EXCLUSIVE: Tyler Ritter Shares Portraits of Newborn Son & Reveals How He's Reconnected With Late Dad John Ritt

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Photo: ET
Tyler Ritter is revealing the first portraits of his and wife Lelia Parma’s son, Benjamin Parma Ritter, who was born on June 9. The Arrow star is opening up to ET about life as a dad and how the unexpected surprise of becoming a parent has made him more connected to his late father, acting icon John Ritter, who died at 54 from an aortic dissection.
“Some people had braced me for it, saying, ‘It’s going to be the most beautiful moment of your life and probably the hardest moment of your life knowing your dad’s not here,’” Ritter tells ET about preparing for the moment that he would become a father, nearly 14 years after the death of his own. But any hesitation was wiped away the moment his son was born. “It was actually more affirming to see him born,” he says, wondering “if what I’m feeling now for Benjamin is what my dad felt for me. I’m starting to see the world through [my father’s] eyes and feeling closer and more connected to him.” The 32-year-old actor says that memories of his upbringing, particularly moments with John, have recently become fully formed. “Like, one of his favorite things was to take us to Dodger games, and I was suddenly thinking about how incredible it was that it always felt like it was just us and him,” Ritter explains. “He would invent different characters or pretend to walk into a column in the middle of a stadium full of people just to make us laugh. Everyone would look at him like, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ but he had the ability to always make it feel like it was just us and him. Now with Benjamin, I feel the same -- when we’re with him everything else melts away.”
The McCarthys starand his wife of two years had only just started trying for a baby and were surprised when Parma got pregnant immediately. After an initial test showed as negative, they were shaking off their disappointment by preparing for a date night when Parma took a second test, which was positive. The Argentine Pilates instructor, who has also performed in musical theater and studied theater directing, tried to be creative when breaking the news to Ritter. But he admits he “had the worst reaction.” MORE: Tyler Ritter Opens Up About the Death of His Father and Acting Icon John Ritter “I had been watching YouTube videos of expecting dads getting the news; they open a present their wives give them, then there’s a moment of silence before they look up and a single tear rolls down their face. I was like, ‘It’s probably going to be something like that,’” Ritter says, while detailing the moment Parma told him she was pregnant. “Lelu suggested having a glass of wine, and I went to open the cabinet. Right at eye level, she had taped the test to the wine bottle. This foreign object was inches away from my face and freaked me out, so I slammed it shut. Next thing I knew we were hugging, and Lelu said, ‘That was a strange reaction.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean? I just hugged you!’ She said, ‘You didn’t just hug me -- you turned bright red and started saying, ‘No, no, no!’ I meant ‘No way,’ but it wasn’t the most comforting reaction. I blacked out, which happens to me at huge moments.”
Photo: Tija Zamparelli
Their pregnancy wasn’t the only joyous news in the family. Within two weeks, the pair learned that Ritter’s sister, Carly, was also pregnant, and due just two days after their son. Benjamin, the first grandchild in the Ritter family,made his entry three days before his cousin (a girl), with Ritter and Parma spending the first part of labor at their Los Angeles home with their doula. “It was just the three of us at home. It felt so intimate and even romantic,” recalls Parma, who feels “lucky” to have experienced a smooth 7-hour birth. “It was painful, but as intense as it gets, it becomes equally beautiful and profound. I feel like I’ve bonded with Tyler in a different way and there’s this very deep connection that we share now.” MORE: Tyler Ritter Reveals the Best Career Advice From Late Father John Ritter After the trio drove to the hospital “screaming like in the movies,” Benjamin arrived around 2:30 p.m. on June 9, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, with Ritter -- who jokes he was hyperventilating during the birth -- cutting the cord, then breathing a sigh of relief upon hearing his son’s first cries. “He was just beautiful,” Ritter says, adding that they chose the name Benjamin because they wanted something that was simple for both Americans and Argentines. “His hair was very dark [from being wet], which was a little concerning since we were both complete towheads, so that [was] my first weird thought: ‘Honey, why is his hair so dark?’ They put him on Lelu’s chest and we just sat and stared into his eyes. All the things I anticipated would make me nervous or queasy were just tiny details and the beauty and miracle factor overrode it all. Your life changes because suddenly you have this being who is 100 percent dependent on you for keeping him alive.”
Photo: Tija Zamparelli
“I’ve been joking that Tyler was possessed by a midwife during labor,” Parma adds. “It was crazy how he knew exactly what I needed and how to do it. There was such a strong connection, which I wasn’t expecting since this was the first time for both of us and that was passed on to the baby. He’s so connected with him.” Ritter has continued to build a strong bond with Benjamin, taking on full-time diaper duty, mastering special ways he likes to be held and planning their first Dodgers game. And, while Parma worried motherhood might be an adjustment, she’s relishing every minute. MORE: Jason Ritter Remembers His Late Father John on His Birthday: 'He's Even More on My Mind' “I was expecting to get overwhelmed being with the baby all day,” she admits. “I’m the kind of person who needs time alone and I was worried about missing my freedom, but now it just feels like I need way less to make me happy. You take a shower and it feels like you’ve been at a spa all weekend. You take a one-hour nap and it feels like 4 hours. When he wakes at night, there’s that first reaction of, ‘Oh, god,’ but when I see him, all I want to do is please him and see him happy.” Having grown up in Argentina, Parma admits she never imagined raising a child away from her family, but she and Ritter started dating almost 10 years ago after they met while he was teaching there. After Ritter started pursuing acting, they eventually moved back to Los Angeles, where he and his family grew up.
Photo: Tija Zamparelli
Since welcoming Benjamin, the couple has made significant efforts to ensure that he is raised surrounded by and familiar with both cultures. In addition to taking Benjamin to their favorite Argentine restaurant, Culver City’s Grand Casino -- where they chatted with ET and have befriended fellow families with “Yankee-Tino” babies -- they’re speaking only Spanish at home. “We’re trying to do all Spanish in the house, but sometimes I’ll be talking to him in English and remember I should be talking in Spanish,” Ritter laughs. “I’ll switch over and immediately he looks at me like, ‘This is not right!’ He has a special cry for when my Spanish is bad.” MORE: Jason Ritter Is Engaged to Melanie Lynskey! Just as Parma hopes to instill a strong sense of culture in Benjamin, Ritter hopes to pass on his dad’s strong work ethic. Although the actor is currently enjoying time off, he wrapped on a new series, A Week in the Life of Milly, on which he plays playing a musician, shortly before Benjamin’s birth and almost signed a project which would have taken the family to Bangladesh two weeks after he was born. “I grew up with my dad working all the time,” says Ritter, who also has two brothers, including Emmy-nominated Parenthood and Tales of Titan star Jason Ritter. “He was proud of the work he did and we were all proud of how he handled it. From the day we found out we were pregnant, it’s been on my mind that I want to have a job and be a good role model for working and how important and satisfying it is. So, I’m looking forward to working and bringing that side of fatherhood to life.”

Acknowledging that there are dads who decide not to work, Ritter admits he sees the attraction because of just how special it’s been for him to be home with Benjamin, having opted not to take the Bangladesh project. “It’s been amazing to just be at home with him and build that relationship,” he says. “But I think because it was such a big part of my relationship with my dad, it’s important to me. I remember going to sets with him and being fascinated. That would be a dream to get to bring Benjamin to something.” As for the possibility of Benjamin following the family’s footsteps into showbiz one day, Ritter says he’s already developing a singing voice! “I was driving home and Lelu sent me a voice memo of sounds he was making while he was feeding because he likes to sing a bit,” Ritter shares. “I had him plugged into the speaker and probably looked like a mad man driving with this huge smile on my face, windows down, cranking my baby’s singing!”