Signing classes to TRADE PLACES
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.”