Pretty Little Liars: 9 things we learned from the Paleyfest panel
The cast and creator tease the finale, look back on seven years in Rosewood, and describe their dream revivals
Pretty Little Liars has only 10 episodes — and at least as many unsolved mysteries — left before fans say goodbye to Rosewood. Since production wrapped on the series in October, the stars have been sitting on as many secrets as the Liars themselves, but they are happy to tease what fans have to look forward to in season 7B.
Creator I. Marlene King, along with executive producer Joseph Dougherty and cast members Ashley Benson, Tyler Blackburn, Shay Mitchell, Andrea Parker, Janel Parrish, Sasha Pieterse, and Ian Harding, appeared on a panel at Paleyfest in Hollywood Saturday to talk about the end of the series. Here’s what we learned from their conversation, moderated by Buzzfeed’s Jarett Wieselman.
1. Exactly how the season starts
Before the panel, the enthusiastic audience got a sneak peek at the first minute of the 7B premiere. As promised, it picks up just moments after August’s midseason finale, beginning with Spencer, who has recently been shot, in the back of an ambulance. The rest of the Liars show up at the hospital right after she gets there — just in time to see Toby arrive there, too.
2. Season 7B is an emotional — but informative — roller coaster
King calls the final 10 episodes a long “love letter to the fans,” to be packed with drama as only Rosewood can provide. “So much happens in each episode,” Blackburn told EW before the panel. “There’s obviously the reveal, the main reveal, which is so crazy; it’s so good. But also just where the relationships end up — that’s another thing that fans are really going to love. Kind of just how strong this group has to stay throughout these last 10 episodes.”
“Of the last 10, there is a really big reveal at the end of every episode,” Parrish told EW. “You’re going to find out who killed Jessica DiLaurentis, who A.D. is — all of the answers.”
3. The whole cast found out the ending together — with mixed reactions
The stars didn’t know how it all ended until the table read of the two-hour finale. “We were all crying,” Parrish told EW. “Most of us were just, mouth agape,” Parker said. Blackburn was “stoked,” and Mitchell was “blown away” — but Harding was not immediately sold. “I read it and I was like, I don’t buy this,” he admitted to EW. “It was until we had shot and wrapped… I was driving home on my last day, slightly teary-eyed, and it landed on me, who and what this whole thing was, and I kind of went, [gasps], like, in the car, in traffic.”
4. Get ready for more Emison!
“Emison is a ship that I feel like a lot of the fans really are on board with,” Mitchell said during the panel, to immediate confirmation from the audience. “Alison sort of hasn’t dealt with her sexuality, and these [remaining] episodes are about Alison trying to figure out what her sexuality is — and Emily plays a big part of that,” King said. During the audience Q&A, when a fan asked whether there was any possibility of an Emison spinoff, Mitchell simply asked, “Would you guys be interested in seeing that?” The crowd responded very much in the affirmative.
5. Mitchell was King’s second choice to play Emily
Speaking of Emison, half of the ship was almost completely different. “We had a really hard time finding our Emily, and it was down to the wire,” King said. “I was leaning towards [another] actress.” But “Shay just nailed it” in her final audition, and nabbed the role. Later in the panel, the actress spoke about what playing the gay teen has meant to her, saying, “I’m happy because there [needed] to be characters like Emily from the beginning. We’ve been waiting so long.”
6. Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell are terrible scene partners
“We are actually the hardest people to work with, to get through a scene,” Benson admitted of her and real-life BFF Mitchell, who recalled one shoot in particular where “the crew was getting upset” that they couldn’t be serious. Even during the panel, Benson had difficulty maintaining her composure: “Everything you’re doing right now is making me laugh,” she accused Mitchell and Blackburn, the latter of whom didn’t know what he had done that Benson might have found funny. “I’m not trying to be unprofessional by laughing on this stage, but every time I look at Tyler’s face I start laughing!”
7. There’s a Haleb sex scene playlist
When Wieselman brought up the recent developments in Hanna and Caleb’s relationship — especially a certain scene by the fireplace — the audience went wild. “I do feel like Haleb was meant to be,” Blackburn said. “Spaleb was fun to dabble with; Haleb is where it’s at. That was a really good scene.” “It was not romantic,” Benson recalled — but they did their best. “We had a whole playlist playing. [Blackburn] picked out the songs,” she said. “It’s awkward to do a sex scene in front of a whole crew of people and have no clothes on. So we had a fan to keep us cool, and we just had our iPhone playing, and we just sweat by the fire…”
8. No, everyone can’t just be happy!
“All the endgames will be endgames, but nobody’s going to get there super easily,” King teased about the final 10 episodes. “Without hurdles, the prize isn’t worth anything,” Dougherty added. “So many fans simply say, ‘Why can’t they just be happy?’ And who wants to see that? We have to have some struggle here. You have to earn your happy ending.”
9. Everyone’s got ideas for a revival
King revealed at the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this year that they aren’t ruling out the possibility of a revival, and the cast seems to be on board. “I think there are a lot of loose strings which will be tied up — but leaving enough to allow for future things,” Harding told EW of the finale, adding that he thought a revival “would be great.” And his dream scenario for the Liars’ return? “We come back and then the show moves [to], like, Netflix, so we do it up: Suddenly there’s, like, swearing and full-blown nudity. It’s the show that everybody wanted but couldn’t have. That’s what I want. I want there to be bloody murder all over the place. Like Pretty Little Liars meets Saw.”
Blackburn’s ideal revival wouldn’t amp up the gore but rather the characters’ maturity level: “Hopefully if we all came back and we were in our mid-20s, we would all maybe deal with it a little differently. Just, like, nip it in the bud a little faster,” he suggested. King likes the idea of “a big, expensive, fancy movie that we shoot in Paris,” and Mitchell agrees, “If [A is] chasing us around Europe, I’d be okay with that.”
While her costars dream of international travel and R-ratings, however, Parker has one simple wish: “I’d like to be alive,” she told EW. “Let’s start there.”
Pretty Little Liars‘ final episodes begin Tuesday, April 18 at 8 p.m. on Freeform.