September 3rd, 2012 by Sarah Maines
Switched at Birth quickly won me over last year with its truly unique premise, paired with dramatic relationships, family turmoil and an absent father to boot. The show is charming, wonderfully written, and has an amazing cast. Last season was full of twists and turns for the Vasquez-Kennish family, and Daphne went through quite the emotional ringer. Just when it seemed like she found happiness with Wilke, he’s shipped off to boarding school. In the fall premiere, Daphne gets a job in a restaurant kitchen, with a new (very good looking) boss. But things aren’t so easy for her at first. She has to figure out a way to work in the kitchen without being able to hear anyone, and that proves to be a challenge. Sarah Maines had the chance to chat with the lovely Katie LeClerc (who plays Daphne) about what to expect this season, what it means to her to be a part of the show, and her not-so-secret love for High School Musical (and one of her co-stars).
The show is kind of the first of its kind. What does it mean to you to be a part of something so significant to the deaf community?
It’s huge. From the first moment that I read this script I knew that it was special. It speaks to an audience that has never been represented before on television in this way at all. It’s not like we have a deaf character that’s a one-off, you know in one episode and then they’re off. It’s four very deaf characters, in different levels of deafness, on a weekly basis using American Sign Language in its true form and it’s super cool. I’m super proud to be on this show, not only because of the representation of the deaf culture because I think that’s huge, but also because I think that it’s a family show. I think that we really need to see more shows like family shows where the definition of family is a little bit loose, it’s not necessarily today what family meant 30 years ago, but these character have to learn how to fit together and find common ground or they’re gonna drown. Especially for Bay and Daphne, they only have each other. I’m just really proud of this show, and I’m really happy for everything we’ve accomplished. We just won a TCA award and it’s really gratifying that other people are noticing as well.
Absolutely. Have you gotten a lot of feedback from fans about maybe wanting to learn to sign after watching the show?
Definitely. That’s my favorite thing too. I’ll go on Twitter and people will send me a message that says like, “my cousin is deaf and I never had a relationship with him. I saw Switched at Birth, and I started to learn sign language and now he’s my best friend”. Stuff like that where it really touches people on a personal level. Or people who say that “I found that there are 5 deaf psychiatrists or ASL capable psychiatrists or dentists or CPAs” or whatever it is. Bringing the deaf community into people’s worlds who otherwise might not have experienced it even though American Sign Language is the third most common language in the United States. The worlds are so separate, if you don’t know somebody who’s deaf then you might not ever.
Along those lines, I know a lot of the fans really love the silent scenes between Daphne and Emmett. Can you talk a little bit about playing those?
Yeah, we don’t really film them any differently than we do the regular scenes. The sound person is still operating the microphone and stuff like that, but it’s really cool to see an insight into what is otherwise a silent world. You still get, you know like if the scene is at the school and the water fountain is on you’ll still hear the water fountain in the background, but it’s a window into their way of communication in that it is silent. I don’t know, it’s really cool; it’s great to see the directors when we do those scenes because they’re a little bit flustered because they don’t know their cues or really what the actors are saying when they’re saying it, so they’re always like “oh man, oh man, is it over?” (laughs) They’re always hesitant to call cut, which is pretty funny because we’ll just be staring at each other for 5 seconds at the end of a scene. “Oh, it’s over. Cut! Cut!” (laughs) For the first couple and then they’re like “Ok, I know the last sign”.
Moving on to the premiere, a big storyline in that episode was Daphne wanting to get a job in a restaurant. What can you share about that story going forward?
Sure. Well, I would say Daphne’s not a stranger to hurdles or having to prove herself because of her deafness. It’s challenging for her to find a job initially because the owners of the restaurant are worried about liability – open flames, sharp knives, and someone who can’t hear verbal cues could potentially cause problems for a restaurant. So she has to find somebody who sees potential in her and she gets Kathryn to help her do that, which is great because Daphne and Kathryn don’t always get to spend a lot of time together so they get this connection and she ends up working in this restaurant called Maize and her boss is very handsome and she’s on cloud nine as it starts. But he’s actually not very nice to her, so she has to figure out ways to compensate in the kitchen. She’s very creative and she manages.
Like you were talking about earlier with family, what will the release of Kathryn’s book mean for Daphne and the rest of the family?
I think that Daphne is really excited for Kathryn! It’s something Kathryn has been working super hard on for such a long time, so she’s stoked for her. With the issues that it might cause for John and Kathryn, I think Daphne’s not fully aware of them. I think the Kennishs want to make sure that their kids are always protected and they want to keep certain things away from them, and I think they’ve pretty much succeeded in doing that for Daphne. If there’s bumps along the way, Daphne is pretty observant to body language especially so she would notice, but it’s not affecting her in a major way necessarily. She’s very preoccupied.
Now that Bay and Emmett are pretty much over, how is that going to change Daphne and Emmett’s relationship?
Well, Daphne knows the difference between right and wrong and she knows that what Emmett did was not right. The season picks up and about a summer’s time has passed, so presumably while the summer was going on she and Emmett reconciled and had lots of conversations and said “you know, dude, this wasn’t cool” and he goes “yeah, I know”. So then they are able to move on. Emmett and Daphne are pretty much on good terms when this year starts, and at this point Daphne is just really concerned about protecting Bay’s feelings. He was totally wrong, and she knows that. She’s gonna allow Emmett and Bay time to sort of reconciliate and really for Bay to recover. She was pretty hurt.
Do you think we’re going to see Daphne get another love interest or are we going to be seeing more of her and Wilke?
I think she’s really focused in the kitchen. There’s a lot happening at home so she’s spending extra time in the kitchen, and she finds new friends there and she finds people who have the same interests so she’ll find new friends and potentially love interests at the kitchen.
Do you have a favorite scene or moment you’ve shot so far?
Oh man! There are so many great moments. You know, I have a favorite moment on set, but it’s not necessarily a moment that was shot. Can I share that one instead?
Go for it.
So I’m a closet High School Musical fan and Lucas Grabeel is my idol. I love him. Beyond just being an awesome person, he’s super talented, so he’s definitely high on my favorites list. My favorite days on set are when all the cast members are there, like all the series regulars are there for the big family drama scenes. We pretty much, in between screaming at each other, just laugh the entire time. And so they came over, and they wanted to know if Lucas could play baseball for the baseball episode where John and Toby have like a derby hit off or whatever. And I answered for him because I said, “What?! Of course Lucas can play baseball! Lucas can play baseball and sing and dance at the same time!” And Lucas busts into song and dance, and he does the song and dance for me like and it was so glorious and I got giddy and I was jumping up and down. You can hear it in my voice now, I was like a school girl! I was just so excited, and then I look over at Lea and she’s got like a fake pen and paper in her hand and she’s like “Dear Diary, today Lucas did the High School Musical dance…”. It just cracks me up. You know, we just love each other and we like to tease each other but it really was like genuine gold happiness.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 8 PM to ABC Family for the fall premiere of Switched at Birth!Tweet