It is a truth universally acknowledged that Rosewood, Pennsylvania is a place where anything can happen. Time is fluid, owning a shovel is a felony, adrenalized hyperreality is an actual medical diagnosis — and for a while it seemed like the Sapphic gods were just raining down beautiful gay ladies to date the town’s most favored lesbian. One of those gifts from the gods was Paige McCullers. Over the course of three seasons, we have watched her wrestle with accepting her sexuality, wrestle with the decision to come out to her friends and family, and wrestle with her feelings for Emily Fields. Actually, we’ve also watched Paige literally wrestle Emily, right to the bottom of a swimming pool.
One of the the things that makes Paige so real and relatable is the way Lindsey Shaw throws herself into playing the character. If it’s an attempted drowning, she’s game. If it’s karaoke, she’s up for that too. Drunken cupcake sleuthing, roofied pratfalls, dizzying displays of lightning biking? Lindsey is all in. But it turns out her soft spot is playing a really good girlfriend to Emily. Lindsey chatted with me yesterday about why she’s such a big Paily fan, what kind of hijinks we can expect from Paige in the future, and how glad she is that Paige is leading ABC Family’s “#BetrAyal” Suspect Tracker.
AfterEllen: The last time we chatted, Paige had finally come out to herself and to Emily out loud, but she’s been through a lot since then. Can you talk me through Paige’s evolution a little bit, from her fear of coming out of to her family to the terror of not being able to find that coconut cupcake to the joy of finally getting the girl?
Lindsey Shaw: I think the overall theme of Paige is how nothing has been easy for her. She’s struggled with coming to terms with her sexuality, with her feelings for Emily, and with where she can fit into Emily’s life. And that’s kind of where we left her for a while. But when Season 3 picks back up, there’s finally this ease about Paige. For the first time, she actually takes hold of the idea that she can have a relationship with Emily.
There’s a softness and a sweetness to Paige that we haven’t seen before, and in some ways, it’s like she and Emily are seeing each other for the first time. Paige feels like a complete person now that she’s come out, and she wants to start this new chapter of her life with Emily. Emily is so caring, and we get to see her really fall for Paige, and, honestly, Paige has always been in love with her. So the love is finally just ramped up!
All photos courtesy of ABC Family
AE: I actually, sadly, thought we’d probably seen the end of Paige, so I was so excited when she was back for the masquerade ball in season two. How did you feel when you found out they were bringing you back?
LS: Oh my gosh, when I found out I was in the season two finale, I lost my mind. I was so excited. To be back with the girls, and to think there was a future for me on the show, it was amazing. And then when they actually called me and had this beautiful storyline ready for season three, I was ecstatic. This has been one of the highlights of my career, for sure. Just the fan involvement alone has been incredible. And I wasn’t done with Paige. I’m so glad we’re getting a chance to see her come back and redeem herself.
AE: Whenever I talk to you, you always seem to have such an affinity for Paige. You seem to just really like her.
LS: I do! I have such a connection with her. When the role was originally presented to me, when I thought it was going to be just a few episodes, I never expected to care so deeply about this character. And then the writers kept giving me these big, beautiful scenes, like when Paige came out to Emily. And that’s when it hit me how special she is. The way I prepared for it was for the fans, I wanted to be true to what that experience is like for people who are actually going through it.
More than once, Paige has moved me to tears. I have so much compassion for her, and for her courage. We can say, you know, It Gets Better, and then we can see that it actually has gotten better for Paige, in a relatively short amount of time. Seeing her struggle, seeing her find the light in her own darkness, it’s given me clarity for my own life. And I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to play her, and for the wonderful writing this Pretty Little Liars team continues to give to me.
AE: Speaking of the writing team, Marlene King said Paige is going to throw us for a loop before this season is over.
LS: Oh, man. OK, well I’m glad Marlene said it so I can elaborate on it. Right. OK. So, while Paige has come through this evolution and now we’re getting to see her be loving and intimate and wonderful with Emily, there’s still a darkness that resides inside of her. And she’s definitely got a temper, as we’ve seen. The lightness comes with some darkness, you know. And, well, you’d better just keep your eye on Paige.
AE: Well, now that you mention it, I’ve seen some pictures floating around on Tumblr of you on a set and you’re covered in blood. Some people are speculating that it’s a flashback of Paige killing Maya, and some people are saying, “No, it’s from a movie where Lindsey played a werewolf.”
LS: I was in a movie where I played a werewolf! Aw, man! Come on! Those pictures are surfacing at the wrong time! Well, for starters, check out the skirt in those photos — Paige would never wear that!
AE: I’m glad you mentioned Paige’s clothing situation. We have seen her go through a serious style evolution.
LS: And it’s not even done yet! Just keep watching, it’s not even done. I feel like she’s gone from confused to preppy to, “Oh, OK, I’ve accepted that I’m gay” to just not being afraid to fully embrace some more “boy-ish” styles. The girl is bringing it.
AE: My boss talked to [PLL costume designer] Mandi Line at TCA the other day, and she said she wants to make Paige into this soft butch character.
LS: Yes, that’s it! I wore the greatest drop-crotch pants the other day. They were so amazing. I was wearing like a tank top, no sleeves, suspenders, the whole thing. I think the look would best be described as “on like Donkey Kong.” I love Paige’s style and how it has grown. It’s showcasing the confidence she’s gained in just being herself, which, honestly, is another reason things are finally working out with Emily.