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Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

Acting Up: Michelle de Swarte

The Snapshot:

Michelle de Swarte plays a woman whose life becomes a horror show when a cute — but creepy — baby lands in her hands in the darkly funny British series, The Baby.

(The eight-episode limited series premiered April 24th on HBO and HBO Max with new episodes dropping every Sunday.)


The Performance:

For someone who really doesn’t want a kid, the 38-year-old Natasha (Michelle de Swarte) really doesn’t get her wish in The Baby. Between her friend who’s a new mom, a newly pregnant girlfriend, and endless supply of birth announcements in her IG feed, Natasha’s done with babies.

That’s why she decides to leave town for an isolated beachfront cabin to clear her head. That’s when it happens: A baby falling from the beach bluff above miraculously lands in her hands — and now it’s up to Natasha to figure out what to do with her precious gift from the heavens.

Call it what to expect when you’re not expecting. But here’s the problem — this baby isn’t the “return to sender” type. A nice way of saying: people keep dying around said baby. This creates a quandary for a woman who really wasn’t that into being a mother in the first place — and this is where de Swarte, the actress, plays the role super well given her newborn antagonist.

As a woman who will not be sucked in by the cute, glancing eyes of her immaculate conception (of sorts), de Swarte plays disillusionment well — especially when things do not go so well during her babysitting stint. De Swarte’s Natasha really makes you feel her plight in the presence of this little monster, perfecting the nuances of a character who can’t do right by this kid — no matter how chubby the cheeks. From dropping him into a laundry basket for a drive to a gas station (front seat, no belt) — to leaving him with the gas station attendant to watch before outright trying to ditch him — Natasha does her best to outrun this unsettling infant.

But, of course, this is a horror-comedy at the end of the day and British humor at that, so things start to go sour around this baby-from-hell from the start. Quickly, you find yourself cheering for a hasty, amicable separation — and for Natasha to return to her life of selfish existence, smoking, drinking, and doing her best to freeze time for her BFFs. Except it’s just not happening.

Through it all, de Swarte delivers a bang-up performance as a woman who’s allergic to motherhood in comical fashion. At times, her character may act like a baby, but you can’t help but cheer for her in the face of what’s quickly looking like a version of her hell.

Patrick Swayze once said, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” But for Natasha, a corner would be totally fine. Or a police station. Or with a friend. Or anywhere else but with her.

Her biological clock is ticking — just not for a baby — but rather in hopes of surviving this little bundle of evil. You just wonder if anyone is ever going to change this kid.

Let’s watch and find out.


The Career:

In the era of multi-hyphenates, the British-born de Swarte is the proud owner of three of them: writer, actress, and comedian. She’s also a former model, which is how she got discovered at age 19 before moving to New York to become involved in the comedy scene.

As a black, bi-sexual, and Jewish woman, all of which she touches on in her standup routine, the talented de Swarte has a tight 15 that covers everything from racial equality to her party days. Also, scented candles — which she proudly referred to as her fun new way to “burn money” after giving up drugs and alcohol in a routine at London’s Soho House in early 2020.

After returning to London from America just prior to the pandemic, the 41-year-old de Swarte made any upcoming midlife crisis way more bearable when she landed a role in Katherine Ryan’s The Duchess (2020), a Netflix comedy series about a single mom raising a daughter in London. In it, de Swarte plays the best friend/business partner to Katherine’s character, who is dead set on locking down sperm for baby #2 — which, let’s just say, does not go swimmingly.

Interestingly — and to show how different types of on-camera work can translate into projects that might line up more aspirationally with your dreams — de Swarte worked as a reporter for VICE America and hosted a documentary project on a fetish involving financial domination in 2015. It’s one of many projects that she’s credited as playing herself (most in the UK).

As season one of The Baby plays out and having shot her own “semi-autobiographical comedy taster” recently for Channel 4 in the UK, it looks de Swarte could have a bright future ahead as an actress as the HBO series streams its way into people’s living rooms, laptops, and phones.

Post Baby, it will be nice to see what happens for de Swarte’s career when it’s all grown up.

Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.