I recently had the pleasure of talking with Sean Berdy, Emmett on Switched at Birth, during an ABC Family conference call and he was truly a delight. I am a big fan of Switched at Birth so it was exciting to get some scoop on the rest of the season as well as Sean Berdy himself. He is so talented, we will definitely be seeing a lot more of him.
Lisa Hi Sean! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
S.Berdy Hi Lisa, Hi Nice Girls! Sure, thank you.
Lisa Can you tell us a little bit about the audition process for the role of Emmett?
S. Berdy I love sharing this story. Actually, I had an agent and everything. I’d been in the business and had done a couple of things. But, it just so happened my dad found an open posting on Facebook for Emmett Bledsoe.
He sent it to me and I was like, “wow, you found this on Facebook?” He goes, “yeah call them; check it out.” After taking a look at it, I videotaped myself and sent it in.
Just a couple of hours later, they called me, said they were interested and they flew me out. It all happened rather quickly. I did change a few appointments to jump on a plane, fly out here, meet the writers and the producer; the creator, Lizzie Weiss; executive producer, Paul Stupin. Came into a room, introduced myself and met everyone. They’re great people. We hit it off right away. I had the interpreter there working with us. They asked me a bunch of questions about where I came from, how I was raised, and what I thought about the script. By that time, I had read the pilot and told them it was extremely well written and wished them the best of luck. About three weeks later, they contacted me; said they were interested in me for the role, and I’ve been out here ever since.
Lisa You have inspired a lot of people to want to learn sign language. What advice would you give someone who wants to learn ASL and how would they get started?
S. Berdy I would love to give a little bit of advice because I have so many friends who are professors at universities and colleges all across the country who teach ASL classes. I’d strongly encourage anyone to look up their local university or college and see what ASL classes they provide. Usually, you start with ASL I and work your way up to ASL IV. Anytime you can interact with deaf people or the Deaf community, I would strongly encourage doing that. I have seen an up swell of students in the ASL classes around the country and my professor and educator friends out there are telling me it’s partially because of the show. So, that’s a thrill.
Lisa Yes, that’s awesome. I myself I want to start taking classes.
S. Berdy Great. Then, take my advice and go to the local school. It’s not that expensive, really. You pay a few bucks, you have a few classes and it’s fun. They workshop every day and you work with the other students and working with the different signs and how they’re created; different hand shapes and what they mean. They call them classifiers. It’d be great to learn all of that.
Lisa Yes it would. I saw the video online where you perform The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson, and it was amazing.
S. Berdy Oh, yes. I was very disappointed the way that YouTube blocked that video because of copyright licensing reasons I guess. I guess I’m going to have to figure out how to get that back on because that was fun, you know; live stage performance of that song in 2010, I believe.
Lisa Yes, it was so good.
S. Berdy We did that outside the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Lisa So cool. Other than Michael Jackson, what other artists or musicians are you a big fan of?
S. Berdy I’m not a huge fan of any musicians, but I am a huge fan of Michael Jackson, obviously. I do love pop music. I turn up the radio in my car as loud as it goes and really, I’m just a fan of pop music in general.
Moderator What is the biggest difference is between you and your character Emmett?
S. Berdy Emmett Bledsoe is a very deep thinker and he thinks that he knows everything about the world; how the deaf world works, how the hearing world works toward the deaf people. He’s very passionate in terms of his art, his passion for photography and so forth. He is maybe not so in touch with everybody else and their feelings, but he’s very introspective. He’s the James Dean of the Deaf community.
That’s very different than Sean Berdy. Sean Berdy is dancing in front of the mirror at age two for his parents, making his parents crazy running around the house singing and dancing and jumping around and joking. I’m a comedian in real life. I’m always goofing around; I’m outgoing and I talk with everybody, especially through Twitter. But, Emmett? Wow! He’s very limited in the people he chooses to share himself with.
Moderator How young you were when you started playing the drums; and, are there any other musical instruments you play?
S. Berdy I love to talk about the drums and music. I started playing drums when I was probably six and played a lot until I was about ten or eleven years old. I had a drum set at home and I would just bang on it. I’d even go on the Internet and study basic beats and so forth. During my teenage years, I stopped playing, but when I got on the show, they asked me to play and I was ready for it.
People ask me “How do you play? Do you just feel the vibrations?” You know, deaf people have a variety of ways that they can feel the rhythm. Obviously, I feel the beat, but I use my hearing aids. I grew up using hearing aids and I had speech therapy and so forth, and that helped me to develop a passion for music and helped me to develop my drumming talents. To be honest, without my hearing aids, I wouldn’t be able to play the drums. But, I don’t play any other music instruments.
Moderator What was one of your favorite episodes so far of the show?
S. Berdy I would probably say the tenth episode when Emmett spoke, “I just want you” to Bay. That was such a big moment, and such a breakthrough moment for Emmett, a heartfelt moment. The audience loved it and that’s why I love that episode. I mean, who doesn’t love that romantic scene, right?
Moderator Can you tell us about the SIGNin’ in the Street event at Disneyland and what you and the rest of the Switched at Birth cast will be doing there?
S. Berdy The event, SIGNin’ in the Street, is in Downtown Disney, March 17 and 18. It’s a huge event that includes many different performers, deaf and hearing. Kickoff event is March 17 at 1:00 p.m. Fans can come out and see the cast, Switched at Birth, for a Q&A, autograph signings, very cool interactions with the fans. Also, guest star Marlee Matlin, who plays my mother Melody, will be there.
They’re also screening two episodes and giving out things at their tent. I’ll be performing Hero in American Sign Language both nights, which I’m thrilled about. You know performing live in front of an audience like that is wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing all you people out there.
Moderator How do you feel about the way the Deaf community is portrayed on Switched at Birth?
S. Berdy Well, I was born in both the hearing world and the deaf world, and raised in both worlds and I know so many people that are in both communities. I’ve never seen an authentic portrayal about how deaf and hearing people get along in TV in my life until this show. When I came out here to audition, I read the pilot script – and I knew right away it was well written; and, that’s because the producers worked with ASL consultants. They had talked with deaf people before creating this show. The Deaf community is rallying behind this show. This show is for them. They see authentic deaf people in the show being portrayed as they live and breathe, and that is a thrill for the Deaf community. They feel very fortunate to have this show and I feel extremely honored to be a part of this show for that reason.
Moderator Is there a particular actor or actress that you would like to see either on the show or maybe work with them on a project?
S. Berdy Oh, of course! Jim Carrey. I mean, he’s my big idol. I love him to death actually. One of my favorite movies is Ace Ventura When Nature Calls. That’s so funny, and being a comedian myself, I love him. I would love to act with him someday.
Moderator Are there any other projects you have coming up that you could share with us?
S. Berdy Well, I have mentioned the SIGNin’ in the Street event that Switched at Birth is such a big part of at Downtown Disney. I can share one cool thing. The upcoming episode on March 13th, I believe, it shows a deaf movie that’s featured within the episode of Switched at Birth. You have to watch how the kids made their own movie; and, the episode revolves around all the adventures they have making the movie. You’ve got to watch that episode; and all the rest of the episodes coming up before the break.
Moderator What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
S. Berdy I would just to say thanks for watching the show. I love you all. Keep watching; there’re a lot of dramatic moments coming up in the next few episodes. It’s going to be exciting.
You can follow Sean Berdy on Twitter @seanberdy and catch him on Switched at Birth Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC Family.