When Sasha Pieterse first appeared on our TVs during the Pretty Little Liars pilot, her character seemed like another Regina George. Alison DiLaurentis was just your classic mean girl. But over the course of five seasons, Pieterse has given life and breath and and layers to Alison that we never expected. One of our favorite developments this season has been her relationship with Emily Fields. Is it love? Is it lust? Or is it just your standard “teenager rises from the grave and manipulates her lesbian friend into being her guard dog while she takes secret meetings in the woods wearing a wig and a mask of her own face”? Whatever it is, we’ve certainly never seen it on TV before.
Sasha Pieterse was awesome enough to take some time out of her weekend to talk to me about Emison, her passionate fans, and about the death that’s going to rock our world on tomorrow night’s Pretty Little Liars summer finale.
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty
AfterEllen: First of all, congratulations on a fantastic season of Pretty Little Liars. Alison’s return from the grave breathed such an exciting new life into the show. Did you know all along that Alison was going to be alive, or were you surprised when you found out?
Sasha Pieterse: A little bit of both. Because of the books, I kind of figured that Alison would be alive or her twin would be alive. And Marlene [King] reassured me that something was going to happen, that I was going to be back on the show in some way. We cancelled out the twin theory — and shortly after, they told me Alison was going to be alive, which was awesome. I’m so glad it worked out this way. It has brought a unique flavor to the show, and I think the writers are happy, too, because this is a whole new world and dynamic for them. And it’s really fun for me because I’ve been able to kind of redevelop Alison’s character.
AE: How much of Ali’s story did you know going into this season. Did you know how it all would play out, or were you finding out with each script, sort of like the audience?
SP: I had a feeling that Alison was going to be the way she is. She’s trying to fend for herself, to protect herself, and there are only two ways Alison knows how to do that. So I kind of knew she was going to end up this way, but I think the fans are going to be really interested to see how Alison plays out her story you’re about to find out about. I think they’ll be surprised and, well, maybe not so surprised. I’m really excited for this season finale; I think it’s one of the best.
AE: One thing I have really enjoyed watching since you’ve been on the show full time is the outpouring of love that you have received and Alison has received. Our society likes sweet, uncomplicated female TV characters, and Ali is the opposite of that, but people still really love her.
SP: You know, when I first started the show, I was kind of worried. There wasn’t a lot of color to Alison in the beginning and I thought that maybe because Alison was and kind of a bitch, I was going to get a lot of backlash, but actually it was the complete opposite. A lot of that is a testament to the books. There’s something you really love about Alison in the books and our writers have played on that to a degree that really spoke to the fans. I’ve gotten nothing but support and I’m so thankful. I know a lot of fans have a love/hate relationship with Ali, but I think we’re starting to see a lot of sides to her and that has created a real empathy for the character.
AE: Do you have a favorite version of Alison to play? She’s so complicated and she has so many different motivations that you’re sometimes playing a different character in every episode. Do you love to inhabit one more than the others, or do you love all the Alisons equally?
SP: Oh, I love them all. I love that I’ve gotten to do so many things. I really love the mean Alison that kind of shows everyone up. There’s something so fun about that. I think everyone wants to play that mean girl at some point in their career because you’re not just being sweet or being a victim. And our writers have such a wonderful, distinct way of writing Alison. I’m so comfortable with it now. I love where we are with her.