Durant gets screentime on ‘Switched at Birth’

We got our first good look at Duluth-raised actor Daniel Durant on Monday’s episode of the ABC Family series “Switched at Birth.”

His character is part of a group of students sent on a retreat to initiate bonding between students at Carlton — a school for the deaf that has recently begun accepting hearing students as part of a pilot program.

This doesn’t go over well. Bay Kennish, the show’s principal hearing character, gets some new Sharpie-meets-locker art that refers to her as a “Hearie (swear word).”

Sure enough, Durant, who plays a ladies man this season, is seen full on with his arm around a classmate.

Full episodes stream here a day after they air.

BACKGROUND
I wrote about Durant, who is deaf, at the end of December. The actor earned a principal role on at least a few episodes of the show this season.

CATCHING  UP
Worried about jumping into the show mid-storyline? The first 30 episodes of Season 1 are streaming on Netflix and I know from first-hand experience that if you really dedicate yourself, you can bang through almost all of them in a single weekend. You really have to commit yourself, though. This might require ordering pizza.

WHO IS DANIEL DURANT
Durant was born in Michigan to deaf parents who struggled with addiction. His deafness was passed along by his father. He’s never heard a sound. He was abandoned by his birth mother and eventually adopted by his biological aunt, Lori Durant, who teaches at Marshall School. He attended Duluth schools before transferring to Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault, Minn.

Durant has always wanted to act. He was discovered when people involved with a deaf theater in Los Angeles saw YouTube videos he had made for his long-distance girlfriend.

He was an extra during the first season of “Switched At Birth.”

WHAT IS HIS ROLE?
Durant plays Matthew, an egotistical character who has a way with the ladies — though he will not be romantically linked to either of the stars of the show. He will appear in, at least, episodes No. 3, 5 and 6. He can be spotted as an extra in other episodes. As of mid-December, he was hoping he would be called back for more.

THE PREMISE
About 16 years ago an overworked nurse botched which baby went to which birth mother.

Bay, an artist, lands with the super financially comfortable Kennish family. Dad is a former pro ball player with at least one MLB record; Mom organizes fundraisers; Brother has a band called Guitar Face. This is a world of private schools, vehicle-sized Sweet Sixteen gifts and easy access to checkbooks. She is the unknown paint can behind a series of Banksy-like street art that one smart arty sort dismisses as derivative.

Daphne, the sweet girl-next-door athlete, ends up with a single mom battling alcoholism and an absentee father who leaves because baby doesn’t look related to him. She is deaf because of an illness from when she was a toddler. She attends a deaf school where she’s the star bballer and besties with the show’s heartthrob Emmett. She can speak and read lips, but also communicates with ASL.

WAIT. WHO IS EMMETT?
He’s been called the show’s James Dean. Rides a sweet motorcycle. He reads lips, but doesn’t speak. This is a cute guy + good listener combo. Bay falls for him, which significantly helps her ASL lessons. But this pairing of not-quite-sister-like-person and best friend confuses Daphne, who thinks maybe she likes him. She sorts through this pretty quickly, though. Besides, she’s got a thing for older dudes who wear chef plaids.

OLDER DUDES WHO WEAR CHEF PLAIDS?
Exactly. Daphne wants to be a chef, picked up some shifts at a top-notch restaurant and fell for the surly-but-handsome chef. The rumors rankle the owners. Also, Chef Jeff realizes Daphne is in high school. This all comes to an abrupt end. She’s still got a hankering for him, though, when Season 2 starts.

SO WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Bay and Emmett are just friends, a huge leap considering what he did with her former best friend during the state basketball tournament. Daphne is less into boys and more into her food truck, a gift from her father-ish. (The man who abandoned her when she was a kid, but actually Bay’s bio dad).

The main conflict is life at Carlton, where hearing students are being admitted for the first time.

BACK TO DURANT
The actor is in the running for American Family Insurance’s 2013 Dream Camp. He’s hoping to win the vote-based contest so he can travel to deaf schools around the country and encourage students to chase their dreams. You can vote for him here.

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