Oliver Goldstick has worked on several shows with LGBT characters, including Ugly Betty, Everwood and Desperate Housewives, but if you watch Pretty Little Liars, you’re very familiar with his work. As one of the show’s executive producers, Oliver has a lot of say over what happens to our PLLs, and even puts a little bit of himself in each one. We talked with the out writer/producer at the ABC Family TCA day about what we can expect to see from Emily, Paige and even Alison on Season 3B.
AfterEllen.com: How long will we have to wait before the girls find out about Toby?
Oliver Goldstick: Not that long. I would say soon enough. We need to get a couple episodes milk it because there’s some fun to be had off of trying to figure out what the hell is Toby doing. He’ll have to explain something, explain himself. We thought we’d have some artistic license in going with protracting for a few episodes so the audience can have that “Where is Toby coming from, and could he be this angry?” There’s a great scene coming up in the fourth episode where we get to see Alison visiting Toby in a flashback of juvie hall where he was sent because of the firecracker crime. It sheds real light into “Oh my god, we forgot who this person was. We forgot how angry he was at these girls.” He’s been that all along. “Oh he’s just this sensitive soul.” He might be a capital B-O-O Radley. He might be the real thing!
AE: Emily was the first one to really welcome Toby into their circle. What’s she going to do when she finds out Toby has betrayed her trust?
OG: She’s heartbroken and she’s going to defy her friends’ counsel and pursue answers for herself. She’ll put herself in peril because of it. She’s going to put herself in peril because she wants to look this person in the eye and know what the F is going on. Because if you are even someone who has abused us and seduced us into believing you’re someone we can trust, that is the cardinal sin to this group. Because they’re a tight circle. I keep bringing up The Wizard of Oz. They’re flawed as individuals but they are strong as a foursome. When the show started, I always saw Lucy Hale as Dorothy, grabbing tight onto these girls, these three and each girl had — Spencer needed heart because she was all brains; Hannah made some pretty bad decisions, she was our scarecrow; and you have Emily who was a coward because she couldn’t be authentic about her sexuality. She was in love with Alison and couldn’t tell her friends this. And you know each step down that road, these girls have emerged, they have evolved. I feel like anyone who threatens their bond at this point — 71, 72 episodes into it — better watch it. If Toby has truly violated them in this way, these girls aren’t going to take it lying down.
AE: Is that going to affect her relationship with Paige?
OG: I think she’s going to be wary. She’s going to be very wary. There’s a scene with Paige in the second episode, next week, where she’s helping Paige actually deal with her trauma. As we saw what happened in the previous season, being kidnapped by Nate and all of that. She’s completely, she’s so scared that if her parents knew the truth about it, she’d be going to a different school. She wouldn’t be allowed to see Emily again. Hence, she’s put on this mask and Emily’s like “Have you not absorbed or reacted to what we’ve experienced that night?” Paige is like “Nothing happened that night.” “OK — how about the Halloween train?” If you’re Paige’s parents, you’d have to keep a lot under the carpet as well.
AE: Does Paige have any friends to help her process what she’s been through, besides Emily?
OG: We did originally, the show’s cast is just exponentially growing. Her teammates, she was close with her teammates at the beginning. In the first season we introduced her, the swimmers were her friends. But she was keeping a secret from them so we made it look like Paige has more isolation than you think. She’s a lovely actress. I’m very proud, she did a great job. I wrote an episode last year where she was the real suspect with the snake in the dressing room and we were really leading it on with “Oh my, Alison really screwed with this girl” because she’s got revenge on the mind. Then we found out that wasn’t what it was about. Lindsey just did a fantastic job with that whole, what he was up against at that age and what it meant to be bullied by that person. Paige is a strong girl, but she was defenseless against Alison Delaurantis. She’s our national weapon, Alison Delaurantis!
AE: She’s scary!
OG: With her blackmailing the adult [Aria's dad Byron], I remember when I was working on it going “Is this going to jump the shark? Can this15-year-old — because that’s what she’s supposed to be — can a 15-year-old really do this to her friend’s parents? You know what, if you’re desperate enough, desperation can make you do a lot. She’s so brazen and so audacious.
AE: Were her affections for Emily all a device or were some of them real?
OG: We’ve tried to make sure she’s dimensionalized and she’s not just this psychopath , psychotic. One of the writer’s assistants last year – we were in the middle of writing a story — and she blurted “Oh my god, she’s been so abused! No one could be this person — someone had to do this to her. Someone had to have hurt this girl for her to be this angry and this abusive.” I think she saw fragility and tenderness in Emily that she had in herself she couldn’t be in touch with and that’s why she needed Emily so badly. I think her affection for Emily was genuine. I think that she manipulated it unfortunately and played it for a moment when she needed it for the moment. I had to do this panel over Thanksgiving for the BBC and I had to put up clips and I hadn’t watched the first season since we did it, and when I watched the scene of her and Alison in the locker room, I wrote the scene as a person who was a gay teenager in high school and being in an awkward situation with someone who didn’t know it, where you’re like “He has to know this. He can’t be asking me to do this and not know what this means.” And Alison says “Undo my bra” and “We’ll go to Paris and escape. We’ll be students and do our senior year abroad and go to the Lourve and have picnics” and Emily’s just caressing her skin and kisses her shoulder and Alison says “What are you doing?” Then she says “Where are you going? they You’re still my ride” to poor Emily. It’s the humiliation of high school in one line. I think Lena Dunham said recently “People write for different reasons. Some want to work things out, some want vindication to prove to all those people who shoved you in a locker to say “You missed out! and you didn’t know I was going to write about this, did ya? I would even give somebody your name. It’s an anagram, but it’s your name!”
AE: Is Emily the character most like you, then? The easiest to write for?
OG: I really write more for Spencer in some ways. Becuase I live my life in a more a cerebral “I’m not letting this take over” way. Hanna’s a lot of fun to write because to me she’s like a walking wound. She’s so easy: You scratch this much, she’ll fall apart. Emily did an episode recently for us, Emily’s great this season. Shay has just grown into this role so beautifully and with such confidence and poise, you can see it. She’s a remarkable human being. But Emily has been fun to write because she doesn’t back down anymore. The idea of standing up to her demons — even her own friends when her friends were accusing Paige. She asked Spencer, “What are you trying to do? When I had such shit thrown at me, why are you trying to rob me? I finally have someone who loves me, someone who I feel so close to and you’re going to take this and bring up theses and hypotheses about her relationship with Alison in eighth grade? Come on!” So Emily’s been a lot of fun to write for, for that reason. She’s gained moxie over the years. She stands up to her mother. I had to write her standing up to her mother years ago and her mother so makes me sick. Poor Emily had to deal with that and go “Well, I’m sorry because it makes me happy.” We’ve all been there.
AE: What can you tell us about Paige and Emily this season?
OG: They have some trevails because, as I mentioned, Emily is going to get some more insight into Paige and Paige’s connections become confusing to Emily because they didn’t spend all this time together, it was time they spent apart, and Paige may have spent time with a person that Emily now has to question if that person has a connection the A team, to Jenna — so it’s going to raise some interesting hiccups in this relationship. Because Paige can’t account for all of it, or chooses not to.
AE: Do you foresee bringing on Lindsey Shaw more regularly as time goes on?
OG: We always hope. The hard thing is with people under contracts is we don’t control their careers. Particularly with someone like Lindsey who works all the time, she’s a lovely actress, we have to go with what we get. It’s the luck of the draw. If she’s available we can write to her. It’s a business model. The show has so many regulars because it’s a big show that you can’t make everyone a contract player. So we’re at the mercy of their availability. We love her.
AE: So will there be any romantic scenes between Emily and Paige this season?
OG: Yes indeed. Emily has someone after her, you’ll see. She has someone interested in her this season. Someone else arrives, surfaces on the horizon. She’s had more romance than anyone in this show and you know it! I always feel like too the girls we give her end up getting huge jobs because we give them this platform and publicity.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on ABC Family.