Actress Vanessa Marano is known for playing characters in GILMORE GIRLS, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and PARENTHOOD, among many others. Her star continues to rise with her role as Bay Kennish in ABC Family's hit primetime soap opera, SWITCHED AT BIRTH, which return on Monday, September 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT for its Fall Premiere.
We Love Soaps spoke to Vanessa earlier this week about her career and what's ahead for Bay on SWITCHED AT BIRTH.
Could you catch us up with what you’ve been up to since last time we spoke, which I think was in December?
Vanessa Marano: Well, let’s see since December we obviously shot the show. We shot the eight episodes that are premiering in the fall. It’s been a lot of that. We just got picked up for a second season of 20 episodes that I’m really excited about. It’s officially our second season so we did 30 episodes of a first season and the second one is around the corner.
What can you tease us about Bay and Emmett’s relationship this season?
Vanessa Marano: Well, Bay and Emmett left off on pretty shaky ground obviously. She found out that he cheated on her with her ex-best friend Simone, and she’s not too happy about it. In the premiere coming back there’s a lot of denial until finally the climactic scene of the premiere episode where she just lets him have it, and that’s kind of the overall tone of the season is her struggling with accepting what Emmett did. Accepting that she’s in pain about it and accepting a way to forgive him.
Are there any other coming story lines that you can tease us about?
Vanessa Marano: Oh, let’s see, well, obviously there’s the Angelo trial drama. Angelo being Bay’s father and is, of course, illegally in the country and trying to stay in the country, and I believe the big teaser has been Regina in a wedding dress for the fall premiere. Not to give too much away but it looks like everybody’s going to head that way, and then, obviously, the Kennish’s are still suing the hospital and that finally comes to a head this fall season. We finally get a result of who is going to win, the hospital or the Kennish’s.
What would you say is coming up this fall with SWITCHED AT BIRTH that you’re most excited about?
Vanessa Marano: That I’m most excited about, well let’s see, a lot of new characters get introduced, and as far as Bay goes she starts turning to street art a little bit more again, which she did give up for a while because Emmett got arrested for painting a happy birthday message to her in street art. And so she was kind of shying away from it because of the whole arrest thing, but he cheated on her so now she’s back at it. And she falls into the wrong crowd, and there’s a particular character that she gets introduced to who has a major bad influence on her so a little bit of bad Bay which is a lot of fun.
You learn sign language on the show, did you do that so you can more accurately portray your character or was that more of a personal decision?
Vanessa Marano: That was I had absolutely no choice decision because my character started dating Emmett, and if you are going to start a relationship with somebody who doesn’t speak the language that you speak obviously communication, so I hear, is a big part of a relationship so you want to be able to do that with a person. Obviously reading lips as much as he can do, he can’t do anything about the fact that he couldn’t hear. It was really up to Bay if she wanted the relationship to thrive she needed to find a way to communicate with him so she decided to learn sign language for him, which means the actress portraying Bay, me, needed to learn sign language.
You’ve got a background in other languages. Did that help you with the process of learning sign language?
Vanessa Marano: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It’s so funny. My father is a language professor and sign language is so different than a verbal language because it is visual. Actually it’s very difficult to learn another language obviously but I’m a visual learner so I found it easier than learning another—like say I speak a little Italian and I found sign language much easier to learn than Italian to the point where I’ve been practicing sign language so much my Italian’s just gotten terrible as a result.
What do you think is the thing that is the most worrisome or bothersome for her?
Vanessa Marano: For Bay I think it’s a fear of not being loved by anyone. Really and truly it’s everything; everything that she finds bothersome and everything that she fears or anything that deeply affects her in a negative way is related to her just wanting to be loved by someone. With the whole switch, from the very beginning, she saw that everyone fled so easily to Daphne. Daphne was very easy to get along with. She’s likable and smart and just lovely and nice, and Bay’s not that easy. Bay has a lot of walls. Bay kind of deflects people with an awkward sense of humor and that was really hard for her because she saw people so easily being able to choose Daphne over her.
And then, her boyfriend chooses Daphne over her and everyone in the world was choosing Daphne over her. When her biological father came back in to the picture she just wanted him to choose her and finally she found someone who did. He (Emmett) actually choose Bay over Daphne in a relationship sense, not in a friendship sense, and that meant the world to her because it meant this is someone who loves me for me and not me pretending to be something that I’m not. And then he betrayed her and cheated on her, which is the ultimate form of choosing somebody over you, and now she’s really damaged again. I think she’s at a place right now where she has lack of trust for all people.
When you were growing up do you think you would have been more like Daphne or Bay?
Vanessa Marano: It’s funny because actually I probably would have been—here’s the thing. I’m not athletic. I have more of a sarcastic sense of humor. I’m more artistic so I’m more like Bay in that sense. That being said, however, Bay and I differ on so many things just from a social standpoint, just from the way that we deal with our family, from the way that we deal with human beings in general. Just from the way that we deal with men, Bay and I are very, very different.
It’s funny. I kind of see a little bit—and I think Katie who plays Daphne can say the same for herself. I think we kind of see a little bit of Bay and Daphne in both of us in real life, which is kind of poetic because Bay and Daphne are actually supposed to be each other in different lives.
In the finale you and Bay’s birth father had a very interesting conversation where it seems that Bay’s eyes were a little bit opened to his flaws finally. Where are we going to go with that relationship? Is she going to be a little more skeptical about him or is she still a huge supporter? Can you tease a little bit about that relationship?
Vanessa Marano: Bay is always a huge supporter of Angelo and I think it goes back to that needing to be loved thing because this is somebody who walked out on Daphne and did something completely horrible, and through that Bays like, “Oh, okay, well, he would hurt me but maybe he couldn’t. Maybe because I am his daughter he’ll love me.” And therefore I think she’s always rooting for him to come around or be the changed person that he says that he is.
You know any child wants their parents together too even though she barely knows her parents she wants them together. In a way it’s sort of making her whole but you need to keep in mind that with Bay she for 16 years thought of herself as a whole person and felt incredibly guilty for not understanding why she felt empty. All of a sudden she understands why -- because she was raised by people who aren’t actually related to her by blood, but to top it off she grew up with a father and it’s completely foreign to her to not actually know her father because for 16 years she grew up with a dad. And so she’s kind of like the only one who is still on Angelo’s side. She just wants him to pull through, especially now with breaking up with Emmett it’s like the saving grace for her. It’s the only thing that she’s looking forward to is him hopefully staying in the country.
Disney Info Net.com covers Disney channel heavily and you have a little sister on there, Laura Marano that stars in AUSTIN & ALLY. How much of an influence have you been on her career?
Vanessa Marano: I don’t know if the word influence is the right word. My sister and I started acting at roughly the same time. I wanted to act when I was 6-years old and my mom was an actress and she’s also an acting coach and she owns a children’s theatre. She was in the business for a very long time and was very skeptical about it. Just didn’t think it was a good idea for a child that young to start and also she didn’t want to drive us around, the whole mix of just not wanting to deal with stage moms and not wanting to deal with the business in general.
And so obviously to a little kid no means yes so I kept asking and asking and asking and asking, and finally when I was 8 years old she took me to an agent who she was praying and hoping would turn me down. The agent ended up taking me and my little sister Laura who was 5 years old didn’t audition. She was just there and adorable and funky, and said these words, “I don’t have an agent. Can you be my agent too?” And the agent was like, “Yes. Yes I can.” And so my mom ended up having to drive two little girls around for like ten years.
Would you be open to guest starring on Austin & Ally or having Laura star on your show SWITCHED AT BIRTH?
Vanessa Marano: I think Laura and I are just open to work in general so anyone who wants to have us can have us.
I know my audience isn’t going to like this question but I think it might be time to find a new love interest for Bay, especially with everything that happened, mix things up a bit. What do you think of that?
Vanessa Marano: I think it’s a great idea. I’m all for it. I’m probably one of the few people who shares the opinion of I don’t think Bay and Emmett should necessarily get back together, especially right away. I feel like there’s a lot of betrayal that happened that she needs to work through, and I think a big thing that she could teach herself and teach to him is maybe a way of finding friendship without necessarily a relationship. Like the ultimate test of forgiveness is I can still have you in my life; maybe not in the same way but in a way that still shows friendship.
I don’t think they should get back together personally. I’m like one of the only people in the entire world who thinks that, and it’s probably not going to happen because our writers are big Bay and Emmett fans, and I understand because they’re an awesome couple. But as an actress also I think it’s a fabulous idea that they just get more romantic love interests one right after another if they have to. If I’m in that situation, it’s my work, I’ll do what I have to do. In the premiere episode though Bay does come back with a boyfriend because the Bay that we all know and love does not stay single for very long.
I’m really excited about The Secret Lives of Dorks and I know it’s probably going to be a while until we actually get to see it, but could you tell our audience a little bit about that film and your role because you have a big role, right?
Vanessa Marano: Yeah. Well, I shot that film while I was 17 years old and, believe it or not, I was on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS at that exact same time, and so I was doing night shoots on that movie and day like afternoon shoots on the Young and the Restless and there was a point where I stayed up for 48 hours. Somebody else was driving me but I was stayed awake for 48 hours, it was fine.
Anyway, it’s kind of a high school comedy. It’s about dorks in general and my character Samantha is the female dork. I have a unibrow. Yes I have a unibrow for a good chunk of that movie, and basically it’s a story about coming of age and being comfortable with the side of you that might not necessarily be the coolest side of you. But it’s also a very, very fun little love story too about these two people who connect on a really dorky level.
What was it like working with Gilles Marini this season?
Vanessa Marano: Great. It’s always great to work with him. Everyone loves Gilles Marini. Gilles Marini has a way of walking into a room and just making you light up; he does. He’s French; he knows it. But no he’s really awesome to work with. He’s very creative. He has an accent, reminds me a lot of my dad, which is good since he’s playing my dad. It’s always awkward because whenever you say you’re working with Gilles Marini they’re like, “Oh, my God, he’s so beautiful.” And you’re like, “Yes, he’s playing my father, so yeah.”
What is Bay’s relationship with the lawsuit that her parents are involved in and she seems to have been very uncomfortable with it and resents it and feels like it’s a sign that the parents who raised her don’t love her. I was wondering if we’re going to have any follow up with that this season. Is she going to come to terms with that or is she going to remain uncomfortable with the lawsuit? Will we see any progress there?
Vanessa Marano: We definitely have seen progress there. She’s kind of gotten over it. I think she realized -- that was one of her Bay overdramatic moments -- that it was not necessarily an attack on her. That it really was just, if anything, for her. Like she was cheated out of a different life and maybe it was for the best but maybe it wasn’t for the best, and definitely it didn’t necessarily affect everyone negatively but it did affect everyone and that’s really what the Kennishes want is just an admission of fault on the hospital’s part.
Bay’s kind of gotten over it, but I think the Kennishes come a long way with it as far as verbalizing it to Bay that they don’t regret the switch, and that they do love her and actually are so happy that things did work out the way they did because they love her and she is their daughter. Not necessarily more than Daphne as their daughter but their daughter in a different way that Daphne will unfortunately never be.
Is Bay going to be having any reactions to her mother’s book as that progresses, can you tease anything?
Vanessa Marano: Yeah. In the season premiere Kathryn is having a book party and I think Bay’s opinions about the book get illuminated, let’s just say. I can say that much.
You started talking about the relationship between Bay and Emmett and that’s maybe going to be a long process for her to forgive him. What do you think that Emmett could do to speed that along and earn her forgiveness?
Vanessa Marano: He does about everything. That poor boy does about everything from romantic gestures to just being completely without anyone else to just constantly reminding her that he is waiting for her and he will wait for as long as it takes for her to move on. But Emmett gets introduced to a different love interest this season so we’ll see what happens because-- let me put it to you this way -- a cute deaf girl comes into the mix and just saying.
Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at welovesoaps.com writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.