One of 6-year-old Jack Hamill’s toddler twin sisters wants him to turn the television down. Right now. She’s not going to tell him again — which she informs him in a voice that handily drowns out the offending appliance in the first place. It’s one of several amusing interruptions in the chat I’m having with the kids’ parents, Dan and Michelle Hamill, who — along with their adorable, tow-headed brood — are the stars of TLC’s Our Little Family, which premieres Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 10/9CT.
All five of the Hamills live with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and throughout the series, Dan, a 48-year-old professional woodworker, and Michelle, 40, tap into their own experiences to help their kids adapt to the world around them while celebrating family milestones and events, and everyday ups and downs. I caught with the Hamills to talk about their family and their hopes for the series.
Channel Guide Magazine: Let’s start with how you because a family in the first place. What’s the love story?
Dan: We met an event. Little People of America has an annual national event but then there are smaller regional events in the spring and fall and we met at a regional in New Jersey. That was the first Little People event I ever went to. She’s from Maryland and I’m from Canada, so we became friends at first. We had mutual friends and we hung around a lot and dated other people for maybe two years and then at some point we started dating and the rest is history. Engagement, marriage, kids …
CGM: … and a TV show! Tell me how the series came to be.
Dan: The people at Discovery Communications posted something on Facebook that they were looking for a little person contractor and a friend of mine posted my name. They asked for my permission to call me and they did. We talked on Skype and they sent people out to speak to us. I guess they liked what they saw and wanted to share it with America!
CGM: Did either of you have initial hesitations about opening your lives with the cameras?
Michelle: Well, we have three kids. The girls are too young to realize what is going on, so my main concern was for my son Jack because his life is going to be out there and he’s in kindergarten and what people might say and comment and things like that. He was my No. 1 concern
CGM: Did it help knowing that TLC’s The Little Couple and Little People Big World have been so well done and well received?
Michelle: Oh, of course! That’s the best thing. Because of those two shows and how wonderfully they have been done, I was almost positive that this show would go in the same direction. But I’ve never really had my life out there so at the same time, that was my concern. And then, as I thought more about, Jack is in kindergarten and for all those moms out there who have little-people kids, I want them to see how a six-year old can develop and become just like everyone else.
CGM: Tell me more about using your experiences to help your kids navigate growing up in an average-size world.
Michelle: It’s definitely a plus that we have been through life as little people and we know what to expect and we can relate to our kids when stuff happens. But I definitely think the world is a lot different today than when we grew up, so that’s going to be the challenge as they grow up.
Dan: It’s certainly different than if you’re an average size parent with a little-person child — you’re probably much more concerned than we are in some respects. We’ve been there and that will help at any crossroads we come to, but we also look back on our childhood and we went through it relatively unscathed. Of course it’s still scary and you want everything to go well for your child and even better than what you had. But we didn’t have any big nightmare memories, so we don’t have as much fear going forward with our children as an average-sized person who is new to all this might.
What we try to do personally — we hope the show will do moving forward — is for the average-size parents that are members of the association for the Little People of America, if their child happens to be a little person, we want them to go there and use all the benefits of the Association. We like the fact that the parents all socialize together and become friendly with each other and provide a confidante that is going through the same thing. We encourage them to speak to us to make sure that average-size parents of little people speak to the little people parent of little people. It’s not two separate groups.
CGM: Tell me more about Jack, Cate and CeCe. What are we going to learn about them as the series progresses?
Michelle [laughing at the shrieking in the background]: You’re going to see that the girls are very dramatic!
Dan: The girls are definitely more high-maintenance than Jack was.
Michelle: You’ll see that Jack is pretty easy-going. He has fun with basically everything that we do throughout the series — you only really see him sad in one storyline. Other than that, what you see on TV is how he is. He’s pretty great.
Dan: He’s really outgoing and witty and funny and he’s been a great boy. Hopefully he continues that way and stays as polite and as caring for others as he is now. And the girls are unique in that they have a soul mate right there beside them 90-percent of the time. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad. They’re fun together, but they’re also uniquely different.
Michelle: You’ll definitely see there are different sides to the girls, even though they are twins — they’re definitely very different individuals.
CGM: What are you most hoping people enjoy most about Our Little Family?
Dan: Well, we want them to be entertained first and foremost. We want to tell the story that we’re little, but we don’t want that to be the only story that we tell. We want people to see how our lives are different from theirs because we’re little and things we run into, but we also want people to see that our lives are really close to theirs — probably closer that they think. And people who have twins might watch it for the twin thing. Hopefully people get different things out of it.
Michelle: There’s a lot of humor it. Like dinner — we’ve done a couple of dinner scenes and they’re quite humorous.
Dan: I’ll also be interested to see some of the things that went on with Michelle and the girls while I was at work.
CGM: The Little Couple and Little People, Big World have lasted far longer than either family imagined, turning them into bona fide TV stars. Have you given that part any thought?
Michelle [laughing]: It’s a little scary. I’m trying to take one step at a time! [laughs]
Our Little Family premieres Tuesday, February 17 at 10/9CT on TLC.
Photos and video: TLC