When Switched at Birth hit the college years, it could've played it safe with stories about typical freshman year hijinks. Instead, the ABC Family drama has continued to push the envelope and take on timely issues, which it tackles in a real and honest way.
Most recently, the show put a spotlight on the hot-button issue of sexual consent, specifically across college campuses. After Bay (Vanessa Marano) and her ex-boyfriend Tank (Max Adler) got too drunk at a party, they woke up in bed together with very different ideas of what happened. For Tank, he had casual sex with a girl he still had feelings for. For Bay, the details were fuzzy and the more she was forced to think about it, the more she realized she wasn't sober enough to say yes. Eventually, the college caught wind of what happened and, after hearing both sides of the account, expelled Tank, which was the last thing both parties wanted to have happen.
"I was pretty hesitant when the story line came up in conversation because to do such a controversial subject in a way where there is no right or wrong answer was scary," Marano tells TVGuide.com. "But it got the reaction that everyone was hoping it would get. We have an audience that has stuck with us through everything we've thrown at them. We speak to a group of intellectual, free-thinking younger and older, hearing and deaf [people with] different socioeconomical and cultural backgrounds and they've been with us every step of the way."
But for Bay, dealing with what happened is just getting started. Psychological ramifications aside, there's also the issue of how her boyfriend Emmett (Sean Berdy) handles the aftermath. When we last saw the couple together, Emmett couldn't see the gray area between rape and being cheated on and walked out on his longtime love. But can the two, who have been through the ringer since first getting together in Season 1, get through this and find their way back to each other in California? Marano talks about what's next in love, art and more.
Where is Bay's mindset when the episode begins?
Vanessa Marano: It's a weird place to be because her first reaction is to forget about it and repress it. But that's not a good way of dealing with it. She's at a place now where she wants to intellectually understand this and move on with life, which is why she tells Emmett about it. She's really heartbroken when he can't see the gray area. He's like, "Either it's your fault or his fault." Well what if it's both of our faults?
Is there hope they can get over this?
Marano: They've gone through hardships before. They've gone through him cheating and now the roles are reversed — even though what happened with her is such a different situation. It's interesting that he expected her to deal with what he did, in which there was complete consent, and he's having a hard time dealing with what she engaged in, where the consent was not there. It's an interesting place to see Emmett because he's not that guy, but sometimes it's unexpected that a character you love so much will react in a certain way when their heart is involved and their heart is broken. But they're the couple of the show! We all want them together, but at the same time it's a TV show. There is always going to be a struggle, and those two don't have the healthiest relationship. The fact that she was willing to move all the way across the country without a job, without going to college, just to be with him? Don't get me wrong, that's romantic and great, but at the same time it's like, "No, you're a strong, independent woman! Do something for you, don't follow the boy." That being said, she will go out to California by the end of the season.
And will we see her continue with this art project?
Marano: She's back on the art train. She is fully putting herself back into that world, which I'm happy about because it's something for her. It has been on the back burner and she finally gets to do it. But at the same time, she has it hanging over her shoulder that she just wants to be with her boyfriend.
What did you think of Daphne's recent story line with Mingo and the condom?
Marano: At the table read we all were dying! Adam [Hagenbuch] (who plays Mingo) hadn't read the script and was sitting there like, "What is going on?" Out of all the crazy story lines, that was the one that shocked everyone the most. And then you wouldn't believe how many people know somebody who that has happened to.
Looking at the final two episodes of this half of the season, what are you most excited about? Marano: I'm excited for Bay in L.A. We have lovely scenes on the Malibu beach, which was amazing. You should only ever be able to shoot television on the beach. We have a big story line coming up that involves a lot of our deaf characters that's a really important story and a true thing that happened to Stephanie [Nogueras]. She was kind enough to say you can tell this story.
Switched at Birth airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC Family.
Find out 6 things you never knew about Marano below: