After years of toiling in relative obscurity among the preschool and day-care circuit, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is finally about to get its moment in the sun courtesy of State College actress Caitlin Moeller.
Cast as the middle child in comedian Jim Gaffigan’s upcoming TV Land sitcom — aptly titled “The Jim Gaffigan Show” — Caitlin has been entrusted with delivering the melody that bookends the episode, an elaborate daydream sandwiched between verses of the familiar lullaby.
Fortunately, Caitlin is no stranger to intricate fantasies — in fact, at 5 years old she’s something of a specialist, one who can easily delineate the difference between herself and the character she plays.
“I play Elizabeth Gaffigan but we are actually the Moellers,” Caitlin said.
It’s not exactly method but she still totally sells that lullaby.
“The Jim Gaffigan Show” stars the comedian as himself, a husband and father of five who also happens to go on stage at night and tell jokes to strangers. Ashley Williams (“How I Met Your Mother”) plays his wife in a cast rounded out by Adam Goldberg and Michael Ian Black.
The series won’t premiere on TV Land until July 15, but Caitlin has already logged three months and 11 episodes worth of work in NEP Studios at Hotel Pennsylvania in New York.
On Friday, cameras rolled on her last day of shooting for the season. Now, she’ll leave her TV family and return to State College where she lives with her mother, father and 12-year-old brother, her first acting job officially complete.
“The people who work with me, the people who help me, they’ve been very nice to me,” Caitlin said.
Caitlin is no stranger to cameras. At the age of 3 she was signed by Generation Model Management to pose for print ads. Motion pictures seemed like the next logical step.
“We figured we would try TV. We figured it would be fun,” Heather Moeller, Caitlin’s mother, said.
Eventually Caitlin landed an audition for “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” where she competed against a mob of other blond-haired blue-eyed children to occupy a place in the comedian’s fictional family.
Several callbacks later, Caitlin was awarded the job.
“She kept going ‘oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness,’ ” Moeller said.
The pilot, originally made for CBS, shot in February 2014 but wasn’t added to the network’s upcoming slate of shows.
Moeller said she had given up hope that the show would find home when they received notice that TV Land had come to the rescue.
After securing a three-month sublet in Manhattan, Caitlin and her mother moved to the Big Apple to start production on the series and begin her education as an actress.
Lesson No. 1? Don’t look directly at the camera.
Moeller said that, as the season progressed, Caitlin became better at engaging with Gaffigan and her fellow actors on stage, creating moments instead of just reciting lines.
Which isn’t to say that learning the lines should be considered any less of an accomplishment — especially for an actress who can’t read the scripts.
Each of Gaffigan’s faux brood is usually given at least one line per episode and, in Caitlin’s case, all of them are committed to memory with the help of her mother.
Gaffigan’s wife, co-executive producer and co-writer Jeannie has also helped guide Caitlin through her performance.
“She’s been helpful explaining to Caitlin when she needs to hit a line or if she wants her to say it in a different tone,” Moeller said.
The show typically does between 10 and 15 takes a scene, but in between the young actors work with a teacher or indulge in make-believe of a slightly more recreational variety.
“I play with my brothers and sisters, but the fake brothers and sisters,” Caitlin said.
By law, the young actress is only allowed to work a six-hour day. In her free time, Caitlin made the most of life in New York, a city she favors over State College due to its vibrant food and toy-store scene.
Right now, it’s all about the experience. Acting is just something fun that she does, like painting or gymnastics.
Caitlin still has many career days ahead of her, but at the moment she’s content picturing herself helping animals — or better yet, working at a zoo.
As for the show, it’s too soon to tell if it will be granted a second season, but Caitlin wouldn’t mind if the cameras continued to roll.
“I love all of the people who are there and that’s why I want to keep doing it,” Caitlin said.