Switched at Birth is an American television teen/family drama series that premiered on ABC Family on June 6, 2011, at 9:00 ET/PT. The one-hour scripted drama revolves around two teenagers who were switched at birth and grew up in very different environments. The series' debut was the highest-rated show debut for ABC Family to date. According to ABC Family, it is "the first mainstream television series to have multiple deaf and hard-of-hearing series regulars and scenes shot entirely in ASL [American Sign Language]."
On July 30, 2013, ABC Family ordered a third season of its Peabody Award winning drama, to premiere on January 13, 2014.
When the two families meet, the girls struggle with their identities as Bay relates to Regina's artistic abilities and Daphne is drawn to John's athletic skills and to Kathryn's cooking abilities. The Kennishes learn that Regina is facing financial woes and propose the Vasquezes move into their guest home. The new living situation forces the girls, along with both families, to understand their differences and embrace their similarities. Kathryn attempts to bond with Daphne while unintentionally alienating Bay. At the same time, Regina struggles with Kathryn's influence on Daphne and bonding with Bay.
Oscar-winning actress and Deaf advocate Marlee Matlin plays a friend of Regina's and the mother of Emmett (Sean Berdy), Daphne's best friend and schoolmate.Gilles Marini plays Angelo Sorrento, Bay's biological father. On September 18, 2012, it was announced that Marini was promoted to a series regular for the show's second season.
Vanessa Marano portrays Bay Madeleine Kennish, biological daughter of Angelo Sorrento and Regina Vasquez; legal daughter of John and Kathryn Kennish. She was born on October 22, 1995, a couple of minutes before Daphne. Bay is a passionate artist, and paints street art throughout the city. She has had a series of boyfriends including Liam, Ty, Emmett, Alex, and Noah. She lived with Angelo and Regina in Angelo's apartment over the summer, but has moved back home. Ty and Bay break up; Bay is heartbroken that Ty supposedly 'cheated' on her.
Katie Leclerc portrays Daphne Paloma Vasquez, biological daughter of John and Kathryn Kennish; legal daughter of Regina Vasquez. She was also born on October 22, 1995; she was deafened at age three as a result of bacterial meningitis. She has had a series of boyfriends including Liam, Wilke, Chef Jeff, Travis, and Jace. She is facing legal trouble over Jace and her actions over the summer and has to go to court and could face jail time. As a result of her trouble with Chip Codo over the summer, Daphne starts working at a free clinic. Here she meets Campbell, a pre-med college student paralyzed by a snowboarding accident, who works with Daphne at the free clinic. Daphne also meets Jorge a nurse-practitioner who works at the free clinic.
Constance Marie portrays Regina Vasquez, Daphne's legal mother and Bay's biological mother. She is a recovering alcoholic, having sobered up after her boyfriend walks out on her (believing she cheated on him and that Daphne is not his daughter) in order to be a better mother to Daphne. Regina and Daphne moved into the Kennish's guest house so that both families could bond and get to know each other. It is revealed that while Regina knew about the switch, she never came forward, fearing the possibility of having Daphne taken away from her. Regina is currently employed at a home design company now that she is sober. Regina briefly lived with Angelo and Bay, but recently moved back to the guest house, because Angelo was raising Abby.
D. W. Moffett portrays John Kennish, Bay and Toby's father and Daphne's biological father. John is a former pro baseball player who owns a chain of carwashes and deplores graffiti. He also has a temper, and whenever something goes wrong he is quick to blame other people and make rash decisions. John is currently a state senator from the Republican Party. He recently had a heart attack.
Lea Thompson portrays Kathryn Kennish, Bay's and Toby's mother and Daphne's biological mother. Before the discovery of Daphne and Bay's switch, Kathryn was a stay-at-home-mother. Since then however, she has written a book about the switch which encompasses both her and Regina's perspective, and helped with John's election campaign and his work as a Senator.
Lucas Grabeel portrays Toby Kennish, John and Kathryn's son, Bay's legal older brother, and Daphne's biological older brother. He was the lead guitarist of Guitar Face, a band that included Wilke and eventually Emmett. Toward the end of the season, Toby meets a girl named Nikki at his church, and together with Emmett form a new band. He is shown to have a gambling problem that Regina helps him through. Toby and his girlfriend Nikki decide that they are going to get married since they are graduated from high school. However Toby is showing signs of second thinking about getting married. Toby becomes the manager of his father's car wash. In the season finale of season 2, Toby and Nikki elope at City Hall.
Gilles Marini portrays Angelo Sorrento (Season 2-present, recurring previously), biological father of Bay Kennish, absent legal father of Daphne Vasquez, and ex‑boyfriend of Regina Vasquez. Angelo, a Frenchman, and Regina are married, so that he can stay in the US instead of getting deported and get to know Bay. Angelo has recently had another child with another woman, and is currently trying to get custody of her from the parents who adopted her. When Angelo gets full custody of Abby. He had a hard time raising her by himself so he gives Abby back to Leo and hopes to arrange an open adoption so he can come by and see Abby every few weekends, and on her birthdays and holidays.
Sean Berdy portrays Emmett Bledsoe, Daphne's long-time best friend who is also deaf, and refuses to use speech to communicate, even to hearing people. He previously had a childhood crush on Daphne, claiming he waited for her for "eight years," but becomes interested in Bay after helping her try to find her father. Emmett and Bay also bond over their mutual love of art and start dating, however Emmett cheats on her while they are in a fight, causing Bay to break up with him. Despite this, he never gets over her, and is determined to win her back and prove his remorse for his actions. He loves motorcycles, photography, and was the drummer for Toby and Wilke's band Guitar Face, and Toby and Nikki's band Awesome Sauce. Emmett is hopeful Bay will give him a second chance at a relationship after her breakup with Ty.
Recurring cast and characters
Marlee Matlin portrays Melody Bledsoe, a deaf guidance counselor and substitute basketball coach at Carlton School for the Deaf; Emmett's mother, and Regina's best friend. When Bay and Emmett begin dating, Melody disapproves, not believing deaf/hearing relationships can work due to culture differences. She strongly believes that Bay (despite being her best friend Regina's biological daughter) is a bad influence on Emmett. When Bay comes to her and confides in her her worries about Emmett and his home-life at his Dad's however, Melody finally accepts Bay and realises that Bay genuinely cares for Emmett.
Ivonne Coll portrays Adriana Vasquez, Regina's mother, Daphne's legal grandmother, and Bay's biological grandmother, who lives with Regina and Daphne in the Kennish guest house.
Maiara Walsh portrays Simone Sinclair, a former friend of Bay's. She dates Toby briefly, and forms a friendship with Daphne, relationships that are later dissolved when she betrays the Kennish kids by sleeping with Emmett, Bay's then boyfriend and Daphne's best friend. In later episodes, she becomes friendly again with Toby Kennish who appears to forgive the past.
Blair Redford portrays Tyler "Ty" Mendoza, Daphne's close friend and Bay's ex-boyfriend. They break up shortly before he leaves for the military in episode 5. Ty and Bay get back together when he returns in the second half of season 2. In the season final of season 2, Bay and Ty break up as he made her think he cheated on her as he is heading back to the war zone again and would prefer to break her heart now then risk breaking it later.
Sam Page portrays Craig Tebbe, John and Kathryn's newly appointed lawyer for their case against the hospital. He is shown to be slightly interested in Kathryn, but she rebuffs his advances.
Anthony Natale portrays Cameron Bledsoe, Emmett's father, also deaf. He is the "irresponsible" parent compared to Melody and her overprotective parenting style. He also had an ex-girlfriend, Olivia, a bad influence on Emmett.
TL Forsberg portrays Olivia, Cameron's free-spirited ex-girlfriend who's later revealed to be a marijuana dealer.
Meeghan Holaway portrays Amanda Burke, the Kennishes' friend and lawyer, helping John to sue the hospital for medical malpractice. However, John and Kathryn fire her after discovering she's dating one of the hospital board members.
Jason Brooks portrays Bruce, ex‑husband of Kathryn's friend and a brief love interest of Regina, until Regina realizes he still has feelings for his ex‑wife.
Christopher Wiehl portrays Patrick, owner of a local art gallery who looks at Bay and Regina's work. He and Regina have a relationship, but it ends when he concludes that he couldn't date a married woman who was still in love.
Tania Raymonde portrays Zarra, a street artist befriended by Bay. She also uses the street name "Medusa".
Justin Bruening portrays Chef Jeff Reycraft, head chef at Maize Restaurant and Daphne's boss, with whom she starts a taboo love affair, which Daphne tries to end in order to keep his job and their relationship. Instead, they break up and she ends up without a job.
Ryan Lane portrays Travis, a deaf student at Daphne and Emmett's school who works at John's car wash and is said to have feelings for Daphne. Travis is one of John's most loyal employees and battles John's son Toby for the spot of the car wash's manager; Toby got the job. later in season 2 Travis started dating Bay's friend Mary-Beth.
Max Lloyd-Jones portrays Noah, a new student at Carlton who befriends Bay. His parents are making him enroll in the pilot program because he has Meniere's disease and may go deaf. He likes Bay and they've been dating since Human/Need/Desire, only to break up after Bay learns of his kiss with Daphne.
Annie Ilonzeh portrays Lana, a medical student who met and had a one-night stand with Angelo, during which she becomes pregnant, and after hearing how Angelo felt he lost time with Bay, thought he would want to know he had another daughter. She gives birth to a girl, only to disappear with her later that same day.
Cassi Thomson portrays Nikki Papagus, a Christian singer who begins dating Toby and replaces Wilke in Guitar Face. She is also Toby's fiancée until the last episode of season 2, when the two elope at City Hall.
Stephanie Nogueras portrays Natalie Pierce, a deaf student at Carlton who does not like the hearing students in the pilot program, especially Bay. However, after tensions come to a head at a weekend camping trip hosted by Melody, the two realize that they are indeed quite similar and become close friends.
On August 1, 2011, ABC Family announced that they were ordering more episodes for the first season of Switched at Birth, bringing the first season to a total of 30 episodes. The series continued with a winter premiere on January 3, 2012, ending on March 20, 2012, with 12 episodes. The series began airing the remaining 8 episodes of its first season beginning September 3, 2012. On August 17, 2012 (2012-08-17), ABC Family renewed Switched at Birth for a second season; it premiered on January 7, 2013 (2013-01-07). After the spring finale on March 11, 2013 (2013-03-11), the second season resumed on June 10, 2013 (2013-06-10). On July 30, 2013, ABC Family renewed the show for a third season to premiere in January 13, 2014.
The show has an American Sign Language expert who helps make sure that the sign language used by the four fluent regulars (Katie Leclerc, Sean Berdy, Constance Marie, and Marlee Matlin) all employ a similar dialect.
Airing on March 4, 2013 to mark the 25th anniversary of the "Deaf President Now" protests at Gallaudet University, the season 2 episode "Uprising" (which featured a similar student-led protest surrounding the closure of Carlton School for the Deaf) was produced almost entirely in sign language with few spoken lines.
One week before the premiere, ABC Family launched the online game, "Switched at Birth: Hunt for the Code". Bay, a graffiti artist, left her signature stencil image on ten different websites and users searched for the picture and accompanying code to redeem sneak peeks and enter to win $4,000. Each weekday, ABCFamily.com posted two clues hinting at a site featuring the image and instructed users to scan the code with a Microsoft Tag Reader for exclusive content. Additionally, each code had two letters for fans to collect and enter to win upon completion of the ten-digit code.
The show had the highest-rated premiere ever on the ABC Family network with 3.3 million viewers. When counting the repeat of the first episode later that evening, an estimated 4.9 million people saw the premiere. The first 51 episodes are available on Netflix's Watch Instantly service.