Interview: Katie Leclerc & Vanessa Marano Talk Switched at Birth Finale
Since June 2011, Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano have graced our screens as Daphne Vasquez and Bay Kennish in the Freeform (then ABC Family) show Switched at Birth. Pop City Life spoke with both “Swisters” about the Switched at Birth finale, how they picture their characters’ futures, their thoughts on an SAB revival, and more! Read on for our exclusive interview with Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano.
Bay and Daphne had a bumpy start to season 5, but by the Switched at Birth finale, it seemed like they were both in a good place. How do you feel about the way the writers wrapped everything up? Was there anything you found surprising?
Vanessa Marano: Bay is an artist, and being a performer, I also am an artist! I think that’s why I don’t find Bay’s whole journey very surprising. You have your ups and downs, and you have what you think is going to be your career path and what ends up being your career path. It’s a roller coaster ride whenever you get involved in the arts in any way. I think they did such a beautiful job of capturing that for Bay. She went from being a street artist to trying to be taken seriously and go to art school and be a painter to discovering that she really loved tattooing people. She got to play around with a lot of different media, and success in a field like that isn’t necessarily the way you think it’s going to look. It really is just about getting to express yourself and do what you do. I think that’s such a big part of Bay’s personality, and ultimately why she felt she didn’t fit in with her family was because her parents weren’t like that, specifically John. Through the five seasons we’ve been on the air, she’s always been going up against that, trying to prove herself and prove that who she is is worthwhile and what she wants to do with her life is worthy of being taken seriously. I feel like the Switched at Birth finale does a really good job of giving her that validation.
Katie Leclerc: I think they did a really great job of wrapping everything up. It’s hard to satisfy all of the equations that we started in five years, and I love that it ended with the family get-together. It ends the way it starts, and it was very full-circle. My favorite thing about it is the final shot of the series, which was again tying everything together. I love it so much.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your character since the show started?
Katie Leclerc: I think Daphne starts off as this naive, really sweet girl who’s like “Ooh, a new family? Yes, I will embrace this with all of my love and all of my heart!” Then she finds out Regina knew secrets and didn’t share them with her. Not that she’s less trusting now, but she’s more skeptical at times, which leads her to be more analytical and a better doctor. She ages through the series and becomes a woman, and it’s really cool to see that. Ultimately, I think her biggest shift is that she’s more refined. She’s boiled everything down – she’s this really cool, empathetic, awesome gal. In the beginning, she was sort of like a puppy dog! She uses her energy more appropriately now.
Vanessa Marano: The evolution of Bay’s art was a huge change for her, but I actually think the biggest change in Bay from the pilot to now was this aspect of teenage rich, spoiled selfishness she had about her that completely dissolved. She really was able to grow personally through meeting Daphne and getting involved in the deaf community, going through an assault, going through the death of a parent, and of course aging as well. I think she’s done a great job of becoming a more well rounded human being. She saw Daphne as such an enemy when Daphne first came into her life. She was like, “You’re this perfect girl! You’re athletic, you’re smart, you’re beautiful! My parents love you! My biological mom seems to love you more than she loves me!” In a way, that jealousy and that insecurity came from a place of me-me-me-me-me. Now, Daphne is her sister for life. She couldn’t imagine not having that person in her corner, and she wants Daphne to succeed. The friendship that they’ve built is an amazing one.
In terms of the future, what do you think is ahead for your character? Hypothetically, how do you see her life turning out?
Katie Leclerc: Hypothetically, Daphne is a doctor with a private practice that caters to deaf families and many deaf clients, she’s done more traveling, and potentially is with Mingo.
Vanessa Marano: Hypothetically, Bay will get involved with many different art media. I think she will be successful at tattooing, but that’s not going to be her end goal. I think she’s going to flourish in a lot of different ways career-wise and explore a lot of different aspects of art. I’ve always joked around that Bay should actually give up being an artist and become a language translator, because she picks up languages like nobody’s business. She learned sign language rather quickly; she learned Mandarin rather quickly. I’ve spoken Mandarin, French, sign language, and a little Spanish on this show, so I’m like, “What is she doing?! She’s gonna work for the U.N.!”
Do you think Bay’s going to end up really tatted or just have a couple of tattoos?
Vanessa Marano: That’s a good question, actually. I don’t like tattoos personally; I don’t even have my ears pierced! The idea of a needle coming toward my body freaks me out, and also the idea of something being permanent! I’m like “Oh my God, I can’t change it?! What?!” Bay is so different from that, so it’s almost hard for me to answer that question. From my perspective, I’d be like, oh, she’ll just have a few. But knowing Bay, she’ll get a freaking sleeve on her arm.
It’s been a while since you wrapped filming Switched at Birth. What do you miss most about playing your character?
Vanessa Marano: I would say what I miss most about all of it is the people I got to work with, and going into work every day. It’s really great when you get to build a character, but what’s so fun about it is the other people that you’re building characters with. You get to have a lot of different, fun moments over the years – Bay interacting with Toby, Daphne, John, Regina, Kathryn. From an actor’s perspective, I miss those moments because there’s nothing like being in a character for so many years and being able to play with other people who’ve been in their characters for that many years too. That’s something that doesn’t come around very often. And then of course, on a personal note, I loved everyone I got to work with, so I miss actually seeing them!
Katie Leclerc: I have really been taken aback by and really love the fan support that we’ve gotten from Switched at Birth. Daphne – and the show in its entirety – gave a voice to a really large group of people who were totally underrepresented onscreen. I loved being a part of that and I’ve gotten comments from little girls’ moms saying “I learned something because of the show” and “My daughter is deaf, and I could see her confidence grow by having a character on TV who’s like her.” I feel like we did a little bit of good at the same time as being entertaining, and there’s no better feeling.
Katie, you actually had the last line of the episode. What did it mean to you to effectively sign off the series, and what TV legacy do you think Daphne left?
Katie Leclerc: It’s sad that the series is over, but I really feel like Daphne had a journey and audiences were able to relate to her. Everybody has their favorite character, and my favorite character is Daphne – surprise! I love that Daphne’s a little bit feisty. She’s always respectful and she’s very educated and determined. If you combine those things, she can sometimes be in other people’s business, but ultimately, she’s usually right. I love that she will never back away from a fight. To have the last line of the series didn’t even dawn on me, so from a fan perspective, I think that’s really cool!
I think a lot of people will remember Daphne as being very principled and committed to whatever cause she’s feeling passionate about.
Katie Leclerc: Absolutely! Even if it’s not her own!
Given the recent trend of reviving TV shows, could you see something similar happening with Switched at Birth in a few years? Would you be on board?
Vanessa Marano: I did a show called The Comeback when I was 13 years old, and 10 years later, it came back. I was on Gilmore Girls for two years, and then 10 years later, it came back. So I feel like in 10 years, I could definitely see this happening. I am totally up for it, absolutely. What I think is so fun about a revival happening a little bit later is that you get to be like, “What happened in between?” Bay could have two arms full of tattoos!
Katie Leclerc: Yeah, if I got that call, I would run to the studio. Let’s do it! Let’s do this revival! Can we do it tomorrow? Just tape it, then air it in 10 years?
While you’re waiting for that revival call, what projects have you been working on? What’s coming up for you?
Vanessa Marano: I’ve been so fortunate to have the career that I’ve had so far, and I just want to work. I want to do theater, I want to do film, I want to do more television, I would like to produce, I’d like to write… I just like being in it. My focus right now is finding the things that fuel me creatively, and hopefully those things are good and memorable.
Katie Leclerc: I went to film school about 10 years ago, so I’m starting to lean into that education. My husband and I are writing a project together that hopefully we will start shooting this summer. It’s a horror comedy very different than Switched, but it’s badass women being super-awesome, so that’s always fun. I also have a series that is bingeable on the go90 app; it’s called Confess and it’s an adaption of a romance novel by Colleen Hoover. It’s a different role than Daphne, and a little bit more adult. The sexy is sexy and the funny is funny, and I’m really proud of how that turned out. It’s hard for me to hold still for an extended period of time!
What’s it like working with your husband? Are you able to separate the personal from the professional?
Katie Leclerc: Sometimes we are and sometimes we aren’t! If both of us are well fed and well rested and well caffeinated, we can bust stuff out and be objective and just listen to the other person and create this really cool thing. But if the stars are not aligned, there’s definitely potential for some feud. We’re two super-passionate people.
Thank you for all your work on the past five years of Switched at Birth! We’re big fans of the show at Pop City Life, and we loved the Switched at Birth finale!
Vanessa Marano: That’s so nice, thanks!
Katie Leclerc: Thank you for the support – I really appreciate it. We’ve sure had a really good time.
Read our recap of where our favorite Switched at Birth characters ended up at the end of the series, and check out our January interview with Katie Leclerc, in which she spoke about her favorite Switched at Birth memories and her experience as part of such a groundbreaking show.