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'Pretty Little Liars' star Janel Parrish talks Mona's return

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Eric McCandless/ABC Family

Mona Vanderwaal has been many things on Pretty Little Liars: First, she was Hanna’s nerdy best friend. Then, she was Original “A.” And most recently, she was dead. That is, until she reappeared in the season 5 finale, only to reveal that she wasn’t murdered. Instead, she was kidnapped and put in Charles’ dollhouse. 

We talked to Janel Parrish about her return to the show and what’s next for Mona:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Back when Mona was killed off, did you genuinely think you were dead?

JANEL PARRISH: Yes, I did. I wasn’t super concerned only because [showrunner] Marlene [King] was like, “I promise you still have a job. We’re not getting rid of you on the show, but you will have a lot less scenes because you will be flashback girl.” And that was what made me the most disappointed because I love working and I love being there and working with my co-workers. So that’s what made me the happiest when she called me a week before we shot the finale and was like, “Just kidding, I’m a liar, you’re alive.” 

After Marlene called you, who was the first person you told?

I actually told my dad first. He’s very, very into the show. He loves the show and he was so bummed that his little girl was killed on the show, so I called him and told him and I was like, “But you can’t tell mom.” But I’m pretty sure he told my mom, which is fine. [Laughs]

So when you did the Christmas episode, you had no idea you were alive?

No clue! Although I really enjoyed playing a ghost. That was very fun. 

Heading into season 6, is Mona still going to be a blonde?

Oh my god, I hope not. I know that the girls will eventually get out and once they do, I’m really hoping she goes back to the brunette hair because let me tell you, I think I make the worst blonde ever. But it definitely added to the creep factor. 

And you all are currently filming the first episode of season 6 now, right?

Yeah, we just started the first episode yesterday.

I’m very interested in how the experience in the dollhouse is going to change Mona. She’s been there the longest.

Yes. I think it’s going to change all the girls. We’re going to start to see in season 6, especially in the first episode, how these girls are being punished for their actions and some of it is pretty brutal. I think it’s going to change all of them and when they return to Rosewood, they’re not going to be the same people. It’s dark! We’re being held in an underground prison. It’s crazy, right?!

I can’t stop thinking about the replicas of all their bedrooms—it’s so twisted!

Have you ever seen Oldboy?

Yes!

That’s what it reminds me of. It’s like a nod to Oldboy in my mind, and there’s something so creepy and intriguing about that. And it’s season 6, so the stakes need to be higher. It’s a creepy show already, so the longer the show goes on, I like that it gets creepier. Keeps people on their toes.

But when it all started, Mona was the creepy one.

Absolutely! And I think what makes it scariest is that Mona has always been able to out-smart everyone, but this is the one person that she can’t be a step ahead of him, and I think that she’s truly terrified by him. It’s fun to see that different side of Mona. 

Ever since they said this is the person who took the game from Mona, I’ve been half-convinced that Mona has known who Charles is this entire time.

[Laughs] Well, she definitely doesn’t, but I think what could be interesting is if she has met Charles and doesn’t know it. But at this point in time, she has no idea who Charles is.

One of the things I really loved in last night’s episode is that it really felt like Mona was one of the Liars in a way. Moving forward, has their dynamic changed? Does it feel like she’s a little bit more in the inner circle?

Definitely. I don’t think she’ll ever be in the inner circle. I don’t know if they’ll ever fully trust each other, but they’re definitely forced to rely on each other and find a way to get through it. I would say that at this moment, against all of their wills, they are all PLLs at this time. 

At this point, can we trust Mona, or do you think she’s still capable of having her own agenda?

I think Mona is always capable of having her own agenda, but I think at this time, she has no other agenda besides what the girls also want, which is just to get the hell out of there. At this moment, all of their agendas are the same. 

Is there still hope for Mike and Mona?

I really really hope so! Maybe he could be her only hope, you know? Maybe he’s the only person who can help her get through it. I really hope so because I love that relationship; I think it’s such a sweet relationship. It’s so nice to see Mona be so soft and vulnerable with somebody. And I love working with Cody, so hopefully that will be something that comes back around.

Moving forward, what are you most excited for fans to see?

I’m most excited, not only for fans but for myself, to find out more about Charles, to find out who this person is, because I know as much as everyone else does and I’m also dying to know. You should’ve seen us at the table read. We all were like, “What? Marlene, who is Charles?” And she just sits there with her little smile. She’s like, “You’ll see.” We’re like, “Marlene, come on!” 

Pretty Little Liars season 6 kicks off in June on ABC Family.

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