'Pretty Little Liars' cast, EPs on season 5, Hanna's alcohol problem
It’s almost time to re-enter Rosewood, a place where cyberbullies reign, high schoolers come back from the dead, and more than one member of the DiLaurentis family has been dragged to a grave. And after the Pretty Little Liars season 4 finale left us with a wounded Ezra and a potentially dead Mrs. D, season 5 will pick up right where we left off: On the way to the hospital and full of questions. So what now?
First things first, EW paid a visit to the PLL set to try and get some of those questions answered before the emotional trauma of another season begins. Here’s what we learned:
Ever since fans got word of Tyler Blackburn’s return to Pretty Little Liars, they’ve been champing at the bit for some Haleb news. But for now, they’re going to have to sit tight. At least for the moment, Ashley Benson told us Hanna is a little preoccupied with Travis. “I don’t know if it’s serious or not, but we are together,” Benson said.
As for the other men in Hanna’s life, fans can expect to see more of her relationship with Lucas upon his return. “He is back, and I’m sure if he was doing this interview, he would tell you that he upgraded. His look is completely different and he has a haircut and facial hair now. He is more trendy and stylish and not nerdy. He is kind of like a cool Lucas. It’s fun to see him like that. We have had some great scenes together.”
But believe it or not, Hanna’s biggest arc this season has nothing to do with men. Now that Ali is back in the fold, Hanna will struggle to find her place within the group. Despite Benson claiming that the Liars are “closer than ever” in trying to figure out if they can trust Ali, she also admits that Hanna goes down a dark path this year. For one thing, Ali’s return forces Hanna to change her look. Benson teased that Hanna will cut her hair, add some black to it, and give her overall wardrobe an “edgy feel.” “I think she’s kind of having an identity crisis with who she is because she always took the place of Alison,” Benson said.
Part two of Hanna’s spiral will be less physical and more mental. “I think she’s going to go through a lot of struggles with herself, with relationships and her self confidence,” Benson said. “I think she’s gonna lean more towards vices like alcohol and stuff like that. In season 1, she drank a little bit, and I think they are slowly gonna bring that back in.”
Executive producer Joseph Dougherty added, “Hanna kinda started to look like Ali [when she disappeared]. The town doesn’t need two Ali’s. [That] can be scary, can lead to poor choices.”
NEXT: Alison DiLaurentis
Ali’s return will be complicated, to say the least. With a mother that showrunner Marlene King claimed “seems officially dead,” what is Ali to do in Rosewood? For starters, she will be living with her father and brother. “Mr. D is obviously very protective and in shock. [It’s] an interesting combination of how he acts and reunites with me versus Jason. It’s a very troubled family,” Sasha Pieterse said.
But aside from her family life, has Ali really changed? “Well, she’s now a victim. She has changed,” Pieterse said. “I think we’re gonna struggle with believing her for a while if she’s really changed, but there are definitely some differences. She’s grown with everything that’s happened with her.”
However, that growth doesn’t mean the Liars will trust Ali again. At least not immediately. “I don’t think they fully understand each other yet. It’s been rocky,” Pieterse said. As for Spencer? “I don’t think Spencer really trusts Alison, ” she added.
King also talked about how Ali’s return will affect more than just the Liars, including the entire town. “As word spreads she is coming back to town, we see everybody’s different reactions. Not everyone is happy about it. She made a lot of enemies, but there are people rallying together to protect themselves when she gets back and people who embrace her when she comes home.”
Speaking of people who will embrace Ali’s return, will there be a love interest for the back-from-the-dead Liar? “There will be,” King promised. “She has a history with Emily that feels like unfinished business.” That being said, “it’s not the first and foremost on her mind when she gets home,” King added.
NEXT: Emily Fields
Next to Hanna, Emily might be the Liar most affected by Ali’s return. “I really was the closest one to Allie on more levels than one when she was here. I think having her back, especially for my character, is a really big deal. I am not gonna say I missed her most – but I missed her most,” Shay Mitchell said. “So having her back now switched up everything. I am arguing with my girlfriend.”
So will Ali’s return be the end of Paily? “It was something Emily and Paige never expected. It was something Emily kind of put away,” Mitchell said. “Ali was [Emily’s] first love. It’s always going to be something that is a very strong tie. It’s a tough time right now for everybody, especially because Paige and Emily were fighting even beforehand.”
But problems with Paige doesn’t mean that Emily trusts Ali. “We all want it to be back to normal like it was before, but obviously that’s not the case. Ali’s come back and we’re trying to figure out if she is trying to make those positive changes. At certain times you can see the old Ali, and it is a bit of a shock.” And it’s something that might drive Emily to confide in a new character.
“We have a new girl on the swim team, Sydney. I am coaching her,” Mitchell said. “[Sydney and Emily’s] relationship is helping one another. [It] helps Emily get away from it all. When she hangs out with Sydney, it’s her break from what’s going on.”
NEXT: Aria Montgomery
In the premiere, the Liars will spend most of their time trying to find a way to protect Aria’s one-time love, Ezra, who’s in the hospital after having been shot by “A.” But does Ezra actually know the identity of his shooter? “He initially believes he does,” Executive Producer Joseph Dougherty said. “He thinks he’s figured it out, [but] also realizes he may have missed some things that could have led him in another direction.”
But as far as Aria’s concerned, she’s less worried about the big reveal and more worried about Ezra’s life. “For me, especially when I watch that rooftop scene where she’s just hysterical, you see the connection they have and all the resentment and the feelings of the betrayal sort of go away in those moments,” King said. “I think after she realizes he’s not going to die, the reality of their history together sinks in. She can’t deny her feelings for him, but she also can’t deny she has major trust issues.”
“I think initially it’s going to still be Aria trying to decide if she can trust this guy again,” Dougherty added. “Ezra basically realizes he screwed up on a very primal level. Ezra’s kind of where Byron is. He is looking for his cues from Aria.”
But don’t worry Ezria fans, Executive Producer Oliver Goldstick still has faith. “I think this is a soul mate and love of her life,” Goldstick said. “Even if his betrayal was monumental, she ultimately wants to find some way to understand why he was so misguided.” Plus, Ezra’s research could come in handy for the girls, including Ali, whom we’ll see Ezra interact with. “He certainly has a lot of knowledge and insight certainly the girls didn’t anticipate he would have,” Goldstick said. “He does turn out to be a font of information on several occasions, because not only does he have theories, but he has some evidence of things that lean in a direction that would help the girls. So, it’s also gonna be a slow process, a reconciliation. The circumstances we put the give girls in are so dire. Even an ex-bf can prove to be very beneficial when you’re having a nervous breakdown.”
NEXT: Spencer Hastings
With Hanna hitting the bottle, it sounds like Spencer is on the mend from her addiction issues. “She definitely knows she can’t do that anymore,” Troian Bellisario said. “She promised to herself and to Toby and her family to really try and get off of that. I think in my opinion she kicks it quite easily.”
But drugs or no drugs, Spencer doesn’t trust Ali. “In her essence, [Ali] hasn’t changed,” Bellisario said. “She’s still making the same mistakes and that frustrates Spencer immensely. Spencer and Ali have a very competitive friendship, kind of like frenemies. Their friendship is more like keep your friends close, enemies closer. When Ali returns, Spencer has a lot of empathy for what she’s been through, but Ali doesn’t let them in. Ali still keeps secret,s and I think that’s what Spencer truly despises about Ali’s personality. It still provides a great obstacle for those two.”
As for Spoby, the couple will still be together when he returns from London. “He comes back, and I get some answers as to why he went to London and we try and patch things up as much as people can who seem to always be leaving each other.”
NEXT: Mona Vanderwaal
Considering Mona had a huge hand in Ali’s farewell, we can only imagine what the blonde’s return will do to the Original “A.” “I think Mona, probably more than anyone, is getting ready for Ali’s return,” King said. “You’ll see it in the premiere. I think we’ve had Mona 2.0, 3.0 – This is like Mona 4.0. It’s a new role for her, and it’s really fun to watch.”
Does a new role mean she’s no longer part of the “A” team? King revealed, “There’s an interesting moment where she says, ‘I don’t need to be ‘A’ anymore, I can be out in the open and be who I am.'”
And with that in mind, as of episode 2, fans can expect their first great Mona-Alison interaction.”We have so much fun together, and it’s always very catty and snarky,” Pieterse teased. “Recently, a scene we did is very scary. Mona’s taken a turn for the worse. She’s just really conniving.”
But how do the Liars feel about that? “[Mona] is seeking revenge,” Benson said. “She is still plotting against Alison and trying to take her down and whoever else can tag along with her. I think that she’s trying to get back at Ali for everything she’s done.”
“Just when you think there’s no more level for Mona to go, she will find it,” Dougherty said. “Ali could represent a physical threat to Mona, and Mona is going to take action.” Goldstick added: “I think she has a lot at stake. I think for someone who is mentally unstable, somebody who’s a couple sandwiches short of a picnic, it doesn’t take a lot to set off an atomic picnic. Alison’s return is a source of manic for her. Now the mean girl is back. Do you sit around and wait, or do you take action?”
NEXT: Melissa Hastings and CeCe Drake
Melissa Hastings and CeCe Drake
The oldest Hastings sibling will be back, and we will find out what she whispered by summer’s end. “We will find out what she whispered, and it’s of great significance to everything,” Dougherty said. “That’s why Peter looks so upset.” But Melissa isn’t the only one with stories to tell. CeCe Drake will be sticking around Rosewood. King teased that “One of my favorite scenes in the premiere is CeCe’s last scene in that episode.”
So if Melissa’s secret is on its way out, does that mean CeCe was lying about what she knows? “She might be telling a story,” King teased. “She has a master plan. You’ll find some of what that is when you come back from the premiere.” And as for CeCe staying in jail, King also said that CeCe will have a scene with a PLL “that isn’t in jail.”
And no, the writers haven’t forgotten about the other N.A.T. Club videos. It’s just that they’re not quite ready for us to see them yet.
NEXT: Other familiar faces
Other familiar faces
Both Mr. D and Jason will obviously return, and their relationship will add a new dynamic to the show. “It’s very strained,” King said. “He doesn’t know that Jason isn’t his biological son, [but] he kind of acts like he does, so there’s some interesting tension there.” Tension that will affect the Hastings family? Dougherty added: “There’s a line I wrote for the third episode, where Spencer says ‘We’re not exactly the Hatfield’s and McCoys.’ I think the two families are still at odds. Peter Hastings and Ken D are not going golfing very soon.”
However, expect Papa D to have some familial knowledge that could play into things. “You’ll know what Mr. D knows by the second episode,” Goldstick said. “By the third episode, you’ll know exactly what he knows.”
Viewers can also expect more of Noel and Ali’s story, as well as more on Lucas’ transformation. But perhaps most importantly, Black Widow will make another appearance, because as King put it, “there will be funerals to attend.”
Final premiere teases
“It only gets crazier from here,” Mitchell said. “I truly think this episode is gonna blow everybody’s minds. We’ve seen things that we haven’t seen before. We’ve done a lot in this series, [so] when something new happens you’re even more shocked.”
“[We’re] calling it the ‘uber season,'” King said. “What’s a season that’s bigger than epic? It feels like the uber season, and it’s just the season where everything is so big. The premiere feels like a finale. It’s heightened drama, big emotions, big mystery. It’s really paced in a fast way. A lot happens really quickly. People will be very excited and on the edge of their seats, especially these first episodes back. Just don’t take a breath. Just go go go. It’s the season of go go go.”
Pretty Little Liars premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.
— Reporting by Stephanie Robbins