Switched at Birth Star Vanessa Marano Discusses Season Two
ABC Family’s Switched at Birth has received praise from critics and fans alike since it premiered during the summer of 2011. And after what felt like the longest first season ever (30 episodes, with a hiatus between March and September!), the series is back for a proper season two. Vanessa Marano plays Bay Kennish, one of the girls who was switched at birth. During a holiday break from filming the second season, Marano spoke to Poptimal about her breakout show’s second season and her upcoming Lifetime movie, Restless Virgins.
Stephanie Jaar for Poptimal.com: What’s it been like coming back for a second season of Switched at Birth?
Vanessa Marano: Fantastic! We were all really excited that we’re officially shooting our second season because we were in our first season for a very, very long time. It was a 30-episode first season and we were shooting on and off for two years so it was a big relief to be like, “Okay, finally season 2, yay!”
Poptimal.com: Were the cast and crew expecting to be picked up for a second season or did it come as a bit of a surprise?
Marano: We were expecting it, but at the same time I think- as a cast and as the producers, we’ve been doing this for so long, you never know for sure. It looked good because we’ve been doing really well for the network, the critical response and the fan response has been incredibly positive. But at the same time, you never know. So it was very exciting nevertheless.
Poptimal.com: American Sign Language is a huge part of the show, what was it like for you having to learn all that? Did you have any experience beforehand or was it completely new?
Marano: I had absolutely no experience beforehand. It was like the sixth episode where they were like, “Okay, your character’s gonna start dating Emmett” – who is the deaf kid on the show, he’s friends with Daphne, the other girl who’s switched who’s also deaf – “And so that means you need to learn sign language!” Because if you’re gonna be in a relationship with somebody, you should probably be able to communicate with them. [laughs]
Poptimal.com: Did you find it easy or hard to learn?
Marano: It’s gotten easier now that I’ve been doing it for so long, but it’s another language. It’s not very simple to learn. The way we do it is they have teachers – “ASL Masters” – who teach us basically what our lines are and the writers pick what lines they want us to sign and I kind of pick what lines I think my character would sign versus what she wouldn’t sign and kind of match her learning based off of that. My level of learning is very different to my character’s level of learning.
Poptimal.com: Can you give us any hints about what to expect this season?
Marano: Well, I can say this much – my character ends up switching schools and ends up going to the deaf school.
Poptimal.com: Really? I did not see that coming!
Marano: Yep, it’s a big twist.
Poptimal.com: What about that cliffhanger we were left with at the end of season one? Will that be addressed right when the show returns?
Marano: Pretty much. Right after the trial when my biological father (Angelo Sorrento, played by Gilles Marini) wins all the money and my family wins very little, and then the pregnant twenty-something-year-old comes looking for [Angelo] – that’s a big thing for the rest of the season. We learn a little bit more about her and what her connection is to my father. She plays a big part.
Poptimal.com: What are your thoughts about Bay and Emmett’s relationship? I’m guessing now that she’s switching over to the deaf school that’s going to be a huge storyline.
Marano: Yeah. I think at this point in time she really wants to stay friends, and he doesn’t want to stay friends, which is gonna be trouble because if one person wants something and the other person doesn’t want that, then you’re at a stalemate, basically. Somebody’s gonna have to give and I’m not sure who’s going to give yet at this point in time.
Poptimal.com: You have a Lifetime movie, Restless Virgins, coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about your character and what the movie’s about?
Marano: My character, Emily, is the editor of the school newspaper. She goes to this prep school that’s a lot of rich kids, a lot of kids getting into the Ivy league. She’s incredibly intelligent, but she’s put a lot of pressure on herself to survive in a way she believes she’s supposed to survive, which is go to an Ivy league, do well in school, and that’s what her life’s supposed to be. And we get to see a little bit into this school, about the corruption that really is behind it: that the rich kids kind of run it and it doesn’t actually have to do with intelligence at all. It just has to do with your place in society, which dictates who you are and are you able to change that? Or is it already set in stone by the time that you’re there? And the whole story ends up revolving around this lacrosse team – and it’s partially based on a true story – that ends up making a sex tape on school grounds. And my character finds out and it’s a big morality issue. Do you stand up for what’s right or do you try to cover it up as best as you can in order to claim your spot in society?
Poptimal.com: You mentioned it’s loosely based off a true story, do you know if your character was an actual person in the events?
Marano: It’s based off a book, actually, that’s called Restless Virgins. It’s an adaption and they did interviews with a lot of the real people and basically made the book based off of the interviews they were given with the real people. I would say my character is a combination of a few different actual people.
Poptimal.com: What was it about the part that really appealed to you?
Marano: I really liked the script. Obviously they hired me, so that’s always a big selling point. But I really thought it was a well written script and really good group of people from a producer stand point to work with and I just thought it would be a really interesting project. And it was. It was a very, very fun project to work on so that was nice.
Poptimal.com: Did it remind you a bit of being back at school?
Marano: Well, I was homeschooled, so no. [laughs]
Poptimal.com: [laughs] Well, you play these characters who go to preppy schools. Do you feel like that’s making up for it?
Marano: In the weirdest way possible, I guess. [laughs] Prep school, sex scandal, school with American Sign Language – even though it’s “a normal school experience,” it still isn’t.
Poptimal.com: You’ve had a lot of success with Switched at Birth and guest spots on a few other TV shows. Do you ever get recognized on the street?
Marano: A few times, yes. Not as much as you would think. The whole thing is – if you go to the mall at 10 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday, chances are you’re not going to get recognized. But if I go at 4 o’clock, there’s a greater likelihood. It’s so funny, though, because Katie Leclerc and I have gone out with each other a few times, and oftentimes you’d think it’d be a really bad idea for two people on the show to go out together cause it would create a bigger attention grabber. But it’s completely the opposite. They always beeline for one person and you can always expect the other one to not get recognized even though they’re standing right next to each other. It’s pretty funny.
Poptimal.com: Going forward, what types of roles are you interested in? Do you have a dream role that you’re really shooting for?
Marano: Honestly, I would just like to work continuously and pretty constantly. That would be my biggest dream in the world. Just to have continuous work cause I’ve been pretty fortunate to have that already and if I could just keep on that path, that’d be awesome. But I’d also like to move into – as I get older and parts for women start to lessen a bit as you get older – get more into producer side of things, so we’ll see.
I like what I do – I enjoy all aspects of it. When I watch myself on television – I do it because I think you can learn from that, you can learn what you did right, you can learn what you did wrong. But I really like watching the whole process, remembering the camera man who had to get into that corner to get that shot, the PA who had to hide around that corner in order to cue the extra at that time. I like watching it from that standpoint, all the puzzle pieces that end up making a final product.
Poptimal.com: Who are some actors you really admire and would like to work with one day? Or maybe even directors or producers?
Marano: I absolutely love Helen Mirren, I think she’s so talented and fantastic. She’s definitely at the top of my list. As far as directors, I would love to work with David Fincher but it would also terrify me which is kind of why I want to do it! Because you hear so much about him – he’s the 100-take guy, just take after take after take, which would be exhausting but at the same time would be so different and crazy and challenging, I would love to do that.
Poptimal.com: Because we are a TV and movie website, I have to ask: what are some of your favorite TV shows and what was the last movie you saw?
Marano: Homeland was crazy. Absolutely crazy this season, I love that show. I’m still reeling from the finale of that show. That’s probably my favorite thing that’s on right now, but I still go back to Cheers, I love Cheers, and Arrested Development. Love that show, too.
And the last movie I saw, I actually went to a screening of Les Miz because I’m a huge musical theater nerd. Me and my other friend, who is equally as much of a musical theater nerd, were freaking out about it and as soon as we found out there was a screening we were like, “Okay, well we have to go see this.” It was pretty amazing.
Switched at Birth premieres tonight on ABC Family and airs ever Monday night at 8/7c.
Restless Virgins will premiere on Lifetime at a TBA date in the spring (tentatively March 2013).
Images courtesy of Andrew Eccles and ABC Family.