February 27, 2014 10:00am PT by Philiana Ng
'Switched at Birth': Lea Thompson on 'Empowering' Dance Episode (Exclusive Video)
Switched at Birth is getting into the dance world.
On Monday's episode, "Dance Me to the End of Love," the ABC Family drama showcases the cast's dancing abilities. Castmembers Lea Thompson and Constance Marie both have a background in dance, D.W. Moffett has a Broadway past, Gilles Marini and Marlee Matlin competed in Dancing With the Stars and Lucas Grabeel co-starred in the High School Musical franchise.
"It's a natural extension from the fact that we all had to learn sign language," Thompson tells The Hollywood Reporter, referencing the critically hailed March 2013 episode "Uprising," done mostly in American Sign Language (ASL), which she believed was the catalyst for Monday's installment. "It recalls dancing more than acting to me when I'm learning sign language. That's the beautiful aspect of our show."
Thompson called the latest Switched at Birth "empowering," if only because it shakes the myth that "a lot of people don't think that deaf people dance. 'If you can't hear the music, how can you dance?' " She adds: "It's another one of those barriers that we get to break down for people who aren't familiar with deaf culture -- that deaf people can dance and they can feel the rhythm and can have as much joy with the movement as people who are hearing."
She said it best when crediting series creator Lizzy Weiss, who also penned "Uprising." "It's like she's always trying to open people's minds all the time," Thompson says, "She's always finding new things, like free clinics -- introducing a new world to our characters and to the audience, which I think is quite lovely."
Thompson's character Kathryn -- who is "having a midlife crisis," she says -- gets introduced to the dance world via tap-dance lessons as a safer alternative to taking antidepressants. "She decided that that was the way out," Thompson explains. "That's how they lay the groundwork for the episode where most of the main characters get to dance. It's really fun to mix it up for the audience and for the actors -- to keep us all in the game."
The way in which some of the dance numbers unfold is "ingenious," Thompson promises, with some happening "organically" within the context of the story and others having a dream-like quality. THR exclusively debuts a sneak peek at Kathryn's jazz-inspired routine, which starts off in the real world before transitioning into a dream sequence. "It goes into A Chorus Line kind of number," Thompson says. (Watch the scene above.)
But don't expect routines to blanket the episode -- the dance part of it makes up about "30 percent," she posits. As far as surprise dancers went, Thompson reveals that Katie Leclerc "really lays it down." (Fun fact: When the episode was filmed about a month ago, the cast and crew were all under the weather with the flu.)
At the moment, things aren't going so well for Kathryn, but Thompson has hope for the Kennish matriarch and her husband, John.
"I always think of her as an O.C. housewife. She's just going through a huge upheaval because she was locked into being this perfect wife and mother; now her children are gone and she's trying to figure out what to do with her life," she says. "She's really talented -- she can sing, she can dance, she can write books -- and she's been sitting on this talent."
"I think all marriages go through a certain level of adjustment when the kids move out. What are you going to do now? It's a natural point where a lot of people break up. She's exploring all that right now. I think [Kathryn and John] love each other in their marriage but I'm never sure where it's going to go. I hope things are getting better."
Switched at Birth airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.