When the Howard family adopted two tiny babies from Ethiopia last year, they had no way of knowing those same infants would be sharing the silver screen with stars like Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro before they turned two.
Kindred and Meredith Howard didn’t go looking to adopt Samuel and Asher. But when they heard about these two boys, brought to an orphanage by a father who couldn’t give them what they needed to survive after their mother died during childbirth, they knew they couldn’t forget the twins, either.
The boys were so small they could fit in the palm of your hand at ten days old. But after being brought back to the states, legally adopted, they fit in perfectly in the Howard family home just outside Atlanta. They overcame most of their health issues and were thriving.
Throughout the process, the Howards leaned on a community of adoptive parents who offered support to each other. It’s that community that mentioned the need for Ethiopian babies to act as extras in a film being shot in Atlanta.
Figuring the boys were just babies, Meredith and Kindred thought it might be a fun experience to see what was involved in the casting process. They emailed a few photos and forgot about it for a bit.
But then the call came from the casting director, asking the parents to bring the boys in for a face-to-face meeting.
After the casting director meeting they were asked to come back to meet the director. And the next day they were asked to come meet Jennifer Lopez.
Yes, Jennifer Lopez.
It turned out her character in the What to Expect movie would be adopting a baby from Ethiopia. And when she met Sammy and Asher, everyone knew it was another perfect fit.
Sammy cuddled up to J. Lo, according to the Howards, while Asher was a bit more feisty. Sammy ended up being the baby needed for most scenes, while Asher, being the bigger twin, was used in a scene to show a flash-forward of the couple, enjoying their baby months later in the movie.
Kindred Howard described one of his favorite incidents on set. In one particular scene, J. Lo’s character is dressed up, looking stunning, and she has baby Sammy on her lap. The Howards tell me during filming, Sammy gave her a little grin, then proceeded to vomit all over her beautiful dress. And they say she handled it like most mothers would…she changed, cleaned it right up, and went right back to taking care of business. It’ll be a fun story for Sammy to share some day, I am sure.
The family spent a couple weeks on set, meeting the various actors, film makers and even the author of the original ‘What to Expect’ book, Heidi Murkoff.
They’re still in touch with many of the people who were part of the experience and hope to attend the premier in LA in mid-May.
But they’re also hoping the attention turned toward their sons can be used for good, to help other children in Ethiopia struggling to survive. The Howards want to make it clear that their superstar sons probably wouldn’t have made it much longer under the conditions they were facing. And they’re worried about the other children who still face those circumstances.
The Howards have a blog that they’ve created to share resources for adoptive and prospective adoptive parents. It’s www.oursammyandasher.com and is helpful to anyone considering the option.
Meantime, Meredith works part-time and is predominantly a stay-at-home mother. Kindred is the founder & lead coach for Family Upward, an organization devoted to helping couples & parents protect their most precious relationships. He is also the author of recently released book, Cavemen in Babyland: What New & Expecting Mommies Should Know About New Daddies (So That They Won’t Kill Them).
Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect, has created the What to Expect Foundation to help parents around the US, and ultimately around the world, with the mission “to educate and empower moms in need so they can expect healthier pregnancies, safer deliveries and healthier, happier babies.” You can find out more about that by clicking here.
If you’d like to see the movie trailer for the What to Expect movie, set to be released May 18th, click here.
(Special note to those in Atlanta: Kindred Howard will be at the Atlanta Baby and Child Expo on May 12th, leading up his own version of the “Dudes Group”, similar to the movie, in the Man Cave.)