Our agency is often recruited to participate in entertainment venues, including Television, Movies, Stage Performances, Award Shows………………etc. Recently, we’ve been assisting on the set of “Switched At Birth”…..a new series focused on communication between those in the hearing and deaf worlds. Many common issues are brought to the surface, enlightening those who have never considered the impact of culture and communication gaps.
Deaf teens are finally seeing characters and situations they can relate to. One teen in Fremont California describes it this way to Chuck Carney in the Contra Costa Times.
Olivia Stein, a 17-year-old student at California School for the Deaf in Fremont, can probably count on one hand how many times she has seen someone like herself beaming from a television screen.
It’s no wonder, then, that she has become hooked on “Switched at Birth,” a feel-good family drama pegged, in part, to multiple deaf characters who have brought some prime-time exposure to an underrepresented segment of society.
“It allows us to be more involved. We can relate. We’re finally seeing people like us,” she said through a sign-language interpreter. “And it’s showing the world that deaf people are cool. We rock.”
“Switched at Birth” debuted on ABC Family last summer with a sensationalistic premise: A couple of teen girls — one of whom is deaf — discover that, due to a hospital error, they wound up with the wrong parents. Now their families, from two different worlds, are struggling to get to know each other.
The show became an instant ratings hit for ABC Family. Moreover, it sparked wide interest among the deaf community for its frank and respectful depiction of people with hearing loss.
The teen girl who is deaf, Daphne Vasquez, is played by Katie Leclerc, who in real life has Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance. Also among the cast are deaf actors Sean Berdy and Marlee Matlin. The series was created by Lizzy Weiss, who learned how to sign ASL while attending Duke University.
“Switched at Birth” doesn’t focus solely on deafness — the soapy twists and turns cover a wide terrain. But it does explore several pertinent deaf issues, including communication and societal barriers, speech therapy and the debate over cochlear implants. It also makes extensive use of sign language, subtitles and something very rare in this era of pop-cultural clatter: Moments of utter silence.
Anna Schumacher, a Berkeley native who served as an on-set interpreter for “Switched at Birth,” calls the show an important step forward because it doesn’t isolate its deaf characters “into a novelty category” or portray them as disabled.
“While Daphne’s life is by no means easy, because of many variables, she is seen as just as bright, capable, insightful and full as any teenager,” she said. “Yet she experiences the world in a different way and has a wonderful language at her fingertips.”
Several students applaud the show’s casting of Berdy, a charismatic 18-year-old actor who attended CSD’s sister school in Riverside. To them, he’s a “cool role model.” They even like the way he signs.
“We can pick up on his irony — something hearing people can’t,” said Conrad Baer, 17.
But Berdy’s casting also represents a sign of hope, according to Brinkley-Green.
“Some deaf people want to be actors, too,” she says. “Maybe this will open a few doors to new possibilities.”
Click on the link to view the ever-growing list of shows where The Sign Language Company has provided interpreting services, see our IMDB page.