If you’ve read previous blogs, you know I have a habit of going back and forth in time. The Kiddie Time Traveler am I!!  And, here I go again . . . .

As someone who has had the extreme good fortune to actually keep doing this coaching/wrangling thing  for a living for more than a few years – – –

Well, it kinda makes me feel like Auntie Mame, ya know???

Nurture a child, teach a child, love a child . . . . then watch them go on their way.  Or you leave them, because the film is over, or the series , or  . . . whatever.

It’s kind of devastating.  Heart breaking, actually.

Hundred of babies and children come to mind.

But one – – –  one in particular – – – comes to heart.

At this particular moment – one particular child.

It’s not that I haven’t loved others . . .  I have.  With all my soul.  AND I’ll be telling you about them, too.

it’s just that THIS one . . . .She was my first.

And, well, in addition to spending highly formative years of her life with her on the first seven years of 7Th HEAVEN . . . Well,

. . . . . she’s Mack.


Mackenzie Rosman entered my life starting at barely age six . . . . .and she left my life – never.

Do I see her all the time?  Do we communicate often?  No.

Will she forever be the first daughter I never had?

Does it make my day – hell my WEEK,  when she calls, or drops me a line or an IM saying she loves me and misses me?

YES.  Oh, YES.

See her through my eyes . . . .that first episode together.

we’re on location on the front steps of the “CAMDEN HOUSE”  or The Alta House as we called it.  (that’s the street it was on in Santa Monica)

The cutest damn little munchkin you’ve ever seen . . . Shirley Temple curls.  Great big HUGE eyes.  Little Buddha belly, WICKED sense of humor, more mischief in that little body than in any 10 kids I worked with prior to her.  (Maybe after, as well!)  Cute little sailor blouse, if I remember correctly, cute little shoes and socks . . .

And . . .

OH CRAP.  She’s wearing a  short skirt.


on the steps . . . .

With the camera level with her little face which is in pretty close proximity to her lap.

“Psst, Dawn” . . . . comes a summons from Video Village, and director Duwayne Dunham (to whom I’ll forever be grateful – he brought me on to 7th Heaven for his episode – and I didn’t leave for 7 years!) ANYway . . .

Another “PSSSSSST, Dawn”.  A little more forceful this time.

Me:  “yeah, Duwayne?””

Duwayne:  “Ummm . . . . Mack’s skirt . . . she . . . . can you get her to sit , um,  . . well, a little more lady-like?

Small pause.  LOUD silence.

Me:  “OH.  Uh…. Sure.”

I trot back to the steps, where Mack is squiggling on and off of her mark like a jumping bean.  Lord that child had energy!!!   How to  get a little girl to “sit properly” without making her aware of those kinds of things? She’s only six, for Heaven’s sake, and shouldn’t EVEN be worrying about stuff like that.

I get an idea, and much to our camera operator -Ronnie High’s – relief,  I go in and gently help her sit more ‘lady like” so that “we can see your pretty skirt better, Mack!” (!?)

And I keep doing this.  For about two hours.  No kidding . . . . sitting like a lady is just not something that a little kid remembers  to do:  for them, there’s no logic to it,  it’s not fun to remember all that stuff, and it isn’t comfortable to be seated so stiffly.   And as I said, in a perfect world, young kids shouldn’t need to think about all that.  (tho I seem to remember 9 year old David Gallagher singing something about seeing London and seeing France . . . sigh.)

Ronnie spent half that shooting day with a red face, little desperate whispered “Dawn”s escaping from him regularly,  to signal  that I needed to step in again.

Thus,  I spent most of the day whispering – “Mack, Honey, show your pretty skirt …”

As I write this, I’m sitting in a jury assembly room in Van Nuys, CA at lunch break , approximately 15 years later– remembering  and hooting out loud.

Boy – that would make the attorneys use their “pass” card if I was sitting in voir dire right now!!!  More on the jury duty another time . .

Thus began my first episode on the show . . . .I was to go on to do 150 episodes. I have the celebratory champaign glasses from the 100th and 150th episodes to prove it! I had no idea what a wild ride the next years would be.  I wouldn’t change it for the world . . . . though there WERE days I wasn’t so sure of that.

As I said – I was blessed to stay with 7TH HEAVEN for seven years . . . seven seasons of a hit show . . . . seven actual years of straight employment – practically a miracle in my business . . . . . but more importantly – seven years with my Mack!!

Next time – I’ll tell you more about our relationship –  and what SHE taught ME.

Mackenzie and the Very Long Day's Work

Comforting Mack and her co-stars on a very long shoot day.

PS   Typical for me – though I wrote this a few weeks ago, I’m just posting now.  It’s that back and forth in time thing . . . I gotta get a handle on that!




I’ve been ridiculously lucky . . . .As a baby wrangler and an acting coach,  I get to do what I love for a living with babies, toddlers, kids and even young adults . . . and I get to do what I love WHERE I love doing it:  on-set.

As a wrangler, I do often get pee’d, pooped and puked on . . . The Preposterous Triple P’s, I call them!!   But the wonderfulness FAR outweighs the not so wonderful.

AND . . . . I get to meet, work with, hang out with and interact with SOME OF THE MOST AMAZING STARS!!

Wanna hear of some of them??  And see some pictures??   OH, alright . . . if you insist!


Yes – – – – he DID! That devil!!

We’re in the middle of shooting a scene for WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING . . . we’re in the home stretch of the three months of shooting, and this particular scene is one of the last ones of the “BIRTH” sequence, where all of our leads are giving birth to their beautiful babies.  (I had 50 BABIES and toddlers on this shoot, Ladies and Gents  . . . . yep   FIVE OH – FIFTY!!  More on that in another episode of Will Work For O’s!)  And by the way, you CAN’T find better books on parenting than those written by the fabulous HEIDI MURKOFF.  How terrific to meet and work with her . . . I’ll tell you DELIGHTFUL stories of her in the upcoming months.

However, in the meantime, here are a few quick pics of a few of those amazing fifty babies – if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize them . . . these are  mainly some of the The Dude Group babies and a few our “newborns”. . .

Asher, Sammy & Dawn        Vedha Left Lekha Right    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

photo photo Image 2 Image 4   IMG_2280

But back to Dennis:   In the film, he and his wife (played by the delightful Brooklyn Decker) are the PERFECT couple . . .everything is way easy for them . . . the joke at this point is that their twin babies are the ones crying and screaming in their parents’ arms, while the other parents are blissfully holding their new angels.

Our director, the fabulous Kirk Jones,  asked me what I could do to make the babies cry – but of course, without being abusive.   OF COURSE – DUH!!!!!!  I told him a few things that we could do, none of which are harmful in anyway . . . and one of which, of course, is to make a sudden noise in an other-wise quiet room.   A baby is momentarily startled, cries  . . .we get the shot IMMEDIATELY and within a few second, I’ve taken the baby into my arms and have calmed and made him/her happy again.  No harm – no foul  and win/win.

SO we decide to use this method  . . . . .

Dennis and Brooklyn are on their marks ready to pace back and forth, I bring each of them a twin and then run to hide all smooshed into a corner of the small hospital room in which we’re filming.  Our 1st AD says “rolling”, our director says “action” – I make a ridiculously loud clapping noise  and  . . . . . . .


Not a peep outta the babies!   They are happily cuddling in their “parents’ ” arms.   They obviously are used to noise (which is a good thing for a real babies – less stress in their  lives!!), but it’s not helping us get the shot with our “reel” babies.

There is general hilarious laughter from cast and crew . . . and we try again.  SEVERAL times…. and each time?  Only happy, and now SLEEPING babies, for heaven’s sake!!!  Blissfully happy and fast asleep.  OY!

Kirk says – “not to worry, we’ll add the crying in post, and we’ll shoot this particular set up so we’re really on Dennis and Brooklyn, and won’t see the babies’ faces – so no one will know they’re not crying in the final edit.”    FIrst AD Lisa Satriano – ( who is FANTASTIC – and I’d work with her in a minute ANYwhere ANYtime) says, “So we can shoot without the startle noise this time”.

YAY!  Good solution  . . . .


I go back to my hiding place after once again getting the babies to our two stars, Kirk has a quick word about something or other with Dennis and Brooklyn, and goes back to the video monitor in the room just across the hall.  We’re all ready . . . but just before we get to rolling, Dennis turns to me:

“Dawn, honey, can you do that clapping thing again?”

So, of COURSE, I say yes cuz  A) a major motion picture star  has requested it, and B) I now assume that Kirk has decided to include the babies’ faces in the shot, and that’s what he just told Dennis and Brooklyn.

1st AD says “rolliing”,  sound mixer says “speed”, director says ACTION,  baby wrangler makes loud clapping noise . . .

babies cry.

1st AD yells from across the hall, “I SAID WE DIDN’T NEED THE CLAPPING NOISE IN THIS SHOT”.


There is dead silence . . . . I am frozen in shock.

I UNfreeze FAST and find my voice:

“Dennis Quaid, you sonofa*^%#$ . . . you just threw me under the bus!!!!”

He turns and looks at me.  Looks at me with that damned  Dennis-Quaid-crooked-amazing-charming-irresistible smile that has been making women swoon ever since his first film, and he says

“Every time, Darlin’ . . . . every time!”

Ohhhhhhhhhhh,  that man!!

I adore him!!!

Image 1



171836939.036396 - Version 2

So . . . yesterday I promised that I’d add one more of my favorite “MAGIC” stories . . .  this one is from the second Stephen King miniseries I was THRILLED to work on:  STEPHEN KING’S STORM OF THE CENTURY in Toronto. (Boy – I haven’t even told you about the FIRST one yet . . . that’s me, Miss No-Continuity!)   STORM was about a powerful and terrible wizard, played by the amazing Colm Feore, who wants to steal a child  . . . and the consequences of his wrath on a small town in Maine.

How I got hired for this one is kinda a great story, too. . . but I’m gonna save that for later . . .

First –  a quick introduction to our major minors:

Picture #1 below is of our three lead children:  Spencer Breslin (also of DISNEY”S THE KID fame, RAISING HELEN, & THE CAT IN THE HAT, among a ton of other credits), Dyllan Christopher (who is best known for Unaccompanied Minors, Armageddon, Seabiscuit and another ton of other credits)and Skye Micole Bartuccio (who starred as Mel Gibson’s youngest daughter in THE PATRIOT, as well as CIDER HOUSE RULES, and DON’T SAY A WORD, to name only a few of HER credits!)

Storm of the Century

Picture #2 is during an off-work day: celebrating Spencer’s 6th Birthday.  He wanted a doctor theme for his party – and he got it!  You’ll notice another star – to – be at the bottom of the picture :  adorable and sweet Abby Breslin.  Skye is there . . . Dyllan was probably off getting a snack!

Picture #3 is one of Abby’s first headshots . . . and #4 is one brother Spencer’s  .  Just HAD to add those, cuz they’re so dern cute!!  DO I HAVE THE BEST JOB OR WHAT????


Now on to today’s story:

It was during a particularly difficult scene for my 8 mostly five-year-old little stars: an extremely long scene, in which all of the children are asleep in their cots while their parents discuss very important aspects of the storyline.

Normally – and IDEALLY!!! –   scenes such as these this are set up so that after filming a beginning “establishing shot” in which all the characters are seen, you would then go to “the coverage” which means the close-ups.  The advantage to that is you then get the eight five year olds out of the scene (and back to the school room, or to a recreation break) and concentrate on the adults in the scene.  However, in this particular TEN PAGE SCENE (!!), the children being fast asleep was important to story point and the parents’ dialogue.  SO the director felt that it was very important for the kids to be always seen in the background of this long, continuous take.

It was the correct choice artistically, but an kids’ acting coach’s NIGHTMARE!!  Children feel very vulnerable with their eyes closed – they don’t feel safe, their curiosity for what’s going on is not satisfied, they get bored silly, AND it’s murder for kids to lie dead still for 10 seconds, let along ten pages! The kids were squiggly and fractious and worried – – –  and we weren’t getting our shot.  I needed a miracle.

SO – – – – I turned to aromatherapy!!

Now, it’s a proven, scientific fact that our sense of smell is a very powerful phenomena: it can recall our past, affect our mood, etc.  And certain smells are more evocative than others: sandalwood is an aroma that can literally help you relax, and the essence of grapefruit is very invigorating.

(I KNOW that this is true:  I spent half of my life getting up at sparrow’s fart to go to work, and use a few drops of grapefruit oil in a steamy shower to wake me up and make me alert at 4:30 am.  Try it, it works!  Put a few drops on a  wash cloth,   hang the cloth somewhere in the shower while you wash, and let the steam of the shower release the aroma.  Then when you’re finished with your shower, rub the wet wash cloth over your face and neck and shoulders. You’ll feel more awake and alert, I swear!)

ANYway . . . .I had small vials of both of the aromas in my set bag, and this is what I did:

I put a little of the sandalwood oil mixed with a little bit of water (the essence is too strong for skin undiluted) into a separate vial for the tender skin of my kids.

I then went to each of them in their little cots, and told them I had magic relaxing sleeping potion that would let them be “asleep” for the scene and they would feel happy and safe and relaxed with their eyes closed til it was time for them to wake up.  I put the tiniest little bit beneath each of their little noses so the aroma would be constant, reminding them that it was very wonderful magic potion.

I then returned to my hiding place behind a column, and told our director, Craig Baxley, that the kids were ready.

Do I  even need to tell you that they ALL “went to sleep”, were still as angels and comfortable and safe all through the next gazillion takes?  That the director was thrilled, and the adults amazed at how good the kids were being?  I need not!

At one point, between takes, little Sammy – who played Harry –  called out, “Psssst!  Dawnie, I need some more magic sleeping potion, I think I’m waking up!”  Isn’t that the best????  I reapplied the ‘potion’, stepped back into my hiding place in case I needed to whisper to someone to stay asleep (I did not need to), and we finished the day’s work.

The true magic is a child’s belief system.  This is a very powerful truth for adults to know.

But we must always use our power for good, not evil.  There is an amazing song in Stephen Sondheim’s  INTO THE WOODS.  It’s called CHILDREN WILL LISTEN, and it’s message is important enough for me to pass on here.  Following are lyrics to part of the song:

“Careful the things you say,

Children will listen.

Careful the things you do,

Children will see.

And learn.

Children may not obey,

But children will listen.

Children will look to you

For which way to turn,

To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,

“Listen to me.”

Children will listen.

Careful the wish you make,

Wishes are children.

Careful the path they take,

Wishes come true,

Not free.

Careful the spell you cast,

Not just on children.

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you…

Careful the tale you tell.

That is the spell.

Children will listen”

Stephen Sondheim


If you tell  a child that he is bad, and worthless and has no hope,  he will fulfill that prophecy.

Tell a child that he is a blessing, and good, and has a wonderful life ahead of him . . . and he will.

He will listen.

Careful the things you say . . . . . .for children are precious, and they are our future.

And they are my JOY!


©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All Rights Reserved




Okay, now I don’t want to upset anyone who feels that the use of the word “magic” is blasphemous, or that it is somehow insulting to their beliefs.  After all, is  not trusting smile of a baby or a child magic?  The way their little fingers curl around your hand, even as their little selves are curling themselves around your heart?  Or how they blissfully fall asleep in your arms?  Are those things not the very essence of magic?

Image 1    Image 2    Image 5  TrustingEyes   I think they ARE!!

So perhaps you’ll allow me the use of the word?  I promise it will not offend, if you’ll just hang in there a minute!

While you decide  – – – –  take a look at the faces of a few of “my kids” . . . . .

IMG_2247 lauhing      You’ll be meeting many, many more over the following blogs, I assure you!

Deuce4-1 DARE you not to smile at these little guys —–>__!! babyWTE

Rhys and Ashton Outside   DSC_0543 Lekha_Vedha

Here’s the deal:  I  give my kids “magic crystals” at the end of their coaching sessions for their auditions.  I also give “magic crystals” to my little kids onset.  I tell them they are magic, because anytime someone who loves them gives them something, that is the magic part.  That someone loves them, which is magical and wonderful, and wants to give something to them, which will remind them of the magic.  So see, pretty innocent and non-blasphemous right?  Like all these amazing faces above :  innocent!!

I have two very, very favorite magic stories – I think you’ll like them, too.

I’ll tell you the first one today . . . tomorrow for the next!

The first one took place pretty early in my coaching career.  I had one client who was about 8 years old who coached quite frequently.  He was a great kid, and had a little brother named Luke who was very young.  About 4.  Luke sometimes auditioned, too, and was a sweet and loving little guy, just as was his older brother. One day, the little guy had a BIG audition, with about 4 pages of steady dialogue.  That’s a LOT for a little guy who can’t read yet.

Now, I had developed a system for helping my non-readers and brand-new readers to memorize their dialogue:  I drew pictures for their words.   After all, when I went on an audition, if I started to forget my dialogue, all I would have to do is glance down at the page.  Not so for the little ones, they’re forced to memorize everything – and those squiggles on the paper we call words don’t mean squat to a four year old. Thus, my realization – pictures!

Now, unfortunately, I did not inherit my mom, Charlene’s, amazing artistic talent. sigh.  However, I seemed to be able to get the meaning across to my kids. (Remind me later to tell you about my drawing for the word “but” and my four-year old little girl client who FREAKED OUT a casting director! )

ANYway – back on-track:  I had finished drawing all of Luke’s words while he watched, reinforcing each time what each drawing meant.  He was doing very well at “reading” his pictures, and we were getting along swimmingly.  But he was pretty much a perfectionist, even at four, and he was getting frustrated when he couldn’t remember what a picture meant.  I HAD to come up with something to give him confidence. 

Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mommies and Daddies . .  at the end of the day – in MY mind – my job is to make my babies and clients feel safe, and loved, and confident and important.  LIFE skills, for them to keep throughout their entire lives, long after they may disappear from my sphere of influence..  The call backs and the work . . . that’s icing on the cake.  Their ‘personhood’ is what my job is about . . . show biz is second to the child.  Always.


Suddenly, I knew just what to do – or at least hoped I did.

I grabbed a small very pretty quartz crystal out of my crystal box, and told Luke not to worry:  I was going to give him a magic memory crystal.  He looked intrigued, and lost some of the worry lines that were creasing his little brow.  I rubbed the crystal over all of the dialogue on the four pages, telling him that I was putting the words into his crystal.  Then I gently rubbed the rock over Luke’s forehead, telling him that it was now put into his brain and his “remembery”. (aren’t kids malaprops the BEST?!!)

I could literally see his little shoulders un-tense ( if THAT’S not magic, what is?), and he smiled.

So we began his scene again, and lo and behold, he was remembering EVERYTHING on the first three pages.  We got to page four, and I saw him get that far-away look the kids get when they suddenly “go up” (can’t remember their dialogue).  He scrunched up his face, then I saw a kind of “light bulb” go off in his expression.  He grabbed his crystal, ran it over his pictures and then his forehead.  His face lit up, and he finished the last page.  Word for word  . . . . perfect!

I will never forget that little boy . . . . he resides, still, is in a corner of my heart   . . . four years old forever. Even though he is now a young man.

Right next to oh-so-many others who have a special place in my heart . . .which will always have room for more.


 ©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013

All Rights Reserved



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