'Switched at Birth's' Vanessa Marano: Season 3 Is a Year of Changes (Q&A)

Switched at Birth Max Adler Vanessa Marano 1/13 Still - H 2014
Eric McCandless/ABC Family

Things are getting serious on Switched at Birth.

"It's senior year so it's a season of changes," actress Vanessa Marano tells The Hollywood Reporter in previewing the third season. "It's now or never."

When the ABC Family drama returns Jan. 13, the Carlton School for the Deaf receives a group of hearing students unhappy to be there, Daphne begins working at a free clinic for her probation and Bay enrolls in a college art class where she meets two unlikely people.

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In a chat with THR, Marano previews the upcoming changes for Bay, whether she will reunite with Emmett and a game-changing moment toward the end of season three.

What is Bay's journey this season?

She starts off the season not in a good place. She's coming off with breaking up with her boyfriend, believing that her boyfriend cheated on her. She's going in to a school that she loves that's completely changed. I think she's having a little bit of a rough time when we start with her. But she starts taking this art class at University of Kansas City and Bay shines in art. That's the time when we see Bay at her happiest. With boys, she could be at her worst. With family, she could be at her worst. But no matter what, with art, she is at her best. This season challenges that a little bit. She's now thrown into a college world in art where she may not shine as much as she's used to. It brings up a lot of "OK, I want to be an artist, but can I really be an artist?"

Sandra Bernard and Glee's Max Adler are new forces in Bay's life at the college. Will they have a major presence in her growth?

Sandra Bernhard [who plays art professor Teresa Lubarsky], Bay is sort of obsessed with. She sees her as someone who could be a mentor for her, and it doesn't actually turn out that way. She ends up being a character who challenges Bay a little bit, not in the way Bay thought she would. She questions her and she's definitely someone who Bay is not easily impressing, which can either make Bay run the other way or make Bay want to do more or try harder. The character of Tank, played by Max Adler, is a completely different character that Bay ever associates herself with. He's a frat boy, is somebody that Bay never would get along with. All of a sudden, she's forced to co-exist and be in a class with him. A friendship starts to blossom that's really fun and takes her by surprise and takes the audience by surprise.

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Are there different shades to Bay that will come out now that Tank is in her orbit?

Yeah, it definitely changes a few things for her. She's at a place right now where I don't think she can trust men. She's had a really rough go of it. It's kind of cool to see if she can handle it and maybe if that turns into something more because Bay isn't used to having a guy friend. There are so many different directions this could go in. I think fans will be really interested to see where it does end up going.

In one of the season-three promos, Bay says pretty vehemently that she isn't letting others dictate her life. Is that the direction she's headed toward?

Absolutely. She's over letting other people dictate what happens. With the whole switched at birth thing, she felt she couldn't have any control who her family was or who she was. In her relationships, it was always the guy calling the shots. Never her. It definitely takes place in how she feels about art. She's just like "This is my thing. I'm in control. I'm going to do what I'm going to do." I can definitely say that something definitely happens that changes a lot of that for her and she will be at a point where if she follows through with that mantra of not letting in anyone else's side, sometimes there's a lot that fate does that comes into play that you can't help.

We also saw Emmett and Bay kiss. What are the chances that they will reunite?

We've gone through a big chunks of seasons with Emmett being the person that's the driving force of getting Emmett and Bay back together. Bay has wanted nothing to do with it even though she still loves him. He totally betrayed her. That's tough for her to get over, especially when she's been betrayed again by somebody she loves. She is having her head spinning; you give your heart to somebody and they just trample it all over you. Emmett has done a really good job of being a friend for her and she's gotten very comfortable with that and used that as a crutch. This season, that's threatened to be taken away from her and that brings up a lot of pent-up frustration and emotion that leads to that moment that everybody saw in the trailer.

What is Bay's relationship like with Daphne this season?

Daphne's the Bay at the beginning of the new season. Everybody is upset with her. She's been doing something illegal. It's a very different place for Daphne to be in. Bay is there for her because Bay knows what it's like not to be the apple of everybody's eye anymore.

What else should we look for?

A lot is going to happen toward the end of the season. Like I said, there is something very big that's going to happen to Bay that is going to affect her relationship with Daphne and her relationship with Emmett, as well as with her relationship with the art world and the way she views herself in general. It's putting her in a very different place, one that's a little bit traumatic and tremendously upsetting for her.

Switched at Birth premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.

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