Ahead of the Switched at Birth spring finale, we spoke to Katie Leclerc, who plays Daphne Vasquez, about the roller coaster of season 4 and what’s coming up next for her character.
Pop City Life: What has been Daphne’s biggest challenge this season and what’s coming up for her down the road?
Katie Leclerc: Daphne has been through a lot this season. I think what was hardest for Daphne was what Bay went through. In seasons past my character kind of fell off the deep end and I got to explore different sides of this character, and this season was all about Daphne’s compassionate side, and that doesn’t let up in the finale episode either. Daphne is one of the kindest human characters that I’ve gotten to play, and I’m so glad that I’ve gotten to. She loves with all of her heart, she has the biggest heart of anyone that I’ve ever not actually met. In the finale episode, I think her compassion gets tested again with her friends sort of in a different way than it has been with her family. But her connection to her sister is so strong that I think everything they went through was very difficult for Daphne as well.
Pop City Life: Where do you see her in five years?
Katie Leclerc: You know, what I love about our story is that our creator, Lizzy Weiss, keeps inventing and she keeps coming up with different new paths for these characters to explore. I think Daphne is steadfast going after her goal of being a doctor very strongly. In five years, I feel like she’ll probably be very close to getting there. We all know it takes eight years, so I think she’ll probably be in school still. But I don’t know as far as her personal life what could change, because these characters evolve so quickly that I can barely keep up.
Also revealed on the conference call:
Do you think Daphne made the right decision to attend UMKC instead of Gallaudet?
Katie Leclerc: Oh, heck yes! I think Daphne is one of those people who blooms where she’s planted, so I think she would have been great at Gallaudet as well. But especially because of everything that happened with her family this season, I think it was really monumental for her to be close to her family. She’s so emotionally close to them that I think being that far, I think it would have worn on her, so I think it’s good she stayed at UMKC. Plus she’s with Melody, so that’s even better. I get more Marlee Matlin time.
Do you think we’ll see her college experience lighten up at all?
Katie Leclerc: I think so. The sorority thing was an interesting thing for Daphne to try. That probably would have lightened her up a little bit, but she’s very intense so I’m not sure she lightens up too easily.
What is the vibe like on set when you have to film those serious scenes?
Katie Leclerc: Our cast is not very serious most of the time. We all love our job so much because we get to go to work and we get to play, and we do play for 12 hours a day together, which ultimately just makes us very close. The vibe is usually very similar regardless of what we’re filming, maybe with the minor exceptions of the Bay and Tank scenes, but that didn’t necessarily take the whole day – it was just a couple scenes throughout the day. We’re very silly, and I think when you are dealing with such a heavy subject, you have to be able to be sensitive to that subject and make sure that mentally you can also get through it. We love the table reads the most, because everybody gets together in the same room and we all can laugh at each other’s jokes, but it doesn’t mean we stop cracking jokes when no one’s around. I make myself laugh more than I make anyone else laugh, though.
Is it hard to get back into the scene if you broke for a blooper or something funny happened?
Katie Leclerc: I think it depends on the situation. For example, the scene with Mingo and Daphne where certain preventative health matters… OK, let’s be real, the condom got stuck, and it was a really funny moment [laughs]. That scene in particular was harder to be serious than it was any other scene that we’ve ever done, because we were just cracking jokes left and right.
What do you hope happens with Mingo? If Daphne could be with any character who would you want her to be with?
Katie Leclerc: I’m going to answer the second one first, because it’s such an easy answer for me [laughs]. I miss Wilke, I miss Austin Butler; I loved that storyline. I thought he cared about Daphne in a way that a lot of the other boys that she had gone after did not. I do, I miss Wilke. I love him. I love Mingo, though, too. Adam Hagenbuch is the actor’s name. Adam’s great. He’s hilarious because, I mean, you look at him and you see that he is, what, 6′ 3″ and a beast of a man and a personal trainer and you could do laundry on his abs [laughs]. He is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. While the cameras are not rolling, while we’re not cracking jokes, we’re talking about things like physics and science and different theories about the planets, which is something that maybe I didn’t necessarily expect right away. I do love Adam, and I do love the Mingo storyline. I know that the fans love the Daphne and Josh storyline, so I’m not really sure where we’re headed in terms of what Lizzy has planned for them next. But I’m good with either way. I think that Austin Cauldwell, who plays Josh, does a good job acting as a Coto. I’m blessed to work with really, really good actors, and they are all really attractive, too, so I’ll take what I can get [laughs].
Will we be seeing Josh in the finale?
Katie Leclerc: I have a feeling that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
What’s your relationship like with Vanessa [Marano] off camera?
Katie Leclerc: Oh, she’s absolutely, hands down one of my favorite people on the entire planet. She’s one of my closest friends, and definitely when it came time for me to buy a house she was like, “Why don’t you come live by me?” and I was like “Hmm, OK, it’s 45 minutes out of the city, no problem!” She and I live about 10 minutes from each other. Somebody asked us if we saw each other as much when we were on hiatus as we were when we were filming, and we both realized that we see each other more when we’re on hiatus, because when we’re filming, usually we don’t have scenes together. So, yes, very close with her, love her dearly.
What’s it like working on set?
Katie Leclerc: It’s amazing; it is my dream job, it is a dream come true. Every day I get to pinch myself. Sometimes at four in the morning, I’m pinching myself. That’s how much I love my job [laughs].
How do you feel that you and your character are similar?
Katie Leclerc: As I mentioned before, I love Daphne. I want to be like Daphne. She’s feisty and she’s strong-willed, but she stands up for what she believes in. She’s brave, she’s normal, she doesn’t get caught up. She’s normal in the sense that, for example, she’s sad the sorority doesn’t want her, but she’s also realistic in the sense that in the big picture it’s not really that big of a deal. I don’t know how much I’m like Daphne but I want to be like Daphne.
Is there any advice that you would give to a girl in college or going into college from the experiences that you’ve gone through with your character?
Katie Leclerc: Absolutely. I just touched on it just now: It’s all about the big picture. I didn’t go to college necessarily; I took classes to stay on my parents’ health insurance for a long time [laughs], but I didn’t necessarily have a major. I knew I wanted to be an actor, so I was really taking classes as a supplement. For me, college was a really good experience; it was way better than high school and it was 10,000 times better than middle school. I think as you grow up, things just get better, it gets easier, you gain perspective, and if you have the patience to let whatever the situation is play out in the big picture – in the long run, things that feel so heavy and so important don’t necessarily stay as highlighted when you look back on your life. My advice would just be to stay positive and try to think about the big picture.
Will Daphne and Emmett ever get back to the friendship that they used to have?
Katie Leclerc: I think that’s definitely possible. I don’t think there’s necessarily a whole lot of romantic feeling in either of their brains anymore, but definitely friendship-wise. It’s really hard, because Emmett was Daphne’s lifesaver at a very young age and now Bay is Daphne’s sister. So it’s one of those things where you can be a good friend to multiple people in different places at different stages in their life. I think Daphne and Emmett could absolutely be friends. It also depends on timing, how the Bay and Emmett situation plays out. If they end up on good terms, then absolutely Daphne and Emmett could be friends right away, but if it doesn’t actually go the way that Bay is hoping, it might be a little bit harder for Daphne. She’s pretty defensive of Bay.
If you could play any other character on Switched at Birth, who would it be and why?
Katie Leclerc: We have a lot of really great guest stars this season. Sharon [Pierre-Louis], who plays Iris, is really, really, really sweet and really fun. I like her spunky personality. I think she matches well with Daphne. We don’t really have any villain characters, like a Chip Coto character. I want to like twist my imaginary mustache a little bit [laughs]; I want to play that kind of character.
If you could have any guest star come on the show who would you pick?
Katie Leclerc: Kristin Chenoweth, absolutely hands down, 1,000 percent, don’t even have to think about it [laughs]. Could somebody call Kristin Chenoweth and get her on our show? She is amazing, she is perfect, and cute, and adorable. I feel like her and Marlee Matlin are friends in real life. She could be in Batter Up: The Musical. She could play Kathryn’s [Lea K. Thompson] character in the musical. Things are coming together. Let’s get Lizzy on the phone, because this is just gold. Let’s get Kristin Chenoweth. [laughs]
Could you tell us a surprising thing you may have learned about yourself through playing Daphne?
Katie Leclerc: I had been acting for eight years before I got Switched at Birth, and definitely had been stretched and had been challenged in performing different types of roles. Switched at Birth was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It was the biggest thing that I had ever done in terms of being like, “Wow, I am on a real TV show and I’m the lead character, and I’m a series regular, oh, and I’m speaking two languages at the same time with an accent that I just barely learned.” I have to keep my jaw closed because I’m working with all these awesome people like Lea Thompson and Constance [Marie] and Lucas [Grabeel] and all these people. It was the most challenging thing I’d ever, ever, ever done. Now it’s sort of second-nature, like I can flip the switch on and do the accents and the foreign language and I can wrap my brain around it, but to start off was so challenging. The thing that I learned about myself is that I can do it. I had always dreamed of being on a series as a series regular, as a lead character, but I think it’s one of those things where until you actually get thrust into that situation and it’s sort of either sink or swim, you figure out how your professional business is run. I want to run my business as professionally as I can. I show up with all of my lines memorized 10 minutes early. What I’ve figured out is how to be myself, how to be Katie, at the same time as navigating this really overwhelming industry. And I’m really proud of that.
Do you have any mantras or confidence boosting tips or tricks that you do to psych yourself up?
Katie Leclerc: I totally do. Music is a really big motivator for me, so sometimes if I have a big day at work or if I have a big audition, I will put on some sort of ridiculously happy pop song. Most of the time, it’s Taylor Swift – or, actually, right before I got the job for Switched at Birth, it was a High School Musical song, which, talk about irony – when Lucas walked in the room, I almost lost my mind [laughs]. So I will blast music as loud as I can and dance like no one is watching. But that’s usually what I do. And if that doesn’t work, I think about the best advice I ever got, which was from my father before this huge acting competition. My mom and I were in New York for five days. The first day, my dad sent up a fruit basket with a card, and the card said, “Define the moment – don’t let the moment define you,” and that’s something that I’ve held onto forever. It’s the best advice I’ve ever received. I really think that we are in power of our environment, and I believe in manifestation and if you can visualize success it is so much easier to attain. I just try to keep those things in mind, and try to do it with some spunk and positive energy.
Who is your favorite character other than Daphne?
Katie Leclerc: I would say John Kennish. There are times, for example – when Bay found out her secret was spread and there was a big campus-wide investigation – D.W. [Moffett] came over and sat with her. He just has these really tender moments. But, man, he can be hard, he can be scary, and especially if anybody’s seen Friday Night Lights, he is terrifying [laughs]. He has these very real moments of caring and tenderness. Maybe he just reminds me of my dad in the sense that you can be tough but you can love at the same time. It’s not hard to do that emotionally as a person, I think we’re all feeling two things at once, but for D.W. to portray that is really difficult, and he does such a great job with it.
Who’s the silliest on set?
Katie Leclerc: Actually I would say D.W. as well. He’s such a conundrum, this man. I love him so much. He is absolutely so fricking silly, and the moment they call “Cut,” he’s the first one to start busting into jokes or silly dances or whatever. Lea will dance sometimes, but it’s more like she’s just dancing because she’s a beautiful dancer. D.W.’s dancing to be silly. The funny thing about D.W., though, is that he will always get me to break character. In five years, I have attempted numerous times and I’ve never gotten him to break, but mark my words, before this year is over, I am going to bust him.
Do you have any hobbies that you love?
Katie Leclerc: I love hiking and running. I love being with my dog. I love just telling stories, that’s my favorite, but mostly with my dogs.
If you could switch places with anyone, for one day, who would you want it to be?
Katie Leclerc: Can I just be Queen Meryl Streep for a day and see what that’s like? I’ll try that on. Polish my Oscars and sing and feel good about my life.
Do you love live-tweeting with fans during episodes?
Katie Leclerc: I do love live-tweeting, I really do. I don’t always get to do it as much as I want, but when I can, I think it’s so much fun. Fans are so excited and it makes me so excited, and I’m easily excitable and then usually that excites people, so it’s just really exciting.
Any chance there’s a PLL and Switched at Birth crossover after fans saw the picture of you and Keegan Allen?
Katie Leclerc: I just really enjoy Keegan! I think he’s just a really sweet kid, a hunky man. He’s really sweet and he’s very artistic and really passionate about his work. I’m really excited for him; he just released his book. Mostly, that picture was from when we had this great opportunity for literally every ABC Family show to be in the same building over a 48-hour period. Some shows we got to cross over with and some shows we didn’t really get to, but it’s always great to see each other. We run into each other at the ABC Family Christmas party and stuff like that, so we see each other pretty regularly, but it’s not often that we get to have lots of downtime and then make a Snapchat, so that was really nice as well.
If you could dream-cast yourself in another ABC Family show what would it be?
Katie Leclerc: Oh, you know what I would love is a Pretty Little Liars/Switched at Birth crossover, like let’s just make Tuesdays super epic! It’s pretty epic right now, but let’s embrace that craziness. I would love to be on Pretty Little Liars. I love the sitcom schedule, so I’ll take a day on Baby Daddy. Really I’ll take anybody who wants to employ me [laughs].
The spring finale of Switched at Birth airs tonight at 9/8c! Check out the preview: