EXCLUSIVE: Tyler Ritter Shares Portraits of Newborn Son & Reveals How He's Reconnected With His Late Father


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.”

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

“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.”

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.

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

“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!”

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