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'The Baby' Star Michelle de Swarte on the Inspiration of 'Get Out' for Horror Comedy — And What It's Really Like to Work With Twin Infants

"I know people say, 'Don't work with babies,' but I was really lucky because these babies were really good," the actor says.
by Amber Dowling — 
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Michelle de Swarte (right, with the titular baby) in 'The Baby'

HBO

The terror-inducing stories about motherhood are real, and HBO's British horror-comedy The Baby seems intent on examining them. The limited series, created by Siân Robins-Grace and Lucy Gaymer debuts on April 24, with eight installments that tackle themes of parenthood with a Rosemary's Baby twist. 

The show revolves on Natasha (Michelle de Swarte), a 38-year-old woman with no interest in being tied down with a family, even when her best mates begin their own journeys with pregnancy and parenting. But when a baby literally falls in her arms at the base of a cliff while she's taking some time out to reflect on her current life circumstances, Natasha is thrust into motherhood with a demonic baby who turns murderous whenever he's left behind. 

"I found where Natasha is in her life just so relatable," De Swarte tells Metacritic. "I loved how refreshing the script was and how honest and open the dialogue was between her and her friends. To see these women having these kinds of conversations, I wanted to be involved in this. It looked hilariously dark." 

Here, the comedian and presenter talks to Metacritic about her real-life love of horror, bringing this unique concept to life, and how a stand-up gig on Zoom eventually led her to this role.  

What is it about motherhood and horror that go together? 

I guess there are moments that are pretty stressful if you're a caregiver and there's probably a lot we don't see. Out there in society, everything seems like it's really amazing and very romantic, but looking after anything full-time is hard and it's work. There are going to be times where you're at your wit's end. That is the appeal and what's so funny about this show — even though it is also horror. 

Kind of like the social media perception of parenthood versus the reality of it? 

Yeah, exactly. I don't think it's a case where it's not happening. I think people speak amongst themselves about it. But maybe there's a reluctance to speak about it on a platform like social media or even in public freely. That's the novelty of this. 

What was your audition like for this? 

I did the opening poker scene and the first time she's in the car with the baby after I was asked to audition. I was doing gigs in lockdown, stand-up comedy over Zoom and a lot of corporate gigs. One of the gigs was for the casting director's husband. So, she'd seen the gig and they contacted my agent. 

Do you consider yourself a horror fan? 

I am a horror fan. Some of my favorite classics would be The Omen and Rosemary's Baby. Stuff like that.  

Sometimes on horror sets the cast experiences weird events or scary occurrences. Did anything like that come up while filming The Baby

It's so funny you say that because I'm a massive fan of horror and I know about all of these things like stuff that happened on A Nightmare on Elm Street — and nothing. Nothing! I've like done deep dives on the internet about it and I know what you mean because I've fallen down those rabbit holes doing research about the horror films I love. But no, nothing like that. I think I'd be really freaked out if there had been.  

Did you have any tricks or processes for getting into Natasha's mindset while filming? 

Siân had a really strong idea of who Natasha is. I was able to ask all the questions, and Nicole Kassell, the executive producer and one of the directors, also took me on this journey with building Natasha's character. While her place was being built, we got to pick the paint and the wallpaper and what books would go in her apartment. We made a playlist for Natasha, and Siân gave me a list of films I should watch. We got to do quite a lot based around Natasha and who she is. 

Can you recall any of those songs or films? 

I really like "Ghost Town" by The Specials. That was a song I played a lot. There were some Billy Bragg songs I listened to quite a bit as well. I watched Get Out a few times because Siân really liked that film. I did some of my own stuff, but I also let the creators and writers and directors guide me as well. 

How much did the sets help set the tone as well, in particular that cabin from the first episode? 

Yeah, right, that cabin is kind of amazing. What the set designers have done with that is mind blowing. Because inside when we walked in for the first time, I was like, "This is really eerie and awesome." Where it was, it was just this little standalone cabin they built. We shot in a lot of different places around England, and Natasha's apartment was a full, functioning apartment. It wasn't separate rooms; they built a whole flat. It was amazing. It really helped as far as acting. Being Natasha and being able to walk through the rooms in her apartment was really good.  

What was it like working with the baby, aka the twins, Albie and Arthur Hills? 

They're really cute. In the series they look a little bit menacing, but some of that is special effects because in real life they are pretty adorable. I was really lucky because we filmed over a number of months and when they're that small, you're watching them grow up. You're quite a big part of their little lives. So, we really bonded and we got to know each other, and I got to know their mom and dad. I was really lucky I got to spend so much time with them off camera as well. I was able to walk around with them on the set when we weren't filming and just play games with them and sing songs and do all that cute stuff. That kind of stuff is important. I know people say, "Don't work with babies," but I was really lucky because these babies were really good. They also grew up on set so they were really used to it by the end. 


The Baby airs Sundays at 10:30 pm, beginning April 24, on HBO and also streams on HBO Max.


Get to know Michelle de Swarte:
Prior to The Baby, de Swarte starred in The Duchess (Metascore: 35), but she also appeared as herself on a number of series, including I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! NOW! and Free Speech.