ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, brings American Sign Language (ASL) to tell its story to fans of ASL and to its viewers. This show also shows that deafness can mean many things to different people. For example, Sean Berdy, playing Emmett Bledsoe, plays the character who speaks only ASL as Sean is profoundly deaf on set and in real life. Watch the interview here.
Born into a Deaf family, Sean is a natural at ASL, and acts as an example for the Deaf community through his own shows: The Sean Berdy Show and Sean Berdy Entertainment. He is also born to perform as seen in various films like The Sandlot 2, The Deaf Family, and The Legend of the Mountain Man when he was a child. Being natural at ASL, Sean also was part of the Hollywood industry’s first picture-in-picture ASL translation of Twentieth Century-Fox’s Ice Age: Continental Drift with Amber Dion. He felt blessed to be on Switched at Birth for the past several years, and feels that the cast has made the show a success.
On the other hand, Katie Leclerc, who plays Daphne Vasquez, suffers from Ménière’s Disease, a disorder that causes fluctuating hearing loss, dizziness, and ringing in the ears at times. Katie is different from Sean in real life, as she is able to hear well most of the time although she can fail the hearing test, depends on her condition. See the video interview here.
This show also required some of the actors to learn ASL, like what Lucas Grabeel, playing Toby Kennish, and Vanessa Marano, playing Bay Kennish, did on set. To learn ASL quickly, Lucas asked Katie to teach him five signs a day.
The experience of learning ASL is like learning choreography in dance, Lucas said, who also goes on concert tours singing—as known from his acting work with the Disney Channel such as the High School Musical.
To honor Lizzy Weiss, the show’s creator, writer, and executive producer, Gallaudet University will be granting her with an award for spreading awareness about the Deaf community in July during Gallaudet’s Reunion on July 9th to the 13th in Washington, D.C. The show, Switched at Birth, was an outgrowth out of her life as she learned ASL during college and came up with the idea of switched at birth during her pregnancy with her second child. For her accomplishment for this unique and groundbreaking show, Weiss received the Gracie Award in 2012 and the Peabody Award in 2013.
The show will entering its 4th season Monday June 16 8 pm PST.