I recently had an opportunity to chat with Vanessa Marano and Katie Leclerc of ABC Family’s hit show “Switched at Birth” at Birth” for Sorcerer Radio’s WDW Tiki Room show. We spoke about the winter premiere that airs January 3 on ABC Family as well as the holidays. They were a blast to talk to and really have a genuine fondness for each other, their fans and their fellow cast and crew.
Aljon Go: What’s in store for your characters in the second half of season one?
Vanessa Marano: All right, I will. What’s 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 that—it’s an interesting thing for her because it’s a big part of her that she has only shared with the two men of her lifetime and it’s a big part of her identity that she must be losing.
Katie Leclerc: For Daphne there’s a lot of rebuilding for her and Angelo to do, or building to start. It’s 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.
She’s a very competitive person and I’ve also gotten to play a lot of basketball so far this season. So, that’s been a lot of fun. That comes with new friends and new lessons to learn.
Aljon Go: How your life has changed since Switched at Birth became this big phenomenon the last couple of months.
Vanessa Marano: I honestly wouldn’t say my life has changed that much, other than the fact that I have a job, which is awesome. It’s a job with fantastic, talented, wonderful people and I’m so pleased that I’m 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 I’m a part of something that people genuinely love and are genuinely caring about.
Katie 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. I’ve made incredible new friends. I’ve gotten to go places and experience things that I never would have otherwise. Every day is a new lesson in gratitude.
Aljon Go: What was it like for the two of you to present at the AMAs?
Katie 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.
Vanessa 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 almost—I feel like we were giddy to be there because it was something that we weren’t involved in, yet we were involved in because we were presenting.
Katie Leclerc: Totally giddy to be there. Totally giddy.
Aljon Go: Was it nerve wracking?
Katie Leclerc: No, it wasn’t nerve wracking. It was just exciting, I think, more than—there’s just a good energy and LMFAO was the best performance of the night, hands down. It was so much fun, so much fun.
Vanessa 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 didn’t know where to go. Like totally, like oh, okay, done with our little lines now and they’re performing and we’re still standing here.
Katie 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.
Aljon Go: I see you are active on Twitter. How do you like connecting with your fans in this direct fashion?
Katie Leclerc: Sure, yes. I have to tell you, I Tweet and I love Twitter. It’s just the immediate response that is so readily accessible. I love going on and we’ll get comments from fans that are small mementos like, ‘I learned how to be patient with my deaf cousin because of Switched at Birth’, or big mementos like, ‘I understand the importance of and the need for interpreters so I changed my major to ASL because of Switched at Birth’. I mean, it’s 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, I’m just proud to be a part of it and thankful to have been along for the ride.
Vanessa 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 that’s been the most amazing thing is that we have such a colorful group of fans because they’re hearing, they’re deaf, they’re teenage, they’re mothers, they’re male – a lot of them which is surprising. And I think that that’s great.
Aljon Go: Why do you think the show connects with so many different people?
Vanessa Marano: I think it’s because it’s so relatable. There’s a character for everybody to relate to. You’re a Daphne, you’re a Bay, you’re a Kathryn, you’re a Regina, you’re a John, you’re a Toby, and you’re an Emmett. I think that what really resonates with people is that there are so many story lines and to top it off, you’re learning about culture and community that a lot of people weren’t introduced to beforehand.
Aljon Go: What was it like to be with the entire ABC Family show casts for the Winter Wonderland photo shoot?
Katie Leclerc: I was telling Jen, the publicist, earlier since I was a little girl I’ve 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.
Vanessa 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.
Aljon Go: Do you both have any other projects you’re working on you can mention?
Vanessa Marano: I’m kind of working in a Switched at Birth bubble right now. We’ve got 22 episodes that are coming up that we’re 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 I’m totally cool with doing.
Katie Leclerc: In fact, I might mention while we’re 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.
Vanessa Marano: And what a great Christmas gift, the Switched at Birth DVD just in time for the premiering season, right?
Aljon Go: Do you have particular routines, rituals, or things you go through, especially during the holidays, that you’d like to share?
Vanessa Marano: Okay, for the holiday season, every Christmas Eve my sister and my mom and I—they cook Christmas cookies and just bake. My mom bakes fudge and my dad actually makes like a seafood feast; like shrimp and calamari. That’s kind of our holiday tradition is Christmas Eve is cookie and seafood night. Yummy.
Katie Leclerc: My family, I think the biggest one is we’ll open Christmas presents on Christmas morning listening to the Nat King Cole album, the Christmas album. I don’t know; it’s just like a staple in our family every year.
We will do that and feast. My family loves food. We’re big eaters. So we’ll just prepare a feast and every year there’s something different. Like we’re going to try something new, but we always have cream corn as a staple, which is kind of weird because most families don’t like it, but we make a delicious one.
And then for this year, I’m super, super excited. I get to go home to San Antonio where they are now and then when we’re done doing that, Vanessa and I get to go to New York City to do New Year’s Eve on MTV Live. This year, our tradition might be a little bit untraditional. I’m really excited. Katie and Vanessa take New York, New Year’s Eve.
Vanessa Marano: Check it out. MTV.
Aljon Go: Do you both cook? Are you a budding chef in your part-time in your spare time?
Katie Leclerc: You could say that. Sure, yes. I love to cook. We, actually Vanessa and I have this great thing where she’ll come over to my apartment and I’ll 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 that’s what I want to do so I’m perfectly happy with it.
Aljon Go: You cook and then after that you fist pump, is that what you’re telling me?
Katie Leclerc: Exactly. How’d you know?
Vanessa 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, I’m kind of split in the middle there.
Aljon Go: 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.
Katie Leclerc: Oh, my goodness. This sounds like it has to happen.
Aljon Go: How is your own sign vocabulary coming?
Vanessa Marano: Okay, so let’s 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, who’s fluent in sign language, or Sean Berdy, who is also fluent in sign language. It’s me because Bay has started to sign more with Daphne now and she signs with Emmett and, in a teaser sort of way, she’s signing a lot with Melody, Emmett’s mother as well.
So, I am doing the most sign language on the show. I don’t know how that happened, but somehow it did. That being said, Bay’s sign language is excellent. Vanessa’s 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.
Katie 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. We’re telling secrets, everybody.
Vanessa Marano: That might be like my driving force to really learning sign language. Not communication, secret communication.
Katie Leclerc: Right, right. That was a triumph for me; a personal goal.
Aljon Go: You guys both clearly love your characters and love working on the show. What was it about each of your characters that made you want to play them?
Katie 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 I’ve 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.
Vanessa 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 I’ve been doing this for a long time but whenever you’re doing a pilot you’re 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 can’t see anywhere else.
Aljon Go: Who has made the biggest impact on you since you started working with them, either personally or professionally?
Vanessa Marano: That’s hard. That’s really hard. I don’t 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 can’t even go into words about Katie because then I’m just going to sound like I’m obsessed with her, which I maybe kind of am. But that’s the thing I think that’s 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 don’t think we have a newbie in the bunch. Everybody’s 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 they’re doing and love what they’re doing and really enjoy working with each other, I couldn’t be happier and I’m so fortunate to be on this set and I would not trade it for anything in the world.
Katie 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, I’ve 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 it’s thanks to our lighting group guys and our GP. We’ve 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 ‘A’ 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 it’s really a joy to work with everyone.
Vanessa Marano: That’s true. And I think that that’s something that the audience doesn’t 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. There’s such a good rapport with everyone and such a great vibe with everyone’s talent in every single department. I think an audience doesn’t really realize that when you’re watching, there’s 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. It’s 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.
Katie Leclerc: It’s really true. I mean, we have—it’s one thing to see the names at the end of the show. It’s 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. It’s so much fun.
Vanessa Marano: I’m so—and I can speak for Katie too. We are so appreciative of everyone on this show in every single department. I don’t think it would be the same show without them.
Don’t forget to tune Vanessa Marano and Katie Leclerc of ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” for its winter premiere debuting January 3 on ABC Family.
Join hosts Kristen Hoetzel and Aljon Go on WDW Tiki Room as they discuss the series and ALL THINGS DISNEY, Fridays 8:00 a.m./eastern on Sorcerer Radio – www.SRSounds.com.
Hear Aljon’s interview with Katie and Vanessa on the Weekend Expedition Podcast, the Sorcerer Radio weekly highlight show HERE. Subscribe today on iTunes and hear more celebrity interviews, travel deals, Disney news and more HERE.
Official Site: http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/switched-at-birth
About Vanessa Marano (Bay Kennish):
Vanessa Marano started acting in the theater when she was seven years old, performing in numerous plays at A.C.T. in Agoura Hills, California. She began her professional career with several national commercials.
Vanessa is most recognized for her roles as April, the daughter of Luke in the highly popular show, Gilmore Girls and for the role of Francesca, the daughter of the Emmy® Award-winning Lisa Kudrow, in the HBO Original series The Comeback. Recently, she starred in Scoundrels playing the scheming, school-skipping daughter of Virginia Madsen. She has had recurring roles in shows including Dexter, Without a Trace, Trust Me and The Young and The Restless. Her guest-starring credits include Parenthood, Medium, Love Bites, Ghost Whisperer, Past Lives, Six Feet Under, Malcolm in the Middle and Grounded for Life.
Vanessa starred as a young girl who becomes a quadriplegic in the critically acclaimed television movie The Brooke Ellison Story directed by Christopher Reeve. Vanessa is working with Lucy Liu on a miniseries playing the troubled foster teenager, Immy, in Marry Me.
Her first film was the animated hit, Finding Nemo, followed by the independent films, Easy, The Clique, Stopping Power, Dear Lemon Lima and most recently The Secret Lives of Dorks.
Vanessa speaks Italian and is enrolled in her sophomore year in college
About Katie Leclerc (Daphne Vasquez):
Katie Leclerc grew up in Lakewood, Colorado, the youngest of three siblings in a close-knit family. In grade school, Katie’s spunky personality and megawatt smile won her the lead role in a production of Annie. It was in this play that Katie discovered her passion for acting, while juggling other after-school activities such as basketball, choir and dance. When her family moved to San Diego, Katie continued to pursue theatre at Valley Center High. She started booking commercials: Pepsi, Cingular, Comcast, GE. Then she got her first big break — a role on the cult favorite TV show, Veronica Mars, starring Kristen Bell.
Katie has continued to work in television. Her TV credits include The Riches, The Ex-List, and The Hard Times of RJ Berger. She starred in the feature film The Inner Circle and was also in the feature Flying By with Billy Ray Cyrus. At home, Katie loves to cook, and she’s quite excellent at it. You can often find her hiking away the calories from her sinfully delicious concoctions on one of L.A.’s hidden trails.
Katie Leclerc has Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus and degenerative hearing loss. Leclerc is fluent in American Sign Language.
About Switched At Birth:
Switched at Birth tells the story of two teen girls who discover that they were accidentally switched at birth. Bay Kennish grew up in a wealthy family with two parents and a brother, while Daphne Vasquez, who lost her hearing as a child due to a case of meningitis, grew up with a single mother in a poor neighborhood. Things come to a dramatic head when both families meet and struggle to learn how to live together for the sake of the girls.
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WDW Tiki Room, the show about all things Disney, is hosted by the husband and wife team of Aljon Go and Kristen Hoetzel. Every week they discuss Disney in pop-culture, theme parks, Disney news, celebrity interviews, Disney fan events and play the best mix of Disney artists and Disney attraction audio. The show airs every Friday morning at 8:00/eastern on Sorcerer Radio – www.SRSounds.com. For more information on Kristen and Aljon as well as on-demand playback of archived shows please visit this LINK.
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