ABC Family SWITCHED AT BIRTH’s Lea Thompson & Vanessa Marano Interview

switched at birth

Recently, Lea Thompson and Vanessa Marano took some time to answer some questions about ABC Family’s new original series, SWITCHED AT BIRTH, in which they play a mother and daughter, who realize they are not biologically related. Find out what they had to say below.

Switched at Birth premieres on Monday June 6th at 9pm on ABC Family.

Did you guys learn sign language to do the show?

Vanessa Marano: We are learning.

Lea Thompson: We’re in the process of learning. Our characters don’t sign at first, but eventually we’re going to, to make things easier for Daphne’s character or other characters on the show that are deaf. As a cast and a crew we’ve been learning it because, A), we have deaf actors and it’s around us so much that we might as well try to pick it up. It’s learning a different language which is not the easiest thing in the entire world, but we’re trying.

Can you talk about what’s coming up for your characters in the first season?

Lea Thompson: I play Catherine Kennish and I’ve got this perfectly ordered life. I’m wealthy. My husband was a baseball player. I have 2.5 children. I have the son and the daughter. I’ve made this perfect life for myself and then all of this happens. I find out that I have this other daughter and she has them move into our house, and so there’s this whole other family. A lot of what’s happening with my character is that she’s growing a lot, a lot of growing pains. She’s having to open up her mind which was a little closed and sheltered. Also, just practically she’s living with another woman who’s the mother of my biological daughter who’s a completely different person from a completely different background. We see things completely differently. We’re trying to protect our children and co-parent. I’m trying to figure out the boundaries and we have a lot of conflict. Then I’m trying to deal with how it’s affected my son who’s having a lot of problem. My daughter is having trouble dealing with it.

Vanessa Marano: Then a lot that’s coming up for my character. She’s trying to find herself through different relationships with different boys and also search for her father because she’s now found out that not only is she not who she thought she was, but there’s also this half of her that she has no idea about. She grew up knowing that she had a mother and a father and thinking of herself as a whole and that’s been ripped away from her and she’s just a half.

Have you talked to any of your family members about this, like how would you feel if it happened to you?

Vanessa Marano: That’s a question that we’ve all been getting and everyone has been asking. Kind of the consensus with everyone has been, from a kid point of view it’s an interesting question to ask, but from a parent point of view I still wouldn’t feel any differently about the child that I raised which is a great point about our show. The genetic bond between you doesn’t necessarily mean more than the bond than the person that you’ve grown with.

Lea Thompson: I think it enriches the understanding because I think that between our characters it’s probably been like, ‘Why does this not quite feel right?’ Why do we feel foreign to each other in a weird way, like a primal kind of way. Now we know why. It’s like living with a lie your whole life and then all of a sudden finding out the truth.

Vanessa Marano: As opposed to, like, ‘We’re not connecting. That’s normal between a teenager and a mother. It’s fine. It’s all cool. Oh, we’re not connecting because we’re not related.’

Lea Thompson: Yes. Whenever there’s a lie that gets answered it always makes the relationship deeper.

switched at birth

Is it ever addressed that you don’t look like your mother, father and brother?

Vanessa Marano: Well, the story starts out with you meeting the Kennish’s and Toby and Catherine look exactly alike and John who’s the father has dark hair, but his coloring is not as extreme as my coloring. There’s some Italian on Catherine’s side of the family, somewhere in there, and so it’s not so far stretched out that we all couldn’t be related. It’s believable enough. What gets us going more is that our personalities are all very different and I’m completely drawn to art and being stubborn and difficult very unlike my mother who’s stubborn, but not very difficult. She’s like, ‘Okay, everybody be happy.’ Then the biggest reason why it doesn’t seem right is that my character does a blood test in science because they’re all finding out what their blood type is in their science class and it turns out that her blood type could never match her parents. It’s not even so much the coloring or the personality difference. The only reason that she feels compelled to seek this further is that there is factual information that she just happens to find out that she could never be related to her parents.

I understand that the show has drama, but also comedy. What’s the comedy part?

Vanessa Marano : Well, they hired very comedic actors like Constance [Marie] and Lea who have done sitcoms. D. W. [Moffett] is hilarious. I’ve been trained in comedy. Lucas [Grabeel] is hysterical. Katie [Leclerc] is hilarious. So we have a group of funny actors. I think there’s so much drama that happens, organic drama that never feels pushed, but is just a part of the story…but another flipside to that is that you have these very different personalities together and comedic actors playing them. So, organically humor just comes out. You can’t just deal with every situation sobbing and yelling at each other. There’s been a lot of humor that’s been used in that, too, which makes it more interesting to watch.

What’s the storyline that you’re most excited about seeing play out on screen?

Lea Thompson: Right now it’s trying to figure out why it happened, why the switch at birth happened. I mean, my husband and I in the show are suing the hospital just because. We’re suing them. That’s a big part, just trying to figure out why it happened –

Vanessa Marano : Because the hospital won’t admit that they made a mistake. They’re focus is trying to get that apology and the truth that the hospital made a mistake so that it’s not on their shoulders and they can stop feeling guilty that they didn’t know and that maybe it was something that they did even if there was no possible way it could be something that you did.

Lea Thompson: The normal reaction would be, like, ‘How did I not know? I gave birth to this baby and then a few hours later someone gave me a different one. How did I not know it wasn’t my baby?’ So all my friends are looking down at me and I’m feeling like a terrible mom and there’s all that going on.

switched at birth

Was there something about the project that you were really drawn to?

Vanessa Marano : What I really enjoy about Bay is that she’s very different than myself, very different than other characters that I’ve played and she’s not exactly the easiest character to play. She’s very difficult. She’s very spirited. She doesn’t get along with people well, and so it’s been really interesting finding bits of myself to put into her, finding likable points to her. I’ve been using comedy a lot with Bay because I think she’s handling the switch worse than anyone else.

Lea Thompson: My character, when I read the pilot, if you look at it I’m the rich, white, perfect housewife and then the other mother is the single Hispanic mom who’s raising a child who’s deaf and it felt very stacked against me because those two stereotypes you’re not going to like.

Vanessa Marano : We both weren’t sure with our characters, like, do we play the antagonist on the show because they’re very judgmental and they don’t get along with people well. We were like, ‘Are we the bad guys?’

Lea Thompson: The creator kept saying, ‘No. I love that girl. I love Catherine.’ I’d be like, ‘Okay, I guess that’s what she wants,’ but that was definitely a challenge. We both had to take characters that were written as problem people –

Vanessa Marano : They are the problem people, but it’s been really fun to find ways to make them likable and relatable.

Lea Thompson: The writer has done such a beautiful job because the emotions feel earned. The situations are interesting and she takes both sides of the argument so that you wonder who’s right. A lot of times it’s easier to tell who’s the bad guy and who’s the good guy. It switches back and forth a lot. So it’s really wonderful for us as actors.