Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for that homicidal maniac that has been stalking Rosewood for years.
Next week, Pretty Little Liars airs their first ever Christmas special, and based on the promos and pics, it’s going to be a real stunner. Will there be lots of mistletoe and presents under the tree for our beleaguered Liars? Well, probably creepy murder dolls and cryptic messages, more likely. We sat down with the show’s Executive Producer, I. Marlene King, (who also wrote and directed “How the ‘A’ Stole ChristmAs”) to talk about this monumental episode, and of course, Paily and Emison.
AfterEllen: There is always so much at stake in Rosewood, but are the stakes higher for anyone in particular in “How the ‘A’ Stole Xmas”?
I. Marlene King: Well definitely it’s Spencer. When we last saw her, she was arrested for Bethany’s murder and she is out on parole, but it is looking like a very grim holiday season for Spencer when we see her. She’s definitely the Scrooge of the episode. She has no desire to celebrate anything happy or merry about Christmas. So the Pretty Little Liars are gifted with a treasure map of sorts that give them hope to find a way to give Spencer a merry Christmas.
AE: Have you paid homage to some classic Christmas tales for this episode?
IMK: Well we really paid homage to A Christmas Carol, but we’ve also thrown a little Hitchcock in there. I would say if you wanted to classify the episode, it’s kind of A Christmas Carol meets Rear Window.
AE: [laughs] I would expect nothing less of Pretty Little Liars. As you know, we here at AE are very invested in Emily’s happiness and love life. She and Paige have been through a lot, and at Xmas seem to have reconnected in a meaningful way. What does this episode mean for their relationship?
IMK.: Well a lot has happened with them. There’s a bittersweetness to that relationship in the episode, that I think also embodies Christmas for so many people. They have a very heartfelt moment.
AE: Obviously so much has changed since Alison came back. This episode looks to be a big turning point for her. How will Mona’s brutal death and a visit from her ghost affect her?
IMK: We will see, when we come back in 5B, if her encounter with Mona helps to shed light on where her character may be going in our world. It’s a big part of the Christmas story, and Mona’s ghost really comes to enlighten her. Janel Parrish embodies these ghosts of the several Christmases. She just had such a great time on this episode, and you just really see it in all the choices she made as an actress.
AE: There are many fierce Emison and Paily shippers out there, which is kind of unique to Emily’s situation because the other Liars haven’t really had that sort of intense triangle before. Did you ever anticipate the amount of dedication on both sides?
IMK.: You know, it’s interesting. When fans started realizing that Alison was coming back, we saw this big wave of Emison fanship starting, so I kind of got a sense that it was going to get big, and it has. And it’s interesting to watch because they are die hards, even when we see Alison at her most manipulative. It’s kind of funny that those fans still want to see these two together. They are in it for the long haul.
AE: What’s a little ax murdering between friends, right?
IMK.: Yeah, they don’t care. I get it—everybody has their favorites and that’s such a fun part about what makes this show special. I always enjoy reading their comments. I just always sort of say, “Play nice,” because that’s the only love triangle on the show where I see a lot of social media conversation happening around those two couples, and it keeps people really engaged, and usually they have fun with each other.
AE: I know you can’t give away any spoilers, but what was one of your favorite parts of this episode?
IMK.: I love the Rear Window element of the show. It’s genuinely so suspenseful and scary, and also so beautiful. Larry Reibman, our D.P. (Director of Photography) did such a great job lighting this episode, and Fred (Andrews) our Production Designer, really went all out. The whole episode just looks so different from anything we’ve ever done, and is so different from anything we’ve ever done. I think my most favorite part is how original it looks and feels. It really delivers on what I wanted from the Christmas special, and I wanted this episode since the beginning of the show. We had to do it in a way we all knew felt super special and big.
AE: Now that you’ve done Halloween specials, and a massive Christmas special, the next questions is (and people have been talking about this for a while), will PLL every try a musical episode?
IMK: [laughs] You know, we’ve talked about it a lot. I don’t know, I just don’t know. So far that answer to that would be no, but you never know. We might come up with some great idea. I fear that it would not be organic to what this show is, but I never say never.
“How the ‘A’ Stole Christmas” airs December 9th, at 8pm EST on ABC Family.