AE: I think a lot of people were expecting it to be like 90210 or Melrose Place, just sort of torrid and sexy for Sweeps and then — poof! — gone.
SM: You know, a lot of my guy friends, when I explained the character, they were like [deep guy voice] "Yeah, awesome. [Bianca] is hot; you’re hot!" And I was like, "No, stop it! It’s not going to be like that." And then they watched the show and they’re like, "Wow, that’s actually sweet." And I’m like, "Yeah, I know."
People expect it to go one way, and it doesn’t. And I love that. You have Emily, who’s this sort of shy teenage girl. She’s like so many girls I knew in high school. And Maya is bringing out these other characteristics in her.
AE: Do you think Maya’s presence in Emily’s life is a positive thing?
SM:I really do.
AE: Speaking of positive things, is Toby gone forever?
SM: [Laughs] You know, I don’t know!
Photo credit: John Russo
AE: Sure, you don’t. How about this then: Do you know — and don’t say who if you do because I don’t want to be spoiled! — but do you know who "A" is?
SM: I honestly don’t. I know the book readers know the "A" that was written about by Sara Shepard, and I don’t know if it’s the same or if it’s changed. And I actually think it’s a good idea if the writers don’t tell us because it could always slip out. My family truly doesn’t believe I don’t know who "A" is. They’re like, "Fine, Shay, if that’s the way you want to play it, don’t tell us!" I’m like, "I really don’t know!"
AE:What kind of feedback have you gotten from teenage girls?
SM: The feedback I have been getting from a lot of girls is that it’s really helped them talk about their sexuality with their friends and with their family. And they’re happy that Emily isn’t a character who labels herself [as gay or straight]; she’s just figuring herself out. And that makes her relatable to them. And to me, that’s really awesome.
Photo credit: Getty
AE:You know what else is awesome feedback? We’re having a Who’s the Prettiest Pretty Little Liar poll right now, and you’re winning in a landslide.
SM: [Laughs] No way! Thank you! That’s really cool.
AE: One of our readers Tweeted and told me you were related to Lea Salonga. Can you sing too?
SM: Yes, she’s my mom’s first cousin! She was just at my house just a little while ago. But can I sing? In the shower, I am phenomenal. If I could record a CD in the shower with all the amazing acoustics, I would.
AE: So we won’t see a Pretty Little Liars musical episode then?
SM: You now, that could happen! The other girls are amazing singers! Lucy [Hale], Ashley[Benson] and Troian [Bellisario]: their voices are amazing. Maybe if we were to have something like that, I could be the dancer. I’d background sing and dance! That would be fun!
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesday nights on ABC Family.