Katie Leclerc: ‘I want people to see that the deaf worlds and the hearing worlds really are not that different’

Watch Katie Leclerc in “Switched  at Birth,” Mondays at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.

Like her character Daphne Vasquez on the hit ABC Family drama “Switched at Birth,”?24-year-old Katie Leclerc is hearing-impaired. The actress gave us a look into her life.

How did your involvement in the show come about?

When I read the script, I knew that we were tapping into something that had never been done before. When I heard Constance [Marie] was cast and Lea Thompson was cast, all the pieces of the puzzle started to come together. It really just rang true. This is the first show that’s doing the deaf culture and showing the deaf culture in the way  that we are, but we do it with respect and class — and it’s a very accurate eyehole into this world.

You play a character who’s deaf, and you’re hard of hearing. What’s that like?

I was diagnosed with Menier’s disease at age 20, and one of the symptoms  is fluctuating hearing loss. Sometimes I can hear fine and sometimes I’m not able to hear the phone, for example, or respond to someone calling my name across the room. So I can relate to Daphne on those levels. The pressure and the ringing in the ears is a bummer, but it’s just one of those things that you sort of get used to. The attacks of vertigo are the worst, but they happen more at night and production’s very aware, so if I ever have a problem I’ll just sit down and take a breather and they’re very OK with that. It’s very strange to only look at someone’s mouth when they’re talking, and with HD these days, [the audience sees] if you’re looking at someone’s eyes or mouth, so I have to be very aware of what I’m responding to. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s a great challenge.

What do you want viewers to take away from the show?

I want people to see that the deaf worlds and the hearing worlds really are not that different. I want people to really feel like family is where you belong, and I hope that this show helps people connect back with their families. I hope that it exposes them to new cultures, and I hope people are  less afraid of differences.

ABC?Family has tackled some mature topics lately. Do you feel the pressure to be sexy in Hollywood?

I don’t feel any pressure to go out and make poor decisions, and I think it’s very sad when we look at these icons that young girls look up to, and the decisions that they make are just atrocious. I went through my rebellious phase as a teenager, but I feel like I’ve grown out of that a bit, and I’m very thankful that I have a better head on my shoulders now. If I had gotten “Switched at Birth” like five years ago, maybe I would have felt that pressure, but right now, I’m going through my day to day and I just feel happy.


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