LOS ANGELES — TV show producers have three options when a cast member gets pregnant: The character can be written out of the show; the pregnancy can be strategically hidden behind props and furniture; or, as in the case of Kelly Stables, who plays the ball of fire Eden on "The Exes," the pregnancy can be written into the show.
Writing Stables out of "The Exes" would have meant the loss of her unbridled comic energy. And, because she stands a mere 4 feet, 11 inches, there was no way to hide that she was about to become a new mom.
"I gained 60 pounds when I was pregnant. They tried hiding it for the first few episodes and then they realized there was a healthy-size baby in that little belly," Stables says during an interview on the set of the TV Land series. The new mom is back on the job working on the second half of third season of the cable comedy.
"The Exes" revolves around the unlikely odd couple-plus one of Phil (Donald Faison), Haskell (Wayne Knight) and Stuart (David Alan Basche), three roommates and divorcés forced to live together by their divorce attorney and landlord, Holly (Kristen Johnston). Stables plays Holly's assistant.
Joining the cast is Leah Remini ("The King of Queens") who will play Stuart's tough-talking, no-nonsense sister Nicki.
Stables and her husband, Kurt Patino, tried to time her pregnancy during a period when she wasn't working. She thought there would be a long break between seasons of the ABC comedy "Romantically Challenged" but it ended up only running six episodes.
"At a certain point, we had to say we will try to work this the best way we can with the work schedule. And, it was a surprise to us when we did get pregnant," Stables says. "I let our producer know as soon as I could. They couldn't have been more supportive and decided immediately to write it into the show.
"I couldn't be more grateful."
It helped that she wasn't in a long-running stage production or working on a film in another country. Of all the jobs an actor can have, being part of a sitcom cast is one of the best for a new mom because they work on the closest thing to a 9-to-5 job schedule. "It's not long hours. Plus, the subject matter is light and funny. I don't have to go to a dark place," Stables says.
There have been a few dark roles for Stables over the years, including the horror films "The Ring" and "The Ring Two," but she is best known for upbeat, high-energy roles such as Melissa on "Two and a Half Men" and now as Eden. In both shows, her characters have had an energy level somewhere between the Energizer Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil.
She says she always has been full of energy going back to her days growing up in Missouri where she was a much-touted cheerleader. And, yes, she was always the top of the cheerleading pyramid.
Stables has come a long way with "The Exes" considering she was only supposed to be a guest star in the series opener. Her comic energy was so infectious, Stables was written into the series.
The finale of season three revealed that Eden and Phil have become what Stables calls "Pheden." How their romance will play out gets picked up with the fourth season opener.
"I can't say much about what's going on with the romance except that in the first episode, they are still together," Stables says.
"It's really big that I am in the romance because when they made me a series regular I don't think they knew exactly what to do with me. This romance is great because it now gets me over to the guys' place.
"I love Kristen Johnston because she is so funny, but it's neat to be in a scene with the guys."
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.