Pretty Little Liars is definitely a guilty pleasure. With its twists, turns and dark secrets, it’s wickedly entertaining – and if you haven’t caught it in the UK yet, don’t fret! The first season has just started on airing on MTV, so you’ve got a chance to tune in and see what all the fuss is about. To celebrate, we called up Shay Mitchell – who plays Emily – to have a chat about the show. If you want to remain completely spoiler-free you might want to avoid this, but otherwise read on to find out what she had to say!
For people who haven’t seen Pretty Little Liars, can you tell us what it’s about?
“It’s basically about the relationships between four different girls. Alison, the queen bee of their group, disappears and so now they’re all trying to go on with their lives and everything. But this mysterious ‘A’ person is threatening to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets, and only secrets that Alison would have known. So it’s a mystery, there’s romance in it with the relationships that each of the girls have with certain people, and the relationships with their parents that they have too. It takes place in a smaller town, Rosewood, and basically these girls are trying to grow up and figure themselves out in high school along with having to deal with someone threatening to tell their secrets.”
Can you tell us a bit about Emily?
“She’s the competitive one – she’s on the swim team. She is brought up in a very conservative family – her dad is in the military and her mom is like a Martha Stewart type, so she’s very proper and likes everything to be perfect. But Emily is figuring herself out right now and as she’s going through high school she’s realizing that she’s wanting to experience relationships with girls. So she’s dealing with her sexuality.”
What has it been like playing a teenager who is a lesbian?
“You know, I’m playing a character and I absolutely love my character so I’ve been having fun with it. It’s great. And the feedback that I’ve been getting from a lot of young people all around the world has been amazing. They’ve said that the character that I play has really helped them deal with their own issues at home and at school, and that’s amazing. I’m very honored to play a character who’s living an authentic life and being true to herself.”
Do you feel any responsibility to portray that well?
“Yes, I do. I think for the gay and lesbian community I want to do my best. I don’t ever want to do anything overboard with my character. I mean, when Emily came out to her parents that was something that I was very sensitive towards. I wanted to do it right. I didn’t want to take it the acting way and go overboard, I wanted to do it properly, because I know how hard it is – I have a lot of friends who are gay. I want to be sensitive towards them and just do it right.”
How do you think Emily changes through the first season?
“I think she’s basically done kind of a 180. At the beginning she was very shy and didn’t really speak out a lot and was obviously hiding who she really was, and now she’s become a lot more true to herself and feels comfortable around her friends and family, now that she’s come out. She’s much more free now.”
Obviously ‘A’ is a big part of the show – do you know who ‘A’ is?
“I don’t. I think it’s a very good thing that the writers haven’t told us. Because it’s based on a book series, yes, there is the ‘A’ character in the books and everyone thinks that will be the same person in the TV show. But the writers might have something different in store. I think they are very smart not to tell us who ‘A’ is because who knows, it could slip out. But the fact that we have no idea makes it more exciting for all of us, and I think when we’re playing our characters and playing the intensity of everything, because we genuinely don’t know it makes it a lot easier.”
Do you try to figure out who ‘A’ is?
“I started to at the beginning when we first started shooting and I would think that it was everybody, from my parents to anybody who walked by me in the halls! Now I’ve kind of given up on that because every time I think it’s one person, the writers prove that it isn’t that person. So now I’m like, ‘OK, I will just be as shocked as the girls would be’.”
Do you think we’ll find out who ‘A’ is, or do you think that would be the end of the show?
“I definitely don’t think that would be the end of the show. I think you will find out who ‘A’ is – as far as when that will be, I don’t know. But it could be different. Is the person that killed Alison the same person as ‘A’ or are they two different people? Not only that, I think the relationships in the show are so strong too that even if you were to know who ‘A’ is there could be so much in the aftermath of what this ‘A’ person has brought up. So there’s a lot of stuff going on but I do think eventually you’ll find out who ‘A’ is.”