A star was born. And born. And born. And born.
It was lights, camera and a lot of action as 10-month-old quadruplets Caitlin, Zachary, Melanie and Scott Poole made their acting debut yesterday. The quads, who live in Mount Airy in Carroll County, mostly gurgled and drooled their way through a day's worth of shooting and reshooting for a 30-second milk commercial -- and threw cumulatively fewer tantrums than the professional actors they normally work with, crew members agreed.
The commercial, which will begin airing early next year, is for the Middle Atlantic Milk Marketing Association, aptly acronym-ed "MAMMA." The commercial features the quads' mom, Beverly Poole, 27, drinking milk for energy to get through her daily "workout" -- lifting, carrying, feeding and juggling her four babies.
"This is pretty tiring," Mrs. Poole said after being filmed doing four sets of arm lifts -- one with each of her 16- to 18-pound babies. "But it's a lot of fun, and they're wonderful babies. They seem to be tolerating things pretty well. They're pretty versatile."
Yes, their skills traverse that broad spectrum from looking cute to acting adorable to being downright coochie-woochie, cuddly-wuddly. It's nice work if you can get it, and this may be only the first of many starring roles.
"Our goal is to grow with them," said John Sitnik, senior vice president of W. B. Doner & Co., the Baltimore advertising agency that created the commercial for MAMMA and hopes to feature the quads in future milk ads. The Pooles join Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken in promoting milk for the marketing association.
No one would say how much the Pooles are getting for the commercial, which will air in Baltimore, Washington and parts of Pennsylvania, and may go nationwide. ("When they ask you that," one crew member advised Mrs. Poole, "tell them they have to talk to your agent.")
Taking over a vacant house in Roland Park yesterday was a crew of directors, camera operators, sound and light technicians, prop and costume supervisors and, most important, "baby wranglers" ferry the stars between their dressing rooms and sets. Shots were set up in the living room, stairwell, kitchen and den, with four of everything everywhere: playpens, high chairs, strollers, teddy bears and toys. An entire room was devoted to costumes -- four little versions of every overall, turtleneck and sweat suit.
Wearing headsets to communicate between Baby Central upstairs and the shooting locales downstairs, crew members kept the process on track: "Can you give me periodic updates on the feeding? . . . So maybe in 10 minutes they'll be done?" "Melanie's ready, she's on her way down with her father."
Unlike most film sets, this one seemed remarkably relaxed, with the director cooing at what he was seeing through the camera and no one yelling when the stars flubbed a scene. They merely cast all eight of their big, blue, curly-lashed eyes at the director and all was forgiven.
"It's going to be good," predicted Kevin Smith, a Chicago-based director who has worked with older talent, from Michael Jordan to the Chicago Film Festival. "Our goal is to show how much physical activity is involved with four babies, to create a sense of mayhem."
That shouldn't be difficult: With four babies, getting them to do the same thing at the same time in the same place is a bit like the old spinning-plates act. There's always one crawling away or poking at a sibling or starting a squall that threatens to spread, one by one by one.
Kind of like real life at the Poole residence.
"I've lost 22 pounds since I've been there -- they're a lot of work, but also a lot of fun," said Nadene Henzsley, a nurse who has cared for the babies since they came home (mid-February for three-quarters of them, several weeks later for Caitlin) and helped out during yesterday's filming. All the babies had medical problems initially, but now only Scott needs oxygen at night and Caitlin is fed through a tube in her stomach.
"It's all been kind of a blur," said dad Curtis Poole, 35, a Montgomery County firefighter, of their lives since the quads were born three months prematurely on Dec. 1. (The couple had gone through fertility treatments to conceive.)
"A friend of mine who has twins had told me the first two years will be a blur," he said. "We try to take pictures of them once a month, because you get so busy with four of them you don't notice things changing. So it will be nice to have this TV commercial."