Wtih Pretty Little Liars currently enduring its longest hiatus to date, the show decided to put together a special unscripted episode to help tide fans over until its Jan. 12 return. Complete with behind-the-scenes tours, cast interviews, and a few never-before-seen clips, the special will give viewers insight into what happened during the five-year time jump.
EW spoke with PLL showrunner Marlene King about what exactly the special will entail, and who might show up for a surprise appearance:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So this special is mostly behind-the-scenes stuff, right? Plus a few new clips?
MARLENE KING: It really is myself and Oliver Goldstick and some other department heads who work on the show — like hair and makeup and props and the art department — talking about everything we did to prepare for the time jump, and the actors as well. They’ve been given a lot of backstory to their characters, so they know a lot of what they’ve been doing over the past five years, between the time jump, so they’re going to give us a lot of that information, which is really fun. We’re going to get to see some new sets, but also a couple clips, a couple clips that we haven’t seen.
Where did the idea for the special come from?
We just thought it would be fun. People got so excited about the possibility of the time jump. Moving forward, we do have flashbacks, we’ll see some of what has happened in the past, but we just thought this was a really fun way to keep PLL in everybody’s lives. I know this is the hardest hiatus for everyone because it’s the longest so whenever we can give the fans one episode to talk about and watch, it seems to help everybody ease the pain of such a long hiatus.
What can you tell me about the clips and which story lines they’ll deal with?
We get to see a clip that we actually shot for the finale and the episode was so jam-packed that we just ran out of time and didn’t have time to show it, so we get to see a nice moment between Alison and Jason and Charlotte that happened after the finale. And we also get to see a really fun scene with Alison in the classroom teaching and she gets a surprise visitor, and her name is Mona.
Will we get an answer to who put that ring on Hanna’s finger?
There’s actually some really fun moments in the special, the four Pretty Little Liars and myself are in Spencer’s barn talking a lot about what happened during those five years and Hanna talks about who put that ring on her finger and how that came about, and Aria talks about where she is and her life and her career and a little bit about her love life. All the characters really touch on what they’ve been doing over the past five years and some of that is relationship-based, some of its school-based, some of it is also professional, where they are in their careers.
You mentioned Mona. Any other surprise faces?
Mona, Jason, Alison, Dr. Sullivan, and I think that’s it in regards to the actual clips. We do get a surprise visit from “A,” I’ll tell you that. There’s a certain “A” who’s not willing to go away. There’s a person on our show who just doesn’t want to let go of the black hoodie, and you will see that person on the special.
Are the interviews solely about those five years, or do you all talk about other topics?
Whenever the girls and I get together, especially because we were in Spencer’s barn, we ended up talking a lot about how far we’ve come and what a full circle moment it is that it’s five years later. Spencer finally is living in her barn as she should be since she had redone it in the pilot and then her sister got to move in. So Spencer finally gets to live in her own barn. [Laughs]
Who would you say is the most changed after time jump?
I think in some ways it’s Alison. I think that she has found some well-deserved peace. Alison is the most changed if you think about from the pilot to now. They’ve all changed a lot but in ways that are so organic to their characters. I think Hanna has changed a lot because she was the one who came to care the least about her future and college and moving forward and she’s on a very successful career path when we meet her.
What about the men? Are they involved in the special?
I do have a lovely chat with all the guys, too. It’s Keegan [Allen] and Ian [Harding] and Tyler [Blackburn]. We’re hearing about their backstories too and how they feel about the time jump and what it took to bring their characters to this place where suddenly they had to be five years older. As you’ll see when you watch the special, we created a lot of backstory for them to inform where they are five years later and that’s really what we’re excited about sharing with the audience. It’s a very informative special even though it’s most not scripted.
Anything else you want to add?
When fans see this, they’ll get a real sense of what the show’s going to look like when we come back in January and how much more grown up it is and also just how thrilling it is. The guys really touch on the new big bad and their take on this new big bad, so it’s really fun for the audience to hear. We give as much information as we can without spoiling anything for the audience.
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The Pretty Little Liars special airs November 24 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family (soon to be Freeform).