If twenty plus years of watching television has taught this TV Addict anything, it’s that anytime an episode revolves around a prom, fans best be bracing themselves for big developments. All the more so when said aforementioned prom takes place during a season finale. Case in point, tonight’s episode of SWITCHED AT BIRTH that doesn’t just cap off a fantastic first season by sending Daphne, Wilke, Emmett and Bay to the Carlton School for the Deaf Prom, but has the potential to deliver “dramatic changes” with regards to the relationship status of many of your favorite characters. At least according to Daphne’s portrayer, the delightful Katie Leclerc, who we recently had the pleasure of chatting with yesterday over the phone. See for yourself, after the jump.
Before we get into tonight’s season finale, I wanted to ask about your experience thus far with the show. Did you ever imagine SWITCHED AT BIRTH would resonate with the viewing public as it has?
Katie Leclerc: Honestly, never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get a response like this. I remember reading the Pilot script, thinking there was an element of surprise to it, even for myself just in the sense that the deaf community has never been represented as a whole. But the world that we live in is so diverse and I feel that sometimes television doesn’t represent that. It’s really cool to be a part of a show that not only represent it but really embrace it and empower it.
BREAKING BAD has cerebral palsy, it’s one of those things that’s a part of the show but not necessarily the main central focus, it’s just integrated into these people’s lives and I think really that’s where the fan’s response has been. Lizzy Weiss, the creator of SWITCHED AT BIRTH does such an incredible job of creating these very flawed characters and truthfully they all are, they all make mistakes and in life we all do to. And I think that’s part of the reason why fans have embraced the show. Daphne has a lot of things going on in her life, she’s a good student, she vies for the attention of both sets of parents and boys and by the way she happens to be deaf. And it’s almost secondary. It’s not like woe is me. I think it would be easy and predictable to go that route and I’m proud that we don’t. It’s really cool to get to be a fan of your own show.
You mentioned flawed characters having to make difficult decisions. Is it safe to assume that tonight’s finale has a lot of that?
Well speaking of characters making maybe not the wisest decisions there’s definitely going to be some blowback between Simone and Emmett over I guess what you would call a mistake which Wilke knows about it. What is Wilke going to do? Is he going to say something. is he not going to say something, so we’ll deal with that and I can definitely tease that Daphne and Wilke’s relationship changes dramatically, so look forward to that.
Does their relationship change in a good or bad way?
That’s a hard question to answer! There are people who have opinions about Daphne and Wilke’s relationship. Some of the very hardcore deaf fans we have say that Wilke needs to step it up and learn some sign language or Daphne needs to get rid of him. And there are other people who think that Daphne and Wilke are so sweet together. So I think some people will be disappointed and some will be happy. How about that for a political answer? [Laughs]
Lizzy Weiss has taught you well!
She would be so proud! We deal with a lot of secrets on the show and the funny thing is that Lizzy [the showrunner] is the most secretive person of them all. The big reveal in episode seven, where we found out that Regina [Constance Marie] knew about the switch the entire time, Lizzy had that set in her mind the entire time and Constance knew as well. And every week along the way she would say, “Something big is coming!”
That moment where audiences found out that Regina knew all along about Daphne and Bay being switched was absolutely nuts. Does tonight’s finale end on one of those crazy moments?
I think so, I hope so. I hope that the fans are going to be like, “I can’t wait for the next batch of episodes!” I would say that Daphne’s storyline comes to a completion. My character’s story does not end on a cliffhanger, that being said, this being ABC Family and a show full of secrets I think that maybe John and Katherine [Kennish] are in a sort of rocky place, as well as the Simone/Emmett/Bay situation sort of has to get fleshed out. There is definitely an element of surprise and we defintiely leave something for fans to look forward to when the show returns.
When the show first started, Daphne and Emmett were sort of pained as soulmates, yet now I find myself rooting for Bay and Emmett. Do you have a preference for Daphne?
Well it’s really funny. If you ask Vanessa Marano the same question she says she’s a Daphne and Emmett fan and since you’re asking me I will tell you that I’m a Bay and Emmett fan, I’m a big supporter as they say on Twitter “Bemmett.” I think that they’re really cute together, I think they match each other and challenge each other in ways that Daphne and Emmet don’t. I think Daphne and Emmett have a lot in common but it’s almost like when you’re growing up you have that person you care about very much but they’re almost like a brother or a sister. I think that Daphne and Emmett had gone through that for so long that Daphne realization was almost too late and I think that Emmett loved Bay for how fast she learned sign language and how committed she was to that. And I think that despite whatever drunken teenage mistake Emmett may have made [with Simone] I think he definitely cares about Bay and really does love her.
How open are the writers to suggestions from the actors in terms of character development or story ideas?
They’re open-ish. We don’t get to find out about things until they’re already sort of happening or written but to a certain extent we can pitch ideas to the writers. My big push to the writers is that I happen to have a deaf dog. I have a nine month old Australian cattle dog and three days after we brought him home we realized that he couldn’t hear so I started to teach him sign language and he knows about 15 to 20 signs now. Just today actually I was talking to the creator of the show saying will you please just take advantage of the fact that we have a dog that knows sign language. It’s adorable and so serendipitous that I ended up with this dog and we really need to take advantage of it. So she’s kind of like, “Alright I’ll put that in the back of my mind,” and I’m like, “No, not in the back of your mind in the front of it!” So they’ll take ideas, but they’re the masterminds, and I trust them because they come up with brilliant story lines and what they’ve come up with so far has been working so I really can’t complain so much!
Since you brought up my other addiction (Meet: Mac!), I have to comment on what an incredible coincidence it is that you adopted a dog that turned out to be deaf!
I know it really is. I learned sign language when I was 17. Not related to hearing loss or anything but because I needed it for a foreign language and my sister taught ASL [American Sign Language] and I thought that would be really cool if I could have secret conversations with my sister. Then I found out that I had a hearing loss, then I ended up on a TV show playing a deaf character, then I ended up with a deaf dog and it’s just really really humbling and strange and awesome, totally awesome.
Was acting something you have always wanted to do?
I was Annie in Annie in seventh grade. I fell in love with the stage and most importantly I fell in love with the lights. The first performance that I did on a stage you can’t see the audience because the lights were just blinding and I guess maybe there was some anonymity involved in that where I could just be this other person and try to make people feel a certain way just based on my performance. I fell in love with the experience of a theater, the energy of a theater and definitely I knew at that moment that I want to be on stage and doing this thing for as long as I possibly could. My family ended up moving to Southern California and I begged my mom to let me head up to the big city and try my hand at it and thankfully I had really supportive parents who drove me from San Diego to Los Angeles as much as five times a week for auditions and classes or whatever the case may be. Obviously without my parents support it definitely wouldn’t have been possible for me and as much as I loved it as a kid your experience in your life shifts and changes and I think I grew up playing different characters and it was definitely an easy choice for me to make, but not necessarily an easy thing to make happen.
Your parents being so supportive is in stark contrast to the show’s newest character Travis. What has that been like being involved in a storyline that shines a much-needed light a deaf coming-of-age story very different from that of Daphne’s experience?
The tragic thing that I think a lot of people don’t realize is that Travis’ storyline especially with regards to his parents not learning American Sign Language happens every day. It’s really sad. A lot of deaf teenagers are unable to speak to their parents because their parents don’t communicate in the same way and I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t even realize. It’s really good that the writers on the show were able to bring some light to that.
SWITCHED AT BIRTH airs Tuesdays at 8PM on ABC Family (Mondays at 9PM on YTV in Canada). Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv