'Pretty Little Liars': Ian Harding, Marlene King on Ezria and Uber 'A'
Right now, Pretty Little Liars fans are experiencing what showrunner Marlene King describes as a “PLL finale hangover.” As she puts it, “no alcohol was involved, just a lot of high drama.” And as fans of the show know, after last night’s season 4 summer finale, that’s an understatement.
After learning that Ezra could potentially be the leader of the “A” team and Ali could potentially be alive, there were literally hundreds of questions and theories hitting the Internet like a teen-driven tidal wave. Sadly, there’s no way to answer every question (and there’s also no way PLL is going to spoil anything), but here’s what King had to say about 4B, followed by Ian Harding’s thought on Ezra’s big reveal:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, this finale has launched a million fan theories, dating all the way back to the pilot.
MARLENE KING: Every frame of footage on our show — the littlest thing of drawing an A behind Ezra on the board or a letter or a map — our fans will screen grab everything, and now they’re putting all of the pieces of that puzzle together today.
Some people are already claiming that Ezra is really good, and that he’s only doing it to protect Aria. So at this point, is Ezra bad? Is he the mastermind behind this?
That I can’t answer, and I don’t want to answer. We knew coming into this because of the Toby reveal and eventually finding out that Toby was working for the greater good, as we call it, that some fans would latch onto that idea for Ezra, and others will latch onto the idea that he is Uber “A,” and that’s what 4B is about; it’s about unraveling that story and giving it more meaning, and eventual closure.
Is Uber “A,” what we should call him?
Well, there is an Uber “A,” I will say that. There is an Uber “A” and one would believe after watching last night’s episode that Ezra is a legitimate candidate for being Uber “A.”
In terms of the hierarchy, we have Uber “A” and then all the other —
Mona was Original “A,” and that is true. Mona was Original “A,” and she explained in whatever episode — I think it was the last finale — that she was Original “A” and when she was at Radley, Uber “A” so to speak offered her a deal — “I’ll help you get in and out of Radley if you let me play your game with you” — and then Uber “A” took the game away from her.
In the last finale, we saw Mona say she’d been reporting up to a person, who at the time we thought was Red Coat, but she didn’t know what that person looked like.
Mona believed that Uber “A” was Red Coat, which is why she refers to Uber “A” as a she. She says, “I don’t know who she is either.”
So Red Coat is a totally different entity from Uber “A?”
Probably. That’s going to be explored in 4B too. 4A has done a great job of launching 4B. I think the Ezra reveal was so huge that a lot of people aren’t talking about what we learned about Alison last night, that Mrs. Grunwald pulled her out of that grave and the last time she saw her, she was very much alive.
Right! And we will definitely find out Ali’s alive-or-dead status in the Halloween episode, correct?
But Ali’s experience with “A” predated her summer in Cape May, so at that time, would “A” have been Mona?
How long have you all in the writers room known that this Ezra reveal was going to happen?
We started talking about this when we were making the decision to reveal Mona as Original “A.”
So it’s been working for a while.
It’s always been in the back of our minds, even going back to the pilot, because he was such a ripe character. He has always been, interestingly enough, he shows up when the text messages start showing up. Aria was looking at that Ali poster in that bar when he introduced himself to her, and he’s been in interesting places at the right times very often. So lots of fans had the theory early on that Ezra was on the “A” team, so we’ve always been writing with it in the back of our minds.
You mentioned 4B exploring all of this. Is that where we’ll get to find out Ezra’s motivation?
Yes. I’ve seen some fans commenting that it just doesn’t make sense, what would be his motivation for this and we agree completely. The fans deserve to know that answer, and we will give it to them in 4B.
At this point, we don’t know that Ezra was in a relationship with Ali, and we don’t necessarily know that he was the one who buried her, correct?
That is correct.
Does anyone know Ezra is doing this? Because Mona didn’t know the face of the person she’s reporting to. Does anyone?
Well, the answer to that is yes. You will find out who, there’s at least one person who knows it, probably more than one, and you will find out the identity of that person in season 4B.
Uber “A” paying people added a new layer to this in terms of an incentive for people to join or help the “A” team.
We know he’s a Fitzgerald; his family has a lot of dough. People always say ,”How can ‘A’ be everywhere?” and we certainly showed how last night.
Are we going to see some more Mama Fitzgerald then?
Oh! Well, we might!
How long until the girls find out what we just found out?
We’re breaking those stories right now and filming those episodes right now, and one of the Liars will start to suspect early on, but it’s a hard thing to prove and no one wants to go to Aria and say, “The love of your life is Uber ‘A,'” so it’s going to be a journey.
That’s the other question out there: Does he really loves Aria? Did he know she was a friend of Ali? Because in the pilot, he asks her about Ali.
He’s at Ali’s funeral, which is interesting because supposedly he didn’t know Ali, but at the funeral he says to Aria, “Was she a friend of yours?” and Aria says, “my best friend.”
But can we assume that when he first met her, he wasn’t plotting?
I wouldn’t assume anything, and I think that there’s a very rich back story to Ezra that the audience hasn’t seen yet, and they will in 4B. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for people to get to know that side of Ezra.
For you all, is his relationship with Aria genuine?
I think you have to wait and see. I think that’s going to be some of the fun of 4B is answering that question in a dramatic way as opposed for me to tell you in an interview.
NEXT: King talks Red Coat, the N.A.T. Club, and Ravenswood
What do you have to say about the theories that Red Coat is actually a good force trying to help the Liars?
Spencer said last night, she thinks Red Coat was Ali, and if you go back and you look at the episode when they walk into Ezra’s lair, someone is watching them behind that painting and you see a very pretty blue familiar eye. One might decide that Red Coat was Ali.
And Uber “A” believes that Ali is alive. That’s the drive behind all of this, right?
Yes, and he’s been tracking her.
People have brought up the “A” train from last year with Ezra showing up after Aria was nearly killed. Was Ezra behind that, or did Wilden piss him off by going after his girl?
Well I think there are also two entities working there. There is the Uber “A” entity but there were also the N.A.T. Club members on that train, and so there may have been dueling nemesis on that train who had desire to harm the PLLs.
Speaking of the N.A.T. Club, are we going to see Wren and Melissa in 4B?
Not just yet. Both of those actors are working on other things, so they’re not living in our world right now, but we’re very much keeping those characters alive.
Let’s talk Maggie: Was she a separate thing completely from Uber “A,” or does she somehow play into it? Will we find that out?
Yep, we will see more of Maggie in 4B.
Were the black suits something we were supposed to recognize?
It’s a clue. It will pay off later.
Another mystery: Are we going to get to the bottom of who killed Wilden?
Yes! Yes, definitely.
I think the “Is Ali alive?” really takes over in 4B and “Who is Uber ‘A’?” and “Is Uber ‘A’ close to finding Ali, so we need to find her first” takes over in 4B, and that sort of trumps all other mysteries for a while.
So can we expect some Ezra flashbacks?
Yea! Well Hanna took something from that lair when they walked in there, and that something is revealed in the 4B premiere, and that becomes a great vehicle for the girls to find out more answers about Uber “A” and Alison.
Has Ezra always had people doing his dirty work? Has he ever put on the gloves or gotten his hands dirty so to speak?
You will have to see!
Mrs. Grunwald mentioned a betrayer among the girls, and fans are going crazy with Aria theories. What do you say to them?
Everybody is a suspect in Rosewood. We say that a lot, but it’s true. Everybody’s a suspect in Rosewood. And we always say things aren’t as they appear to be. We have fun with that theme a lot.
Speaking of suspects, what’s up with Mrs. D? Is Emily still staying with her?
I think she was sufficiently creeped out enough by Mrs. D to move out; I think she’s been staying with Spencer.
Can we expect some answers on why Mrs. D is so creepy?
Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
Let’s end with a Ravenswood tease. What does it mean for Haleb, and what can you tease about this complicated little town?
It’s a complicated little town. By day it seems like a lovely place to live but as the sun sets a different flavor, a shadow really falls over the town, and we’re having so much fun bringing it to life. There are just such unique, rich, delicious characters. We’re filming the first episode right now, and it’s a sad parting for Hanna and Caleb, but the actors are really excited for this journey that Tyler [Blackburn] is going on, and we’re leaving the door open. Rosewood and Ravenswood are only a 90-minute drive from each other, and we’re leaving that door open in terms of story as we go down the line. We’re really excited to bring this darker more haunted town to life with Ravenswood.
NEXT: Ian Harding on whether Ezra really loves Aria
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let me start by saying this is the one thing I never wanted the show to do, but now I’m kind of loving it.
IAN HARDING: Yea, that seems to be the theme. I’ve been checking Twitter and all that, because I don’t want to disappoint the fans, and if people are like, “Oh my god, this is so terrible; I’m going to go shoot myself,” I obviously don’t want that to happen, but it seems to be that I’ve developed a nice little sort of codependency with all these teens in the sense that — nice codependency, that’s an oxymoron — but in the sense that they’re all like, “Oh man, you’re so terrible, you’re so terrible how could you do that, I love you so much, I’ll stick around.” I’m like, “I don’t know if this is a good thing that we’ve developed in young girls,” but I think it went pretty well last night, and I was happy with the episode.
How long have you known this?
I’ve known about it for a while. To what extent I was unclear of only up until a couple months ago, but really in February, there was this other project that looked like it was going to happen for me, and we had to go to ABC Family and say like, “Hey, what’s the deal?” And Marlene King actually said, “Hey, we can’t let you go because of what’s going to happen with Ezra.” I’m like, “Oh, what’s going to happen with Ezra?” She alluded to the sudden shift in his character arc that would happen toward the tail end of 4A and then would continue in some way, shape, or form into 4B. So I’ve known since like February.
What was your reaction? Are excited to be the bad guy in some sense?
Super excited. I’m super excited. It’s not like I’m like, “Yea, I get to be evil now!” I don’t think that he’s evil; I think that he’s driven by something that has made him do very morally questionable things. And so playing with that dynamic as an actor is super fun, and getting to investigate this guy that technically I’ve been living within for 3 seasons, to suddenly have this whole other shade to him is a lot of fun. So when she told me, I was far from disappointed. She said “Hey listen, you might go slightly bad -” before she finished her sentence I said, “YES. Let’s do that.” It’s not like I want to ruin the relationship between Aria and Ezra, but just for creative purposes, I thought to myself, “Yea, let’s go there.”
In your mind, is Ezra in love with Aria? Do you believe that’s true?
Yea, I say this, like, I don’t think he’s a sociopath. We’re not going to find him laughing in a straitjacket at the end of the season — or I hope not, maybe I just killed one of the writer’s ideas — but I think he is, was, and will be in love with Aria in some way, shape, or form. How he got to that point is maybe questionable and may be a little bit a tainted side, but I could be proven wrong in a few episodes. But I personally don’t think that this was all a ruse, that he’s just some amazing liar and just didn’t love her, you know?
When I talked to Keegan Allen about his reveal, he talked about how he only learned about his character from scene to scene or episode to episode. He didn’t know if Toby was good overall. He only knew what Toby was in any given moment. Is that how they pitched this to you?
I think that’s just kind of TV in general in the sense that you, I mean good TV ideally is that for the actor it’s always you’re moving from different moment to different moment and you’re finding different shades of this person as opposed to like film, where you have a set storyline and you can act within those parameters, as opposed to “In this moment, you’re absolutely in love with Aria and you have no fear or doubt in your mind,” and then the next episode like, “Oh god I don’t think I should do this, and by the way, I have a drinking problem.” And so even though I knew that this was going to, I knew about this dynamic shift back in February, when we were filming certain episodes, I mean, there’s not like, as you saw from the beginning of the season, there was no like weird dynamic shift with me personally or “Ah! I was suddenly very henchmen-like,” you know? I only have like a rough estimate pretty much at all times of where I’m going to go.
Did everyone else know or was the reveal a secret from the rest of the cast?
I think they knew, or at certain points, they found out, but at the same time, I think the cast, having worked within the parameters of the show, which is nothing’s ever what it seems, nobody went “Ah yea, case closed!” Everybody kind of went “Okay, why are you doing this? We can’t wait to figure this out.” Shay [Mitchell] I think had a few choice words. She was like “I knew it.” And I was like, “Whatever,” and we got into fisticuffs. But that’s just me and Shay. So yea, I think people were able to gather it early on.
In your ideal world, what awesome nickname would Ezra get? I want him to be like Black Suit or something.
Black Hat. Uh, Cool-Jacket-with-Overly-Arching-Collar. I think that will tweet really well. I’m not quite sure. What would be an interesting name for him? I think just Super Sneaky. I think that would probably sum it up pretty well. I do like the whole hashtag that happened afterward with the, it was the Ezra and then the A in his name was an “A,” so I was messing around with that like Ezra-“A” [pronounced Ezra-Ayy], so maybe that could work.
Finally, if you had to pick three words to describe Ezra as a character through and through, what would you choose?
Layered, conflicted, and super-driven, even though that’s technically four words. Maybe if we throw a hyphen in there. Or maybe ambitious. Whether or not that whole room was his — we’re not sure yet — that’s an interesting set up and the fact that he followed them all the way to Rosewood, something’s driving him, and I’m not sure if it’s just love for Aria — “Oh now she’ll be okay.” I think there’s something else going on, so … I forget what the three words were that I just said.
Four little liars and a being named “A” (who may or may not be the fifth little liar) try to live their lives in Rosewood. It’s complicated.