There are plenty of real-life good and bad examples of stage parenting, ways to encourage your child's professional entertaining career without turning them into nutcases or squandering their millions.
Good: Ron Howard. Bad: Lindsey Lohan. And the Olsen twins fall somewhere in the middle of those two for balancing mega-mart makeup lines with eating disorders and a possible involvement in the death of Heath Ledger.
Local chef jimihatt and wife Angel Powell are a local couple trying their hand at stage parenting. Their almost one-year-old daughters, twins Harper and Ruby, will make their acting debut on Army Wives when the show's sixth season airs in winter 2012.
"We're actually working on their new clothing line," jimihatt jokes. The organizer of Guerrilla Cuisine (and something of a TV star himself, after recently appearing on the History Channel's Hairy Bikers) has worked on the popular Lifetime show, which is filmed in Charleston, on and off for the last two years. When his daughters were born about a year ago, at the same time, the show was looking to cast the daughter of Catherine Bell's character, Denise Sherwood. The girls were hired once they were no longer itty-bitty newborns.
Going off of jimihatt's experiences, if your kids are going to be actors, as a parent, you should have a pretty open schedule. Fortunately, Guerrilla Cuisine isn't a nine-to-five job, and jimihatt is a stay-at-home dad. Army Wives will call him two hours before a shoot and tell him when and where to meet the production, whether it's on the King Street Extension one day or the Navy Yard the next. Because of child labor laws, the girls can only work four hours a day each. "They can piss Ruby off a lot quicker than they can Harper," he says of the girls' temperaments.
While it's a bit strange seeing a beautiful celebrity pretending to be the mother of his children, feeding his daughters or laying them down in a crib, jimihatt believes his daughters have an idea of what's going on. "I think when they hear action, they kind of know that everyone else is being quiet." They're two months older now than when they first started, and jimihatt says they're getting smarter every day.
A stage parent should also understand that the people involved in the production are looking out for their child. "If you're a stage parent, they want your kid, but they really want you to be happy too," he says. "The director and the actors that our kids are going to be in the scene with all stop by the trailer to say 'hi' before the shoot, so there's a really cordial meeting process that works itself to professionalism on the set."
But ultimately, it's finances that are typically the end-all issue with child stars (see: Gary Coleman, Macaulay Culkin, LeAnn Rimes, etc.). "They've got their own bank account now," Harper and Ruby's father says. The girls make a "day player" pay rate, getting vouchers for $100 to $300 a day, which their parents have put into a special account for the girls. When we spoke to jimihatt, they'd just signed 10 more episodes. "It's their money," he says. "I guess we have to pay their taxes on it, of course."
He wants his daughters to be in show business as long as they'd like, and as long as there are opportunities. Jimihatt and his wife have connections at networks like Showtime, HBO, Logo, and Spike TV, and he understands that with Army Wives under their belt, his daughters should be ahead of the pack with whatever else they might get to do. But until then, there are no plans to make any big purchases with the girls' money.
And patience is key. "If there was any advice to give to someone, I would just say it's not about jumping through the hoops. It's about making the friendships," jimihatt explains. "I don't know if it's who you know or what you know. The kids don't know anything yet, but it's fun. It's a fun process and I'd like to participate in it for a long time with these guys."