On the Monday March 4th episode of Switched at Birth the show will done entirely in American Sign Language. It is a breakthrough episode for a show that has been kicking down barriers since it debuted in the summer of 2011 on ABC Family.

Katie Leclerc
Photo: Katie Leclerc
(credit ABC Family)

I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview with Katie Leclerc, who plays Daphne on Switched at
Birth. As you can imagine the focus of the interview was the ASL episode. Katie was more than willing to share her thoughts about it, some behind the scenes moments as well as just how iconic this one episode will be for not only the deaf community but the hearing as well.

Leclerc gave some insight to the structure of the ASL show. There will be a deaf person if every scene and that scene is told from the perspective of the deaf person in the scene. Although a there will be a little bit of dialogue at the beginning and end of the show, the majority of it is silent and based on American Sign Language. As you know there are characters on SAB that don’t sign, so viewers will see the deaf person in those scenes struggle to understand what is being said.

In doing an entire ASL episode there are of course going to be some challenges. The actress, who suffers Meniere’s disease in real life just like the character of Noah does on the show, opened up about some of those challenges. One was that every deaf person on set has an interpreter on set, so in the scenes with say like six deaf characters there are six extra people, which was interesting to figure out how to place everyone. Another thing that was not so much of a challenge but was more interesting, is that sometimes you can look and see different people interpreting the same sentence different because ASL as a language is open in interpretation. That being said in this particular episode you really had to pay attention to the diligence and each individual signer. That was a challenge for the entire cast.

When it was my turn to talk to Katie, she was oh so open and I can’t even describe how awesome it was to have her answer questions I had been wondering about since I herd of this special episode.

Rachelle: Can you discuss how doing an all-ASL episode came about?
Katie Leclerc: The writers were very tight lipped about their developing the episode. We didn’t find out that the ASL episode was going to happen until right before the TCA (Television Critics Association) event, where we announced to everyone that it was going to happen. It was kind of a surprise to the actors; we’re like, “We’re doing what” and not only are we doing all ASL in that episode there’s a deaf rap in the episode. All the deaf kids get together and they rap together, that was a really big challenge. Also, for me in particular now that my character is going to play the role of Juliet in the play I also had to do Shakespearean sign language, which is a whole other animal. It was a very ambitious episode. I think that the actors when we first heard we were excited but a little bit nervous. Then when we saw the script we were a whole lot nervous. Thankfully our director for this episode is one of our very favorite directors on set. Steve Miner directed the pilot and many of our favorite episodes along the way. I think that it went smoothly, it could not have gone smoother. I think that the tireless efforts from the writers to constantly update the scripts and make them better as much as possible even if that means two minutes before we’re shooting, which is not uncommon, really paid off. We all were always trying to innovate a way to make this scene better. This is great. How can we make it better? I think that’s what is so special about this episode, is that everyone recognized that this is the one; this is the one that defines Switched at Birth. This is our star. We’re only 39 episodes in at this point but this is what we’ve worked for, to be able to put an episode out there that is all silent and loud at the same time in a way that might be unexpected. I think that we’re all very excited. I speak for every cast member when I say we will be watching on Monday and we are very excited to see how this turns out.

Rachelle: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like filming this episode?
Katie Leclerc: Absolutely. I knew exactly the moment when you started to ask the question. There’s a scene, actually in the rap scene that I just touched on, that scene sort of builds in to this moment where the students—there’s I think six deaf students hanging outside the school at night and they look at each other. They are talking about how unfair this is; how absolutely devastated that they all are that they’re going to be split up. How they feel like their bond is strong enough to stay together and in that moment realize that they are strong enough just exactly as they are. They don’t need to be split up. They have the power to really tell everyone exactly what he or she want and they have the power to be heard. I think that it is a defining moment. It’s a defining moment for the kids in that scene because they understand that they’re stronger together than they are as one and that this is absolutely within their power to change. I think that every teenager has that moment in their life where they go, “Wait a minute,this is not cool. I’ve got to do something about it.” To see that moment just captured on scene six different times in the same moment but in six different faces, I think that it’s incredibly powerful. Even as I was reading the script, you know you can sort of hear the music build when you’re reading the script and you could tell that this is an emotional scene. This is the defining moment for this episode, that these kids are now taking matters in to their own hands and it is so powerful. It is so awesome. I’m really, really proud of that moment.

Before we said good-bye Leclerc made sure a couple of things were clear. One is the risk ABC Family is taking to do an entire episode in ASL, as well as how she applauds the network for taking the risk. I have to say if the buzz on Twitter and Facebook is any indication, the risk is going to pay off for ABC Family and the show big time. Seriously social media world is a buzz about this ASL episode. As for how people will view the March 4th show, Katie isn’t worried. She thinks the show has done a great job of integrating ASL in and people get excited about that. Sure an entire episode with only ASL is challenging and could make some viewers shy away but that is the risk you take.

Having the opportunity to talk to Katie Leclerc about what I think is going to be another awesome episode of SAB was amazing. Be sure to check out the below behind the scenes video about the episode as well as the gallery of photos from it too.

Click twice to blow up the pics.
(credit ABC Family)