As we prepare to say farewell to Switched at Birth, Vanessa Marano joined me to chat about her journey over the past five seasons on the series. We talked about Bay’s arc, growing up while working in the business, and the one thing that she was happy to say goodbye to.
Bay’s had an interesting evolution over the run of this show, and Marano recognizes that it was unique. “I love Bay’s arc, and I think it’s an unexpected arc for a character to take,” she shared. “She started bratty and selfish, but also easily intimidated by people, and has grown into this really wonderful, caring, selfless person who is comfortable in her own skin. [The story started when] she was 15 years old and found out she was switched at birth, but then she took a really interesting path that I’m very proud of.” Marano added, “I feel that the writers created such an interesting place for her to go, and made her such a well-rounded character. A lot of different things shaped her, and as an actor, there were a lot of interesting things to play. The sexual assault storyline was something that I had not experienced performing as an actor before, and that story had never been told in that way. The death of a parent is a crazy, emotional, horrifying thing to experience — but it’s a part of life, and I think that shaped Bay tremendously. The emotional, sad, horrific moments are the most fun to play as a performer, which sounds disturbing. Those are the moments where I think we grown the most as actors.”
Since graduating from high school, Bay has been forging a trail for herself that is anything but typical, and Marano thinks the writers have made some intriguing choices for her character. She explained, “The path that Bay is on right now is a path she never thought she’d be on. The writers always thought it might be art school. She always knew she wanted to be an artist, and as an artist, you’re struggling. The show did such a great job with Bay in showing that this is what she wants, that she can handle the struggle, and that might have even surprised her.” Marano went on to explain that Bay’s persistence and resilience really formed who the character has become as the series is winding down. “She was told she wasn’t good enough to get into art school. Her paintings were rejected from places all the time. She had to take to the streets in order for her art to be seen. She was constantly told that she was not good enough yet she kept going forward. Whether you go to college or don’t go to college, the most important thing is that you keep pushing forward and bettering yourself, whether it’s through education, or through experiences and hard work. Even with the tattoo gig, Noelle didn’t want to hire Bay, and Bay didn’t give her that option. Bay wouldn’t have done that unless she had gone through the journey that she did.”
When faced with some financial challenges, Bay sold her car in the episode titled “Left in Charge.” It was an important moment for Bay, and in a way, it was symbolic. She was letting go of her teen years and accepting the responsibilities of adulthood. It was emotional for Marano to film, but not in the way that you’d think. “It was my favorite scene in the entire world. I hate that car. I hate hate hate that car. Lizzy Weiss knew that I hated that car for so long. First, everyone assumed that I could drive a stick shift. I was 18 years old and I grew up in Los Angeles. Why would I know how to drive a stick shift? Then the transportation team tried in vain to teach me how to drive a stick shift. Fun fact about that vehicle, there was a rusted hole in the bottom of the car, the parking break did not work, the seat would not go forward — I’m a short girl and I needed that seat to move forward in order for me to fully engage the clutch — and the doors wouldn’t open. Every time they wrote a scene with that car, I would look at Lizzy from across the table read with so much hatred in my eyes, and she would look back at me and laugh hysterically because she thought it was so funny. The day that they got rid of that car, I literally sent her a video of me dancing and jumping up and down and laughing. I am the only person who was excited about it.”
Thanks to Instagram, you can see her reaction to never having to work with that car again!
There are some loose threads going into the finale, but Marano assures us that there will be a satisfying end to this story. “It’s a 90 minute finale which is nice because there’s a lot to fit in. As far as everybody goes, it’s not that we wrap up their lives because life always goes on, but we set all the characters firmly on a path. In a finale, people want to know that these characters are achieving their fullest potential. For Bay, that involves art. For Daphne, it’s school. For the parents, it’s coming to terms with the fact that they have grown children who are capable of making their own decisions.”
So what’s next for Vanessa Marano now that Switched at Birth is coming to an end? “I would love to write, direct, and produce,” Marano told me. “I would love to act in a play. I would love to do a movie, and I’d love to do another TV show. I grew up in this industry and I love it, and I would like to try every hat that the industry will allow me to put on. I’ve been doing this for so long. I know how fortunate I am to be in the position that I am in, and how lucky I am to have had the career that I’ve had. I do not take any of it for granted. My goal is to be a part of projects that I enjoy and others enjoy, and if I can do that, it doesn’t matter if I’m writing, directing, producing, or doing craft service. I just want to be a part of good work.”
Photos Courtesy of Freeform