Family Ties

By Ken Mammarrella

Delawareans Chuck Hayward II and his wife remember encouraging their son Chuck III to play outside instead of watching TV. 

“Now we look back and say he was actually studying because he picked up a lot of things watching TV,” says Chuck II, former director of the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. “He looked at things differently than we do.”

Chuck III, a 1998 graduate of Brandywine High School and a 20-year veteran of working in Hollywood, will show off his latest work Thursday, April 11 at the Penn Cinema on the Wilmington Riverfront. It’s a special premiere of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter Is Dead, his R-rated remake of a 1991 PG-13 cult classic, which opens nationwide the next day.

The elder Hayward says many family members plan to attend, including Myles Mapp, a cousin who gave Chuck III a place to sleep when he moved to Los Angeles. 

He needs to be out here,” Hayward recalls Mapp saying in 2002, after Chuck III earned a bachelor of science in television, radio and film from Syracuse University. “Everybody’s hiring.”

So, his son made an exploratory trip and was home for just two weeks before moving out there permanently, arriving on a Thursday and getting his first job that Monday with hyphenate Forest Whitaker, thanks to a connection from Syracuse.

Since then, Chuck III has worked on more than two dozen TV series and movies, primarily as a writer, with the best-known being Ted Lasso and WandaVision.

“The producers and director came to me with the opportunity” to remake Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter Is Dead, he says. “Being such a huge fan of the original, it was a no brainer. It’s not often we get to pay homage to something that inspired us as kid. The chance to expose a new generation to a beloved cult classic like this was too great to pass up.”

The film shows how four siblings function when their mother’s away at a yoga retreat to recover from a nervous breakdown and their bible-toting babysitter (not a spoiler alert) dies in her sleep.

“This version features a Black family,” Chuck III says. “We shot the movie at the same house as the original, so we hope audiences recognize American families have way more similarities than we think. That idea seems super necessary to convey in the times in which we’re living. … The remake features four kids instead of five like the original. That gave us the space to focus in more and really have fun exploring their characters.”

Chuck III met Christina Applegate, the star of the original, at the Emmys.

 “Yeah, that was surreal,” he says. “It was the ultimate compliment to hear from her that we did well by the original. We’d worked with the producers of the original movie, and we had a few of the actors from the original make cameos in ours. Christina wasn’t available to appear in it, unfortunately. So getting her endorsement of the finished movie felt like the last piece of the spiritual puzzle.”

He says his proudest moment in the remake is cerebral. “In therapy, there’s that theory that you’re supposed to parent your inner child. This movie gave me the chance to entertain my inner child.”

As a writer in other works, Chuck III has snuck in several family references, including a character named Saundra in Dear White People and a grocery store named Hayward’s in a TV pilot. 

“This movie doesn’t have any direct Delaware shoutouts,” Chuck III says. “But the world feels so similar to my experience growing up in Delaware it’s kind of an emotional, tonal shoutout.”