TVRage was fortunate enough to join a conference call with D.W. Moffett, one of the stars of the ABC Family series ‘Switched at Birth’.
After introductions, Moffett immediately paused the interview to express his gratitude. “First of all, thank you for [joining] this interview today. It’s so exciting for me to finally direct our show, and with the support of our really loyal fan base that keeps us around and all of your guys’ work. So I just wanted to thank you, personally, for all being here today as well.”
He then spoke to us about directing the upcoming episode, Girl on a Cliff, which airs tonight, Monday, August 11th, at 8 ET.
“My life in entertainment began in the theatre community in Chicago. I was a producer and director, primarily, in the early days. I was only called in to act later on, when certain members of our company would either get injured or didn’t want to do a certain part. So, one could argue that my first passion really was directing.
I view my fellow cast mates as family. We are incredibly close; we are incredibly well-behaved with each other. We are actually that sickeningly, cloyingly nice cast that you read about and go, ‘Oh, that cannot possibly be true,’ but in our case it actually is true. Just the honor of being able to work with people that you feel so close to, and the trust that they gave me, was amazing. When you see the episode, it’s a very emotional episode, and the cast was just spectacular. They gave me every nuanced emotion that I could ask for. It was a very demanding production schedule, because we were nearing the end of our season and things get a little complicated as we get near the end, [but] it was a dream deal. I hope the rest of my episodes go as well. This one I am very, very proud of and I am particularly proud of the work that the cast achieved.
I knew that because of our closeness, our familiarity with each other, I would have a shorthand with the cast that would allow me to get emotional results quicker than maybe other directors could, and also to ask for nuances in those emotional portrayals that maybe other directors wouldn’t want to even try. When someone is crying their guts out, it is kind of hard to go in and say, ‘Hey, can you not cry your guts out so much on this line and maybe save it and cry your guts out two lines later?’ A lot of directors are afraid to do that because the actor might have a negative reaction to that kind of response. In fact, my actors understood what I was asking for and were able to deliver all of those nuances - some of which I used in the final cut, some of which I didn’t - but I was able to ask for it and we were able to collaborate on it.
At the end of the day, they were so supportive and really helped me out. I don’t care how much you like someone, when you’re going through an episode and your schedule is so tight and people have to get to some really emotionally vulnerable places - ‘We have three minutes before lunch! We’ve got to get this scene shot!’ - anybody can get cranky, anybody can get touchy, [but there was] none of that. Everyone was so sweet and so wonderful. I really leave my hat off to them for putting up with me, and for putting up with that production schedule and, at the end of the day, making themselves look fantastic, because it’s really a great episode.”
He also briefly touched on Angelo’s death and how it has impacted John, saying “Lizzy wrote this wonderful scene, when John kind of busts himself about feeling glad that Angelo’s restaurant was failing. It’s been the reason that I’ve always been attracted to John. From the pilot, I could tell that Lizzy was writing a man who was sort of this cliché, suburban, NRA dude, but flawed. And we saw the flaws, but with enough humanity that he could actually experience a little bit of the vulnerability that some of these flaws might bring up in him. I don’t know if we are going to see a lot more of his vulnerability vis-à-vis Angelo, but I know that Angelo’s death is probably going to soften John a little bit going forward, in terms of how he deals with the girls, because any time mortality becomes an issue in life people tend to soften or re-evaluate their own situations.”
TVRage: How will John react when he finds out that Regina is working with Chip Coto?
Moffett: Oh, boy. You know, that is something that I think they may actually be saving. You get a taste of it in [Girl on a Cliff], but I think the full weight of that has not yet been explored. The look on my face when his name comes up is pretty priceless. I think if we were on an HBO show, the language would have been a lot saltier, but you get the picture.
TVRage: I have a question about Chris Washburn, the man that Katherine had sex with in the bathroom on a train. Is that something that is going to come up again, or was that a plot device to get Katherine [and Regina to kiss]? It was pretty titillating for ABC Family.
Moffett: I think that sometimes in the writer’s room they decide to have a little fun with us. I think the writers just decided, “How do we get Katherine and Regina to kiss? What plausibility factor can we attach to these three scenarios?” and then they picked the one that was the most plausible. As you noticed, at the end of the episode, John kind of made light of it, so I don’t think there is any wreckage in terms of the marriage. I think it is all fun and games and in the past. I sort of like the fact that Lizzy and the writers are willing to take a shot at stuff like that, and I’m also appreciative of the network trusting us that we’re not going to do cheap stuff. Every once in a while, it’s not a sin to have a little fun.
TVRage: With the popularity of the all-ASL episode, are there any plans to do another?
Moffett: I would not be surprised if there were another. We enjoyed doing it a lot. Lizzy is always looking to do an event episode every ten or so episodes, every sort of half season. So I would not be surprised if she revisited that or something very similar to that.
TVRage: I really love the event episodes.
Moffett: So does Lizzy! I think she basically builds our seasons around them. They’re at work right now. We haven’t been officially picked up for season four, but we’re all very optimistic and I know that Lizzy’s working on it. I imagine right now, somewhere in Los Angeles, she is thinking up her two event episodes for season four. Whether it happens in season four or in some juncture, when Lizzy senses the show has reached its course and we have seven or eight more shows to do, I would not be surprised at all if he have another completely silent ASL episode.
You can follow D.W. Moffett on Twitter.
‘Switched at Birth’ airs on Mondays at 8/7C.