Marlene King on losing Maya, Paige’s return and the “Now and Then” TV show


Marlene King will not tell me who A is. With her partner by her side, I wonder if even she knows. It’s got to be tough to keep the secret from everyone when it’s what every Pretty Little Liars fan is dying to know.

“Can’t say,” Marlene said at a TCA event at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills last night. “Some day you’ll find out.” Will it be this season? She smiled. “Sort of.”

Photo from ABC Family

Considering it’s only Season 3 and the executive producer said she sees it going “through to Season 6,” we might have to wait a long time. “It was five but now I feel we have a great story for six,” she said of how long she sees the series continuing on ABC Family. “Then I feel like we have a great ending that could lead us to a movie after that. That’s my hope and I think it’s Warner Brothers’ hope, too.”

There’s a lot to work with, especially since time moves very slowly in Rosewood. “The Pretty Little Liars are seniors,” Marlene said. “I think they’re going to be seniors for a long time.They were juniors for two years, so they’ll probably be seniors for three years.” It works out well, Marlene said, as “most episodes are an hour later, an hour later, an hour later.” It’s like 24 with more estrogen and less national politics.

Last night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars had some great scenes between Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Paige (Lindsey Shaw) — including a tandem breast stroke situation — and Marlene teased a little bit of what is coming up for the seemingly happy couple. “I’ll just tell you there’s a big sort of twist coming up in that relationship and it’s exciting. But I did love tonight’s episode. For me, those two have chemistry. I know the Emayans will be sad to hear that, but I think if they gave Paige a chance, they’ll see there’s a spark between these two.”

Killing off Emily’s first real love, Maya, has been a difficult thing for PLL fans, and Marlene said it was hard for her, too. “It was something that I really did struggle with. It’s not easy to know the hardship it’s going to cause people when you kill off a character. But I will be honest: I don’t think I knew how much it was going to affect people. I underestimated how devastating it would be to a huge block of our fans.”

One thing that has happened this season has been the development of a friendship between Emily and Maya’s cousin, Nate. While viewers are worried things might turn toward romantic, Marlene won’t say much either way. “I think it’s natural for them to think that,” she said. “I think that he offers some things to Emily that is significant in terms of his connection to Maya and vice versa.”

Photo from ABC Family

While Maya is considered to be Emily’s first real love, she did have something more than friendship with Allison. I wondered if Allison returned the feelings Emily had for her, or just wanted to toy with her.

“I think it’s a little of both,” Marlene said. “I think you may find out as the show goes on that Allison liked to dabble a little bit. It wasn’t just for toying purposes.”

While the other PLLs were “clueless” about Emily and Allison’s relationship, they have always been supportive of their gay best friend, which is refreshing to see and makes it easier to tell multiple stories and subplots on the show.

“I just feel like it’s a responsibility as a human being to portray every kind of individual and different character you can and put them in a setting that is hopefully non-judgmental,” Marlene said. “For me, it really was — I wanted to give Emily acceptance by her friends. Parents was a different thing. But i wanted to say let’s set the tone for the scenario for Emily Fields: She comes out to her friends and they accept her unconditionally because I feel energy breeds energy.”

While Pretty Little Liars goes on hiatus from filming in the near future, Marlene will not be taking a vacation. Instead, she’ll be working on a script for the pilot of her television adaptation of Now and Then. Marlene wrote the 1995 film based on her own life and is now working with the same people behind Pretty Little Liars on the show. Christina Ricci originally played Roberta, the tough tomboy, and has since mentioned in interviews the character was supposed to be a lesbian.

Unfortunately at the time the studio were originally in scripts supportive of the character of Roberta being gay,” Marlene said. “And when we tested, they decided to cut that part of the story out. It was unfortunate because we all sort of knew that character was developed as a gay character in that ensemble. So now we’re excited to bring that to life in the TV show. When I first talked about the show with Warner Bros., immediately, I said ‘in script, this was a gay character and I want her to be a gay character on the TV show.’ And they said ‘Absolutely.'”

ABC Family has become home to many gay-positive stories and characters over the past few years, but Pretty Little Liars led the charge with a major character who not only has a coming out story and one love interest, but a three-dimensional, likable character whose relationships mirror those of her straight counterparts. Emily is treated like every other Pretty Little Liar, with as much depth and screentime as the straight women. And with The Secret Life of the American Teenager‘s lesbian moms, Marlene’s Now and Then series and another planned comedy from Jennifer Lopez featuring a lesbian partnership at its center, the network is not afraid to continue its diversity among characters and stories told on existing and new shows.

As for if we’ll see any of the stars of the original Now and Then on the show when it airs in 2013, Marlene said she’d love for it to happen. “I hope so. It was a real love fest on that movie. We had a really good time,” she said. “Now, though, the girls — the little girls are now adults! Christina Ricci is an adult, Thora Birch, Gabby Hoffman — I’d love to have them on the show. I think that’d be amazing.”

I’m pretty sure everyone else who either identified with or crushed on Roberta, Teenie, Chryssie and Samantha would agree.

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