In the last few years, Lindsey Shaw has gone from our pre-teen crush in Ned’s Declassified to our high school crush in Ten Things I Hate About You to our full-blown love affair in Pretty Little Liars. Last year, our readers voted Paige McCullers the Best Lesbian/Bi TV character of 2012 in our annual Visibility Awards (the first non-leading character to ever score that honor), and this year she landed on our Hot 100 for the first time, right in the Top 20. Lindsey has become an outspoken ally for LGBTQ equality and one of our favorite people to follow on Twitter. She chatted with us yesterday about the continuing evolution of Paige, about what’s in store for her for the rest of season four, and why she and Shay Mitchell are fervent Paily shippers.
Photo: Paul Redmond/Getty
AfterEllen: I cannot tell you how glad I was when Norman Buckley tweeted a photo of you on set for the Pretty Little Liars summer finale. Things have been going so well for Paige, I thought for sure she’d be dead by now.
Lindsey Shaw: Girl, I know. I feel that fear in my bones. I live in a constant state of terror that they’re either going to kill me at any moment or have me kill somebody else at any moment.
AE: Let’s talk about Paige in season four. From this closeted girl full of internalized homophobia to this clever, talented, self-assured gay woman planning a future with her girlfriend. I don’t think there’s ever been a character who has grown and grown and grown into something more satisfying than Paige McCullers.
LS: Oh my God, that was like luxurious chocolate cake the way you said that. I agree. There’s never been a more satisfying character to play, through all aspects of her growth. Physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually. Is she crazy? No, she’s amazing. And now she’s this beautiful, confident, sexually satisfied woman.
AE: But Rosewood is Rosewood, so I know it’s not all smooth sailing. What’s coming up?
LS: OK, so Paige and Emily are working out their senior year of high school. Paige has that scholarship to Stanford. That’s awesome, and she really wants Emily to come with her. This season has been, and continues to be, about their future, and whether they’re going to be able to continue it together. There are so many things up in the air right now, like the fact that Emily can’t swim, which is crazy. So there’s some anxiety that starts to play about the longevity of their relationship. How much longer do they have? It gets a little tense and on edge, but we just have to see what everybody decides in the end. There are a lot of big decisions Paige and Emily have to make.
AE: Are you enjoying playing this grown-up version of Paige who finally has her self together and is so relaxed and reassuring, especially with Emily?
LS: Oh, man. When I read the first script of the season — because I had no idea where they were going to take Paige — and saw that Paige was so happy, and that she had created this new avenue for her and Emily to go down, just to see that she wanted to take them to a place that was calm and away from everything in Rosewood, I was so uplifted and happy. I was so glad. I just want it to work out for them. Of course there has to be turmoil, but it was such an awesome step forward for Paige.
AE: Kyle Bown [Marlene King’s assistant] told me that the scene where Paige asks Emily to come away to Stanford with her — and she says yes — made him actually tear up on set when you guys were filming it.
LS: Oh! Kyle! [Laughs] Yes, I loved that scene. It’s one of my favorites. It was so positive and encouraging. She’s grown so much, so far from where she was, and all she wants is to get Emily away from there so they can live happily ever after!
AE: I have this feeling — and I’m pretty sure I’m right because I have a kind of lesbian TV sixth sense — that Rumer Willis is coming to Pretty Little Liars to try to ruin my life and Paige’s life.
LS: Umm. [Silence]
AE: [Redacted swear word!] I knew it! As soon as I read that they’d cast her, and I’m sure she’s a very lovely person, I just knew she was coming to town to mess with Paige and Emily.
LS: Seriously, why do people keep trying to move in on my woman?! So, yeah, I think that’s probably happening, maybe a little competition for Paige. But hello, Paige thrives on competition! She got a swimming scholarship to Stanford!
AE: I also heard a rumor that there are some spicy Paige and Emily times in the summer finale.
LS: Aren’t there always spicy Paige and Emily times? But yes, of course, definitely. We’re getting more comfortable every day together. I mean, we’re talking about sharing a dorm at Stanford! “Push those beds closer together,” right?
AE: Right! OK, so here’s what I want to do. I’m going to ask you about the five most iconic Paige McCullers GIFs that I always see making the rounds on the Tumblr machine, and I want you to tell me a little bit about each scene. The first one, of course, is the scene in season one where Paige comes out to Emily, where she says, “If I say out loud ‘I’m gay,’ it’s going to change everything.
LS: Oh, wow. That scene. I had no idea that scene was going to become what it was. At that point, I don’t think I had a full understanding of how important it was for people to see that kind of coming out, how important Paige would be to people. I think I probably just didn’t want to put so much pressure on myself. But as soon as we started filming it, everything just happened. I looked at Shay — I swear, every time I look at that chick — I have never been able to just cry, but when I just relax and just look at her, something happens. That was the first time it happened between us. It was our first big emotional scene. And I remember saying afterward that I felt so good and so moved, like I had given everything I had.
AE: That, for me, was the scene that changed everything about Pretty Little Liars. Where I went, like, “Oh. This is a brand new thing.” All right, the second most iconic GIF is Paige smashing the hell out of those trash cans after she saw Emily kissing Nate.
LS: That was the best thing. If I could wake up and see that GIF on my ceiling every morning, it would make me so happy. That scene is totally amazing. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t — I mean, it’s not like you just go around practicing kicking trash cans. So, I turned around and was really upset and I was like, “OK, how am —” And then I assaulted that trash can and it was exhilarating. To do something so physical, it felt so good!
AE: OK, the next one’s kind of physical too. It’s the one from Jenna’s birthday party where Paige is rooting around in the cupcakes trying to find a coconut one, accidentally roofied off her ass.
LS: That was one of the most fun scenes I’ve ever done. Like, how do you play drunk? I don’t know how to play drunk. I just tried to be really loose, just like really laughing and loose with my body. I thought it was really funny, and it’s always nice to have lighthearted moments on Pretty Little Liars. Comedy is my move, man. I love to make people laugh. I actually didn’t know I could cry this much until I came to Rosewood!
AE: That’s probably true of literally every human person who moves to Rosewood! This next GIF isn’t a funny one, but it is a swoon-y one. It’s the one by the pool during season three when Emily comes to tell Paige she wants to be with her, but Paige thinks she’s going to reject her. And Emily’s like, “Hey, don’t look away.” And then so much kissing.
LS: When I read that scene on the page, I was overwhelmed with joy to know that’s where these characters were going. It was like midnight on a Friday when we filmed it, and Shay and I were the only ones on set all day. So, it was that, and being out by the water, and it was such a beautiful night. It was really special. I loved that scene. I mean, if you like love, how can you not love that scene?
AE: OK, last one. Halloween train. Paige beats the crap out of Melissa or Garrett or whoever was attacking Spencer.
LS: That’s the other GIF I want on my ceiling with the trash can one. Doesn’t it look like one of those hit-and-run videos? I love that it looks so awesome, and also that it solidified my identity as Batman.
AE: I’m so glad you said that. I was going to ask if you know everyone calls you Batman.
LS: Um, yes, I do. And yes, I love it.
AE: Me too. It’s so correct. Can we talk for a second about your chemistry with Shay, which keeps getting more and more lovely all the time. And if I’m not terribly mistaken, you guys are huge Paily shippers.
LS: Dude, we are the biggest Paily shippers of all time. It’s so easy, the dynamic between us now. I feel like we see each other as human beings, and I feel like we’re sort of on the same vibrational path. I couldn’t have more respect for her if I tried. She reminds me all the time of what it’s like to be a good person, and that always translates to what we do on screen.
AE: OK, final question. What Hogwarts house is Paige in?
AE: Hey, I’m a Hufflepuff! And Emily too! But I feel like you just wanted to say the word “Hufflepuff.”
LS: It’s a great word! I like the way it sounds!
AE: OK, listen, I’m going to talk to you soon, right? Keep Paige McCullers alive. Be the Batman.
LS: I’m the Batman!
Pretty Little Liars airs Monday nights at 8:00 on ABC Family. Check out our recaps if you need to catch up.