Pretty Little Liars has just begun the second part of its third season and yet we still don’t know who killed Alison Dilaurentis. PLL viewers are a patient group who enjoy the mystery and the plot twists on the ABC Family series, and out creator/executive producer Marlene King says there is a lot that goes into keeping their stories straight.
“I hope we haven’t made any mistakes,” Marlene said during an interview at TCA. “We’ve gotten so many checks and balances, mostly all the same original writers from Season 1, and with the studio and the network, we all collaborate all the time and they see all the cuts and the nightmares I have are ‘Oh my god, did we make a mistake? Did we slip up somewhere?’ We have to make sure everybody is always available to be A. ‘Was this person here? Was this person there?’ And so there’s a lot of balls in the air like that. But it’s fun.”
The writers work from a huge white board and start from scratch each season.
“Right now it is very white for Season 4,” Marlene said. “We have some of the columns filled in for 401 and then something in the column for the first finale and then the second premiere and then the last finale, and then the rest is white and we just fill in the blanks. Last year was the first year I took a picture of the whiteboard at the end of the season. I’m like ‘This is proof of everything!’”
And what she has on that photo is what is unfolding in Season 3B every Tuesday on ABC Family this winter. Right now, viewers are waiting for Spencer (Troian Bellasario) to find out that her boyfriend, Toby (Keegan Allen), is part of the A Team. But it’s not only Spencer that will take a hit from this: Emily (Shay Mitchell) was also Toby’s friend, and the first one to really welcome him back into the fold after he returned from juvenile detention.
“As Spencer tries to understand it and wrap her brain around it and make sense of it and hope there’s more to the story, she keeps it a secret for a while,” Marlene said. “Next to Spencer, Emily is the most profoundly affected by that and she goes through her four stages of grief like Spencer does. First it’s denial, then anger — it’s grief for them.”
Emily will have a lot on her mind this season, as she’s trying to help her girlfriend Paige (Lindsey Shaw) deal with what happened to her in the Halloween episode.
“We’ve got a great arc for her, emotionally outside of her relationship with Emily,” Marlene said. “She’s sort of got some post-traumatic stress. She was kidnapped, tied up, almost killed and also had to go through this sort of period of the Pretty Little Liars not trusting her and thinking she was part of A and so I really have enjoyed—I loved her in the Halloween episode and I really enjoyed seeing her as friends of the Pretty Little Liars this season.”
Fans of Lindsey Shaw have wondered why she hasn’t become a more regular part of the show, and Marlene said they’d love her to, but she’s a busy actress.
“There are times she’s not available to us and we have to write to that,” Marlene said. “We’d love to have her on the show more and we’d love to have more stories for her and Emily so hopefully we’ll get to do more of that in Season 4, too.”
But there will be more of Paige in the current season, Marlene promised, as the PLLs trust her now.
“I think in the last [season] finale there’s this look that Spencer gives to Paige,” Marlene said, “like Paige steps in front of the cop and allows Emily to go to the Pretty Little Liars and allows for that moment and Paige looks at Spencer and that look just says it all. It’s like ‘I’m sorry and I forgive you.’”
Marlene directed her first Pretty Little Liars episode ever this season, tonight’s “Misery Loves Company” and based off the Steven King thriller of the same name. The film version infamously featured Kathy Bates as an obsessed fan of a mystery writer played by James Caan. She became so obsessed she kept him in her home and tortured him in order to make sure he couldn’t leave.
“Someone is trapped and there’s a torturer,” Marlene said. “It’s really fun. Along with that, there’s a great emotional Spencer/Toby story and so there’s sort of two stories at once going on in the episode.”
Besides Pretty Little Liars, Marlene is also developing a TV show based on her film Now and Then for ABC Family. She hasn’t had a ton of time to work on it lately, though, so once Season 4 is written, she’ll be working on the series (which includes a lesbian character) later this year. It’s not so far off from her work on PLL, though, as there are definitely soem similar elements to both shows.
“Often times, especially when we were making the pilot, because Lesli Linka Glatter also directed the film, also directed the pilot of Pretty Little Liars and hopefully she’ll direct the pilot of Now and Then the TV show, but we often have said Pretty Little Liars is sort of the more grown up version of Now and Then. Because it was a lovely friendship, a great ensemble story and mystery-centric. It is kind of similar.”
The mysteries of Pretty Little Liars are somewhat dangerous for the girls and anyone else involved, as several major players have been murdered on the show. But Marlene said we probably won’t lose any of the PLLs, at least not anytime soon.
I think that would be devastating, a huge blow to the show. I think our fans would be devastated,” Marlene said. “Personally I think it would be a mistake but if we get to Season 8 or Season 9, you never know. But I do think it’s sacred ground and we’re pretty safe in saying the girls are going to stay with us.”
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on ABC Family.