SWITCHED AT BIRTH’s Katie Leclerc’s Real-Life Hearing Impairment

KATIE LECLERCKatie Leclerc, who plays Daphne in Switched at Birth, lends credibility to her role through her own hearing impairment.

When I spoke with her recently about her role on the show, I was surprised to learn that she discovered at age 20 that she has memiere’s disease.  She told me, “It’s measured by four main symptoms.  There’s pressure in the ear, ringing in the ear, a fluctuality of hearing loss, and a type of vertigo.  Any of these can come on at any time.  It’s kind of sporadic and something I have to deal with.

“I usually have some advanced warning.  It depends on which symptom it is.  You just surround yourself with people who love you and people who are patient and who are aware that you have this.”

She went on.  “It’s hard to see the negative about it.  I wouldn’t be able to lend the credibility with my character without it.  So, it’s a love/hate relationship.”

When Leclerc signed on for the role of Daphne, who lost her hearing at age three from meningitis, she did a tremendous amount of research and got a lot of help from her sister.  She told me, “She and I sat down and mapped out Daphne’s specific hearing loss.  We determined what sounds she’d be able to say versus what sounds she wouldn’t be able to say.”

Even then, the role was a challenge.  She said, “It’s the first series regular I’ve ever played.  It’s a lot of pressure acting and technically to speak two languages.”

She continued, “I didn’t use an accent at all for the first audition.  For the callback, the producer said ‘we like you for this role.’  I knew American Sign Language since high school.  So, I went in the room and showed them my proficiency at it.  They said, ‘could you do an accent?’  I said I could try.  So I ran everyone in my family and in my life absolutely crazy for about three weeks working on the voice.”

That voice was hard to forget when she filmed The Confession at the beginning of 2012.  I was on set and spoke with Leclerc about that time.  “When I was filming, it was difficult to switch from the deaf accent.  I had to concentrate on ‘Don’t go back to Daphne.’  It wasn’t the sign language so much as the voice.  The voice was definitely on my mind.

“And it was difficult because we were on hiatus when I filmed The Confession, so I went from Daphne to three days later playing Katie Lapp.  It blew my mind.  Then it was another three days, or a weekend or something, when I went back to playing Daphne.  It was fun though.”

I asked Leclerc if she’d been able to draw on some of her portrayal of other characters for the Daphne role.  She said, “In Veronica Mars, I was only in one episode for a small portion, but the storyline was about a high school student who was switched at birth.  It’s weird the role of Daphne popped up after that.  But, I think every role lends itself to how you’re gonna play the next role.  You have to learn from your experiences on set as well as while you’re in a character.”

Switched at Birth begins its second season on January 7, and Lecerc is very excited about that.  “The show has only gotten better, and I’m so proud of everything that we do.  It’s something I’m very, very proud of.”

When I asked how she thought Daphne had changed since the series began, she said, “I think she’s grown up.  When she first found out about the switch, she was happy.  She had an extra family.  She got a dad, a brother, and a second mother.  I think she was very bright eyed and bushy tailed.  She looked for the good in everyone.  Now, she realizes she has to watch out for herself.  Whereas, in the beginning, she was so receptive and open to everything.”

Obviously good writing was a big part of the success of the first season.  And Leclerc said the writing was just as much a mystery to her each week as to the viewers.  She said, “Lizzy Weiss (the creator and main writer) is a secret keeper like I’ve never seen.  She has the script under lock and key and nobody sees it.  It makes it kind of fun at the same time, because I’m a fan of the show too, so when I get the script I find myself just yelling.  It’s nice to get a surprise every week.

“It really is a dream come true.”

Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at suite101.com, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover. 

This originally appeared on suite101.com.