Sign­ing classes to TRADE PLACES

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Close Up - – Anooska Tucker-evans

When Vanessa Marano took the role in Switched At Birth, she had to learn an­other lan­guage as well as her lines.

The new FOX8 se­ries fol­lows two teenage girls – Bay Ken­nish ( Marano) and Daphne Vasquez ( Katie Le­clerc) – who dis­cover they were switched at birth and must get to know their bi­o­log­i­cal fam­i­lies. To com­pli­cate a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, Daphne is deaf.

“I didn’t re­alise how in­no­va­tive the show was un­til I did the ta­ble read­ing and I saw the sign lan­guage be­ing used – and that was in­cred­i­ble,” Marano says.

Sign lan­guage is a prom­i­nent part of the pro­duc­tion, with Daphne and her screen mother Regina ( Con­stance Marie) com­mu­ni­cat­ing flu­ently in it. And al­though Le­clerc al­ready knew sign lan­guage go­ing into her part, Marano had to learn on set.

“I was not ex­pect­ing that to hap­pen,’’ Marano says. “Dur­ing the first two episodes my char­ac­ter did not know sign lan­guage and then about episode six, they (the pro­duc­ers) were like: ‘Oh Vanessa, you’re go­ing to be learn­ing sign lan­guage now’ and I was like: ‘What?’ ’’ De­spite hav­ing sign lan­guage ex­perts on set as tu­tors, she says learn­ing it was far from easy.

“What was nice about it, though, is my char­ac­ter was learn­ing as well, so I could be as awkward and un­com­fort­able as I am in real life with it,” she says, with a laugh.

To ease the pain of learn­ing to sign has been the end­less pa­rade of boys her char­ac­ter gets to date.

As a tough, al­ter­na­tive rock chick with a cool ex­te­rior, Bay is a favourite with the blokes, which means Marano gets to kiss plenty of good-look­ing co-stars.

“Life’s hard some­times, but I power through,” Marano laughs.

“Bay goes through the boys pretty quickly. But that’s the thing, it’s a fam­ily show, but it’s also a mother-daugh­ter show and mothers and daugh­ters, and fe­males in gen­eral, if we can keep the good-look­ing men com­ing, then why not?”

Play­ing a sexy teenager who’s a hit with the boys has also been a nice change for the 20-year-old ac­tor, who is best known for play­ing dorky April, daugh­ter of diner owner Luke in hit se­ries Gil­more Girls.

“For the Gil­more Girls au­di­tions they de­scribed the char­ac­ter as quirky, so I went to a phar­macy and bought red glasses that were re­ally dorky, and I got an aw­ful sweater and rat­ted my hair out and put it in a pony­tail – and they hired me for that,” she says. “I cre­ated a char­ac­ter who was so cool to be able to do at age 12 and have peo­ple ac­cept it.”

But play­ing the res­i­dent nerd was both a bless­ing and a curse, with Marano stereo­typed as a dork for al­most her en­tire ado­les­cence. Not that she minded much.

“I will be what­ever any­body wants me to be,” she says. “If they want me to be glamorous, aces. If they want me to be dis­gust­ing, I will do that too.

“The nerd’s a lit­tle bit more fun be­cause you can cre­ate some­thing out­side of your­self and that was what was so fun about Gil­more Girls.” Her new gig also has its perks though. “The most fan­tas­tic thing about this show is ev­ery­one gets along,” she says.

“I’ve been on shows where peo­ple didn’t re­ally get along, where peo­ple hated each other. To ac­tu­ally en­joy go­ing to work for 12 hours a day, ev­ery day, is a very dif­fi­cult thing to find, and I’m so thank­ful that I’m on a show that I en­joy the com­pany of ev­ery­one I work with.”

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