Actor Adam Hagenbuch is most well-known for his roles in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, A New York Heartbeat, American Cliche, Undateable and Switched at Birth. Talk Nerdy With Us had the pleasure of speaking with Adam prior to the summer premiere of Switched at Birth!
Read our interview below.
What was your audition process like for Switched at Birth?
“It was an interesting one, because I actually didn’t audition for the character I am playing now. I came in and I had auditioned for the character of Josh, who is a fully sign language speaking child of a deaf adult. That’s the character. When I originally came in, they were like, “We don’t need you to speak sign language, but just try to come up with some signs for these lines that we have for you.” I’d never done any sign language or anything before, so I just sort of winged it. I actually got called back for that role five times. At the end of it, they were like, “You’re not quite right for this, but hold on, because we think we have something else for you.” Then a week later they called me and told me I was playing the character, Mingo!”
I’m going to watch the new season and think, “Oh, wait, he could’ve been Josh.” [Laughs].
Right, that’s how I’ve been. There’s a couple of scenes where Austin’s reading his lines, and I was like, “I remember learning those!” [Laughs].”
Have you learned sign language?
“Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you sort of pick it up through osmosis, because there’s so many people on set that are speaking it. All the actors that are deaf in the show are actually deaf, with the exception of Katie Leclerc, who can speak sign language fluently as well, or sign sign language.
I mean if you want to be able to communicate, and do more than just insinuating things, and pointing at food, you kind of need to pick up something. When they’re rolling, they’ll have somebody get up and sort of twirl their arm around, to indicate the rolling sign, for all the deaf extras, and actors. You feel like you really need to get with the program, or else you don’t know what’s going on.”
What’s it like working on the Switched at Birth set?
“It’s different, but it’s not, to my surprise, I suppose to my ignorant surprise, it’s not any less efficient. In fact, many times, their ability to do that wildly enhances how quickly they can get things done, because they can be signing to each other while a scene is going on. So if an actor needs to be talking with a person for the next scene, and they don’t want to end their conversation because they just called quiet on set, they can just keep signing to each other, right in the middle of the scene, while it’s going on. Or, they can sign to each other from across the room.
If the producer wants to sign something to one of the actresses, she can do that just from the other side of the studio. Sometimes you’re like, “Wait, am I getting notes right now? Is that what they’re trying to do?” It’s really cool. It expands the conversation of the set.
But it’s definitely different. You’ll walk into certain parts of the set, and it’s completely silent. That’s because that’s where they have all the deaf extras. You’re like, “Oh, I thought there wasn’t anybody in here, but you guys are having a great time in here.” It’s a lot of fun to try and interact with the deaf actors and extras. To just try and jump into their conversation, even though I don’t know anything. They told me the best way to learn, is to just try and pick it up. It’s been a blast!”
Mingo and Daphne started out as a causal hook-up, but what is their status going into SAB’s upcoming return? Just friends, friends with benefits, or something more?
“I think Daphne and Mingo, where they left the season, are kind of the only stable item in the show, from my perspective. I mean, Bay and Emmett are really on the rocks. They’ve had their big sort of fight/break-up thing, and there were a lot of tears and everything. Even though Daphne and Mingo are really, really casual, and it was kind of like, is this a relationship, are they even dating? They still seem like the most reliable couple at the moment. I think that kind of stays going for a while. I think that’s kind of where they’re at.”
Since you auditioned for Josh, but landed the role of Mingo, do you personally think she belongs with one versus the other?
“Well, I’m very biased, so obviously I think she needs to be with Mingo. [Laughs]. I think she has been, especially in recent seasons, very uptight. She knows how to work, she knows what she wants, she wants to be strong and independent, a cool, modern woman. But every once in a while, she needs help just chilling out and relaxing, and that’s what Mingo really knows how to nail.”
When you got the part, did they tell you how many episodes Mingo would be in?
“That’s a good question. I think I was asking that for months, I was like, “How many am I in?” [Laughs]. My agents had told me I was in three. They were like, “They want you for three.” But wanting and being signed on for something is totally different. The producers of (Switched at Birth) had just told me I was in for one, I was a one episode guest star.
That can sometimes go back and forth, as they’re trying to negotiate what rate you’re going to get. But basically, it was a guaranteed one, a very high probability of three, and then nothing else after that. I was under the assumption that my character’s story arc was just going to abruptly end.
I was waiting with bated breath each script to see, do I cheat on her? Does Mingo end up flying to France and joining the Peace Corps, or something like that? Because, I was like, “I don’t feel like I’m going to get written out, but I’m only in for three right now. Then that just kind of grew and grew.”
Then they’re like, “No, you can stay for as long as you want.”
“Exactly. I guess. I hope!”
How many episodes of this season of SAB you are in?
“I’m not sure I remember completely. I think I’m in seven of this back half of this season, 4B. Or five-I’m not sure what they’re calling it. I guess it’s 4B. But yeah, I think seven. If I’m remembering all of them!”
How did filming SAB and Undateable overlap?
“They were right on top of each other. I think there was a while where my agents kind of had to navigate how I would end up landing on work dates. It was really cool of them to work that out for me. I know Undateable let me come in to rehearsal a few days after they had started them for one of the episodes.
It wasn’t really an issue at first, because again, on Undateable, I was only brought in for one episode. I was just an enter and exit guest star. Then they brought me later for three more. It wasn’t until I got brought back that it became a scheduling conflict.”
That’s your M.O., “I get hired for one episode, and then I just don’t leave.” [Laughs].
“It’s very validating. It’s nice. Sometimes when you book something, you go in for an audition, and you do it, and you’re like, “Did they see something in me that isn’t actually there?” As an actor, you can get really neurotic about what your skill level actually is. Or how you feel like you’re being perceived. But when you do work, and they bring you back, that’s the best pat on the back you can get!”
“That was so cool. That was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. They had told me about it, that they were doing this live broadcast hour. It had never been done before, at least not for comedy TV. I think ER had done it, a couple of years earlier, for a live broadcast hour of TV.
They told me about this thing, and I was like, “Oh my God, I’d love to be a part of that. But then, I’d already done my episode by then. So it was just this thing that they had told me about. Then my agents came back, and they were like, “They want you for this episode.” I knew that was the only one they had left. I was like, “Is this the live episode? Is this the one they were telling me about?” And it turned out it was!
That was my first multi-cam thing. The writers are doing a ton of writing, they bring in all these drafts, then you kind of rehearse for a bit, then you’re let go. It’s not a huge amount of work. But the gears really shifted when they made it the live broadcast. I think we were in there from 9:00 to 6:00 every single day. Which is just like a regular person’s job, but it’s way longer than we were in there for the regular recording. It was pretty wild.”
They announced season three is going to be completely live. Is Trent going to be back for season three?
“Oh, I certainly think so! I mean, again, that’s entirely up to the powers that be. But yeah, Trent ought to make an appearance there. I mean, hashtag blessed, you know? [Laughs]. They’ve got to be able to bring those kind of peeps back. They’ve got to keep the audience, the younger audience involved. Because those Twitter followers, and those kind of things, that’s Trent’s level of expertise.”
Speaking of Twitter, and social media, you’re not active on Twitter, are you?
“Not really, I think I got into the game really late. I made one when I first heard about it, because I thought it was cool. I didn’t really know how to use it so it was just completely dormant, all through college and everything. Then I graduated and came out here, and everybody’s like, “How many Twitter followers do you have? Because that weighs in heavily in whether or not we want to hire you.” I was like, “Oh, I wasn’t aware I needed to be nurturing this thing.” I feel like it’s sort of something I don’t understand completely.”
What is your Twitter handle?
“I used to have to look it up every time I’ve been asked about it. It’s Hagenb00, like my last name, which is already a mess to spell, but I tried to spell it phonetically. I spelled it phonetically with zeros, because I was in middle school when I made it, or high school, and I thought I was cool.
It’s Hagenboo, H-A-G-E-N-B-0-0. That might be another reason why I’m not a particular fan of it, the handle is an embarrassment. [Laughs].”
You know after this conversation, you’re just going to go start tweeting!
“Right, of course!”
What do you nerd out over?
“Oh my gosh, so many things. I’m not even sure I know where to begin. I love Neil deGrasse Tyson! I think he’s one of the coolest dudes on the planet. I listen to his podcast StarTalk all the time. If I wasn’t acting, I wish I could be doing cosmological physics, but I’m not anywhere near smart enough to be doing that. So, as soon as I hit up the internet, the first five things I look up are tech advancements.
I like Elon Musk, new astronomical discoveries, I like the Hubble telescope, and then Neil deGrasse Tyson talks, and Cosmos, and stuff like that. Then just anything within the realm of classic video games. Yeah, I run the gamut of nerdy stuff, for sure.”
What is the last video game that you played?
“I got a Nintendo 3DS, because my buddy told me it’s awesome, and I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Even though it came out seven years ago, or something. It’s still amazing. It’s this great little game. I wonder why people are even playing those new consoles, because the 3DS has so much to offer right now!”
How are you similar to Trent and Mingo?
“That’s funny, because Trent can be so despicable. But there are similarities, for sure. I think both of them share a carefree attitude that I’d like to say that I have all the time. I think Mingo certainly has a desire to be sort of without encumbrance, like not feeling like the weight of the world is on him. Which makes him an interesting pairing for Daphne, who sort of feels that weight, a lot of times.
I know just from my experience, in life, I like to, as often as possible, turn things to comedy, and see the good things in life, rather than seeing the negative. I guess for Trent, I like his style. He’s got a good wardrobe! [Laughs].”
Besides Undateable and Switched at Birth, do you have any other projects you’re currently working on, or that are coming out?
“I was in a Disney show, that again, I was a guest star on, and they brought me back for it. It’s on Disney XD called Kirby Buckets. It’s this completely bizarre half-animated half-live action kids show. It’s totally ridiculous. I just got done doing that two weeks ago!”