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Interview with D.W. Moffett of "Switched
at Birth" on
ABC Family 8/7/14
ABC Family Q&A with D.W. Moffett
Switched at Birth
D.W.: First of all, itís so exciting for me to finally direct
our show. Itís with the support of our really loyal fan base
that keeps us around.
Moderator: What is it that you enjoy most about directing an
D.W.: My life in entertainment began in the theater community
in Chicago. I was a producer and director, primarily, in the
early days of my theater company. I was only called in to
act when certain members of our company would either get
injured or didnít want to do a certain part, I would get
tagged to do that part. So one could argue that my first
passion, really, was directing.
Added to that is the fact that I view my fellow castmates as
family. We are incredibly close, we are incredibly well
behaved with each other, and we are that kind of cloyingly
nice cast to each other that you read about and you go ďoh
that cannot possibly be true,Ē but in our case it actually
is true. Just the honor of being able to work with people
that you feel so close to and the trust that they gave me
In the episode I direct, airing on Monday, August 11, itís a
very emotional episode, and the cast was just spectacular.
They gave me every nuanced emotion that I could ask for. It
was a very demanding production schedule because we were
nearing the end of our season and things get a little
complicated as we get near the end. It was a dream deal. I
hope the rest of my episodes go as well, but this one Iím
very, very proud of, and Iím particularly proud of the work
that the cast achieved.
Moderator: Was it challenging directing such an emotional
D.W.: I knew that I would have a shorthand with the cast
because of our closeness, so that allowed me to get
emotional results quicker than maybe other directors could.
Also, to ask for nuances in those emotional portrayals that
maybe other directors wouldnít want to even try.
When someoneís crying their guts out, itís kind of hard to
go in and say ďcan you not cry your guts out so much on this
line and maybe save it and cry your guts out two lines
later?Ē A lot of directors are afraid to do that because the
actor might have a negative reaction to that kind of
response. In fact, my actors understood what I was asking
for and were able to deliver all of those nuances, some of
which I used in the final cut, some of which I didnít, but I
was able to ask for it and we were able to collaborate on
Moderator: Thank you so much.
Moderator: What it was it like directing yourself?
D.W.: If you watch last weekís episode, youíll see Iím not
really in that episode very much. That was originally going
to be the episode that I was going to direct because I
wasnít in it very much! But for scheduling reasons and
budgetary reasons and location reasons, it didnít work out
that I could direct that episode. So I wound up directing an
episode in which I appeared more than I would have liked to
The good news for me is that Iíve been doing this for 35
years, so I kind of know when Iím on and when Iím not. I
donít need someone to tell me I flubbed a line or that
wasnít quite as believable as weíd like it to be, so thatís
The other thing is Iím usually a one-take actor, in general,
so Iím usually pretty happy after the first take with what
Iíve done, assuming Iím not completely distracted, or
something. But I have to say, I was able to sort of split my
brain in two and do my acting work and do my directing work.
I know that our show runner, Lizzy Weiss, was quite pleased
with my performance. I donít have a big load to carry in
this episode, but it is an intense episode, I had to do a
little bit of that, and I thought it came off quite well.
I have to say, though, I am not the shining star of this
episode at all. Many, many other cast members have a much
bigger load to carry and shine much brighter than I do!
Moderator: Did your cast mates try to give you a hard time as
director? Did they play any practical jokes on you?
D.W.: I believe there was, at one point Ė I received a
message from one the Assistant Directors that the cast was
in their trailer and they werenít coming out. A little bit
of that funny stuff. Our production schedule was so
unforgiving on this episode that there may have been many
more pranks planned, but at the end of the day there wasnít
time to actually pull them off. They would have just been
cruel because we had no time [laughs]
Constance and Lea, being more of my generation, were
particularly cutting in their responses to my directorial
suggestions, in a joking manner. But at the end of the day,
they were so supportive and really, really helped me out
when I needed it.
Everyone was so sweet and so wonderful. My hats off to them
for putting up with me and for putting up with that
production schedule and for really, at the end of the day,
making themselves look fantastic, because itís really a
Moderator: How will John react when he finds out that Regina
is working with Chip Coto?
D.W.: You get a taste of it in my episode, but I think the
full weight of that has not yet been explored. Youíll see in
the upcoming episode, the look on my face when his name
comes up is pretty priceless. I had a couple of good looks
to choose from, but theyíre all pretty good.
I think if we were on an HBO show, the language would have
been a lot saltier. But you get the picture [laughs]
Moderator: Are there any specific moments that were your
favorite while directing the episode?
D.W.: I think my favorite part of this episode was the prom
scenes. There was a lot of great stuff in this, but Iím
going to bifurcate this and call it two, two favorite parts.
One was the prom scenes and the various interactions between
Bay and Emmett. And number two Ė the very emotional scene at
the end of the episode involving Kathryn, Regina, and
Daphne. Those are my two favorite elements that I got to
direct and I think the results are wonderful
Moderator: Apart from directing, do you have any other hats
that you want to wear?
D.W.: I actually do write. I sold a pilot to NBC three years
ago that never got out of anybodyís shelf; itís sitting in
there somewhere. Itís sort of a fun police show. But Iím
actually about to go out with a show that Iíll be pitching.
Itís sort of a sophisticated teen show. Itís been written,
and I just have to fine tune it a little bit.
Moderator: How is John feeling after Angeloís death?
D.W.: Our writers wrote this wonderful scene when John kind
of busts himself about feeling glad that Angeloís restaurant
was failing. Itís been the reason that Iíve always been
attracted to John, from the pilot. From the pilot, I could
tell that they were writing a man who was sort of this
clichť, suburban dude, but flawed, and we saw the flaws, but
with enough humanity that he could actually experience a
little bit of the vulnerability that some of these flaws
might bring up in him.
I donít know if weíre going to see a lot more of his
vulnerability, vis a vis Angelo, but I know that Angeloís
death is probably going to soften John a little bit going
forward in terms of how he deals with the girls. Anytime
mortality becomes an issue in life, people tend to soften or
reevaluate their own situations.
I love being able to be John in all of his conservativeness,
but I also love the fact that heís this really caring family
man. Itís been a very interesting journey for me because Iím
this hippy, I live in Topanga, we eat crunch granola Ė Iím
not John [laughs]. But I really love being John, the same
way I loved being that really mean Dad on Friday Night
Lights. Itís just really interesting to play someone quite
different from yourself, but find the truths in that person
that make him a human being.
Moderator: Has it been easier to pick up learning ASL? Have
any of the actors on set helped you out?
D.W.: Well, we have an ASL Master on set every episode that
sign language is used, which is basically every episode, so
we have someone on set all the time. That is because Lizzy
Weiss was adamant that if we were going to embrace this
language, we were going to embrace it correctly, and we were
going to embrace it completely authentically.
That said, I got the easy pass, because the writers decided
that John would be A) the last person to embrace ASL, and B)
would probably be the worst at it. So Iím given a great deal
of leeway with my ASL.
Jack Jason, whoís our primary ASL Master, will send videos
to us two or three days before the scene is shot so that we
can practice our signs for that scene. Over time, you begin
to remember signs, like ďthank you,Ē ďyes,Ē ďno,Ē ďnice to
see you.Ē You remember certain words and phrases. But he
sends us a complete breakdown of all of our lines that we
need to speak in ASL. But he also says in my videos, ďD.W.:,
you can probably just say this, because youíre not very good
at ASL.Ē He lets me get away with murder [laughs]
We have certain cast members, like Vanessa Marano, who are
almost fluent at this point, itís crazy. So itís differing
degrees of expertise, also differing degrees of character
mandated expertise, but in general weíre always taught what
the ASL should be, correctly, by an ASL Master.
Moderator: What do John, Kathryn, and Regina think of whatís
happening with Daphne and her recent bad and
D.W.: This shadow that is over Daphne gets reconciled over
the course of next weekís episode and the finale. This
shadow is lifted, but then reimposes itself. Thereís a twist
at the end of the finale that literally no one in the cast
saw coming, and I think is going to surprise our viewers and
delight them, because it sort of opens up a whole new vista
for the showís future.
There is understanding and there is forgiveness, but then
something happens which causes a lot of concern.
Moderator: Are there plans to do another all ASL episode?
D.W.: I would not be surprised if there were another. We
enjoyed doing it a lot. Theyíre always looking to do an
event episode every ten or so episodes, every half season.
So I would not be surprised if she revisited that, or
something very similar to that.
Moderator: What are your hopes for your character and the
future of Switched at Birth?
D.W.: I think just the continuation of the authenticity that
has been established. I know that sounds a little general,
but I donít think that there are a lot of shows on the air
right now, across all of the networks, where the family
dynamic is investigated in quite as specific and as honest a
way as our show is. I think The Fosters does it; I think
that other shows on ABC Family do.
I like the fact that our show is about family because I have
a family and so I can sort of relate a lot to whatís going
on a lot of the time. I just love that I get to play an
adult in a show thatís basically about teenagers and Iím not
just two-dimensional, and that Iím three-dimensional and
that my voice is a real component in the show and not just a
ďdonít get home late, get good grades,Ē that itís much
deeper than that. I really appreciate that. My fondest hope
is that kind of depth continues.
Moderator: Are there any organizations or charities that you
are dedicated to in the hard of hearing community?
D.W.: We have a very wonderful relationship. I was invited to
come out to Minnesota recently for a huge gala where the
where the organization sends hearing aids to third world
Honestly, my awareness of and involvement with the hard of
hearing community began with this show! Our interface with
charitable organizations and fund raising organizations
involved with that community is at the highest level.
Moderator: Is Kathrynís old fling Chris Washburn going to
D.W.: I think that sometimes in the writersí room they just
decide to have a little fun with us [laughs]. I think the
writers just decided how do we get Kathryn and Regina to
kiss? What plausibility factor can we attach to these three
scenarios, and they picked the one that was the most
plausible. As you noticed, at the end of the episode, John
kind of made light of it, so I donít think thereís any
wreckage in terms of the marriage. I think itís all fun and
games and in the past. I like that the fact that the writers
are willing to take a shot at stuff like that. Iím also
appreciative of the network trusting us that weíre not going
to do cheap stuff, but every once and a while itís not a sin
to have a little fun [laughs]
Moderator: What has been your greatest lesson on working on
D.W.: I have to say probably the greatest lesson that Iíve
learned from this show is an awareness of the deaf
community. That has been the deepest lesson because I was so
unaware of that community, their issues, their struggles,
At the first table read, I kept forgetting my place in the
script because I kept staring at Sean Berdy, who is signing
his lines. I was in awe of how beautiful it is. I remember
thinking to myself it is so beautiful. It is such a dance. I
thought to myself if America has the patience to deal with
the subtitles, weíve got a real shot of making a very
interesting television show. I think a lot of people in
America were as similarly unaware of that community before
this show hit the air. Itís also been a revelation to the
hard of hearing community because finally thereís a show on
the air that speaks about them.
Moderator: Whatís it like to be on set of Switched at Birth?
D.W.: Imagine a family that gets along really well, but weíre
packing for a four month trip around the world and weíve got
20 minutes to do it. So thereís a lot of running around,
thereís a lot of running into each other, thereís a lot of
energy because thereís this large task that needs to be
achieved and not a lot of time to do it. But at the same
time, we have fun, we laugh, we giggle, we gossip. We share
each otherís struggles, if someoneís sick, if someoneís
having a hard time personally, that comes to the fore.
But in general, itís all hands on deck, everyone gets along,
but weíre already 30 minutes behind before the day starts.
We all know it and we all want to make sure we do the best
job we can so we donít sit around wasting time or being
divas or difficult, because we know, at the end of the day,
that kind of behavior just really harms the show, and
everyone gets that, and therefore is wonderfully
Moderator: If there was an alteration that you could make to
your character, or any of the other characters, what would
D.W.: It might be fun for John to either assume ownership of
a minor league baseball team or, in some way, shape, or
form, or reenter the world of professional sports. I think
that might bear fruit and might be an interesting storyline
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