As SWITCHED AT BIRTH returns for Season 4B, Daphne Vasquez () and Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) are at a crossroads as their lives are about to change again. Bay is looking at a future possibly without Emmett (Sean Berdy) and Daphne’s decision to pursue a medical degree pushes her harder than ever before.
In a recent press conference call, star Katie Leclerc talked about what lies ahead for our SWITCHED AT BIRTH families and how rewarding it is to give their stories life.
How do we see Bay and Daphne, along with the rest of the blended family’s relationship develop and change in the second half of this season?
KATIE: The heart of the show has always been Bay and Daphne and when Daphne had her downward spiral, her family really jumped in and saved the day for Daphne in a huge way. I think Daphne is still feeling guilt from that and sometimes guilt is bad and sometimes guilt is a huge motivator. So for Daphne, having so much at stake and having her family really risk their livelihood for her, it puts her in a place where she is highly motivated for school and to become a doctor. Her pre-med quest is really fueled by the love of her family and the fact that she doesn’t want to disappoint them again. Pre-med’s super hard regardless of whether you’re deaf or not, so for Daphne, I think, the big challenge this season and the way that Bay and Daphne’s relationship changes is Daphne comes to the realization that she can do it and it’s going to be a struggle, but she’s always got Bay there supporting her and always behind her.
What was it like when you returned to set to film the rest of Season 4?
KATIE: It’s always a good feeling to get back to set. I think what will be extremely exciting is if we get a Season 5. The return to set for Season 5 is going to be super jump-for-joy, awesome! It’s always good to be with family and it’s also good to take a breather from family, too. I’m sure everybody can relate to that. Our little mini hiatus between Season 4A and Season 4B was only about six weeks long, so I was able to do a film during the off-time. It actually starred Lea Thompson, so it’s another example of how your family’s always close by.
What is it like to work with the cast of SWITCHED AT BIRTH?
KATIE: Oh my gosh, it’s the best! We have just giggles, on giggles, on giggles every single day at work. We truly love each other and it’s really exciting that especially since it’s my first big project, and I really feel like I was embraced by this family and I was welcomed into this family. It all happened at the same time. I have incredibly strong women to be able to look up to, Lea [Thompson] and Constance [Marie], and of course, Marlee Matlin. As well as, good strong business figures like D.W. Moffett and Gilles Marini, who is one of my favorite human beings that ever existed on this planet. I really feel incredibly blessed that I was able to spend so much time with this group of people and really become a family off-screen as well as onscreen.
Is there anything you can tease about this upcoming season?
KATIE: Well, you know, as we all know, someone is pregnant. The big shocker is that it’s actually D.W.’s right? Of course I’m kidding.
What would you say has been the biggest change for Daphne over the course of these seasons?
KATIE: I think there’s been some pretty large changes for her. I was about to say switches, but I guess that wouldn’t really apply. I think when she had her food truck and she and Travis were robbed, I think that was an incredibly life-changing experience for her. She’s become more guarded and more protective and also sees some of what the evil in this world can—the damage that that can do. I think before that, she grew up maybe in a rough neighborhood, but she was never part of the violence. So, I think that was a huge thing, but then also, having that person return and having her treat that person, based on a doctor’s code; I think that was really full-circle for her in a big way. It created the space for her to have the confidence to do the job regardless of what was in front of her. In a similar way, I would say when Sharee’s mom stabbed the head doctor at the clinic, [Dr. Jackson], and she punctured the lungs so the air could get into his lung, I think that was also a really big shift for her. It’s another example of just, you know, whether you’re deaf or hearing, they are challenges and you can’t let you own challenges get in the way of what has to be done. Daphne’s really realized that over the course of the four years. She’s never been one to back down, ever. That’s one of my favorite things about this character. She’s strong in every single way possible. I think as she grows, that really becomes solidified in her and her confidence gets even stronger.
Overall, do you think she’s a better person now than when we first met her?
KATIE: Interesting question. I think she’s a little bit more rounded and she really has grown. I’m excited for fans to see what this season brings and I’m excited to see what happens after this season. This season we’re dealing with Bay and her loss and Daphne’s really exploring all of the ways that she can be supportive to her family, in the ways that they have to her in the past. This season is really difficult for Bay and for the rest of the family and it’s time for Daphne to step up and be the cheerleader that the family really needs. It should be really fun. One of the other things I love about our show is that we never shy away from a hard subject. You know, Bay’s character with the Title IX incident and all of those things along the way; cochlear implants and our creator, Lizzy, is never afraid to bring up a tough topic. This season has that in spades. It’s incredibly tough what the family is about to go through and it’s very real. I personally have friends of my family who have had similar experiences and I think that it’s your reaction to the problem that really sets the course of how you’re going to be able to deal with it. I wish I could tell you more.
How has your approach playing Daphne changed throughout the seasons?
KATIE: I think now its very second nature. I know this character like the back of my hand. When I first started, I had been acting for about ten years, but I’d never been a series regular. So, my homework at home to learn lines and stuff like that was incredibly intense and my script had three different highlighters; one for speaking parts only, one for signing parts only, and one for SimCom parts. I’m a little OCD so I definitely used that to my advantage in that case, but now I can show up to set and I know already what’s going to be SimCommed and what’s going to be voice off. If we’re talking to a character who is hearing and has no sign language experience, of course Daphne wouldn’t sign to them. Then, as Daphne’s relationship with other characters change, so does the amount of sign language that I will use with another character. So, that’s definitely changed. We’ve always joked around on set from the beginning so that’s not really new, but we’re very comfortable with each other, myself and the rest of the cast now, so I think we tease pretty hard. Just like a family really does.
How has this project changed your life throughout the course of its seasons?
KATIE: I’m so grateful for this project. I’m so incredibly blessed to be a part of something that is so impactful as well as creatively fulfilling. I got married over the past four years. I’ve purchased a home over the last four years. It’s incredible how quickly life changes and how it really does feel like a blink of an eye. I remember one of the very first days on set, one of the makeup artists was like, “Yes, this show’s going forever. We’re going to see people—we’re going to have marriages on this set, we’re going to have kids on this set.” Some of our crewmembers have had babies and it’s really neat and really fulfilling to be a part of a project that means so much and is so much fun. I get teary-eyed sometimes. I go on Twitter and I see people talk about what Switched has done to their lives and to me that fills my heart with so much joy just to be a part of a project like that.
What is it like for you changing courses with Daphne and she and Mingo being that new stable couple?
KATIE: I cannot tell you how happy I am that Daphne has a solid boyfriend. She’s always been a bit boy-crazy. ABC Family is no stranger to having some hunky eye-candy dudes around. Adam Hagenbuch is a wonderful actor, a great human being, super hilarious. I really enjoy having scenes with him and just talking about films. We’ve really bonded. We’ve really become close friends and I really love Adam. It’s been really great for Daphne to have a stable boyfriend and to see what she’s like in a solid relationship. You know what I mean? She’s not bouncing around from thing to thing, she’s really grounded and she really knows what she wants and has it right now. It’s been really nice to let Daphne settle a little bit.
Is there a scene from the upcoming premiere that you’re most excited for people to see?
KATIE: There’s a scene that I have not yet seen and I believe it starts the episode. I think it’s the first scene in the episode. I’m not in the scene, so it’s just Vanessa [Marano] and it’s the many versions of Bay and she’s having a mental crack. I think it’ll be really ORPHAN BLACK-ish. It’ll be really cool to see how the editors do it and how the many versions of Bay are very different. We can really see how Bay has changed over the last few months as well. I believe that’s the first scene in the episode, but I can’t be quite sure but I know it’s very early on.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
KATIE: My husband and I have two dogs that we are just totally in love with, so we spend a lot of time with the dogs. I am a wonderful cook, if I do say so myself, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen as well. I’m always trying to come up with something new to cook. Not so long ago it was macaroons. I had this lofty idea that I could make macaroons and they worked once, but then the next five attempts they didn’t work, so it was torture. I’m always trying to find something to do that’s creative, outside of acting, but my goal every hiatus is to book a job. As much as I can, I just want to keep working. I feel like I’ve been blessed to have such a huge launch pad and such a great opportunity that I’m just trying to take advantage of it as much as I can.
What are your top three favorite TV shows?
KATIE: FREAKS AND GEEKS is totally a classic. I grew up laughing with that with my brother and the talent in that cast is crazy. Other favorite TV shows. I’m super nerdy, so I like comic book shows. I think ORPHAN BLACK is the best show on TV right now. I love that show. I love what they do. Tatiana’s an incredible actress. BREAKING BAD was amazing. I watch more TV than I watch films just because they’re smaller increments and if it’s a good show, you get an incredible story line and character development. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is totally one of my all-time favorites. The fact that D.W.’s my dad in SWITCHED AT BIRTH is hilarious to me. I could go on and on about TV.
What is the overall consensus of whether Bay and Daphne switchsters or swisters?
KATIE: See, it’s a struggle for me. I think there are more swisters than there are switchsters. See the problem lies in the fact that Vanessa and I call ourselves switchsters and always have but I think the fans vote swisters. But Vanessa and I, who are the switchsters, are voting switchsters. It’s very complicated. I don’t know what to do about it because I feel like, well I could give up my belief, but if anybody has a thought, it should probably be Vanessa and I. Or maybe even Lizzy [Weiss]. That’s what it is; Lizzy’s got to be the tie-breaker.
How does Daphne feel about Regina’s relationship with Eric and are there going to be any issues with Regina trying to balance her time between these different families?
KATIE: Well, you know, I think the first time that Daphne saw Regina with Eric was a challenge. We saw that happen onscreen, so that was a fun moment to play. There’s a natural grownup-ness about Daphne now that she’s matured a lot and she wants her mom to be happy in whatever way that Regina is pursuing that happiness. Now that Daphne’s in college and living in the dorms, it’s natural for Regina to feel like the “empty-nester.” The fact that Regina isn’t really experiencing that because she has the coffee shop to keep her occupied and to keep her busy and Eric and Will as well, is a really good thing for Regina as a character. I think Daphne’s totally supportive of it, but mostly because Daphne’s also wrapped up in her own world.
Can you tell us anything about the rumors of a character returning to the show?
KATIE: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say who it is or not, but the fact that you don’t know who it is makes me feel like I don’t think I can . Oh shoot. I actually think I Instagrammed a photo of this person, so I don’t think it’s a huge reveal, but Daphne has made some enemies over the past four seasons. Maybe not necessarily enemies, because this person is in a position of power and Daphne was a teenager at the time. Daphne doesn’t have any direct interaction with this character, but Bay does. So, Bay’s malice towards him is definitely palatable, but our girl Bay has a way of getting her way, so I wouldn’t worry about it too, too much.
What can we expect from Daphne this season?
KATIE: Daphne is in a really good place. She’s really solid; she’s making super good choices, which is awesome. She is super happy with Mingo. Like I said before, she’s really just the cheerleader for the family. The family struggle right now is real. It’s real in the sense that it’s a looming thing for the family, but the storyline is something that I’ve dealt with in my personal life and I know it’s a very tough subject for a lot of families to deal with. So, Daphne’s really there to be as supportive to the family as she can be and I think that comes in many different ways. She’s there physically with her family, but also just sending good vibes and positivity towards them. There is one really cool moment that I have to say, I think it’s in Episode 7, a very close friend of mine makes a really quick cameo. There’s a scene where there’s a fundraiser at Scratch, the town bar, and it’s western night. So my friend Caron Butler, who just got drafted to the Sacramento Kings in the NBA. He came to set and we shot him as if he was just thrown off the mechanical bull, and he stands up and he throws his arms in the air and he cheers, and then walks off and he and Daphne look at each other. So he’s this really quick cameo, featured background role, but if anybody’s a basketball fan, definitely keep an eye out because Caron Butler is in the house.
If you could star on any ABC Family show, which one would you pick and who would you want to play?
KATIE: I would say YOUNG AND HUNGRY. I really like to be in the kitchen. I’m a pretty darn good cook and they seem like they have a lot of fun. I really like the idea of the live studio audience. I would totally do that and it’d be really fun. I love Emily and so I would probably play her friend.
What has been your favorite relationship of Daphne’s?
KATIE: If you’d asked me last season, I would have to say my favorite relationship was with Wilkie for Daphne. Wilkie was super supportive and definitely didn’t have ulterior motives like say, Jace did. Daphne kind of falls into this pitfall of guys that aren’t necessarily looking out for her. Mingo, though, is totally on Daphne’s side and I love Mingo for Daphne. He pushes her and motivates her in ways that none of her previous boyfriends have and he’s really good and I like that we didn’t know whether they were going to be friends or enemies at first. They definitely have each other’s back and I think it’s a really beautiful relationship.
To see how Daphne and Bay fare Season 4B and if their blended families can weather the new challenges ahead, be sure to tune in for the return of SWITCHED AT BIRTH on Monday, August 24th at 8:00 p.m. on ABC Family Channel.