Constance Marie plays Regina Vasquez on ABC Family's Switched at Birth, which chronicles the lives of two teens (and their familes) as they deal with finding out the babies were given to the wrong families. Not only that, but Vazquez raises a child who is hit with meningitis -- leaving her little girl deaf and the father running scared. We caught up with Constance to talk about the show, balancing life as a working mom and plans for her first book!
How would you describe your character Regina?
I would describe her as a survivor. That’s the reason that I loved this project! When it came across my desk, at first I was like, "Why does the Latin mom have to be the recovering alcoholic and single mom?" But when I read the script and looked further, I realized this is the mom who had the odds stacked against her. She raised her daughter right. She dealt with her daughter being deaf, and made sure her daughter never felt bad for herself. She raised this great student and without certain advantages made a name for herself and made a career, even though she didn't have a chance to go to college. I loved that about Regina. I had never played a single mom, and I'm the daughter of one, so for me that was great. This is my homage to hardworking badass single moms.
What else drew you to the project originally?
Well, really all the characters were wonderful, on both sides. They were real people. There was no clear-cut right and clear-cut wrong when it came to the switch, and the mixing of deaf community with the hearing community, was just a part of the story. There are no victims to be rescued. We get to represent many communities on the show, and that's really positive and great.
You learned sign language for this role and had to come off as fluent. What was that like?
To learn ASL (American Sign Language) in three weeks and make it seem like I had been signing for 12 years was definitely interesting. It's a really beautiful langauge, but it was incredibly hard to pick it up with that kind of speed. I have a dance background which actually helped to understand movement and pattern, so as we kept filming I was getting better and better, so the writers kept writing more and more. I even got tendonitis!
Is there anything surprising about this show that readers might not expect?
There's really something for everyone. I originally thought it was going to be so teenager-centered since it's ABC Family -- that there would be more teenager storylines. But once we did the pilot it became appartent very quickly that the other storylines are just as important as the teenagers and the teenage romances. That the adults really add complexity to the story.
What's been the best part about the show?
Honestly, working with such great people and really bringing light to the deaf community. The deaf community and the hearing community, there's not always a ton of interaction. Technology merges us, but being physically present and together is different. And in this, there's so many different interactions: on the set, some deaf actors use voice, some don't, some read lips, some don't. It's been just wonderful to work in this new, awesome environment and great actors. I mean, I work with an Oscar-winning actress who plays my best friend [Marlee Matlin], so yeah no pressure there! (laughs)
What can fans expect from this season?
Well, when the season premiered we saw something new for Regina: she got to be truly happy. (laughs) Then of course, things take a turn and now she has to deal with every woman's nightmare: the guy she's seeing gets another woman pregnant and wants to be there for the woman and the baby. Add to this that this man is her daughter's father, and that this is everything she ever wanted, it's tough. It's everything Regina did not get.
How do you balance being a mom and work?
The working mothers of America deserve medals. I've come to appreciate my own working mother even more. Every day is a balancing act. When I'm with my daughter, I make it count. I've definitely gotten faster at remembering my lines! But some days, it isn't always the way you want it. You know, it's hard leaving her and her not being happy with that. But every day is different.
What else are you working on?
I'm working on a book. I started as a mommy blogger, and it's been really great. Motherhood is nitty and gritty and brutal and wonderful, but everything I read is about the wonderful parts. Sometimes, you're really in the trenches! So i'm trying to bring to light issues you really deal with: from trying to be sexy with a Cesarean scar to dealing with your daughter's demands of wearing a princess dress 24 hours a day. It's definitely a process!
Catch Switched at Birth on ABC Family Mondays at 8/7 C.