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Interview: Gilles Marini talks signing, bullying in 'Switched at Birth' premiere

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Switched at Birth” returned with its riveting summer premiere on June 16 in which Bay (Vanessa Marano) deals with conflicting feelings for Emmett (Sean Berdy) and Tank (Max Adler) and Daphne (Katie Leclerc) turns to Angelo (Gilles Marini) to protect Regina (Constance Marie) after she is threatened when her business is vandalized.

The premiere episode also addresses the important issue of bullying and cyber bullying as Emmett deals with ongoing harassment from Matthew and Melody (Marlee Matlin) suffers severe job repercussions from warning Matthew to stay away from her son.

Though progress has been made in recent years from awareness campaigns in various media platforms and entertainment platforms like television and movies, bullying and cyber bullying are unfortunately still very real issues for today’s youth of all ages. According to recent statistics via NoBullying.com 25 percent of teenagers report being bullied via their cell phone or on the internet and 52 percent of young people report being cyber bullied.

These statistics are arguably alarming, as not even one young person should have to suffer as the result of being bullied in any form.

In “Switched at Birth’s” current storyline, both Emmett and Regina are being intimidated in different ways and their loved ones have stepped in to try to defend them and prevent further harm and suffering. Daphne and Bay confront the vandals and ask them to leave their mom alone. Melody encourages Emmett to turn Matthew in. He agrees then backs down after Matthew threatens to release embarrassing photos of him.

In a very poignant scene, Daphne takes Angelo up on his offer to help keep his family safe. She tells him if they’re really going to communicate, he needs to learn to sign. Gilles Marini and Katie Leclerc both shine in this moment as Angelo tells his daughter how sorry he is for not learning sooner. They have a turbulent past and it's been great watching them try to make positive steps toward a solid relationship. This scene marks a very emotional moment for both of them and the welling emotions all over Katie and Gilles’ faces make it so heartwarming, honest and real.

I caught up with ( a very busy) Gilles very briefly following the June 16 SAB premiere to ask him three quick questions about the new turn of events for Angelo and his thoughts on the critical issue of bullying. He graciously provided his answers (teasing something BIG in store for our beloved characters in future!) in the following Examiner exclusive Q & A.

E: It's so great Angelo is learning how to sign! How has it been for you, learning it? Are you taking a class? Are Katie and the cast helping you too?

GM: Well my best helper is by far Katie. I have an amazing relationship with her. We also have a pro ASL coach. But really in my case, Angelo is just learning so it's fairly easy. I love signing. I think it's very, very sexy when someone signs. (Winks)

E: Angelo and Regina are living together - yay! What do you think of this plot turn? Will this bring them closer?

GM: Well I can't say much about it because it's the [main] purpose of this season. Something BIG is going to happen and it all revolves around that story line. You cannot miss this! (Winks again)

E: The episode features cyber bullying. How important is it to raise awareness and what message do you have for any young person being bullied, online or in any other way?

GM: The first thing I believe is to talk about it with someone. Put the fear and shame or whatever it is aside and just talk about it. My son tells me that this generation is bullied way, way less physically and that is not cool at all to do that to one another. I always ask him if someone is ever bad to him but he always tells me that it doesn’t happen as much as we think. I think it's due to all the awareness and talk around the globe. I remember my time, where simply [only] the biggest and baddest kid on the block would have a childhood without being bullied.

When I was a kid I was bullied all the time and every time I simply fought back. If you are bullied online it's clearly harder to fight back. I can't stand bullies and I truly think they need help because the source of most bullying is due to being mistreated by people or other factors surrounding them in their environment. Let’s hope one day soon all of this disturbing behavior will be gone.

"Switched at Birth" airs Mondays at 8 pm ET on ABC Family.

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