Stephanie Nogueras is brand new to acting, but she certainly isn’t brand new to Switched at Birth. The deaf model was a fan of the show in season one, and when she received the audition notice for a brand new Carlton student character in season two, she decided to jump at the chance to challenge herself—and continue to work for her community in a brand new medium.
“I was going through kind of a hard time, and then I got an email about an audition for Switched at Birth,” Nogueras signed to LA TV Insider Examiner when we were on set with her in Los Angeles.
“I thought ‘Why not?’ but when I went in, I didn’t think I’d get the job. I was the only one there without experience, and I had mixed emotions about all of these other girls having experience. I had some modeling experience from years past, but that was it. But when they picked me, and I’m really excited to have this opportunity to get to show the hearing community what deaf people are like. A lot of people don’t understand—or have misconceptions—of the deaf community or mixed feelings about it, so I really want them to get on the same page as us and understand what it’s all about. It’s not just about not hearing but also being able to use their bodies better and their faces and be more expressive.”
Nogueras comes into Switched at Birth as Natalie, a girl at Carlton who doesn’t like the changes at her school bringing hearing kids into their classrooms.
“In the beginning my perspective is that coming from a deaf school, I don’t want to see a hearing person come in. What’s the purpose of that? I realize we have some cuts—art class is cut, but they’re adding these new kids, and I’m mad about that,” Nogueras said, on behalf of her character.
“My character is essentially the mean, bully girl. I bring a lot of drama to the show. Bay and I really fight and argue a lot.”
And just because Bay (Vanessa Marano) comes in knowing some sign language, it doesn’t mean they come to an understanding any time soon. There are other new, hearing students at Carlton who don’t sign at all, but Bay is Natalie’s target for how abrasive Natalie perceives her to be.
“She does understand deaf culture, but she talks a lot, too, and I’m personally a bit insulted by that,’ she said.
“It’s a fun character to be the mean girl. It’s exciting to be a tough girl like that. I think later my character may soften, but I’m enjoying being the mean girl for now. It’s definitely an audience catcher.”
Nogueras shared that there will be moments to see Stephanie outside of her angry relationship with Bay, though, so the audience gets a sense of who she is and where she’s coming from. For example, Nogueras said that Natalie is “cool” with everyone except for Bay, so she isn’t the Carlton-wide bully! Additionally, Nogueras considered her character a “creative, storytelling type of artist where I bring the world to life with my actions and how I portray myself in the world.”
So perhaps she and Emmett (Sean Berdy) will work together on another film? We’ll have to see how the season unfolds! After all, Switched at Birth is known for its love triangles and young romances—though Nogueras said she’s “still experimenting” with her character’s meanness and “dating a nice guy” would certainly throw a monkeywrench into that!
Switched at Birth airs on ABC Family on Monday nights at 8 p.m.
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