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HBO's 'The Baby' is the witty, yet sinister, aftermath of a baby falling from the sky

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Picture this - a young British chef decides to head to a cottage by the sea to unwind for the weekend. But on her first night there, a baby literally falls into her arms from the sky.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BABY")

ISY SUTTIE: (As Rita) You can trust me with your baby.

MICHELLE DE SWARTE: (As Natasha) This isn't my baby, Rit.

SUTTIE: (As Rita) OK.

DE SWARTE: (As Natasha) No, not OK. It's not my baby.

RASCOE: But this isn't really a miracle for Natasha, the heroine of HBO's new limited horror series "The Baby." In fact, it's more like an absolute curse. And she needs to figure out how to get away from this baby before it kills her. Actor and comedian Michelle de Swarte plays Natasha, and she joins us now from London. Welcome.

DE SWARTE: Thank you.

RASCOE: So tell us a little bit about where Natasha is in her life when we meet her. Like, she's in a very different place from some of her friends, right?

DE SWARTE: Yeah. I think, ultimately, Natasha's been living the life the way she wants for maybe the last two decades, and she's quite happy with the way things are. And it's inevitable that people move on and have friends start having babies and having families and whatnot. And Natasha takes it really personally.

RASCOE: I mean, it's always difficult when you're, like, at different stages, right? But it seems like with Natasha - she took it personally. But also, maybe the friends could have been giving her more attention. It seemed like it went both ways.

DE SWARTE: It can, but, you know, I think, when you have babies in the room, they just naturally take up more of the attention. That's just kind of what happens, right?

RASCOE: Yeah.

DE SWARTE: You have to be accommodating. And, I think, in - especially in terms of, like, friendships and people that you love - as their life change, you have to make adjustments if you still want to keep them in your life.

RASCOE: Well, I mean, Natasha goes through a very big change because very early on, she - as we said, like, this baby falls into her arms - very bad things happen around him. But Natasha has a hard time trying to abandon him because he's a baby, and he's cute.

DE SWARTE: Yeah. I mean, she tries to resist the charms of a baby. But inherently, she is a caregiver, right?

RASCOE: Yes.

DE SWARTE: And Natasha is so resistant to the baby's allure because she was a caregiver at a young age. And I think that kind of put her off. But I think, instinctively, she knows that she should probably be a bit more invested in this baby's well-being...

(LAUGHTER)

DE SWARTE: ...Even though she tries her best to get rid of this baby. But it doesn't seem to work out for her - poor thing.

RASCOE: No. I mean, one of the things that I really found fascinating about the show is, like, this idea of how, like, your instincts to protect, to parent, to give care - that could harm you, right? Like, how did you prepare for that? And then also, you know, just like, what did you think about that dynamic?

DE SWARTE: It was tricky. As far as preparation - I, like Natasha, have a little brother who's, like, 10 years younger than me. So I spent a lot of my childhood looking after my brother. And my mom was a single parent. And I was fortunate in the sense that I come from a family of, like, matriarchs. And so I was brought up around these women that were really open and transparent about some of the hardships of being a sole caregiver to a little human.

RASCOE: And you had a real baby, right? It wasn't a doll. Like, that was a real baby, right?

DE SWARTE: I'm telling you, it was 100% a real - now - so the main baby's...

RASCOE: (Laughter) What was that like?

DE SWARTE: It was - I mean - I mean they're babies.

RASCOE: Like, how did that affect just logistically, practically the filming?

DE SWARTE: Right. So weirdly, babies have zero respect for being on set.

RASCOE: No. No. They don't care about anything. They don't care about any of that stuff.

DE SWARTE: I know. I tried to have some chats with it. Like, listen...

RASCOE: (Laughter).

DE SWARTE: Listen, I need you to get on board with this, OK?

RASCOE: Yes. Yeah.

DE SWARTE: Generally, what I found working with babies like this is you get - you got about three takes max before they realize what's happening and they stop playing ball.

RASCOE: Yeah. I mean, I did think in the show - it seemed to show, like, a lot of different sides of not just, like, the pressures of motherhood, but what happens when you kind of fall down on the job or your child feels, like, abandoned and how that affects them in adulthood. Like, how did you see that kind of playing out in the show? Because it shows, like, being a child wanting a mother.

DE SWARTE: Yeah. I think what the show did a good job of - and, you know, the creators, Sian and Lucy, and the writers that we had on board - was showing it from everyone's point of view, right? So, like, Natasha is kind of emotionally arrested because she hasn't resolved her abandonment issues. You get to see that everyone's at some point of that scale of how much your childhood affects your adulthood and the things that you need to do in order to be able to move forward, grow and progress. You know what I mean? And there's things that you can do when you're young as coping mechanisms that might be great because they help you out immediately. But if you keep using those same tools as you get older, what aided you at one point will end up being a hindrance later down the line.

RASCOE: There's this scene where one of Natasha's friends says that she already feels like she's failing at motherhood without the added judgment from her peers like Natasha. What do you want audiences to take away from this show about the nature of being a caregiver?

DE SWARTE: I mean, what I would love is that it starts some conversations, right? Because I think being a caregiver - it's tough, and you need help. And I think it can be really isolating if you can't talk to the people around you about some of the harder times with it. In society, we see a lot of instances where the beautiful side of being a parent is highlighted, but that also comes with some tough days and tough decisions. Hopefully, by watching the show, you'll have a better understanding of how hard it is. I hope that it makes it a little bit easier to talk and check in with your friends and your family about how they're doing. And don't just presume because you're not seeing them that they're fine.

RASCOE: Yeah. That's Michelle de Swarte, who plays Natasha in the new HBO series "The Baby." Thank you so much for joining us.

DE SWARTE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKWELL SONG, "SOMEBODY'S WATCHING ME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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