Why Did Regina Stop Using Sign Language on ‘Switched at Birth’?

Celebrity Q&A, Featured Article
on March 20, 2013
SWITCHED AT BIRTH - Constance Maire stars as Regina Vasquez on ABC Family's "Switched at Birth." (ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES)

Why did Regina stop using sign language on “Switched at Birth”?
Joey Edgerton, Omaha, Neb.

It was a case of life influencing art. Constance Marie, 47, who plays Regina, was diagnosed with double tendonitis, carpel tunnel and cubital nerve damage from learning ASL [American Sign Language] as an adult and having to perform it repetitively for long periods of time.

“Nobody had done an episodic series where they had to learn sign language and new dialogue every week for 30 episodes, so the first season pretty much killed me,” the former star of the “George Lopez” show says. “The cubital nerve was triggered because deaf people use these two fingers [pinky and the finger next to it] way more than we do. Hearing people only use the first three fingers, so sad to say, four-and-a-half hours of signing every day just kind of killed me.”

The injury has greatly affected the interaction between mother and daughter in the series because, for now, Regina is no longer to communicate with her deaf daughter Daphne (Katie Leclerc) in what is essentially her native tongue—and it is very frustrating for Daphne to have to try to read her lips all the time.

Whether or not Regina will be able to sign again will depend on Marie’s ability to heal. “Tendonitis is very slow healing,” the East Los Angeles-born actress says, “so I am going to be out of commission for a while. My doctor doesn’t know how long because with tendonitis and carpel tunnel, brushing your hair triggers it, holding your daughter’s hand triggers it—and I have a 4-year-old.”