Lucas Grabeel on ABC Family’s New Drama SWITCHED AT BIRTH

What would you do if you woke up one day and learned there had been a mix-up at the hospital when you were born and the wrong family brought you home? Would you look at your family and yourself differently? How much would your life change? These are the questions at the heart of ABC Family’s new drama SWITCHED AT BIRTH, premiering on June 6, in which Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) feels like an outsider in her own family and convinces her mom (Lea Thompson) to undergo genetic testing which shows she and another girl, Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc), were sent home with the wrong parents after they were born.

In the middle of this drama is Bay’s (and Daphne’s, biologically) brother Toby, played by High School Musical‘s Lucas Grabeel. He has to play sounding board, supportive listener, and sometimes even peacemaker to both girls–no easy feat.

Daemon’s TV was there when Lucas Grabeel talked about what we can expect from Switched at Birth and Toby, what he likes most about the show, and how he first got involved in show business.

On getting the role of Toby

Lucas began doing theater as a child, and while he knew he wanted to perform, he wasn’t sure in what form. The summer before his senior year of high school, though, he spent some time in Los Angeles to decide if he wanted to go there after graduation instead of New York or college. Apparently, fate helped him decide. He explained, “I ran into this guy in a smoothie line and he asked me how old I was. I told him I was eighteen and he said, ‘Oh, wow, you look like you’re fourteen.’ I told him I got that a lot and he said, ‘Well, you’ve got a look. I’ve been in this business thirty-five years and I know what they’re looking for.’ He’s my manager now.” Lucas finished school then went back to LA and was booked for some things right away and then High School Musical changed everything in 2006.

Lucas auditioned for the role of Toby last fall and things fell together after that. Playing Toby will be his first experience as a television series regular, and he loves the experience so far. “I’ve been travelling a lot working on other projects, so it’s kind of nice to be home and sleep in my bed every day.”

With family dramas, it’s essential that viewers buy the actors’ chemistry and Lucas said he and the rest of the cast bonded quickly. “We were kind of an instant family,” he said. Lea Thompson, who plays Toby’s mom Kathryn Kennish, certainly did her best to make the rest of the cast feel special. Lucas had this to say about his co-star, “She’s amazing. She’s just so kind and laid back. She gave me a pillow for my trailer the first week of shooting. It’s in the shape of a whale. She didn’t leave a note or anything. I just opened up my trailer door and there was a pillow there. I found out later that she had given everyone pillows for their trailers and I thought that was really sweet.”

On Toby and his role in the Kennish/Vasquez families

The family dynamics in Switched at Birth can get more than a little complicated and Toby is right there in the middle of it all. Lucas explained, “Toby is the biological brother of Daphne, who went deaf at the age of three and he is also the life-long brother of Bay, the tortured soul. Just like everyone else in the family, he’s caught up in the craziness when it all happens, but since he’s not a parent or affected child, I think he’s got a more objective view of the whole thing and is slowly taking it in and getting to know his new sister and the new situation. He’s a pretty normal teenage guy with exemplified problems because he’s rich.”

The series will focus mostly on Bay and Daphne as they struggle with their newfound identities and Lucas said Toby would be there to back them both up. “I would say I’m a good supporting role. It’s interesting being the brother of both girls because at times I’m very brotherly and kind of joking back and forth with each of the girls and at other times I’m also kind of an outside perspective to the who situation. I can be a good listener at times or a shoulder to lean on.”

Just because Toby wasn’t the one switched at birth doesn’t mean he won’t be affected by the mistake in his own way. Lucas said ripple effects will definitely be shown, though viewers may have to be patient. “To begin with, we need to set up the situation and the families and who everyone is. The show is definitely going to show the impact on friends and family and everyone involved.”

Lucas didn’t need to dig too deep to find inspiration for his character. “Toby’s a normal teenage guy so I think a lot about how I was when I was sixteen or seventeen back in high school.”

On why Switched at Birth will appeal to viewers

Switched at Birth definitely has an interesting conflict as its central premise and Lucas thinks viewers will not only be drawn into all the ramifications of Daphne and Bay’s predicament, but will also grow to care about all the characters and what they must know deal with. “I think the show has a lot of heart. It’s kind of an interesting concept because it’s not something we think about on a day-to-day basis. You know, what if we woke up one day and found out the people who raised us our whole lives are not our biological parents and that we had been switched at birth. It’s a crazy situation to be put in and also coming from the parents’ point of view, this is your kid and you think you’re doing everything you can to be right and then everything just flips upside down and you have to deal with the madness.”

While the idea of a baby going home with the wrong family might seem unthinkable, Lucas said the show makes it believable and viewers will be swept up in the story right from the pilot. “Watching the pilot, I was surprised at just how real everything was. The feeling of the show is not fantasy-it’s just real and when you watch it, you get taken on this journey. You get to know these people and you want to know more. Hopefully that’s what other people take from it, too, because I loved it.”

Switched at Birth premieres on ABC Family Monday, June 6 at 9pm eastern/8 central.

You can read all our Switched at Birth coverage here.