‘Switched at Birth’ Inspires Its Fans to Learn Sign Language

Sean Berdy and Vanessa Marano on "Switched at Birth." (ABC Family)

Switched at Birth” fans: watch out for Angelo and Simone.  The cast spoke and signed at an unusually touching TCA panel that focused as much on deaf culture as it did on spoilers. Sean Berdy, the deaf actor who plays the show’s resident heartthrob Emmett signed, “I have to tell you that every one of the cast members has learned some sign language and they’re doing fantastic.  They’re very enthusiastic about learning American Sign Language.  Can I just toot Vanessa’s [Marano’s] horn? Vanessa just blew me away. I had never seen other hearing people learn sign that quickly. She’s been doing a fantastic job and I completely understand her.”

Said Constance Marie (Renee), “I’m a big Twitter junkie. One of the things I’ve found is that I’m a hearing person. When I came on the show I didn’t know anything about sign language. All the people who chime in on Twitter, they want their high school to be offering American Sign Language. Some people are learning it from the show. They’ll pause it and they’ll go over and over it again. It’s one of the wonderful things about the show is that it’s taken a culture that has not been looked at and shining a beautiful spotlight on the deaf community.” Marie revealed that the show’s diversity inspire her to join the show. “Why I was drawn to the script when I read it, is that it’s not just hearing community, deaf community.  It’s ethnically.  It’s socioeconomic.  It’s all the different ways to raise a family.

The cast also gave a few hints about what will happen this season.

  • More characters will join the show. Said Marano,”We get introduced to other deaf characters, one of which comes from a hearing family and I think you learn a little bit about the differences between his experience growing up and Daphne’s experience growing up.
  • Bay’s biological father, played by Gilles Marini, will be around for a longterm arc. Said the show’s creator Lizzy Weiss, “Angelo is… here to stay, and he wants to get to know the daughter he just discovered and to make up to Daphne and Regina for leaving.  So we have conflict with Angelo coming, and Kathryn and John have to figure out how to deal with Angelo in town.” Added executive producer Paul Stupin, ” But Angelo has some secrets.”
  • Bay’s former friend Simone creates even more drama between the girls. ” The character of Simone, I think, really plays a part in the Baphne relationship because she symbolizes a person in Bay’s life before she knew that she was switched.  And the way that she interacts with Daphne is almost easier and a lot better than she interacted with Bay… But she’s really a symbol of, like, oh, this is a world that Daphne, even though she is deaf and even though she grew up in a different way, she’s blending much more with this girl from this world that she was supposed to be in than Bay ever did.”
  • D.W. Moffett joked about his character’s very special arc. “You know, John Kennish is just very concerned about how good-looking he is.”


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