AE: You know who has turned out to be surprisingly sweet and supportive? Hannah.
MK: Oh,I know! When I read the books and was writing the pilot, that’s the character I fell in love with first. I ended up falling in love with all the girls, but I knew what Hannah’s backstory was going to be, and I knew that she was who she was because of her father’s abandonment. I knew all of her history.
AE: Do you identify with any of the characters?
MK: You know, I really identify with all of them. And I think a lot of people do, which is really what makes the show so special. We joke about that alot in our writers room. We are all a little bit of Hanna and Emily and Aria and Spencer. And I’m a little bit of each of their parents.And that’s what fuels us to keep digging into their characters and telling their stories. They’re not surface-level characters. They are all starting to make great strides in their lives. And Emily, especially, has come so far.
AE: I think that’s one thing that sets Pretty Little Liars apart, actually. The characters are surprisingly fleshed out, and most people can identify with some of the universal struggles the girls go through. I mean, not everyone is wrapped up in a murder mystery.
MK: Or having an affair with their gorgeous, hot teacher.
AE: Right. Or that.
MK: And that’s what we’re trying so hard to do. Sure, they live in a heightened reality. But we are trying to keep these characters grounded, to stay true to who they are. And, you know, if something doesn’t feel right to me, it’s a red flag that goes off immediately. I go, "That would be a great scene for Emily or Aria, but there’s no way they would do that."
And we’re big Twitter fans here, so if we make a mistake, we read about it instantly. And so we’re like, "OK, we won’t do that again!"
Twitter is just downright fun for us. The Pretty Little Liars love it too.
AE:Are we going to see more of the Maya/Emily storyline in the back 12?
MK: Yes,you will definitely see more of Maya and Emily, and it will tie-in very closely with Emily’s home life, and her sexuality as well.
AE: And will we see anymore about her relationship with Allison?
MK: Yes,actually! It’s really explored throughout these next 12 episodes. There’s a really nice through-line about Emily’s relationship with Allison, and the fact that Allison really was her first love. And as much as she’s tried to move on with Maya, she hasn’t really let go of Allison. And you know that by the fact that she still wears that bracelet from Allison every day of her life.
AE: What has the feedback been like for you from lesbian and bisexual viewers? And even girls who are questioning their sexuality.
MK: The feedback has been wonderful, and I know Shay Mitchell has gotten a lot of emails and Tweets from girls who tell her how inspired they are by Emily’s story. And that makes her so happy and pleased. And Shay and I have actually had a couple of conversations about the responsibility that comes with that. And she’s really trying hard to live up to people’s expectations in that regard. She actually gets asked for advice all the time, and as a human being, she just tries to be true to herself. And that’s what she encourages people to do: just to be true to themselves.
AE: I interviewed Shay just before the summer finale and she was so warm and articulate. And I don’t like to ever put that on actors, to say "You have this great responsibility because you’re playing a lesbian or bisexual character" — even though I sometimes feel that way because there are so few lesbian and bisexual characters on television — but Shay seemed to bear that weight willingly.
MK: Yes, Shay is so poised and so warm. And I am so proud of her. I am so proud of all of all girls. They conduct their lives so beautifully, and they’re not out there causing trouble. They are professionals. We have a very special group here.
AE:I have one problem with Emily’s storyline, though. You know when she goes on her first date with Maya to see a movie, and one second they’re eating popcorn and the next second they’re holding hands and the next second they’re making out? It doesn’t work that way in real life! On my first date with my girlfriend we were sitting in a theater watching a shark documentary and the whole time I was chiding myself: "Take her hand! Take her hand! If Emily can do it, you can do it!" But I couldn’t!
MK: [Laughs]That is so funny. I love that. That’s what I hope for us. I hope we keep inspiring people to hold hands and kiss in fun and unique places!
Pretty Little Liars returns to ABC Family on January 3rd. In the meantime, follow Marlene King on Twitter for updates and a look into the PLLs writers room!