If you don’t know you her name, you know her face. Actress Bianca Lawson has played memorable parts on several television shows, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dawson’s Creek to her more recent role of Emily on The Vampire Diaries. And if you have some how missed all of these shows, you’ve definitely got to remember her as Nikki in Save the Last Dance.
Now 31, Bianca has maintained a successful career, making appearances on Bones, The Cleaner, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, among several others. But she’s officially been introduced to a new generation as one of the stars of ABC Family’s hit new series Pretty Little Liars. As Maya St. Germain, Bianca is 17 again, playing a lesbian character with an interest in Emily, who isn’t out to anyone in her life. But someone knows Emily’s secret, just like they know all of her best friend’s secrets, too, and is threatening to tell the people she doesn’t want to know (which is pretty much everyone.)
Bianca took the time to answer some questions on how she got the part, what we can expect from Maya in the future and how she has stayed so youthful looking through the ’90s and beyond.
BL: I actually have to confess I love Heather’s PLL recaps. I read them like every week religiously. She’s hilarious! I love them.
AE: So this is your first lesbian role, is that right?
BL: Well not really! It’s really funny because Elodie [Keene], who directed the party scene where Emily and I have our first kiss, she actually, the last time I saw that director was when she directed me on a television show called For the People, and I played a lesbian – well, I was a college student, very Type-A — kind of like Spencer’s character on Pretty Little Liars — and my roommate ended up being murdered. So they end up arresting me because think think I murdered her out of competition or something but really we were lesbians and we were in love and she had to break up with me and I guess it was a murder of passion.
AE: That’s typically how the lesbian roles go on television, which is why we’re all so excited about Pretty Little Liars. It’s actually a positive story.
BL: Yeah, I think the way that they’re treating it is so lovely. It’s believable — it could easily be a heterosexual storyline but it’s with two girls.
AE: Definitely. What attracted you to the role of Maya? What was the process of you getting the role?
BL: You know, it’s really interesting. I actually — the whole time I auditioned and went to the studio and network was actually for Hannah. And then Ashley and I went to network together and they were like, "Would you like to play Maya?" And I didn’t know anything about Maya up until that point. I hadn’t read the books and I hadn’t read any of her stuff, so I said "Oh OK" and then I read it and I said "Oh my god, this is a kick ass part!" It’s unusual, it’s something I’ve never played before. I immediately connect with her. So I think things happen for a reason and the parts you’re supposed to play come to you.
AE: She seems so sure of herself, especially compared to Emily who is kind of figuring things out. I know you can’t tell us too much about what hasn’t been shown yet, but I did see that Jamie Babbitt will be doing a "coming out" episode for Emily so there has to be something – is Maya a big part of that for her?
BL: Yes, Maya’s involved. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say!
AE: Will Maya become a bigger role on the show?
BL: Well Maya sticks around. For me, I actually never really know what’s going to happen with Maya until I get the script for the next episode. So I find out with everyone else! I’ve read the books, obviously, and thus far they’ve been pretty true to the books but they have changed a few things here and there. The safest answer would be is Maya is still involved and will be continuing until season ending.
Beyond that, I don’t know too much — what the next chapter will be exactly. Yeah, I’m not allowed to reveal too many secrets but it’s going to be really good. Everyone will be really happy with it and I think the writers are doing such an amazing job, especially this storyline and I think they’re really making it really kind of honest and deep and not sort of that typical kind of cheesy lesbian thing. They’re really — there’s a kind of — delicacy isn’t the right word. There’s a lot of heart in it. But that’s one of the reasons why I’m so glad to be on the show and why I’m so proud to be on the show.