ABC Family’s Q&A Session with Vanessa Marano of “Switched At Birth” (2014) (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
June 9, 2014 by Dennis Amith
ABC Family’s Q&A Session with Vanessa Marano of “Switched At Birth” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
With “Switched at Birth” to air its summer premiere on June 16th (the second half of season three), we revisit actress Vanessa Marano, one of the main lead characters of ABC Family’s hit drama series “Switched at Birth”.
Vanessa has starred in TV series such as “Scoundrels”, “The Young and the Restless”, “Dexter” and “Without a Trace”.
“Switched at Birth” is a one-hour scripted drama that tells the story of two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as newborns in the hospital.
Vanessa Marano plays the character of Bay Kennish, a girl who grew up in a wealthy family with two parents and a brother, while Daphne Vasquez (played by Katie Leclerc), who lost her hearing at an early age due to a case of meningitis, grew up with a single mother in a working class 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.
The series also stars Lucas Grabeel (“High School Musical”) as Bay’s brother Toby, Lea Thompson (“Back to the Future”, “Caroline in the City”) as her mother Kathryn and Constance Marie (“George Lopez”, “Selena”) as Daphne’s mother Regina.
An ABC Family Q&A session was recently held with Vanessa Marano to promote the second half of the latest season of “Switched at Birth” and also to discuss the renewal of a new season of the series plus more about her character, her relationships and more.
Here is a transcript from the Q&A session.
Moderator How excited were you when Switched at Birth was renewed for a new season?
Vanessa You know, it’s so funny; I’ve been doing this for a very long time so I go into everything very cynically; like, “Alright, well, let’s see if we’re coming back.” We never know. But Switched at Birth is the first show I’ve ever been on that’s generated such a positive strong audience response. We’ve got incredible support from our viewers, specifically, the deaf community. There’s an amount of confidence there knowing that we have an audience rooting for us and wanting us to come back, so that was nice. What’s great about the way ABC Family works is that they split up your seasons seasonally, so to speak, so you have your winter season and your summer season. We have a hiatus, a break, for two months knowing that we were coming back airing in the summer, so that’s kind of nice to have a break and then also know that your job is coming back!
Moderator Is there any one topic on the program that has had a very large impact on your personal life?
Vanessa We deal with so many topics on our show. We’ve covered the deaf community. We’ve covered a lot of social and cultural differences. This last season, we introduced a character who was in a wheelchair, which actually was very close to my heart because I work with The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. And they’ve been working so hard to find a cure for paralysis. It was great Switched introduced the character who was paralyzed and was so hopeful to find a cure because that particular foundation is so close to finding a cure that it’s unbelievable. So that tugged at my heartstrings a little bit.
This coming season, it gets very emotional; and there’s a particular episode, in the middle of the season, that I found very relatable. I think everyone’s going to find relatable. I can’t give you too much information about that. All I can say is that it was a very emotional episode for everyone involved, and everyone’s experienced it.
Moderator What is going to happen between Bay and Emmett this summer?
Vanessa I think Bay and Emmett fans are going to be very happy this summer. But of course, it’s Bay and Emmett, so they’re not without their trials and tribulations. It’s a relationship that I think all the fans have been waiting to see, revisited and brought back to life. Now that they’re finally there, it’s not without its struggle. You can’t just get back into a relationship specifically the way they got back into the relationship. It left with Emmett cheating, and they got back together with her cheating on her current boyfriend. So there’s a little bit of a mess right now, but they’re together. They’re in the mess together.
Moderator What’s going to be happening with Bay and Daphne’s relationship?
Vanessa It’s a particularly difficult season for Daphne. She’s very nervous about her mother’s safety now that she’s involved in this East Riverside Project. In the premiere episode, Bay and Daphne team up to find the guy who threw the brick through the window in order to make peace with him so they know Regina is safe where she is. I don’t know if that’s going to go according to plan, but again, does it ever go according to plan?
Moderator How does Bay address her new relationship with Emmitt to her current boyfriend Tank?
Vanessa Bay has been cheated on. She’s experienced the heartache of it. She is very sensitive in that situation, and she immediately wants to tell him. She wants to break up with him. She wants to not hurt him. She doesn’t know what she wants to do, but she knows what the right thing to do is. So she’s being pulled into two different directions as far as her knowing she doesn’t want to hurt him, but she also knows that he needs to be aware of the situation. Bay is feeling so terrible about herself, and Emmett having no way to really comfort her. I think what hurts the most is in her situation with Emmett, it was someone who cheated on her who cared so much about her, and she cares about Tank, but not in the way that Emmett cares about her. I think that brings up a lot of scars for her as well. The premiere episode is a rough one for everyone involved in that triangle.
Moderator How will things continue to escalate between Emmett and Matthew after the Mandy ordeal?
Vanessa We find out a little bit more about Matthew and his reasoning. He is not exactly the most grounded, well-rounded human being in the sense that—that may be with a little bit of an overreaction, but, yes, we definitely find out more about him and his motives behind the whole ordeal this season.
Moderator What’s it like working with Marlee Matlin?
Vanessa So fabulous! She is the definition of a fantastic actress. She is so talented, but also so lovely to work with. She brings this humorous energy to a set that’s contagious, and she really is a joy to work with. The fact that we had her on our show, a show that is really the first show on television to feature a guest character so prominently, and then feature the deaf community so prominently, was such an honor that she agreed to be on. She’s part of the Switched at Birth family, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, and we love every minute that she’s on set.
Moderator What’s your favorite part about working on “Switched at Birth”?
Vanessa I would say the people that I get to work with. I think part of the reason that the show has resonated with audiences is the energy that we all have with each other, and we really all got along from day one. It’s nice because I’ve worked on many television shows and what we have on Switched at Birth is actually something very special and very difficult to find. I can say I love going to work every day: 12 hours, 5 days a week, no sleep; I love going to work every day!
Moderator What is it like working on the actual “Switched at Birth” set?
Vanessa It’s great! It’s one of the best sets I’ve ever worked on. I really love everybody I work with!
Moderator What was your favorite episode of this past season?
Vanessa I would shockingly enough say the field hockey episode where I was in the goalie outfit because I love the woman who directed that episode. It was the first time that they’ve written into a script that Vanessa skills and Bay skills matched up with one another, which is that they had no skills — so that was very easy to play.
Moderator What is your personal fashion style like and what influencers are involved with Bay’s style?
Vanessa Our fabulous costume designer, Courtney Stern, is very collaborative, so she’s definitely open to suggestions and ideas. I would say what’s similar about me and Bay is definitely we both go dark, we like our dark colors, but that’s because Bay and I have the same coloring, obviously [laughs]. Bay is definitely more of a fashion risk-taker, which I think you see reflected because our costume designer is as well. Bay does more of the combat boot thing, the lacey thing. She dresses herself up in that artistic way, which is a little bit different than me, but always something that I’m working on, like, “Okay, how can I take that and put it into my wardrobe and mesh it together?”
Moderator How does it feel to consistently be recognized and part of a program that has an outstanding achievement in television?
Vanessa Awesome! It’s something that you don’t necessarily expect coming into a show about family and a show about teenage girls. It’s not a genre that actually gets recognized and honored in the way that Switched has been honored, so it’s such an amazing feeling. It’s so great because you feel like you’re doing something that people really enjoy, and it’s really resonating with people. That doesn’t come around very often, so we’re enjoying every minute of that.
Moderator Are there any special guest star in the upcoming season of Switched at Birth?
Vanessa We will be seeing a lot of the guest stars from last season in this season of Switched at Birth, as well as some new people too. I’m not sure that I can reveal too much about who’s coming on, but we love our guest stars! We’re a big fan of guest stars on Switched at Birth.
Moderator Are you big a fan of the Disney brand?
Vanessa I was just at Disneyland Resort on Memorial weekend with my little sister, funny enough, and she was just at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, so I’m going to go with a yes on that one [laughs].
Moderator What is your favorite Disney theme park?
Vanessa I’m going to go with Disneyland, the original in California, because I’m a California girl so all my childhood memories are there. You can’t beat the park that you were going to when you were two years old!
Moderator What’s your favorite Disney ride or attraction in a Disney park?
Vanessa I would say it’s a coin toss between Splash Mountain or Pirate of the Caribbean. I do enjoy water.
Moderator What’s your favorite food or restaurant within a Disney park?
Vanessa There’s something about a pretzel shaped like Mickey Mouse that fills my heart with glee. I love soft pretzels. That’s a big guilty pleasure of mine, it’s shaped like Mickey’s face and it makes me feel like I’m five years old again.
Moderator What is your favorite Disney character?
Vanessa My favorite Disney character of all time, that’s hard. I think it changes; my favorite princess growing up was Belle. I watched Pinocchio over and over again as a child because my dad’s from Italy and that was the movie that he was like, “Look, it looks like where I used to live!” Also, Peter Pan, I watched over and over again. I love Alice in Wonderland and then Lion King. It’s really hard to choose; there’s so many that I enjoy!
Moderator What’s one piece of advice you would personally give to Bay?
Vanessa Think things through! Girlfriend doesn’t think anything through [laughs], she says the first thing that comes to her head. She does not ever think of the negative repercussions of anything. It’s funny because I think that’s directly related to her two mothers. Regina is very independent and very much does what she wants no matter what anybody says. And Kathryn always looks on the positive side of things, always, everything’s going to turn out okay. Those two combinations create Bay, someone who does what she wants and never thinks anything negative is going to happen.
Moderator What’s going to happen on the upcoming season with Bay and her art?
Vanessa This is their last year of high school for the Switched at Birth gang, so I’m sure as all the teenagers who watch the show know that’s a very stressful time when you’re applying to colleges and your future is right there in front of you. Bay has always known what she wanted to do with her life, so she’s applying to art colleges and that’s where she’s at right now. It’s a very scary process because you just don’t know what’s going to end up happening.
Moderator What’s going to happen with the families this season?
Vanessa As always, they’re together and have each other’s back. That’s not without their conflicts because the Vasquez/Sorrento clan is very different than the Kennish clan. We’re reeling from Toby’s divorce, so everyone’s trying to get him back up on his feet; as well as Bay feeling whether or not it’s the right time to tell everyone that her and Emmett have rekindled an old flame. As always, there’s Regina’s safety at this point in time just because the project that she’s working on in East Riverside with her boss, Wes, is such a dangerous idea to the point where a brick gets thrown through your window. It’s a matter of taking care of her as well. No matter what’s going on in their lives, they always have each other’s back.
Moderator What has been the most challenging storyline you’ve had to play as Bay?
Vanessa Bay and Emmett have so many different aspects of their relationship that are so difficult. For the first portion of their time together, it was me having to learn sign language, which was very hard. For the second portion of their time together, it was him cheating on her and still playing that you’re in love with someone who’s cheated on you — because I have my own opinion about cheating, which is that you don’t go back to the person — but Bay obviously went back to him. So that’s a very challenging thing for me to portray. You throw in trying to sign all of that when you’re angry, when you’re sad, when you’re happy, and all the rants that she could be going on because she’s at so many different emotional levels of the whole thing, it gets very challenging. But at the same time, that’s some of my favorite stuff to do because I like being challenged when I’m performing.
Moderator Could you talk about your work with Cruelty Free International?
Vanessa I’m not a vegetarian or anything like that, but I can’t stand the idea of animals not being treated properly. There’s something so terrible about the fact that we take advantage of creatures who can’t speak for themselves, and they do so much for us from a place of happiness, from so many other aspects in this world, that I feel like it’s our human duty to make sure we treat them with care. Cruelty Free International really wants to promote that there are so many other ways to test cosmetics. For something as narcissistic as putting makeup on your face, you really should be going to the other options that don’t involve hurting an animal.
Moderator What are some of your hobbies/talents outside of acting?
Vanessa I’ve been asking for a very long time, so I’ve devoted a lot of time to that. I also draw a little bit. I’m not as talented as Bay whatsoever. Other than that, really if I have a massive amount of time off when I’m not working, I try to go to school. That’s the extent of the Vanessa Marano talent book — her ability to sit and take notes in a class and doodle on those notes [laughs].
Moderator Who would you personally choose, Tank or Emmett?
Vanessa I don’t like cheating, but Bay cheated on Tank, so there you go. It’s a really interesting situation that she’s in because I think she was with Tank because she felt so safe with him, and she hasn’t felt safe with Emmett for so long, so she wasn’t really with Tank for the right reasons. She wants to be with Emmett, but there’s a lack of trust there that’s going to be a hard relationship to be in as well.
Moderator How do you get into character?
Vanessa I don’t [laughs]. I’ve been acting for a very long time and I started in children’s theater and really you don’t have the time in theater to really get into character. It’s so quick. The philosophy that theater has is that you really get yourself into the headspace. You just kind of turn it on and off. For me, that’s how I do it just because I wouldn’t be able to be staying in the headspace of the character for so long. It wouldn’t feel real to me because I know in my gut that I am not that character. While imagining and performing it, and being able to slip in and out of it feels real to me because I know it’s not me and I’m creating something. I feel like it’s similar to creating a painting or creating words on a page. That’s the same thing that acting is to me.
Moderator Do you have any fun summer plans during your next filming break?
Vanessa Not at the moment, there’s a possibility that I might go to New York a little bit to visit family, but other than that, nothing planned out right now. It’s very hard to plan your life as an actor because you never know when you’re going to be working. I think that actually goes for anybody who’s in the entertainment industry because you never know when you’re going to be working!
For more information on “Switched at Birth”, please visit the official website here.
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