The creators and cast of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS were greeted with uproarious cheers, applause, and anxious squeals of delight as they stepped onto the stage of the Dolby Theater at this year’s PALEYFEST. The last time the cast of the hit teen drama graced the PaleyFest stage was in 2014, and catching up with the Liars and creatives Marlene King and Joseph Dougherty on what’s happened since that last Q&A was a bit like catching up with old friends. There were jokes, and reminiscences, and of course, an endless outpouring of love and appreciation from, and for the fans.
Besides King and Dougherty, the panel included cast members Ashley Benson, Tyler Blackburn, Shay Mitchell, Andrea Parker, Janel Parrish, Sasha Pieterse, and Ian Harding. Moderating the panel was Jarrett Wieselman, a Senior Entertainment Editor at Buzzfeed.
There were two very obvious absences from the panel: Lucy Hale (Aria Montgomery) and Troian Bellisario (Spencer Hastings), as both actresses were away on filming for other commitments. However, both filmed messages for the fans, thanking them for their support and love of the show and wishing the rest of the cast well.
With the show’s highly serialized nature, the first episode of the second half of the final season remains a secret, even to the audience at today’s panel. However, fans were delighted to find out they would be treated to the first minute of the episode in a sneak-peek preview. I won’t spoil even the minute details here, but suffice to say there will be quite a few questions to be answered, and plenty of drama and intrigue to keep fans of the show entertained.
Along with the short preview, fans were given a first look at Marlene King’s new show, Famous in Love, debuting immediately after Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family, in what the network trailer has deemed “Pretty Famous Tuesdays.”
With the show wrapped on its final season, Wieselman spent much of the Q&A time pointing the discussion towards reflections on filming from the cast. From the cast’s and creators’ responses, it was clear how deeply they cared for the show, and each other. The rapport on stage was like that of a close-knit family. That love and passion was also apparent amongst the crowd of fans at the panel, who whooped and cheered at every mention of characters and their relationships. Particularly popular was the potential budding relationship between Alison and Emily. One fan even made a point to ask Shay and Sasha whether they would consider doing a spinoff series of just Emily and Alison. “I mean, would you be interested in seeing that?” Shay asked, a bit surprised, to which loud applause and cheers of approval seemed to answer with a definitive ‘yes.’
But the show wouldn’t be the show it is without plenty of love and heartache for all of the liars. To much approval from the audience, the cast discussed the complicated ups and downs of every PLL relationship, including Toby and Spencer, Hanna and Caleb, and of course, Ezra and Aria. Just like the fans, the cast is rooting for their favorite pairings, too. When asked about Caleb’s reunited relationship with Hanna, Tyler responded, “It was magical.” Ashley and Tyler discussed the work they put into the chemistry they have on screen, admitting that sex scenes involved choreographed moves and a playlist of songs specifically picked out by Tyler. “Discovery channel on loop is what we prefer,” Ian chimed in, laughing, when asked about his own sex scenes on the show.
Naturally the conversation took a turn to focus on the show’s series wrap. “We really wanted these last ten episodes to be a love letter to the fans,” Marlene admitted. When asked if all of our questions would be answered by the finale, Joseph added, “It’s every single question we could remember. And set the relationships where they’re going to go after the show ends.” Marlene also spoke about whether these answers and relationships would mean happy endings for the Liars, saying, “All the end games will be the end games, but nobody’s going to get there super easily.” At this, Joseph chimed in, “Without hurdles, the prize isn’t worth anything.”
With six and a half seasons under their belts, there was quite a bit of show to discuss, but perhaps the most touching reflection of the night came from discussing Emily’s personal journey on the show. When asked what it meant to play Emily, Shay answered, “I mean, everything. To play a character that has had an impact on people’s lives in a very meaningful way, that is huge.” It was a point that was illustrated later on when a fan stood up and thanked Shay and Marlene for creating Emily, as she discovered the show while serving in the navy, where she herself had to stay in the closet during her service. It was a touching moment that brought strong applause from both the cast and the audience.
The panel ended with the cast discussing their favorite moments throughout the series of the show before taking audience questions. With quite a few eager hands in the air, begging to speak to the panel, it was quite clear how deeply loved the show is. All too soon Wieselman was calling the last question, and before he’d even finished speaking fans were rushing towards the stage to shake hands, take photos, and get autographs from the cast.
Overall, the panel discussion brought up a great sense of nostalgia for the last six and a half seasons of the show. There was some great conversation that demonstrated the deep impact a show and characters can have, both on the cast and the audience. And if the panel’s coy answers to season spoilers are any indication, fans are sure to be in for an entertaining rollercoaster of emotion with the last ten episodes of the series’ final season.
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Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor