On ABC Family's sitcom Baby Daddy, Derek Theler plays Danny, a somewhat dim but good-hearted professional hockey player who lives with his brother Ben (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) and buddy Tucker (Tahj Mowry) and helps Ben raise his infant daughter Emma. Here Theler talks about his athletic background, his role on the show and what it's like working with babies.
How do you relate to your character?
It’s fun to bring everything I learned growing up being an athlete into the character, and being a team player, working on a team sport, it’s a lot like that with my character in regards to raising the baby. Being a team player, being there for your family members and friends, and I think that I can relate to that a lot, too, because I played sports growing up. I dealt with kids quite a bit before I moved to L.A. and tried to do this crazy acting thing. He’s just a man’s man, my character. He likes to go out and have a beer with his friends and do sports stuff. He’s a funny guy. That’s a lot like me.
Was hockey one of the sports you played growing up?
Don’t tell anybody, but I actually never played hockey. It’s funny. I played some hockey, but I never played ice hockey. I’m actually a horrible skater. I played football and basketball growing up, all through my life. It’s funny because we did one of our episodes where I actually was in full gear and we made a mock Madison Square Garden for the set and everything, and we did it all on inline skates. That’s how we did that one. I gave away the secret. We did it on roller skates, and it looks great. It was really a fun episode to shoot.
What’s it like working on set with the babies who play Emma?
The babies are the most important part of the show while we’re actually filming, because if they’re not happy then we can’t move forward. If they’re having a bad day, or upset about something and crying, then it’s pretty hard to move forward through our scene. So everybody kind of quiets down and gets ready for the baby to come on set. They’re pros -- they’re more professional than we are at this point. But the babies, we do our scenes with them, and usually they react to us and look around and follow whoever’s talking beautifully. We haven’t had that many problems with them. As we get to know them, too, they feel more comfortable with us, and in between takes we’re making sure that they’re engaged and they’re still happy to be there. We’re making faces at them. So it’s a pretty funny thing to see if you’re actually watching one of the live tapings, to see all the people surrounding the babies, making faces at them to make sure that they’re content.
Do you have any special tricks for getting the babies to like you or pay attention to you?
I just like to make faces at them. They like peek-a-boo, or when you pretend to eat one of their limbs or something, just jokingly. They just love it when you touch them or you’re close to them and engage with them.