I had the chance to chat with Katie Leclerc from Switched at Birth this week!
I chatted with Katie about her role on the show, the success of Switched at Birth and being nominated for a Teen Choice Award, who she would love to see guest star on the show (hint: It’s Kristin Chenoweth!), and what fans can expect in the season finale.
Noelle: First of all, congrats on being nominated for a Teen Choice Award! How does it feel to be a part of a show that’s doing so well and is such a hit with the fans?
Katie Leclerc: It’s amazing. It’s crazy, because I had been an actor for about ten years before I got Switched at Birth. You know, you grow up, and you’re in seventh grade – and after my seventh grade production of Annie I told my mom I wanted to be a star. And she looks at me with these hopeful, doubtful eyes and says anything you want can come true.
The moment that it does come true is the moment that you realize you have the power to make it happen. I first had to believe in myself before Switched at Birth could happen. ABC Family had to believe in Switched at Birth before it could happen. It’s really just a combination of a lot of good people making a lot of good choices. I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Noelle: In the most recent episode, we saw Coto catching the girls in his office. Can viewers expect some sort of retaliation or consequences for the girls in the season finale?
Katie: Oh my gosh. You know, the thing about Chip Coto is that he is scary. I think he’s not afraid to retaliate. He definitely is aware that Daphne’s a minor, and I think that complicates things a little bit for him, potentially. But really it’s Coto against Kennish, and now that there’s two Kennishes, I think Coto’s barriers have gone up even more than they were before.
Noelle: You get to work with a fantastic cast. I was wondering, is there anyone you would love to work with someday?
Katie: I really think that it would be amazingly fantastic to have Kristin Chenoweth on our show. I’ve been pitching from the very, very, very, very, very beginning that we need to have a musical episode being that Constance Marie was originally a break dancer; Lea Thompson was originally a ballet dancer; Lucas Grabeel, obviously, High School Musical. I think that Kristin Chenoweth would be an amazing addition to, perhaps, a musical episode.
Also the fact that Kristin Chenoweth has Ménière’s Disease, I think we’d get along great. And I think we have a lot in common. We could talk about vertigo from the very beginning. I think that she’s incredibly talented and beautiful and I would love to work with her.
Noelle: That sounds amazing and now I really hope you succeed at this mission.
Katie: *Laughs* I’m gonna keep trying!
Q) What was it like for you to film the “What If” episode and do a completely different take on Daphne?
Katie: It was amazing. I feel like it started with the fact that we had David Paymer as our director for that episode. He’s such a special director. He’s directed us about four or five times now.
Being that he’s an actor, I think that he had a definite perspective on where this is going. We trust him. It was great to have such a 180º on a character that I’ve been playing for almost 3 years now, and to sort of reimagine her and put her in totally different shoes, some Louis Vuitton shoes.
It was really fun; it was really amazing. Also, the fact that the fans got to hear my real speaking voice, I think, was incredibly valuable for me as an actor. And to see some of the fan feedback was just overwhelming.
I’m so grateful for our fans. I think we have really loyal people watching our show and I think it makes the cast members aware of that – it kind of makes us work harder. We don’t want to let anybody down, and I think our writers definitely spearhead that for us.
We all work very hard. The “What If” episode was my favorite episode of this season, so thank you.
Q) Why do you think that this show is such a big hit with fans?
Katie: I think that the interesting thing is the deaf hook. It’s a window into a world that many people have been curious about. It’s fascinating because ASL is the third most common language in the United States, but if you don’t know a deaf person, you may never have been exposed to that world.
It’s something that is very curious and very accessible, but it’s a little bit frightening if you’re not comfortable with it to begin with. This show gives people the opportunity to really jump in with both feet.
For example, we did a silent episode last season, in Season Two. I think that that made huge strides for the deaf community, and for the hearing community. Even my mom, who said the moment where the Switched at Birth titles did their normal thing and they flipped – the Switched and the Birth flip top and bottom – she said that was the moment where she went “Oh, I get it.” So she’d been watching 40 episodes and really didn’t get it until that moment where it was the silent episode and she got to put herself in that world.
I think that’s why people are really interested. I think that we also take risks; for example, the deaf episode and also the “What If” episode, which I keep calling our Fringe episode, because I’m also
a science fiction nerd. We kind of get to explore and we get to take these challenges and take risks. I think that as long as you’re pushing yourself, your audience is going to follow. So far we’ve been very successful with that.
Q) How hard is it for you to imitate someone hard of hearing?
Katie: I have to say, when I first started it was the scariest thing that I had ever done in my whole life. I went in for the first audition with just my regular speaking voice and using American Sign Language. I just wanted the producers to say “Okay, this girl has chops beyond putting on the gimmick”. I didn’t want it to seem like a gimmick.
They asked me if I could try on the deaf accent. I sat down with my sister, who’s an ASL teacher, we mapped out Daphne’s specific hearing loss with her specific audiogram and then, based on that, figured out what sounds she could say and what sounds she couldn’t say.
So it’s a very unique accent to Daphne. I worked tirelessly; I made my family absolutely crazy for months on end. When we started filming and the pilot was picked up and the momentum started going, it sort of became second nature.
Now I can say, with confidence, almost three years later, it’s a switch. I flip it on, I flip it off. It’s sort of the back of my brain. And I’m really proud of that. Thinking that it took me so long to get there and it was a lot of work to get there. I am really proud of the work that I get to do on Switched at Birth, and the accent is part of that.
Q) Do you find that the fans are shocked when they actually hear you speaking in your normal voice?
Katie: Absolutely. When I find fans on the streets, the first thing they go is “Huh? You’re not – wait – that’s not your voice?” It’s such a gratifying experience. I think that means that I’m doing my job incredibly well.
I look forward to opportunities where I get to use my normal speaking voice in more film and television. It’s really funny; it seems like the projects that I’ve booked are always like I had a German accent or I had some sort of different speaking situation.
The “What If” episode was really an exciting moment for me where I got to say “Hi guys, check this out. It’s the show that you’re already watching but look. Look what I’ve been doing for two and a half years.”
You can read the full interview over at PCL.
Katie was adorable and bubbly and probably one of the nicest interviews I’ve done lately. Her kindness and her laugh are so infectious!
I really appreciate Katie taking the time to answer some questions for us.
Switched at Birth airs Mondays on ABC Family.