Ian Harding was the first Pretty Little Liar to land on my radar. The night ABC Family aired the pilot episode, I tweeted to say I’d be recapping the show if the character named Emily had a hint of queerness about her, like she did in Sara Shepherd‘s books. Sarah Harding, an avid AfterEllen.com reader for years and years, tweeted back to say her brother had been cast as a high school teacher/love interest for Lucy Hale on the show, and that she hoped I’d enjoy it (and that maybe I’d like her brother a little bit too). It was a cacophony of understatements.
Pretty Little Liars gave Emily Fields more than a hint of queerness; it gave her one of the most authentic, well-rounded lesbian storylines in the history of TV. I didn’t just enjoy Pretty Little Liars, like Sarah had hoped; I went bananas over it. And as for Ian Harding? Well, he looked like my first love, Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables movies, and his character, Ezra Fitz, exhibited such a propensity for processing his Feelings that I concluded right away that he was an even bigger lesbian than Emily.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a teen heartthrob — and make no mistake about it: as a two-time Teen Choice Award winner, Ian Harding is a certified heartthrob — but I do know that most fellas in Harding’s position wouldn’t embrace the clowning of the world’s largest lesbian website the way he has. Not only has he expressed his pride at being labeled an Ezbian (that’s Ezra + Lesbian — the gayest straight guy in Rosewood, PA) in our recaps, he even sent me a photo of him and Shay Mitchell high-fiving and asked me to make him a t-shirt that said “Ezbian Loves Lesbians,” which I did.
When I asked if I should go through his publicist or ABC Family to line up an interview with him for our “Lesbros” column, he just picked up the phone and called me.
AfterEllen.com: Your sister is the person who suggested you for our Lesbros Column. She thinks you could be in the running for the greatest lesbro of all time — because, for one thing, you’re a literal lez-bro, and also you play a beloved lesbian on TV.
Ian Harding: It’s true. Sarah was reading me the criteria one would need to qualify as a Lesbro, and I am that guy. She’s in the kitchen right now and we’re making kale and sundried tomato gratin. I drive a hybrid. I live in a green building. I wear flannel — in fact, I am wearing flannel right now.
AE: Oh, nice. You really dressed the part for this interview. When I notcied Ezra Fitz’s lesbian tendencies and I started writing about them in my recap, lots of fangirls were tweeting me like, “Hey! Don’t call him a lesbian!” But you totally embraced your Ezbianism.
IH: Yeah, what in the world is offensive about being called a lesbian? I quite love the “Ezbian” coinage. In fact, I may have given my mom an Ezbian Loves Lesbians t-shirt for Christmas. I can’t remember. Actually, I think I gave her an “I Love Mr. Fitz” shirt.
AE: I’m sure she wears it like a proud fangirl.
IH: Oh, she does. But when she wears it she’s always got some explaining to do.
AE: Seriously, though. Let’s talk about the fangirl thing for a second. You have won two Teen Choice Awards. You are obviously wildly popular with the ladies. How do you maintain any sense of normalcy in your life with the constant fawning?
IH: You know, it’s always surreal — I went home to D.C. for Christmas break and I was hanging out with a group of my childhood friends, and it is always so funny to them when women approach us because they recognize me. Those guys keep me in check.
Also — and I’m not afflicted with false modesty when I say this — I was really, really lucky to land a role on Pretty Little Liars. I always keep that in mind, and my family doesn’t treat me any differently than they always have. When I go home, I do the dishes, I play board games, and then I go to bed. The rowdiest we get is two glasses of wine.
AE: Surely your family thinks you’re a heartthrob.
IH: More like genetically aesthetically pleasing.
AE: That’s hilarious. So what are you doing on your Pretty Little Liars break? Are you enjoying it?
IH: I am enjoying it, but, well, I’m kind of a workaholic. I’m the guy who’s like, “Oh, it’ll be so nice to finally get a break.” And then two weeks later I’m pulling out my hair. I’m trying to make the most of it, auditioning and such.
AE: Now that you’ve got two seasons of Pretty Little Liars under your belt, has your career reached the point where you can be more selective about the roles you choose? Are you so famous you audition for whatever you want?
IH: Oh, no. There have been some offers on the table, but it was for stuff that I didn’t neccessarily want to do, or stuff that conflicted with my filming schedule. I’m not saying that like, “Ha! I’m turning stuff down left and right!” Because that’s not true. It’s happened two, maybe three times in the show’s two seasons. And I’m still sort of new to Los Angeles. Even though I’m on a show and it’s doing well, I have to go out and audition and prove my range. I have to get my face out there.