One child Jody worked with had just a few lines and knew them perfectly, so after rehearsal, the two of them relaxed a bit with some Radio Disney. The girl's mother batted the radio off and insisted they do the lines again. Kind of a red flag. When the shoot began, Jody said, "You got this." The mother said, in a smiling singsong voice, "Be perfect. Nothing less." Buckling under pressure, the girl flubbed her lines, and the director called for a break.
The mother pulled the girl to another room, and Jody followed. (Part of her job is to never let a child out of her sight. She once lost track of one for a couple of minutes at a mall shoot and was surprised she wasn't fired.) "She looked dead in her eyes," says Jody, "and said in a gruff voice that came out of nowhere, 'You do this. You do this. Do you WANT to go back to our old shithole of a home? No? Then you do this.'" The girl was on the verge of tears. Then when they returned to set, the mother was bubbly again. "Oh, she's ready," she said. "Just needed a pep talk."
After more flubbed lines, they had to let that child go. Yep, if the kids don't perform, their asses get fired. The mother accepted the news with a smile, leaving Jody to only imagine what the car ride home would be like. Other times, she's seen stage moms react to firings by showering everyone in sight with F-bombs, child actors included. Either way, it's not the wrangler's place to criticize. "If there's any violence, you better believe we'd report that," she says, "but if we see a kid who obviously doesn't want to be here, and a stage mom pushing them into the audition, we can't do anything about it besides use it as a possible factor in not hiring them."
The best stage parents, says Jody, have had their own experiences in show business. That gives them more advice and knowledge to share, obviously, and also gives them perspective. They know child actors need balance. "Like, 'You can try some acting, but also play with your friends and go to school,'" says Jody. Parents in the business say I don't want him to be the next Macaulay Culkin or I don't want her to be the next Amanda Bynes. "One parent in particular carried around Natalie Wood's biography. I had to ask her once during a break, and she said, 'So I can keep myself from becoming that.'"