Interview with Katie Leclerc & Vanessa Marano of "Switched at Birth" on ABC Family - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Katie Leclerc & Vanessa Marano of Switched at Birth

Interview with Katie Leclerc & Vanessa Marano of "Switched at Birth" on ABC Family 12/9/11

ABC Familyís Q&A Session with Katie Leclerc & Vanessa Marano
Switched at Birth

Moderator Could you possibly tell us one thing that we probably donít already know about whatís in store for your character in the second half of season one?

V. Marano All right, I will. Whatís in store for Bay Kennish in the second half of season one is she kind of is making a decision whether or not to give up street art. There is a situation that she runs into where it almost costs her something pretty major in her life and that makes her start thinking about well, is it really worth the risk of illegal activity? And decides something thatóitís an interesting thing for her because itís a big part of her that she has only shared with the two men of her lifetime and itís a big part of her identity that she must be losing.

K. Leclerc For Daphne thereís a lot of rebuilding for her and Angelo to do, or building to start. Itís not even rebuilding. She needs to get over a lot of things in regards to him and she really starts to figure out what it is she really cares about and what it is she really is going to go after.

Sheís a very competitive person and Iíve also gotten to play a lot of basketball so far this season. So, thatís been a lot of fun. That comes with new friends and new lessons to learn.

Moderator Excellent. Now looking back from a sort of personal standpoint, maybe professional, but not as your characters, just as two young women, I would love to hear from both of you how your life has changed since Switched at Birth became this big phenomenon the last couple of months.

V. Marano I honestly wouldnít say my life has changed that much, other than the fact that I have a job, which is awesome. Itís a job with fantastic, talented, wonderful people and Iím so pleased that Iím part of something that really has hit home with both the hearing community and the deaf community. So, if anything, I think my life has changed in that aspect is that I feel like Iím a part of something that people genuinely love and are genuinely caring about.

K. Leclerc For me, it seems quite a bit. I was working as a receptionist before this job and I was able to, literally, have my dreams come true. I was able to quit. I became successful in something that I had worked for ten years to achieve. Iíve made incredible new friends. Iíve gotten to go places and experience things that I never would have otherwise. Every day is a new lesson in gratitude.

Moderator What do both of you like best about your character?

V. Marano What I like most about Bay is that people donít always love her. Sheís kind of difficult. Sheís a little bit socially awkward almost. She says whatís on her mind without really thinking about it. She has a sense of humor that a lot of people donít get and she really just genuinely wants to be loved and accepted by people but she has a really hard time with it.

K. Leclerc My favorite thing about Daphne is that sheís never a victim. She is a normal high-school girl who struggles with boys and she gets good grades and she plays basketball and she has all these day-to-day activities that anyone can relate to. No matter who you are, you can relate to it; the struggles, the ups and downs, and oh, by the way, she happens to also be deaf. Itís almost secondary to the rest of her life. She thrives in people and not in sorrow and wallowing in what some people might see as a huge challenge. But she gets over it.

V. Marano If anything, I think Daphne handles life better than Bay, ironically.

Moderator What was it like for the two of you to present at the AMA?

K. Leclerc It was awesome. It was the best night ever. It was really, really fun and to get to do it with my good friend, Vanessa, was that much more special. It was super cool.

V. Marano We had the best time. We had so much fun. It was great; weirdly, because neither one of us is involved in the music industry so it was kind of almostóI feel like we were giddy to be there because it was something that we werenít involved in, yet we were involved in because we were presenting.

K. Leclerc Totally giddy to be there. Totally giddy.

Moderator Was it nerve wracking?

K. Leclerc No, it wasnít nerve wracking. It was just exciting, I think, more thanóthereís just a good energy and LMFAO was the best performance of the night, hands down. It was so much fun, so much fun.

V. Marano It was so great. We had the best time. We were not nervous, but I think at one point after we presented, totally got stuck on stage and didnít know where to go. Like totally, like oh, okay, done with our little lines now and theyíre performing and weíre still standing here.

K. Leclerc Yes, the poor stage manager had to like come out from behind the curtain and like wave us over to her like, come here you guys. So much fun.

Moderator Switched at Birth has so many fans. What has been your favorite experience or reaction from one of the fans?

V. Marano Katie, you want to take that?

K. Leclerc Sure, yes. I have to tell you, I Tweet and I love Twitter. Itís just the immediate response that is so readily accessible. I love going on and weíll get comments from fans that are small mementos like, ĎI learned how to be patient with my deaf cousin because of Switched at Birthí, or big mementos like, ĎI understand the importance of and the need for interpreters so I changed my major to ASL because of Switched at Birthí. I mean, itís a very broad spectrum, but I think the response has just been overwhelmingly positive and I understand why. When we working on it, I think all of us felt like we were doing something that was special and important. Now that those fans have kind of responded similarly, Iím just proud to be a part of it and thankful to have been along for the ride.

V. Marano Katie and I both did a signing at Planet Hollywood in New York and it was amazing to see the hearing fans and the deaf fans; how many of them there were and to see them together and to see each community that there is not necessarily a divide between, but both joining a program for different reasons and similar reasons. I think that thatís been the most amazing thing is that we have such a colorful group of fans because theyíre hearing, theyíre deaf, theyíre teenage, theyíre mothers, theyíre male - a lot of them which is surprising. And I think that thatís great.

Moderator And along those lines, you guys talk about how you have such a broad range of fans, what do you think is the connecting thread that this show seems to connect with so many different people?

V. Marano I think itís because itís so relatable. Thereís a character for everybody to relate to. Youíre a Daphne, youíre a Bay, youíre a Kathryn, youíre a Regina, youíre a John, youíre a Toby, and youíre an Emmett. I think that what really resonates with people is that there are so many story lines and to top it off, youíre learning about culture and community that a lot of people werenít introduced to beforehand.

Moderator One of the things thatís so enticing about the show is that there has been so many plot twists and surprises, just in the first episodes. Were either of you able to see them coming? Or were you just as surprised when you read the script?

K. Leclerc We donít get to read anything. Itís tragic and fun, kind of, at the same time. But I just want to knowóI just feel like I should know.

V. Marano I have tried so hard. Our writers will tell you Iím still trying. I like walk up to them randomly, and Iím like, ďSo, guys, whatís happening in episode ÖĒ. I donít do it well, but I try really hard. They will not tell us anything. And with the whole Regina knowing about the switch, Constance knew most of the time because it affected the way she was playing the character and the writers obviously knew. Lizzy, our producer, was so proud of herself keeping that secret from the rest of the cast. Like she was so proud of herself and I think, if anything, it has been enticing her more to keep her secrets.

K. Leclerc She is a really good secret keeper and itís really hard on all of us. I mean, because weíre just as much fans of the show as the fans are themselves. So, on a weekly basis, we are waiting on pins and needles to find out what happens next.

Moderator Bay and Daphne seem to have very different clothing styles on the show. I was wondering if either of you kind of match up to your characterís fashion sense? Or you just canít believe what youíre wearing? Where do you fall on that?

K. Leclerc I feel like I have a very similar style sense to Daphne. I am very much a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal when Iím hanging out at home and Daphne does that. Daphne wears a lot of cardigans, though. Iím not so much a cardigan gal.

V. Marano I agree. My style is very similar to Bay, if it was multiplied by a thousand. I like the color black and Bay likes the color black, too. But Bayís honest, so she gets crazy artistic with funky, kooky skirts and the combat boots and the everything and itís awesome because itís like what I totally--if I would see on a mannequin and would be like, ďYes, thatís really coolĒ, but would never be brave enough to wear in real life.

Moderator I saw your Winter Wonderland pictures and it looked like it was a blast. I was wondering what it was like to get together with the whole ABC Family family?

K. Leclerc I was telling Jen, the publicist, earlier since I was a little girl Iíve always wanted to go to Rockefeller Plaza at Christmas and ice skate underneath the tree and that, in itself, was a great experience. We got to see Blair Redford, who is on The Lying Game. I love Blair and it was nice to see him. It was nice to see them again and New York in the wintertime is just a sight to see all by itself. It was a great weekend. It was a quick trip, but a great weekend.

V. Marano It was beautiful. I was so excited that none of us fell, with the exception of Constance Marie, when ice skating. I was proud of the whole ABC Family for that.

Moderator How do Bay and Daphne deal with Angeloís return this season?

V. Marano They deal with it really differently. Bay has, the sane half of her that she for 16 years didnít realize she was going to have. She just wants him to be awesome. Wants him to love her and in a way, she even wants him to accept her more than he does Daphne. Because in the long run, everybody has accepted and loved Daphne and while everybody accepts and loves Bay, itís a little bit harder to get to know Bay. She just wants the Angelo thing to work and she wants him to live up to her expectations so much that she is almost blinded to anything negative about him.

K. Leclerc Daphne never had Angelo in her life but she had a place to put every ounce of anger, every ounce of distrust in humanity, every negative. Daphne is a very optimistic person but I think it is a result of her stashing away every negative feeling she ever had and blaming it all on Angelo, and at the same time, blaming all of his decisions on herself because she has guilt and anger and sorrow and loneliness and so much to deal with, with him. There is a lot of rebuilding to do. So I think it starts slow and you have to take him with baby steps.

Moderator Do you have a favorite episode so far from either the shows weíve seen or upcoming shows from season one?

V. Marano Oh, thatís a good question. Letís see. From season one (a), Iíve always been partial to episode seven because that was kind of the first episode that Daphne and Bay were working together, and Katie and I actually had more than three scenes with each other. That was fun. Oh my God, I actually get to work with you. Cool. Iíve always really liked that episode. Itís always been one of our funnier episodes, too.

From this upcoming season, I donít know if I can fairly judge because weíre in the middle of shooting right now. According to our writer, who will not tell us anything, there are so many more awesome things to come.

K. Leclerc I canít pick from the ones to come. Man, Iím so excited to see what happens. I think we start off the return of season one, I think we start off incredibly strong. We got to watch the first episode yesterday at lunch and Iówow. Everyone was just so strong and really just talented and awesome.

For the last part, I think maybe episode four where we have the big fundraiser party at the Kennish house. I think that was one of theóI mean that episode has so many shots where you can see everybody; so everybody was on set all the time and we all kind of got to hang out together. Yes, I think that one has a special place in my heart. Plus, Emmett on the drums is just awesome.

V. Marano Really awesome. And Iím going to brag about Katie for a second. Because in the first episode coming back this season, she has quite possibly one of the most beautiful, amazing, emotional scenes by this gorgeous lake in Santa Clarita or in St. Louis because thatís where it takes place in the show. The entire crew was just in awe of her and she did an awesome job, so Iím taking on the challenge of bragging about her and there it is.

K. Leclerc I love you.

Moderator I canít wait to see that episode. My next question is do you have a sort of like behind the scenes moment from filming or something that you could share with us that we wouldnít know about?

K. Leclerc As fans and you guys might remember, in episode nine of the last season thereís a dream sequence where Daphne is dreaming about what her life would be like if she had never switched. I speak in my regular voice and thereís this weird moment where Daphne is dressed in Buckner Hall uniform and itís just strange. In the process of filming that, I got to wear the Buckner Hall uniform and in that same episode we had a stunt double for Vanessa.

Our hairdresser had sewn together two wigs to match Vanessaís hair and it was sitting there in the makeup chair enticing me. So, Iím like, weíve got to take advantage of this. So I asked the hairdresser to put the wig on me and then Vanessa found out about our endeavor and went and found a Carlton High School uniform and we made up some mock hearing aids. We went to the table read and the director for that episode happened to be David Ö, whoís directing the episode weíre working on now. We love him to death.

He walked over to me and shook my hand and said, ďHello, Vanessa. Iím David. Itís a pleasure to be working with youĒ. And he turns to Vanessa and says, ďHello, Katie. Iím DavidĒ. Neither of us had the heart to tell him for like a couple of days that we had played this prank on him. It was pretty terrible actually. It kind of was, but he was a good sport about it. We love him. Weíre forever bonded to David Ö now after that. Itís true. Itís true.

Moderator Could you tell me a reason why your character belongs with Emmett and a reason why your character doesnít belong with Emmett?

V. Marano This might be a little bit hard for both of us. Because I know that Katie is Team Bay and Emmett and Iím a little bit Team Daphne and Emmett, which is weird.

I think Bay and Emmett belong together because they both have very similar views on the world and they both care enough about each other that theyíre kind of stepping outside of their comfort zone to learn a different language or to speak. Which both of them I donít think would have done under normal circumstances but they care so much about the other person that theyíre going to do that.

The reason why I think Bay and Emmett donít belong with each other is that they have very similar views on the world and itís almost too similar. I donít know that they balance each other out enough.

K. Leclerc I think Daphne and Emmett should be together because Emmett saves Daphne. I think she will always have this adoration for him that will be unquenched by anyone else because he was the person who showed her who she could be with the deaf culture and introduced her to a language and a people that she really very much is a part of.

And they shouldnít be together because itís really hard, I think, to make the transition from best friend to relationship and especially, I think, in high school. I think the long-term final outcome would be that maybe they wouldnít end up together, finally. I donít know.

I think that Bay and Emmett areóthe thing is I think we see the cuteness in each other, like I think Vanessa is the most adorable thing Iíve ever laid my eyes on other than my puppy, Gus. So, just seeing the two of them together, I just think is so adorable. I donít know. I think thatís why we were rooting for the other team.

V. Marano Itís true. Itís true. Youíre pretty cute, Katie. Iím not going to lie.

Moderator Are any other appearances or projects outside Switched at Birth that youíre both working on right now, big or small, that we could keep an eye out for where we might see either one of you pop up on TV or some other place?

V. Marano Iím kind of working in a Switched at Birth bubble right now. Weíve got 22 episodes that are coming up that weíre airing in January and 10 are airing in the summer. So, we have been working nonstop on Switched at Birth. I can plug more Switched at Birth, which Iím totally cool with doing.

K. Leclerc In fact, I might mention while weíre talking about plugging more Switched at Birth, our DVDs come out on the 13th of December so fans can catch up before the January 3rd premier. But, I too, am just fully dedicated to Daphne at this moment.

V. Marano And what a great Christmas gift, the Switched at Birth DVD just in time for the premiering season, right?

Moderator Do you have particular routines, rituals, or things you go through, especially during the holidays, that youíd like to share with our readers?

V. Marano Okay, for the holiday season, every Christmas Eve my sister and my mom and Ióthey cook Christmas cookies and just bake. My mom bakes fudge and my dad actually makes like a seafood feast; like shrimp and calamari. Thatís kind of our holiday tradition is Christmas Eve is cookie and seafood night. Yummy.

K. Leclerc My family, I think the biggest one is weíll open Christmas presents on Christmas morning listening to the Nat King Cole album, the Christmas album. I donít know; itís just like a staple in our family every year.

We will do that and feast. My family loves food. Weíre big eaters. So weíll just prepare a feast and every year thereís something different. Like weíre going to try something new, but we always have cream corn as a staple, which is kind of weird because most families donít like it, but we make a delicious one.

And then for this year, Iím super, super excited. I get to go home to San Antonio where they are now and then when weíre done doing that, Vanessa and I get to go to New York City to do New Yearís Eve on MTV Live. This year, our tradition might be a little bit untraditional. Iím really excited. Katie and Vanessa take New York, New Yearís Eve.

V. Marano Check it out. MTV.

Moderator Do you both cook? Are you a budding chef in your part-time in your spare time?

K. Leclerc You could say that. Sure, yes. I love to cook. We, actually Vanessa and I have this great thing where sheíll come over to my apartment and Iíll cook dinner and her and my boyfriend will watch awesome reality television together. We all get to hang out and spend time together and I get to cook and thatís what I want to do so Iím perfectly happy with it.

Moderator You cook and then after that you fist pump, is that what youíre telling me?

K. Leclerc Exactly. Howíd you know?

V. Marano I cook a little bit; not by any means the amount that Katie does. I grew up in a house where my dad cooked and my mom burned things. So, Iím kind of split in the middle there.

Moderator You all sound like you guys have way too much fun together and it would be great to have some viral footage out there of a Vanessa/Katie dance party/mix and mingle.

K. Leclerc Oh, my goodness. This sounds like it has to happen.

Moderator When the show went on break in August, Daphneís character was really facing a lot of disappointment between seeing Emmett and Bay together, Angelo returning, having issues with the cooking class. When the show resumes, do things start looking up for Daphne? Or are they going to get worse before they get better?

K. Leclerc Thatís a hard question to answer. Yes and yes. I think things look up I think Daphne finds success in her personal life in many different areas and just because thereís trouble and turmoil with Angelo and bickering and competitiveness with Bay, I think there are always outlets where you can find something positive and something happy.

She focuses a lot of energy on basketball and has some up and downs with that as well. Ultimately, thatís life and Daphne just has a good attitude about things in general. Thatís not to say she doesnít get a little catty, but thatís fun for everyone.

Moderator Vanessa, with several actors on the show relying solely on sign language as a means to communicate, how is your own sign vocabulary coming?

V. Marano Okay, so letís talk really quickly about how in this upcoming season the person who does the most sign language on the show is not Constance Marie or Katie Leclerc, whoís fluent in sign language, or Sean Berdy, who is also fluent in sign language. Itís me because Bay has started to sign more with Daphne now and she signs with Emmett and, in a teaser sort of way, sheís signing a lot with Melody, Emmettís mother as well.

So, I am doing the most sign language on the show. I donít know how that happened, but somehow it did. That being said, Bayís sign language is excellent. Vanessaís sign language is getting there. I hope to be as fluent as Bay in a little bit, but as of right now, Bay is way better at sign language than I am.

K. Leclerc That being said, Katie and Vanessa had a private conversation in sign language unbeknownst to everyone around them the other day. That was pretty fun. Weíre telling secrets, everybody.

V. Marano That might be like my driving force to really learning sign language. Not communication, secret communication.

K. Leclerc Right, right. That was a triumph for me; a personal goal.

Moderator Can you talk a little bit about how you each got involved in acting?

V. Marano The story is a little bit long but Iíll try to give the abridged version. My mother was an actress and she became an acting coach and a drama teacher and she ended up opening her own childrenís theater and I was always around her directing plays.

When I was six years old, I started lightly begging to start acting and she said absolutely not. I donít think that children should act. Itís a horrible business. I donít want to deal with stage mothers. You should have a childhood, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Finally, when I was about eight, I wore her down and so she looked up different agents and there was this particular childrenís agency with two childrenís agents who rumored to turn children down for no good reason and squash their dreams. My mom was like Iím taking her there so that they can turn her down and I can say, hey, you know what? I was semi-supportive and when youíre 18 and can drive yourself, then you can give it a go.

And so she took me and they give you sides to read and my mother, the drama coach does not help her eight-year-old daughter prepare these sides at all, no, no, no. Youíll be fine. Go ahead, wing it, have fun. And so I go in and I read and the two agents called my mom in and said weíre going to take your daughter and my mom almost had a heart attack in the lobby.

Then my little sister, who was five years old, a year younger than when I started begging to act, just walked inóshe had just come along for the rideóand went, I donít have an agent. Take me too. And they were like, you know what? We will. So, my mom got two for the price of not wanting one. And my sister and I have been acting for 11 years ever since.

K. Leclerc I was Annie in eighth grade. I just kind of fell in love with it. I was living in Colorado at the time and bullied by a group of girls, so we decided to move to California and lived in San Diego. And I, too, went through the begging phase of asking my parents to make the two-hour drive to L.A. and ultimately, ended up doing it about four times a week before we moved to L.A. about two years later.

It was a process and thankfully, my parents were supportive along the ride.

V. Marano I think a lot of people donít realize that with kids who start acting underage, how much of a commitment it is for your parents. Itís like theyíre driving you. Theyíre on the set with you. Katie and I both have really terrific families and thatís just so helpful. Thatís just so helpful.

Moderator You guys both clearly love your characters and love working on the show. When you first read this script, what was it about each of your characters that made you want to play them?

K. Leclerc I had never seen anything like what we were doing on the pages of Switched at Birth. It really resonated with me to be true and honest. Even in the pilot we talked about issues related to deaf cultures; the cochlear implants and the uphill battle and the humor that can go along with it too. Because deaf people are some of the funniest people Iíve ever met in my life. It just shined a light on a culture that I loved and was familiar with and wanted to share with everyone else.

V. Marano For me, the moment I truly fell in love with the script for Switched at Birth because when I read it, it was different and Iíve been doing this for a long time but whenever youíre doing a pilot youíre very skeptical. But the minute that we did the table read for the show and the words on the page that Lizzy wrote were brought to life, because she truly wrote for them to be said.

The table read flowed and was beautiful and seeing the actors sign and seeing the actors act and bring these beautiful words that were so different and were about something so unique to life was the moment that I was like, wow, this could work. This is actually going to work. And it did and people I think really responded to that, to these words that were meant to be said and were meant to be signed and to see it together is such a unique, fascinating different combination that you canít see anywhere else.

Moderator Working with all of those amazing experienced professionals, could you each tell me who you would say made the biggest impact on you since you started working with them, either personally or professionally?

V. Marano Thatís hard. Thatís really hard. I donít think I could pick one. I think our entire cast influences each other in different ways. Lea Thompson is so funny and so giving and D.W. knows so much and is so much fun to be around. Constance, too, is just so knowledgeable and giving. All three of them; so knowledgeable and so giving and so funny and just delights and professional people and absolute gems to work with.

And then on the younger spectrum, Sean is fantastic. I adore Lucas. I think he is a blast to work with, also very giving. I canít even go into words about Katie because then Iím just going to sound like Iím obsessed with her, which I maybe kind of am. But thatís the thing I think thatís so great about our show and that people really feel about our show is that we all enjoy working together and it is a group of such talented people who have been doing this for a very long time.

I donít think we have a newbie in the bunch. Everybodyís been doing it for over five years. Like way over five years, too, by the way. To see that, to see a group of people who know what theyíre doing and love what theyíre doing and really enjoy working with each other, I couldnít be happier and Iím so fortunate to be on this set and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

K. Leclerc I just want to add to that by saying I think it shows on the screen. I think it shows. I think you can tell when cast members dislike each other and I think you can tell when cast members have a ball. And we, Iíve got to tell you, have so much fun every single day. I just thank my lucky stars that I get to work with the cast members that we do. And the crew members that we do as well. I mean, our show looks beautiful and itís thanks to our lighting group guys and our GP. Weíve gotten to work with incredibly talented directors along the way.

I mean, I think we all balance each other out in a way that we all challenge each other. If you are in a scene with any one of our actors and you are phoning them in or not bringing your ĎAí game, you look like crap because every one is so much better. I think that everybody shows up with all the skill in a bag in every department and itís really a joy to work with everyone.

V. Marano Thatís true. And I think that thatís something that the audience doesnít really realize is how important the crew is and we were fortunate that we got a lot of our crew members back from the first ten to come back on this next twenty-two. Thereís such a good rapport with everyone and such a great vibe with everyoneís talent in every single department. I think an audience doesnít really realize that when youíre watching, thereís a whole picture there.

There is a set design. There are props. There is sound happening. The camera, making things look great. The lighting, making things look really great. Itís just so many different pieces of a puzzle, PAs queuing extras, that make a show beautiful and make a show what it is. I think every piece to our puzzle sits perfectly.

K. Leclerc Itís really true. I mean, we haveóitís one thing to see the names at the end of the show. Itís another thing to see the bodies that it takes and the amount of just mass that it takes. The cool thing about our crew, like Vanessa said, we got a lot of them back from the last ten episodes and a lot of them are learning sign language at the same time as working on the show. It just really creates this commonality and like a bond with everybody. Everybody is learning something new every single day. Itís so much fun.

V. Marano Iím soóand I can speak for Katie too. We are so appreciative of everyone on this show in every single department. I donít think it would be the same show without them.

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