Switched at Birth began with a pretty insane premise — two teenage girls discover they were sent home from the hospital with the wrong parents and attempt to get to know their biological families.
It sounds like a soap opera of epic proportions, but in reality Switched was a simple family drama that explored the difficulty of forming relationships in adolescence and trying to find where you belong. The show forged a unique relationship with the deaf community by making several of its core characters deaf and most of the cast fluent in American Sign Language by the end of the series.
The show told stories about coming of age, family, first loves, trauma and strength over the course of five seasons and over 100 episodes. In the end, after all of the drama and the tribulations, Switched at Birth came back to its core family to show the power of love whether you're related by blood or not.
TVGuide.com talked to Switched at Birth creator Lizzy Weiss about the final episode, the show's legacy and where she sees Switched ending up in the future. See her answers below.
You didn't have a lot of notice that this season would be your last. What was the most important thing for you to wrap up and address in the final episodes to give the series proper closure?
Lizzy Weiss: First off, it was important to send Daphne off on the doctor path. I flirted briefly with taking her off that path - simply because people do change their minds in college or soon afterwards - but it just felt like it'd be a huge letdown for Daphne Vasquez not to fulfill that lifelong dream. She really is an inspiring character and I do want a legacy of the show to be a deaf woman who becomes a physician. As for Bay, I also wanted to send her off on a career path that felt right - if not forever, then for now - and tattooing is the perfect mix of art and East Riverside and entrepreneurship. That's nature Bay - not nurture - taking over. That's where she was destined to end up no matter who raised her. And then of course we had to answer the Bay Emmett Travis triangle...
As for the adults, John and Kathryn were always the Eric and Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights) of the show — the couple who always held it together. They were the central Mom and Dad in a traditional home and Christmas hearth way, and it always felt like we could throw ripples or even tidal waves their way, but they'd never waiver in their long-term love or commitment, and I wanted to reiterate that.
It felt right to point Toby towards a brand new career path that is defined by his child and disability and a path that began in the pilot of the show with meeting his biological deaf sister. And I loved the twist we came up with for Regina - giving her long-term love and commitment but never sacrificing her morals or strength to get that love. We gave her a series of men but Eric is just so solid and sexy and kind, despite his complicated back story, that they always felt right together.
I loved the symmetry of Travis and Emmett going to Japan together after Bay and Daphne's life changing trip to China. What inspired that? Do you think that could have spin-off potential?
Weiss: Ha! Spin-off, I love that! It was a way to honor the friendship and the brotherhood and the thematic concept of siblings brought together by unique circumstances. It was also a way to send Emmett off into the world on a new adventure. I think photojournalist is an awesome profession for him and I'm excited to imagine him off on that journey. The whole idea of them starting out their careers in a foreign country with each other to lean on just feels open and fresh and fun and difficult and funny and crazy and right.
It was really emotional to see Daphne ask Kathryn if she could call her mom for the first time. When do you think that turning point came for Daphne and do you think Bay feels the same way about Regina?
Weiss: That was a moment that was in my back pocket for a long time and I always wanted to wait until the end for it. I think Daphne slowly began to think of Kathryn as her other mom enough to call her 'Mom' awhile ago but she held off because she didn't want to upset Regina. And then in that moment, with the nostalgia and the emotions running high, it just felt right and she knew Regina would understand and not be threatened. It just means a lot to Kathryn to hear that - she's that kind of person; being a mom defined her for a long time and the loss of raising Daphne was seriously profound for her. But Regina isn't as traditional and for some reason, I just picture Bay calling Regina 'Regina' forever. It's just a personality thing for them both, plus their initial relationship was always more fraught and more big sister/little sister or aunt/niece.
I am an unapologetic [Bay/Emmett] shipper. If you had more episodes do you think they could have found their way back to each other or does it feel more fitting they accept they were first loves and move on?
Weiss: This was the right ending, whether or not we had more episodes. Maybe it's because Bay met (or started dating) Travis later in life, after a lot of the terrible stuff happened to her, and it was just timing - as is so much in life. But the penultimate episode (Travis telling his mom) showed that Bay and Travis are tight. They're strong. They've got the goods to go the distance. Big romantic moves are wonderful but can you go through incredibly hard stuff together and come out stronger? That's an adult relationship.
That being said, the Bay/Emmett montage was really emotional for me. I did it to honor the relationship and its importance to the show and the character and the fans, even though they don't end up together. There are a lot of intense Bemmett fans and I understand the passion because the Bay/Emmett relationship was so specific and unique - I don't think there's ever been a teenage love story between a hearing girl and a deaf boy on TV before so it was in itself romantic and fascinating and delightful. And then of course Vanessa and Sean had such great chemistry; it was undeniably special. But it was a first love and most first loves do not last and that is what makes them so potent and poignant. That first love and first broken heart defines your youth and brings you right back to that time. And when you think about it, it's delirious and erotic and excruciating and wistful all at once. So that final look between them was supposed to be all of that - 'I am remembering all of those moments that no one knows but us - and the power they had in shaping who I am today, and I will always carry you in my heart, even though we go our separate paths'.
Is there anyone you wish you could have invited back for the final episodes that you didn't have time to include?
Weiss: Yes! We tried to get both Wilke and Ty back, but for scheduling reasons, that wasn't possible. In fact, the creation of Mingo originally came out of a desire to get a ridiculous Wilke energy back for Daphne, and then along the way, Mingo became his own adorable self and, of course, 'the one.'
If there's a Switched at Birth reunion in 10 years, where do you see your main characters being?
Weiss: That's a great question but one that I will keep to myself for now. I think touching base with this family again would be lovely, but if they go off into the sunset of the fans' imagination, I can live with that too.
What has being captain of this show for five years meant for you?
Weiss: I talked about Bay and Emmett and first love above, and how intense it is and how fresh and open and present you are, and this feels the same to me. This show was so personal to me. I was there from the first noodle of an idea scratched out on a piece of paper to the last shot of the finale. So sometimes I wonder if any other show will ever mean this much to me or be this magical or intense or bring me this much joy, but that's how you always feel at the end of a relationship, right? No one will ever love you like that again. But then you meet the right person, and they do, and you do, and it's just different.
Which is all to say, it's been transformative, and I'm incredibly grateful to my partners - the writers and actors and the network, and my actual partner on the show Paul Stupin - who was also there every step of the way, as my co-captain. We had a total blast doing it. And we just all feel really, really lucky.
Is there any final message you want to give to the Switched viewers and fans?
Weiss: Thank you not just for watching and loving it and keeping it on the air for 103 episodes, but for telling me all of the ways in which the show impacted you, both tiny and profound. To all of you who chose a profession from the show, or who spoke to someone at Starbucks for the first time in sign language, or who continued your cable TV package just to watch a show with a deaf protagonist for your deaf daughter, or who said 'my brother has Down Syndrome,' 'I was assaulted in college,' 'I'm black and that is exactly what it feels like to walk across my campus' - I'm so glad you felt heard and seen and validated. The door is open. Keep making your own stories about your own unique perspective on the world. There is so much left to say.