but they wanted the girls to be happy.  I commend them, and thank them for that!

To make a long story short  ( I know – when do I make any story short) – three days later I’m on a jet to Michigan, where they were filming.  There I met and began what is a life-long love affair with a remarkable family:  Chloe, Hannah and Ashley, the beautiful, sweet and loving triplets.  Katie and Casey, their amazing parents.  Mary and Bill, Katie’s extraordinary parents.   They will always be in my heart.  Momma, Daddy. Grandma and The Girls are still in my life, albeit long distance.  What a blessing.


SO – back to the tale!

In the storyline, Ava is at a party (where she should not be) with her Daddy – who quite frankly also should not be there.  There is  a huge brick of cocaine, a disastrous event involving a giant fan, and      . . .  you guessed it:  Cocaine everywhere.  And then there’s the part where a big sneeze blows some right in the baby’s face.  (of course, we used powdered sugar)

Now how to get it to look like the baby has classic cocaine sniffing behavior . . . which of course I’ve only read about and seen in movies.

Here’s what I did:

I taught the girls (for all three sisters were playing the one character) to play OINK OINK PINCH PINCH ( okay, maybe not a brilliant title, but I was making up this stuff as I went along!)

I showed them how make a little piggy oinking noise while wrinkling their adorable little noses,  and then to pinch their little piggie noses two times in a row. Accomplishment #1- The Snorting.

Next I showed them how to make a number “1” with their index finger, which we then turned into a toothbrush.  Then we pretended to brush our teeth.   Accomplishment #2 – The Gum Rubbing.                                                                                                                                                                               VOILA!

While their parents and I (and the entire cast and crew) laughed hysterically at how cute they were (and how they didn’t have a clue) the girls giggled and had a ball.  We got fantastic shots, director Todd Strauss-Schulson and our producers were thrilled, and we got in a great day’s work.

And the pot?   First, I want to tell you that all the smoke you see in that car segment. . . that was added in post production – the triplets were NOT subjected to any smoke inhalation of any kind.  None.  Nada. Zip!  (fortunate for me, too, as I was hiding in the front seat!)


Here’s what we did for that segment:  I would make whichever girl was working laugh and giggle with one or another of my silly faces or noises, then she would play “make a face like Dawnie” – where I’d be all wacky and silly and she would mirror my expression. . . and then, while doing that,  we played “say what Dawnie says” and she would repeat things after me like “oooooh, I feel dizzy,” or “oooooh, wow, the car is spinning,” or “I’m starving.”

Voila, again.  A stoned little munchkin.

I’m probably going straight to hell for this one.

 DSC00913  DSC00941

PS.  The worst thing I ever SAID in show business was (to Props department):  “Hey, guys, can I have the cocaine for the babies, please?”!

 © Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All rights reserved



Let’s travel out of continuity – I will do so repeatedly in the blog! – and go to the FIRST meeting with Ms. Streep:

So – everyone was pretty excited on this one particular day at Paramount Studios in LEMONY SNICKET base camp- well, at least I was VERY excited, for sure.

It’s Meryl Streep’s first day of work on the film – I mean – MERYL STREEP  – THE Meryl Streep, THE DEER HUNTER, SOPHIE’S CHOICE,  . . .(am I beginning to look like a fan here??! Again?)

. . . . and we’re going to work with her.  (we being my babies, and me, too – because when the babies are onset, so am I. And as I said earlier, sometimes I’m hidden in the very shot, and will eventually be under HER very feet, though I don’t know this now! Sometimes I will even be in her wardrobe – you’ll see that another time)

I had sent a very respectful request to Ms. Streep, asking if she could possibly find the time to visit with the babies and myself in our Baby Trailer, so that Kara and Shelby  could become “acclimated” to her.  By this time in the shoot, I was second only to Mommy and Daddy in the babies’ world, and Debb was great about giving me the lead in terms of getting the twins used to new actors.

I had bought two new “babies” – the girls term for any doll – for Meryl to give to the girls, so that she could be a new  person bearing gifts.  (Yes, I am not above bribery – and used O’s EVERY day for exactly that purpose!)

After getting the girls fed and diapers changed along with Mom and Lexy’s help, I’m playing with the girl on the floor when . . . .


suddenly . . .  there is a knock on the trailer door!  I open it and . . .

HOLY COW THERE SHE IS!  .   In full costume and make-up is The Lady herself – someone I’ve wanted to meet for only half my life.  And she is so beautiful that it takes my breath away. And she is so kind and real and regal – which will be proven over and over and over again for the next six months – that she quite takes my heart.

Actually, she has it still.

But back to the floor:

I smile,  like a loon,probably (happily I can’t see my own face at the moment and therefore be mortifired at how obviously moonstruck I am) and invite her in.  The girls look at her warily, and quickly jump into my lap (Shelby) and behind my back (Kara). By this time, they have figured out that New People equals me handing them off and disappearing sometimes, and they are none too thrilled with that .  They like me right in front of them . . . or to be happily ensconced in my arms.

I tell them that our new friend, Aunt Jo, has come to play with us.  And then Meryl Streep SITS RIGHT DOWN ON THE FLOOR OF THE TRAILER (which no doubt has stepped-up-and-ground-to-powder O’s, spilled OJ, (and various other things best not thought about !) absorbed into the carpet) and says “Hello, girls!”

Oy, I’m plotzing!   I introduce myself and the babies, telling her which twin is which – something I will do everyday for the full seven months of the shoot for the benefit of the entire crew, most of whom will never learn to tell them apart.  That amazes me – because, except for a few weird times when one actually morphed into the other one, I never had trouble telling them apart.  (You can ask Lexy about that morphing thing – it was WEIRD!!!) I surreptitiously slip the new doll babies into Meryl’s hands, which she quickly slides behind her back, and explained their purpose.  Meryl lights up and thanks me for the forethought, and immediately brings the dolls from behind her back and starts using them as puppets, making voices for the girls.

They continue to watch her with big eyes for a while, and Kara slowly comes out from behind me, to plop into my lap next to her sister.  Now, I’m not really that big – I’m five feet tall and weighed about a hundred and five pounds – but my lap ALWAYS had room for both my girls, no matter how squished I may have been.  I cannot describe how my love for those babies grew day by day, from the very first day I met them at the first set of auditions, to the night we wrapped and I cried hysterically into Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald’s generous hugs. How their little arms around me healed all wounds and lit up my world.


The definition of the job, the source of pride, the challenge – and yes, the little bit of heartbreak –   is to cultivate all that trust and love within the babies hearts and minds for you, and then be able to transfer it away from yourself and to all of those with whom the babies work.

The girls become more and more intrigued, and eventually sit on the floor near Meryl, leaving the sanctuary of “Daw’s lap.  As I told you in yesterday’s blog, they can’t quite say my name yet – not the whole thing.

I ask Meryl’s permission to touch her face – she readily gives it.

I gently first cup each of the babies cheeks, saying “good – good”, and then my own, and then Meryl’s, each time repeating “good” in a very low, soothing voice.  The girls are smiling, and Meryl has fallen in love with them.  Soon, they will fall in love with her, too.  I will make sure.

And so our first acclimation session has been accomplished.  Next time I will gently, slowly and quietly leave the trailer, and the girls will be alone with Meryl.  On the pathway – to the transfer of affection.  The hardest but most important part of a wrangler’s job.  Transferring affection.

Oh my aching heart.

But oh, a source of pride.


©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All Rights Reserved



Okay – what I am about to tell you will amaze and astound you.  Okay – well, maybe not astound you. Okay – maybe not amaze.   But, lemme tell you: it amazed and astounded ME!

I’ve found through the years that singing to my babies covers a multitude of sins:  from the babies being tired and NOT WANTING TO DO any more ‘acting’, to being nervous, hungry, uncomfortable with a new actor, etc, etc, etc.  And my gorgeous Shelby and Kara – “SUNNY” IN LEMONY SNICKET: A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (sorry, Debb and Mark – I know they’re really YOUR Shelby and Kara, but you KNOW how much I love your kids!) were no different.


I had come up with my own version of I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY that went, I’M JUST WILD ABOUT SHELBY . . . of course. (apologies to the astounding Mr. Eubie Blake).  Almost no matter what else was going on, it would make Shelby smile.  Even when she was only 15 months old.  Even when we had been filming in a small cramped boat for days and days.  Which is where this anecdote takes place.

SO . . .we’re between shots, and are again waiting for something before we do yet another take . . . at this point I can’t even remember what we were waiting for.  Probably for Jim to come back from watching the previous take in the monitor. sigh.  Don’t get me started . . . .

AND Shelby is getting understandably fractious.  It’s way past her nap time AGAIN, she’s been in the same place for quite some time AGAIN, she’s prevented from running around and being a normal kid AGAIN, and she’s ready for a cuddle from ‘Daw’  (The girls can’t say my whole name yet).

I come out from my hiding place under the dirty canvas sail, and take her on my lap for a few minutes, as she’s been on Meryl’s lap for the shot.


I start singing quietly and gently to her,  paying no attention to anything or anybody else – just concentrating on trying to make my baby happy.  And slowly, it works, that amazing smile begins to play across her little face.


Suddenly it occurs to me that I am hearing another voice in addition to my own, and I realize Meryl is singing my silly made-up song, too!!  I, Dawn Jeffory-Nelson, daughter of Alan and Charlene, sister of Dana,  and wife of Shawn, am SINGING WITH MERYL STREEP.  O H   MY   G  O  D!!!!!!!!!

One part of my brain is concentrating on Shelby and functioning so that I am continuing to sing and calm her, and the other half is screaming (albeit silently) like a wildly crazy nutso fan at the Academy Awards who has just seen Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp “ooooooooooohhhhh, aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Meryl Streep is singing with me!!!    INSERT BANSHEE-LIKE SHRIEKS!!! The kind teenage girls do when they’re excited and/or crazy . . . .or like sorority sisters meeting each other by chance at the mall after a separation of five years . . . . .and you’ll get a vague picture of the chaos in my head . . . .

I’m actually sitting in a little boat on a sound stage in Downey, California in a man-made 4,000 square foot body of water, singing with Meryl Streep.


Now, c’mon . . .  is that not amazing and astounding??!!

© Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All rights reserved


So – Why “Will Work For O’s”? And What The Heck is A Baby Wrangler, Anyway???

574583_10151129293579817_299316635_n132_ShelbyInTheCageLEMONY SNICKET

Welcome to my new blog!  It’s just LOVELY to see you here. This first one is pretty wordy – – – but I’ll get the hang of it!

Perhaps you are asking yourselves, ‘Why “Will Work For O’s”?’  Well, even if you are not – I shall endeavor to answer!!!! 

Because, you see, I would not be where I am today without A).Casting Director and treasured friend, SHEILA MANNING (I’ll go into detail about that later)and B). CHEERIOS!

I really want to do a commercial (starring me, of course!) about a baby wrangler and CHEERIOS.  Never mind the cholesterol and heart-healthy stuff, let’s talk about the REALLY  importance aspect of that cereal from Heaven: I CAN GET A BABY TO DO  PRACTICALLY ANYTHING FOR ME FOR CHEERIOS!!! (More to come on that, to be sure).

And re What The Heck is A Baby Wrangler, Anyway: (Are you envisioning chaps & a lasso?)

I am, in my blogs, going to tell you lots of baby wrangling stories, and coaching with slightly older kids stories . . . and stories of me, too.  My husband – amazing acting coach, Shawn Nelson,  says that if I leave me out of the stories, I am leaving out some of the heart..  Of course, he’s biased – (is that GREAT or what??!!!!), but I will trust him for now.  When this (hopefully) becomes my book – we’ll see what the editor leaves in!.

SO- onto the definition portion of today’s blog:

1.   BABY WRANGLER – the ACTUAL definition:  a paid fool who can have no pride, no ego, must break into song and dance, or make embarrassing faces and sounds at any given time or place,  must have roughly the mentality of a 6 – 10 month old person, must generally face humiliation and possible ridicule, and ideally fits into small, cramped and sometimes yucky places.

For Example:   there was the time I spent approximately 3 weeks squished into either  the bow of a little sailboat, hidden under a dusty, dirty heavy canvas sail, or squished under the bench- like seats of the little sailboat under a dusty, dirty heavy canvas sail with Meryl Streep’s feet on my tush.  Or with Liam Aiken or Emily Browning accidentally stepping on my head.  Or my hand,  Or my foot. Or all of the above.  (never could quite figure out how they accomplished THAT!)

Below you see a good example of the above mentioned yucky place . . .  but spending time with Meryl, Emily and Liam was a delight!

Above mentioned yucky place!

In addition, the baby wrangler is the person that you can yell at if the baby doesn’t do what the director needs (I mean, come on – what kind of monster would yell at the actual BABY??)  However, truth be told, though I have been yelled at – it hasn’t happened very often.

Oh wait a minute – here’s an exception: we were filming at Burbank Airport. It was Season One of my miraculous gift from God and Aaron Spelling – seven seasons as on-set acting coach for the WB mega-hit, SEVENTH HEAVEN. It was a very long and very wide establishing shot, which means that everything was being seen in a radius of about a gazillion miles.  My little Mack (Mackenzie Rosman aka “RUTHIE CAMDEN”), barely six at the time, had dialogue and needed me close by to prompt her, but there was NO place to hide.  Our Director, the late great Harry Harris,  said, “Dawn – get way close to the kid (meaning Mack) over by that bench.”  I said, “Harry, if I do that I’m gonna be in the shot.  He said, “No you won’t.”  I said, “Yes I will.”  He said, “No you won’t.  I said, “Yes I will.  He said, “Dawn, just go to the damn bench!”  I said, “Okay, Harry – but I’m tellin’ ya, I’m gonna be in the shot!”

So I went where he told me to go, our 1st AD, Paul Snider,  said “ROLLing,” Harry said “AKshun” and then, one second later, “GODDAMMIT DAWN, YOU’RE  IN  THE  SHOT!!!!!!!”.

sigh.  And here is Mack and Me – a partnership that gave me joy for 7 years.  And sometimes drove me crazy.  But that’s another story.  And believe you me, you’ll hear it!


And here he is – the amazing Harry Harris – and me, on one of hundreds of happy days on 7th HEAVEN.  A truly incredible, lovely man – and an incredibly talented director.  I love him . . . and I miss him!  You can ask anyone from our family-crew of that wonderful show – they’ll say the same thing.  We all loved Harry.


Back to my original point  (and I warn you, I digress a lot) – I was defining “baby wrangler”.   Above, I supplied the actual, factual definition.

Now here’s . . .

2. BABY WRANGLER – the TECHNICAL definition: the baby wrangler is actually the person responsible for the performance of the baby: needed to coax, cajole, encourage and deliver the reactions and actions called for by the director, the script, the client, the ad agency, the producer, the producer’s wife . . . . well, you get the picture.  Depending on the director, and his or her comfort level – a baby wrangler can actually direct the baby.

And this is part of what I do for a living.   I’ll be telling you lots more in the blogs to come.

Am I a lucky girl or what????????

© Dawn Jeffory-Nelson

2013All rights reserved