Vanessa Marano is best known for her role as Bay Kennish in hit television series Switched At Birth, but we will be seeing her back on the big screen this year in Senior Project.
We caught up with the actress to chat about the upcoming movie, a third season of Switched At Birth and what lies ahead.
- You are set to star in Senior Project later this year, so can you tell me a little bit about it?
Senior Project is about a group of kids who have to work on their final project of the year together. They are all very different and they are all very stressed: it is the final year and they are at a point where they have to prove themselves before going into adulthood and being thrown out into the big bad world.
It is definitely a relatable comedy in the sense that anybody who has experienced that last year of high school will understand the aches and pains of proving yourself, and the hilarity of it all.
- You take on the role of Sam in the film what was it about this character and Jeremy Lin's script that particularly interested you?
I thought it was interesting that Jeremy Lin was a sixteen-year-old boy from Hong Kong who wrote an American comedy; that is fascinating. Sam is a character I have played quite a bit, in a sense she is the sarcastic onlooker of the group who calls things as it is.
I found it really interesting that that was the voice that a sixteen-year-old boy could capture so clearly. The way that he captured all of the voices of the teenagers in the film was so clear and fantastic that I really wanted to give the movie a try.
- Can you talk a little bit about your character and how we are going to see her develop throughout the film?
Sam is a bohemian, fashion obsessed teenage girl; her goal in life is to do eco-friendly fashion. What is so interesting about the character of Sam… there is another character called Natalia, who is your typical Beverly Hills, shallow teenager, and they definitely butt heads at the beginning of the movie; they are total opposites.
I really like that the films shows how different these two girls are, but how their morals end up being exactly the same. It also looks at the idea of how people - especially kids - see their flaws in others, and that definitely makes up angry and makes us want to push those people away rather than embracing them.
The character of Natalia ended up being played by Meaghan Martin, who is a really good friend of mine, and that was a big reason why I wanted to do the film as well.
- Nadine Truong is in the director's chair for only her second feature film, so how did you find working with her? And what kind of director is she?
Because it is an independent film and it is always a risk to do those films, Nadine was a big reason why I was confident in doing the film. I had seen her work and I had seen some of her projects from AFI, and I was really drawn to her work.
So, I sat down and have coffee with her, and her energy was fantastic. Her approach to directing is a very calm and realistic approach, and that is very similar to how I view set life. I was very confident that it was going to be a lovely working experience.
When you are working you want to enjoy your time and you want to understand the process of the other people that you are working with; her and I definitely saw eye to eye.
- As you say independent projects are always a risk, so how did you find your experience in this genre? And would you like to tackle more independent projects in the future?
Absolutely. I just really want to work - ideally, I want to do good work. Thankfully, I am in a situation right now where I am employed on a fantastic television show, and so it makes the decisions to step into the film work and the independent movie world a little safer as you have the safety net of having another job.
However, there is going to come a day when you are not going to have that security blanket and that does make it a little scarier. Everything a risk; any television show you do, any independent movie that you do, any movie with a big budget you do, any commercial or any play is always a risk. It is an industry filled with you risk.
You have to just have confidence in the project and confidence in yourself and be willing to take it upon your shoulders whether it is successful or not. You also have to enjoy the actual working process of it.
- You are also going to be returning for a third season of Switched At Birth, so what can fans expect from the show this time around?
Hilariously, seeing as we are talking about Senior Project, it is going to be the senior year in Switched At Birth: there are a lot of seniors that I tackle this year (laughs). My character Bay has just been cheated on for what she perceives to be the third time, and she is upset about that.
Therefore, she dives head first into an art class at a local college, and here she meets an art professor, a frat boy and gets immersed into a world that she knows so well: a world of art.
However, she perceives it in a whole new way through the eyes of this professor and the eyes of this frat boy - who she doesn’t get along with at first but ends up developing a very unlikely friendship.
- The series has enjoyed great success, but how have you been finding the response to the show so far?
It has been fantastic. It is really great to be on something that people enjoy: for one it means job security but it makes the work so much more worthwhile. With Switched at Birth, we have had a huge amount of support from the deaf community, which has made our show so much better. It is a community that we really respect and support, and to have them backing us means so much.
For all of the fans of the show, it is a show that everyone can relate to in a sense that we are always questioning who we are and what defines us. Is it our blood? Or is it our environment? We are all questioning our family. To see that story told - a story that we are all familiar with and experienced in - and the lovely use of sign language is something that everyone is drawn to.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you mix TV work with movies, so how do you find that those two mediums compare/differ?
They do differ they definitely do differ. The similar aspects to them are that you are creating a process, creating a character, creating a story, operating in the same way and all of the logistics and people that are involved are all the same. However, television is a little bit more of nine to five job if you will.
The hours are long - you can work twelve to fourteen hours a day - but they are little bit more predictable. You also see the same people every day. There is definitely more of a business aspect to television; there is with film as well but it is different.
With TV, there is a pilot season, there is a waiting period for the pilot to get picked up and then you have to wait and see if it does well in the ratings. Therefore, you really can predict the business aspect of it a lot more. With film, you are making independent films that may or may not get distribution, or you are making a big budget movie that may or may not do well at the box office.
There is a lot more unpredictability with films: especially nowadays. What is so fantastic about the two is with film, there is a beginning and an end. You read the script and you know the character’s journey and you really can take the time to tell the story accurately; I think that is something that everyone is drawn to about film because it is like reading a book.
Whereas television, because it ongoing, you don’t know what your character will be doing next. You are very much playing in the moment - but I think that that is something else that the audience really responds to because they are going on the journey with the actor. Everyone is really on this fun ride together.
- Away from acting, you are an ambassador for the Christopher Reeve Foundation so how did you get involved with that?
I worked with Christopher Reeve when I was eleven years old on what was one of his last movies. I got very involved with the foundation from a donating money standpoint, but when I turned eighteen they contacted me and asked if I wanted to be an ambassador, and I was like ‘absolutely.’
It is such an important foundation to me because I had met Christopher and the film that we did was about Brooke Ellison, who was a quadriplegic from the age of eleven. I was introduced to paralysis from a very early age and how it can affect family.
It is something that we are so close to finding a cure for that no one really realise; the cure for spinal cord injury is right around the corner. A lot of that is due to that foundation. As well as trying to find a cure, this foundation offers support and help to anyone who suddenly does become parallelised.
It is such an amazing cause that is helping people with the reality of the injury, but also fighting to find a cure for the injury. It is very important to me and I really wanted to represent it in the hope that more people would get involved.
- Finally, what is coming up for you as we kick off 2014?
Well, I am finishing up the winter season of Switched At Birth. I think I am probably going to do a little trip to New York in my spare time.
Then I will be coming back to do the summer season of Switched at Birth. Work work work seems to be my life (laughs). I am not complaining about that as I am a bit of a workaholic.