Last weekend, as part of PaleyFest New York, the cast and creators of "Pretty Little Liars" sat down to talk about the upcoming second half of the soapy drama’s sixth season. The ABC Family original series started in 2010 with four girls whose friend Alison seemed to be blackmailing them from beyond the grave. Since then, countless questions have been asked and answered, we finally know who A is (it’s Cece!), Ezra and Aria are finally over (maybe?), and the girls can finally move on with their lives now that the drama is over (not likely).
The panel was composed of stars Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale and Sasha Pieterse, as well as Executive Producers Oliver Goldstick and Joe Dougherty, and I. Marlene King, the show’s creator. They discussed some of their on-set memories, the show’s legacy after five years on the air, and what fans can expect from upcoming season 6B. Below are some of the highlights.
On finally finding out who A is:
After six long seasons of investigative work from Hanna, Spencer, Aria and Emily, viewers finally found out that the real A wasn’t Mona, Ezra, Toby or any of the other suspects, but was really Cece, Alison’s older sister. Up until the filming of this final reveal, the cast was kept mostly in the dark.
"No one would tell me! I was right there with the fans, which is kind of exciting actually. I would genuinely look forward to reading that script and knowing, or not knowing, anything new," said Hale, who plays Aria.
Bellisario added, "I had to beg Marlene to tell me just a few days early."
Even though the stars may not have known, there was always a vision of how all the facts would fall into place. King commented, "The whole thing was mapped out from the beginning — we always try to know the end before we know the beginning to avoid as many mistakes as possible and stay true to the mystery. We knew the story of Mona as the original A and we knew the story of Charlotte when we started the next mystery."
"There’s always something that changes along the way, though," added Goldstick. "You have to be protean because you’re doing a production and everybody’s under different contracts."
On the show’s most shocking moments:
There’s been a lot of big surprises in "Pretty Little Liars’" past, but the cast had a couple moments that left them particularly flabbergasted. Pieterse, who played Alison, has died and been reborn several times on the show. "I just can’t believe I got buried like, four times. Actually filming it, the hand through the grave, getting pulled out, getting buried again, there’s a lot of weird stuff. I’ve never felt that gross before, it took like five showers to get rid of it!" she said.
"I’d have to say when Spencer thought that Toby was A," said Bellisario, "That was the most surprising because when I found out that was the direction we were going, I was like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe we’re taking this risk,’ because Toby is such a beloved character by fans and by my character. That was surprising to me."
"I loved that Ezra was bad for a little bit because he was almost too perfect," said Hale on her character’s long-time torrid love affair with her teacher, "There was a moment where I thought, ‘What’s this guy up to?’ For me and my storyline, I was excited to play something a little different, but also he was obsessed with Alison and for a part in time I was his research and I thought that was messed up and screw him!"
"Cece’s whole storyline was really cool to watch that unfold. I really felt bad for the girl, she was so tortured and then you know, dating Jason, that was weird," said Benson on the big reveal that the villain was dating her own twin brother.
"I agree. I was really wondering how you were going to tie all that in and make everything make sense and you made it touching, cause that could have gone the opposite way, but you made people feel for this character," added Pieterse. King added that there may be more coming to the story of Jason and Cece, and that by the end of things we might not be so ready to say "Gross!"
On the legacy of "Pretty Little Liars":
While "Pretty Little Liars" may be packed with over-the-top drama that is a little much for some viewers, there’s something to be said for a show that stars five female leads and brings back viewers season after season. Bellisario commented specifically on the show’s rampant (and much appreciated) male objectification, "That’s something that’s kind of amazing about working on a show that centers around five women. I don’t know of many other shows where we get to just stare at them as we eat chips! In that Christmas episode, we were all in comfortable pajamas and they were all ripped out on the stairs, I mean what other show does that happen on?"
King was particularly proud of the show’s chance to tell Emily’s story of discovering her lesbian identity and coming out to her family and friends. "I think that was an important story to tell and I’m glad we told it," said the show’s creator.
On what to expect in Season 6B:
For the second half of season 6, the show jumps five years into the future, right on the cusp of Cece’s trial. While the panelists couldn’t give too much away, they did have a few secrets to share about the new season.
While the end of 6A revealed that Alison is now Alison Rollins nee DiLaurentis, she isn’t the only one of the girls to be betrothed. Hanna is now engaged to an as of yet unannounced fiance. Now working in publishing, Aria and Ezra’s relationship may finally be over, King revealed, "We see them like we’ve never seen them before, as equals."
Spencer having traveled to Oxford and now working in Washington D.C., will return to Rosewood for the trial, and while there, will help her mother run for a senate seat.
King commented that "I think for a lot of us, 6B was a breath of fresh air. It’s lighter in a lot of ways because we’re starting a new mystery so if you think tonally about the things we had in the first season, like the romance, we get to rely a little bit more heavily on the soap as we start this mystery. However, we’ve definitely saved the best for last as far as what that final finale will be."