Actress Katie Leclerc's role as deaf teen gives her career boost

ALICIA RANCILIO Associated Press Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Playing a deaf teen on the ABC Family drama "Switched at Birth" has put Katie Leclerc on Hollywood's radar.

"I was acting for about 10 years before I got 'Switched,' the 25-year-old actress said. "It was all minor things, nothing of note. And when I went into the audition for 'Switched,' I was aware of the potential and that this is something that could really launch me."

Leclerc plays Daphne Vasquez, a teen who lost her hearing as a child after a bout with meningitis.

Since the premiere of "Switched at Birth" last year, Leclerc has landed roles on "The Big Bang Theory" and "CSI," a sci-fi film, the lead in an upcoming Hallmark Channel movie and a part on a Web series called "Synthesized Life."

She was familiar with American Sign Language before playing Daphne. Her sister has an inner ear disorder called Meniere's Disease that can cause hearing loss and vertigo. Leclerc learned ASL in high school and realized afterward that she also has Meniere's.

For "Switched," she wanted to make Daphne's speech realistic. She sat down with her sister, who teaches ASL, and mapped out an audiogram.

"We figured out where Daphne's hearing loss is very specifically and figured out what sounds she could say and what sounds she couldn't say," she says.

She laughs about the process of getting the accent just right.

"I made my entire family crazy because I wanted it so badly. I did the accent every day for three weeks and by the end my poor boyfriend was just like, 'Ahhh!'"

"Switched at Birth" airs Mondays (8 p.m. EDT).

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