An Interview with Katie Leclerc (Daphne, 'Switched at Birth')

2012 Winter TCA Tour - Day 6
Frederick M. Brown / Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Over the last few years, some of the networks have had some trouble finding their niche and as such, ratings have plummeted to alarming levels. However, there are a select few who have managed to produce what their viewers want and continue to strike gold. Each summer, ABC Family caters to the teen/young adult crowd and without fail, they wind up with a hit every year.

ABC Family's hit du jour is the charming drama Switched at Birth, a series about two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched at birth. One (Bay) grew up with wealth and privilege, while the other (Daphne) grew up with a financially strapped single mother and became deaf after a terrible bout of meningitis.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the incredibly sweet and funny Katie Leclerc (Daphne), who shared with me her thoughts on playing a deaf character, how she prepared for this challenging role and how she keeps in touch with her fans...

Q: You're fairly new to the acting world, what made you decide to get into the business?

"I've actually been acting for about ten years. I was Annie in my junior high production of Annie. When we moved to California, I begged my parents to take me to the big city and let me try my hand at acting. Thankfully, about ten years later it paid off. Up until now, I've done small commercials, music videos and a couple of features and a few TV shows, but this is my first big starring role in anything. I am excited and so proud that it's this project and thrilled to be able to share this with everyone."

Q: What was the worst non-acting job you ever had?

"Oh man -- I worked for someone who owned some nightclubs and I would say it was my least favorite job. I was a receptionist for about a year and a half."

Q: What's the best acting advice you've been given?

"I think the best advice was from my father, and it doesn't necessarily have everything to do with acting... Right before a big acting competition, he sent a big fruit basket to my room and the card said, 'Define the moment, don't let the moment define you.' I thought that was really cool and very profound and something I really needed to hear at that moment."

Q: How did you prepare for your role on Switched at Birth?

"I got the audition from my agent and really fell in love with this character very quickly. I have a lot in common with her and can really relate a number of different ways with her. I sat down with the writers and producers after I got the role and worked with the dialect coach to map out what Daphne's hearing loss would be and what words she would be able to speak. That was probably the most challenging part for me. I had already learned sign language when I was 17. When I was 20, I found out I had something called Meniere's Disease, which is a problem with fluid retention in the inner ear, and this helped me to be eligible for the role. I think very few people really know about this disease, which is why I'm so excited about this role. Creating awareness and making people realize what Meniere's Disease is and that there is no cure. Hopefully in the next few years they can make some medical advances and I'd like to believe that maybe I helped be a part of that in some small way."

Q: How long did it take you to learn sign language?

"I took it in high school for two years. As you know, when you take a foreign language in high school, you can't really get a full understanding or grasp of it, but sign language is great because even if you don't know every single word, you can still communicate with someone. It's a very accommodating language. After two years, I felt confident enough to go out and make deaf friends and be actively involved in the deaf community."

Q: Tell us about your role on Switched at Birth...

"Daphne is a normal high school girl who struggles with boys, plays basketball and is a good cook... she is a normal girl in every way possible, except for the fact that she's deaf, which is really secondary to the kind of person she is. She finds out at 15 1/2 that this terrible thing happened and she went home with the wrong family and it turns out that it's not so terrible. Her mother, Regina (Constance Marie) did an excellent job being a single parent and having a deaf child and all the challenges that come with that. At the same time, she gets to meet this new family full of great people. I think Daphne has a really good perspective on what's going on and she's just excited to be with her new family."

Q: Do you hang out with your cast members off-set?

"Yes. When the show premiered we all went over to Lucas's house and had a nice little party and I baked a cake. It was really nice to see the final product amongst new friends. I was so excited to meet Lucas because I was a closet High School Musical fan, so to be invited to his house was really cool. Vanessa and I get along like peas and carrots; she is just stinking awesome and I love her to pieces! We were shooting one night until about two o'clock in the morning and we were both just dog-tired, so we decided to talk to each other on the ride home so we wouldn't crash into the median. We really weren't talking about anything and those are the moments where you really get to know someone the best. In the process of becoming a family on-screen, we became one off-screen. That wasn't anything I had expected, but I'm really grateful for that."

Q: What's your favorite thing to do in-between takes?

"When I got my first paycheck, the first thing I did was pay off my debt. The second thing I did was buy an iPad 2, so in-between takes I play all those super fun, addicting games."

Q: Do you follow any TV shows on a regular basis?

"I follow , and ."

Q: Do you use Twitter or Facebook to keep in touch with your fans?

"I use Twitter @katieleclerc.

Q: Anything to say to the fans?

"Thanks for watching - the twists and turns will come together and the loyalty will pay off in the end because everything comes full circle. I'm excited to see how people react to the season finale."