“Switched at Birth”: High Concept With Real Emotions

It looks like a lot of viewers are switching over to “Switched at Birth.”

The ABC Family drama premiered to the network’s highest-ever ratings for a series debut, thanks in large part to its appealing cast and its unorthodox (but still family friendly) premise: a high school blood-type project reveals a major surprise, with two teenage girls discovering that they were accidentally switched at birth and raised in wildly different environments: artistically minded Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) was raised by affluent, attentive parents (Lea Thompson and D.W. Moffett), but was actually the daughter of working-class single mom Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie), who’s struggling to raise the athletic Daphne (Katie Leclerc), who was left deaf after a childhood case of meningitis.

Once the switch is discovered, the Kennish family opens their guest house to the Vasquezes, and each parent tries to bond with their biological offspring while still staying connected to the daughter they’ve held dear. Despite the complicated setup, the series strives to realistically approach the familial confusion and inherent culture clashes, as “Switched at Birth’s” leading ladies explain to PopcornBiz.

Constance Marie: "It’s such a complex question: What would you do if the child that you had raised for fifteen years was suddenly deemed or labeled not yours, technically, but you’ve been nurturing and loving this child for so long? You have the drama from that, and you add the deaf aspect to it – it’s just a smorgasbord of topics."

Lea Thompson: "When people are adopted now, more commonly at 18 they’re going to meet their biological parents. There are other things that we can all relate to, not just this switched at birth thing."

Vanessa Marano: "It has happened, and there have been plenty of stories, but it’s not something you can really do research on, because there’s a lot of different dynamics to it. It’s not just ‘switched at birth’ – it’s one is wealthier than the other, one’s a single parent, one is deaf, one is a rebellious teenager, one is a ex-baseball player, and there’s a sibling. There are so many different points to it that you can’t really research it, because it’s so unique to those people in our story."

Marie: "We get to deal with racial, social and economic differences in family and how each family is honestly trying to do the very best for their child. That’s what America does. That’s what every parent does. The crazy part that we get to see is how different that is to each family. You put two families who are completely opposite in close quarters and the drama just naturally unfolds from that."

Katie Leclerc: "I think this show is a great facilitator to bridge those roles and see that the deaf community is really not that different than the hearing community. There are a lot of differences but there are a lot of common threads that tie both worlds together."

Thompson: "What people seem to respond to and what is really interesting is the idea of how these two mothers make it work for them. And they’re very different people. They’re from completely different backgrounds. My character thought she had it all figured out, she had her perfect little life, two children, a boy and a girl, a perfect husband and everything seemed perfect and then all of a sudden this bomb goes off in her life where she is forced to open up her mind to other things."

Marie: "Lea and I have some amazing scenes together. We both respect and love each other because we know we are doing the best for our own daughters, but we are diametrically opposed as to what we want them to do."

Marano: "A big theme in our show is what could have been, and a big issue for Daphne and Bay is would I have been the same person if this whole thing hadn’t happened? So there’s been a lot of experimentation going on: Bay meets somebody from Daphne’s neighborhood and becomes romantically interested in him. Daphne meets someone from Bay’s neighborhood and becomes romantically interested in him, and turns out he and Bay are dating, and Daphne has a friend who Bay is going to become friends with."

Leclerc: "We’re very opposite people. She’s sarcastic and cynical and I’m bright and happy most of the time. It’s a great juxtaposition to see the two characters and their personal struggle to get along regardless of the mother thing as well."

Marano: "It’s a family show and it’s also a teenage girl show, and it’s a mother show, so there’s kind of a fine balance there. But what our show has in its corner is there’s a lot of depth to it and it’s a real story that you don’t have to add anything to."

Leclerc: "There’re definitely moments where the two families clash, but there are very sweet moments where you really see the connection with the characters and really see they care about each other and just want everyone to be the best they can be."

Thompson: "It’s great that there’s a place where teenage girls can go and see issues worked out. I’m not one to usually say, like, ‘Things are so different now,’ but I think it’s a very, very difficult time to grow up, to be a teenage girl with the Internet and all this kind of crazy stuff, and I’m really happy to be part of a network that’s really trying to work out these issues for girls."


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