D.W. Moffett is directing this Monday’s episode of Switched at Birth — how awesome?!
For those of you who don’t know, D.W. Moffett plays John Kennish on the hit drama series. John is a man who questions what it truly means to be a father after discovering his daughter he nurtured from birth isn’t his.
In the special episode “The Girl on the Cliff,” Regina, Kathryn and John are shocked when Bay tells them about the extent of Daphne’s self-destructive behavior, prompting the parents to set some ground rules. Bay reconsiders attending the prom when the school board implements a new rule regarding dance dress code. Daphne continues her downward spiral when a bad decision puts her job at the clinic in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Tank helps Toby grow his deejay business, but their bromance is tested when Toby is offered a gig at Omega Psi.
D.W. chatted with press before the release date of “The Girl on the Cliff” to talk about what it was like directing an episode he was in, behind-the-scenes pranks, and more. Take a read at the Q&A below. Switched at Birth is all new on Mondays at 8PM ET/PT on ABC Family.
What is it that you enjoy most about directing an episode?
D.W.: “My life in entertainment began in the theater community in Chicago. I was a producer and director, primarily, in the early days of my theater company. I was only called in to act when certain members of our company would either get injured or didn’t want to do a certain part, I would get tagged to do that part. So one could argue that my first passion, really, was directing.
Added to that is the fact that I view my fellow castmates as family. We are incredibly close, we are incredibly well behaved with each other, and we are that kind of cloyingly nice cast to each other that you read about and you 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.
In the episode I direct, airing on Monday, August 11, 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. It was a dream deal. I hope the rest of my episodes go as well, but this one I’m very, very proud of, and I’m particularly proud of the work that the cast achieved.”
Was it challenging directing such an emotional episode?
D.W.: “I knew that I would have a shorthand with the cast because of our closeness, so that allowed me to get emotional results quicker than maybe other directors could. Also, to ask for nuances in those emotional portrayals that maybe other directors wouldn’t want to even try.
When someone’s crying their guts out, it’s kind of hard to go in and say “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.”
What it was it like directing yourself?
D.W.: “If you watch last week’s episode, you’ll see I’m not really in that episode very much. That was originally going to be the episode that I was going to direct because I wasn’t in it very much! But for scheduling reasons and budgetary reasons and location reasons, it didn’t work out that I could direct that episode. So I wound up directing an episode in which I appeared more than I would have liked to have appeared.
The good news for me is that I’ve been doing this for 35 years, so I kind of know when I’m on and when I’m not. I don’t need someone to tell me I flubbed a line or that wasn’t quite as believable as we’d like it to be, so that’s good!
The other thing is I’m usually a one-take actor, in general, so I’m usually pretty happy after the first take with what I’ve done, assuming I’m not completely distracted, or something. But I have to say, I was able to sort of split my brain in two and do my acting work and do my directing work. I know that our show runner, Lizzy Weiss, was quite pleased with my performance. I don’t have a big load to carry in this episode, but it is an intense episode, I had to do a little bit of that, and I thought it came off quite well.
I have to say, though, I am not the shining star of this episode at all. Many, many other cast members have a much bigger load to carry and shine much brighter than I do!”
Did your cast mates try to give you a hard time as director? Did they play any practical jokes on you?
D.W.: “I believe there was, at one point – I received a message from one the Assistant Directors that the cast was in their trailer and they weren’t coming out. A little bit of that funny stuff. Our production schedule was so unforgiving on this episode that there may have been many more pranks planned, but at the end of the day there wasn’t time to actually pull them off. They would have just been cruel because we had no time [laughs]
Constance and Lea, being more of my generation, were particularly cutting in their responses to my directorial suggestions, in a joking manner. But at the end of the day, they were so supportive and really, really helped me out when I needed it.
Everyone was so sweet and so wonderful. My hats off to them for putting up with me and for putting up with that production schedule and for really, at the end of the day, making themselves look fantastic, because it’s really a great episode.”
Are there any specific moments that were your favorite while directing the episode?
D.W.: “I think my favorite part of this episode was the prom scenes. There was a lot of great stuff in this, but I’m going to bifurcate this and call it two, two favorite parts. One was the prom scenes and the various interactions between Bay and Emmett. And number two – the very emotional scene at the end of the episode involving Kathryn, Regina, and Daphne. Those are my two favorite elements that I got to direct and I think the results are wonderful.”
Apart from directing, do you have any other hats that you want to wear?
D.W.: “I actually do write. I sold a pilot to NBC three years ago that never got out of anybody’s shelf; it’s sitting in there somewhere. It’s sort of a fun police show. But I’m actually about to go out with a show that I’ll be pitching. It’s sort of a sophisticated teen show. It’s been written, and I just have to fine tune it a little bit.”