Big Bang Guest Katie Leclerc: Raj's Girlfriend Is 'Such a Departure' from the Deaf Stereotype

This Thursday on The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8/7c), Penny seemingly finds a solution to Raj’s romantic woes in a spinning class gal pal who is Deaf, thus saving him the hurdle of having to communicate with her directly.

“Raj (played by Kunal Nayyar) gets a ton of assistance in talking to Emily, because he doesn’t speak sign language,” guest star Katie Leclerc, who like her Switched at Birth and Big Bang characters is in real life hearing-impaired, tells TVLine. Helping bridge the couple’s communication gap is Wolowitz, who “knows sign language in addition to five other languages,” Leclerc explains with a laugh.

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That Wolowitz’s portrayer, Simon Helberg, and other Big Bangers were so quick to pick up on ASL thoroughly impressed the visiting actress, as did their ability to adapt on-the-fly to other circumstances.

“I’m more used to the one-hour drama set up, where we don’t get changes as much as sitcoms do, but Jim Parsons (Sheldon) had to forget his entire script and relearn a new one like two days before we shot,” she notes with more than a bit of awe. “That, and Simon with his sign language skills…. They are all so professional, and so talented.”

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Howard apparently gives Raj and Emily a most helpful hand (or two), because things between them “go pretty good, and we become boyfriend and girlfriend,” Leclerc previews. Alas, Emily may wind up saying things that Raj wishes he didn’t hear.

“You might find out that my character is not necessarily what she seems,” says Leclerc. “She’s actually kind of a bitch!”

Because, she says, TV characters who are Deaf are often bathed in a positive light, Leclerc relished the opportunity to go a bit louder with a bratty portrayal.

“This is such a departure from the character I play on Switched at Birth, who’s a shining example of sweetness, the doe-eyed 16-year-old,” she shares. “It was cool to play someone who really is unapologetic and just sort of goes for what she wants.”

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Speaking of pretty gals going for what they want, what does Leclerc have to share about the next run of Switched at Birth episodes arriving in 2012 on ABC Family? Has Daphne lost out on her bid to keep longtime friend Emmett from falling too hard for Bay?

“Daphne has finally figured out what she wants, and she’s a very competitive person, and she and Bay have butted heads very frequently in the last 10 episodes,” Leclerc notes. “But ultimately it’s not Daphne’s decision; it’s Emmett’s. She can appeal to Emmett’s pathos and hopefully overcome what Bay’s doing, but it’s just not her choice – and that’s the hardest thing for Daphne to accept right now.”

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  1. Michael Sacal says:

    I can’t remember from where, but I’m sure I saw a deaf character on a TV show in the last year or two who wasn’t a portrayed as a good person.

  2. Mal says:

    Frankly, I don’t think her character on Switched at Birth is the “shining example of sweetness” she thinks she is. She’s had just as many bratty moments as Bay, especially towards the end of the season.

    • Luciano says:

      I think Daphne is actually worst than Bay. The cliffhanger in the last episode implied very strongly that Daphne is a bitch who’ll stop at nothing to ruin her best friend’s and her sister’s relationship. If that’s a “shining example of sweetness”, my God, the world’s screwed. But I actually liked that they portrayed a deaf character as a real person and not in some kind of perfect altar. Kind of like what “Glee” does with Becky.

  3. Marcie says:

    Why did you capitalize “deaf” in the opening?

    • Michelle says:

      Also further down:

      “Because, she says, TV characters who are Deaf are often bathed in a positive light, Leclerc relished the opportunity to go a bit louder with a bratty portrayal.”

      • Linda says:

        Funny, I wondered the same thing when I read the article.

        • Jos says:

          Because using the “D” is used to describe culturally Deaf, someone who has accepted the fact they are deaf and embrace it. Medically deaf uses little “d”.

          • student4now says:

            In the same way that someone is Irish, or Italian, the capital D in Deaf is descriptive. Someone is deaf, but they have a culture that is classified as Deaf. I’m sure I made your relatively easy to understand clear as mud now …

  4. Nichole says:

    Helping bridge the couple’s communication gap is Wolowitz, who “knows sign language in addition to five other languages,”

    6, if you count Klingon!

  5. Joanna says:

    Hey, there! Hope this sheds some light:
    When capitalized, someone who is Deaf identify themselves as members of the Deaf community who use sign language for communication. If they use deaf, they identify themselves as members of the hearing community who communicate via speech and lip reading.

    • SL says:

      Thanks! I had no idea.

    • danni says:

      While this may ring true for many Deaf/deaf people, it’s not that cut&dry. Some culturally Deaf people were raised to speech-read, and may or may not learn to sign later in life, but they still self-identify as members of the Deaf world. There are also deaf people who communicate manually.

  6. Amanda says:

    Yay! I LOVE her and am thrilled to see her in something else before SAB comes back.

  7. SamIAm says:

    Seems like there’s less Blossom (or is it Vicki in Small Wonder?) in tonight’s episode? Oh please tell me it is so. Not even Sheldon’s ridiculous cuteness last week stopped me from switching to Community.

  8. D says:

    Not all Deaf characters are sweethearts. Bonnie Richmond (Shoshannah Stern’s character on Jericho) got pretty snippy with her brother from time to time. Woo, did those fingers FLY when she was upset! Bonnie was pretty kickass sometimes, too. :D

  9. Anita says:

    Katie LeClerc is a lovely person and a good actress but she is NOT deaf. She has already been given TWO roles that should have been given to actresses who are deaf. That this continues to happen is outrages and no, it is not about who is the best actor for a role. She doesn`t sign like a deaf person and the fact that she uses a deaf voice on SAB is insulting!

    • PJM says:

      Better check your facts before you rip on someone. Katie is partially deaf due to Meniere’s disease. And you can’t fake sign language. Maybe you don’t do it perfectly, but the gestures can’t be improvised because plenty of people would pick up on at least a few errors.

      • Anita says:

        Katie learned sign language as a teen and has never suffered a profound hearing loss. The fact that she has to fake a deaf voice is proof right there. I do know my facts. This is nothing personal against her, but she herself knows she is not anywhere near the level of hearing loss nor deafness as the characters she plays. She also is aware that there are many talented DEAF actresses out there but in this business a job is a job. But i will tell you, the Deaf community is not happy seeing her take a second role as a deaf character. She cannot expect to keep doing it and have support from fellow deaf actors.

  10. Shelley says:

    Get over the Deaf thing. If you judge a person by the type of acting they do. It is YOU, that has the problem.