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When Switched at Birth returns Monday for the second half of season four, one of the characters will come bearing big news.
“There is an unexpected pregnancy for the family and that becomes a big story for the whole show,” creator and showrunner Lizzy Weiss tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That story, which you will find out in the premiere who it is, that’s a pretty big story and leads to a lot of changes in the family.”
However, that’s hardly the only drama facing the Kennish and Vasquez families in the wake of the midseason finale, in which Daphne (Katie Leclerc) rededicated herself to becoming a doctor (despite failing her premed class), Toby’s girlfriend admitted to cheating on him (at least emotionally) and — most devastatingly — Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Emmett (Sean Berdy) broke up.
THR caught up with Weiss to discuss the breakup fallout, Daphne’s new romance and a possible time jump.
How far after the events of the midseason finale does the premiere pick up?
About one to two weeks. I wanted to keep the heartache for Bay really fresh and juicy and dive right into her hell. She’s definitely still reeling.
What does that heartache look like for her?
She’s not doing well. She’s spending a lot of time in bed with the curtains closed and she’s obsessing, and I think girls do that a lot. They obsess and run over in their heads again and again and again what happened and what went wrong, what I could have done differently. I just really wanted to explore that nightmarish feeling of not being able to get out of that loop in your head and replaying good moments and bad moments. We do something very unusual in the premiere, something we’ve never done before. It was hard to shoot, it was scary to produce and wonder if it was going to work out, but it came out really cool and I’m really excited for everyone to see it.
One of the big events in the finale was the end of “Bemmett” and specifically Bay saying, “If you do this now, it is forever.” Is this really the end? How concerned were you about putting that kind of finality on such a central relationship of the show?
Girls say things. People get pissed off, and they mean when they say it. She was so shocked in that moment that he would do that right then, when for her, she was feeling so vulnerable after that assault. For him, it was everything, but they are just seeing things differently. She meant it when she said it. I stand by that. So who knows? Don’t people say that and things happen down the line and they laugh about it later? Or they don’t laugh about it and they say, “That was awful. I hated you.”
Bay was planning to move to L.A. So now that she’s in this rut and in Kansas City, what can we expect to see from her work-wise and school-wise?
She’s got to figure that out. She’s been on hold for a whole semester because of taking the fall for Daphne and hasn’t really gotten traction on anything. That is part of the premiere, certainly, and all 10 episodes are about getting a life for her.… She didn’t get into art school, she only applied to one place, she doesn’t have a job or an internship and this girl’s got to get herself on her feet again. Her parents are going to have to help her, and her friends are going to have to help her. They do in different ways give her a little push out the door.
How challenging is it to keep Emmett in the universe of the show when he is broken up with Bay and he is out in L.A. and removed from all the other characters?
We do keep him in our universe. He visits, and people go and see him. Actually, one really fun episode is Travis goes and visits Emmett out in L.A. Travis has never been on a plane before. So he’s around and woven in as much as always.
Now that Daphne is refocused on becoming a doctor, what is she doing differently this time around? What are her obstacles going forward?
She’s taking Professor Marillo’s class again and still doing all the other med-school classes. Those classes are hard enough and being deaf is still a challenge for her. It’s that extra layer of having an interpreter and needing to always make accommodations when she has to. That’s always going to follow her. It’s never going to be quite as easy for her as anyone else, but she’s incredibly determined. And she will get knocked down again this season on that journey, and we’ll have to see if she’s strong enough to keep herself up. But that path is there for her. We also explore a romance for her this season. We wanted to give her a little fun.
Is that with Mingo or another character?
It’s with Mingo. She was so sure she wanted him in the last 10 episodes, because he was so unattainable. You always want what you can’t have. So she chased him, and then in the finale — in a really beautiful way — he showed himself to be more than just the hot guy down the hall. He really was there for her that night when she went to the hospital and he was there for her when she went through this night of self-doubt about her future, and he is a great guy underneath the great abs. They do have some troubles ahead. They’re very different. He’s not a student, he’s more into working out and hanging out and they have some bigger troubles ahead. His parents are going to come for dinner and that’s an episode of unexpected conflict.
We’ve seen romances for Daphne before. How does this relationship look different?
First of all, he’s not her boss. Second of all, he’s not trying to lead her into a career of felony like Jace and Nacho, respectively. We really wanted to do that with her. In the past, we wanted to explore what it was like to fall in love with someone older and inappropriate and all of that, but now we wanted to give her someone who was her age and completely appropriate in her world, but find other reasons. It was a little bit of, frankly, looking at how much fun we had and the fans had with her and Wilke and being a little bit inspired by Wilke at first, and then finding Mingo’s unique brand of Mingo-ness. He’s grown on everyone. I think in the beginning, we presented him as sort of the hot jerk, and then as we got to know him as a character, people fell in love with him and that’s great to watch.
What is coming up for Toby?
Toby has a big season ahead. As we see in the premiere, he’s pretty angry at Lily. He’s totally head over heels in love with her. He asked her to move in. She stunned him by admitting she had an emotional affair with someone at work. She had inappropriate feelings for someone, and she said nothing happened between them, but he wonders about that. Daphne tries to get them back together, and he really lashes out at her. He has a lot of stuff to go through this season.
That’s always a big question mark for shows about the possibility of introducing a baby. What made you want to move forward with this storyline and explore this?
This is a story the writers and I had talked about last season, and we were just really interested, as a room, in exploring. With the campus assault, we didn’t have time creatively to get into it and so we felt like we had the time this season to really explore this story.
The campus assault storyline got a lot of positive feedback, and the show has always tackled socially conscious story. What other similar stories are you hoping to explore down the line?
We do have a story this season — to say it’s equally or more controversial is sort of silly because I don’t want to compare the stories, they’re totally different. But I do enjoy diving into stories that have two sides and where everyone has their say. That’s something I’ve felt is important since the beginning. From day one, I’ve put words into John Kennish that I don’t personally believe but I always wanted to make sure that he sounded as smart as possible about what he believes to be true, and in this case, again, you’ll see what I mean moving forward. We have some conversations in which big characters disagree with each other and they fight for what they believe in equally passionate ways without me pushing my personal agenda or anyone’s agenda on the show.
At the end of this season, you’ll have 93 episodes in the bag, you have the characters in college and growing up. Looking at the long-term plan of the show, have you put any thought into what the endgame might be?
No, I’m just focused on [the season] right now. I’m so excited to have the fans respond to what we’ve done this season. There is a plan for season five, and if that happens, we’re going to do something cool. But right now, I’m just excited about these next 10. We’ve been off the air for so long that I think people are really impatient and excited to see it. After all the hard work we’ve put into these episodes, we love seeing what people say. Just like with the campus assault story, we’re putting stuff out there that people may disagree with. It stirs up some feelings for people and I think that’s a good thing to start a conversation with young people and get them talking about things that they’re passionate about.
One of ABC Family’s other long-running shows, Pretty Little Liars, is doing a big time jump and you talked about a plan for season five. Is that something you would ever consider doing with the characters?
I think time jumps are in the ether. I have heard what PLL is doing. I think it’s super cool. For sure, it’s something we have talked about and will continue to talk about. But we also feel like we just got to college, and I think PLL is skipping college altogether.… We still are enjoying seeing these girls make their way through college. I think creatively, there is still stuff for us to play in college and we don’t have to jump ahead, but it is something we have discussed.
Switched at Birth airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.
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