Tweens know her from ABC Family's Switched at Birth, but Vanessa Marano is taking on a more sexually charged project in Lifetime's latest movie, Restless Virgins (Saturday at 8/7c). Based on the best-selling book of the same title, the flick features a prep school's sex scandal that made national headlines. Marano, who stars in the true story as a vengeful student, opened up about her racy role.
TV Guide Magazine: Does starring in a Lifetime movie feel like a right of passage as an actress?
Vanessa Marano: Oh, hell yeah! Who doesn't love a Lifetime movie? I think that they know their audience so well.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of the audience, do you think Restless Virgins will attract younger viewers than the typical Lifetime demographic since the plot centers around a prep school?
Marano: Even though it's a young cast, it can definitely appeal to an older audience. The film has all the aspects that are for Lifetime viewers.
TV Guide Magazine: Tell me about your character, Emily. She certainly is different from Switched at Birth's Bay Kennish.
Marano: Emily was never super rich, and she doesn't come from a powerful family. Because of that, she never really rose the ranks of the school. When she sees that all of the students getting accepted into the Ivy Leagues come from wealthy, powerful families, she's very frustrated by it.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you relate to your character in any way?
Marano: I think we've all been there when we see somebody and we're like, 'Oh my God, that person's an idiot. Why are they succeeding in this way and I'm not?' I think we've all had that frustration. It's a very childish mentality, but I think it is something you go through when you get to your middle school years and you carry it into adulthood. The movie really is about the line between right and wrong. Is bettering yourself necessarily the right thing to do? I think that's something a lot of people struggle with.
TV Guide Magazine: I noticed a line that your character says: "I watch a lot of Grey's Anatomy." And I know that you were in an episode of Grey's Anatomy seasons back. Was that your idea to put that into the script?
Marano: No! That was totally in the script. It's so funny because the Lifetime miniseries that I did before, called Marry Me, had a line where my character said, "Oh, this is getting a little too Gilmore Girls." That's also a show that I was on, and it was also in the script before I was hired!
TV Guide Magazine: Your love interest in the film is Max Lloyd-Jones, your Switched at Birth costar. Was that a coincidence that you were both cast?
Marano: Total coincidence. We did Restless Virgins first. Max actually texted me and was like, "I'm auditioning for your show." And I was like, "Hah! That's so funny." I got into work and the creators came up to me and we're like, "You worked with this kid, right? You like him, right?" I was like, "Yeah, he's great." And then they were like, "So he's hired now. Bye!'
TV Guide Magazine: Let's talk Switched at Birth. How did you prepare for the all American Sign Language episode?
Marano: My character, Bay, isn't fluent in ASL — and Vanessa Marano also is not fluent in ASL. Every scene was American Sign Language so I was translating every word, which was a lot more difficult than usual.
TV Guide Magazine: I would imagine it was a meaningful episode to shoot.
Marano: Absolutely. It's a really big deal for our show to just be going out there and doing something that hasn't been done before. We already are such a different show and it was such a risk to put us on the air anyway. The audience had an overwhelmingly fantastic response to us that we're so incredibly thankful for.
TV Guide Magazine: What do you think contributes to the shows big ratings?
Marano: The deaf community has been very supportive of us, but the hearing community is also a big chunk of our audience. More than anything, I think our show is incredibly relatable. It's about two girls finding their identity. It's about nature versus nurture. It's about family. Whether you know somebody who's deaf or you've never been introduced to sign language at all, it's kind of irresistible.
TV Guide Magazine: The all ASL episode was a big moment for Bay. What can we expect from her to wrap up the season's spring finale (Monday, March 11, 8/7c)?
Marano: The stakes are definitely raised for Bay after the ASL episode. Carlton kind of comes under fire with the school board, and the deaf kids decide to take a stand — and Bay is supportive of that stand until she realizes that it may actually affect the hearing pilot program. It's a turmoil episode for Bay and Daphne.