Grave New World, the Pretty Little Liars 2013 Halloween episode, unquestionably ended with the biggest reveal in show history: Ali! Is! Alive!
Yes, the red-coat-rocking blonde is back in Rosewood. But for how long? And why? And since when?
Those were just three of the questions I had for actress Sasha Pieterse this morning when I exclusively sat down with her to talk about Ali's resurrection, when she found out, how big a role she plays in the 2014 episodes and what Pretty Little Liars fans can expect from season 4B!
ETonline: First of all, how does it feel to finally have this secret out there?
Sasha Pieterse: Oh my goodness, it feels so good [laughs]. I'm alive, yay! I'm so happy. That was a hard secret to keep, I have to say. I really couldn't tell anyone. I mean, my parents ended up knowing, but that's about it.
ETonline: When were you officially told that Alison was alive?
Pieterse: From the beginning there's always been speculation because Alison's alive in the books, so I was never quite sure how they were going to do it. Would she have a twin? Would she be alive? I knew at some point one of the two things would happen and they decided Alison wouldn't have a twin sister, but it's all been so mysterious. At the end of season three Marlene [King, PLL executive producer] hinted to me that Alison was alive. But that was, like, a year ago -- it's been a long time coming!
ETonline: What excites you about Alison being alive?
Pieterse: In all honesty, I get to wear current clothes now! I've been wearing clothes from 2008 for four years, so my favorite part is I can wear really cute 2014 clothes now [laughs]. And I can play my age too -- I won't be 14 forever! But I have to say, the second half of a fourth season is by far my favorite thing we've ever done. There are some incredible episodes; we stepped it up a notch and I'm happy to be a part of the present day storyline now too!
ETonline: Will the show ever explain the logistics of how Ali stayed hidden for so long? I mean, was she working to pay for her food and all those red coats?
Pieterse: [laughs] I think Alison's got excellent survival instincts. In the time that she's been hiding she's also figured out who she can trust. We will see more in season five about how she's survived and where she's been hiding out. "A" has been using the girls to try and figure that out. Ezra is hot on Ali's trail -- he knows she's alive and is trying to track her down. You'll see a much darker side of him, and his motives, in 4B for sure.
ETonline: Let's talk about Ezra for a moment. The fans are still up-in-arms about that reveal. What would you tell the Ezra fans and Ezria shippers about what's coming up?
Pieterse: Oh man, it's so sad [laughs]. Like, so sad. I can't talk too much about it, but I love that our writers don't shy away from doing something because it might be unpopular. This particular revelation is tragic. [Ezra and Aria have] gone against a lot of different struggles and barriers and obstacles to keep themselves together, and now they've fallen apart. I think it's a very toxic relationship -- more toxic than Aria even knows! It's going to be interesting to see how the fans react because the more you find out about Ezra and who he really is ... it'll be interesting to see if they still like him or if they think Ezria should still be an entity.
ETonline: How has Ali's time away changed her?
Pieterse: Alison's changed a lot. She's learned a lot. She's grown up, she's more mature, she's not as naive and realized a lot of her mistakes. She's still feisty and always trying to get her way, but she really appreciates the girls in a new way now. Now that the girls know I'm alive, the whole second half of the season is about them trying to track me down and find out what Ali's been up to.
ETonline: Given that Ali remains in hiding, how does she factor in to these upcoming episodes?
Pieterse: Marlene has said that this is the season of answers, and the premiere is called Who's In the Box -- the reason for that is because if Alison wasn't in her grave, who is? Other than trying to find out where Ali's been and what she's been up to and who she's afraid of, 4B is also about finding out who the hell is in that box. Who killed that person because there's still a dead body! Almost all of it is dedicated to finding Alison and finding out who board shorts is. There are so many revelations in the second half of this season; it will blow your mind. The answers are right there in front of you and when all is revealed the fans will kick themselves for not thinking of it first.
ETonline: What's Ali's ultimate goal? Does she want to return to Rosewood and resume her life?
Pieterse: If it were me, I would want to get the hell out of there and never go back! [laughs] I don't know the answer to your question, but I think she's got mixed emotions. It's bittersweet because she's missed out on so much. There's a reason her parents aren't a safe haven for her, and you'll see more about that next season. Ali's been on the run for so long, and obviously someone is after her. There's a lot of different reasons why she can't just easily come back to town. There are reasons she's been hiding and the girls knowing she's alive doesn't change a lot for Ali, it just means they can help her now. For whatever reason, she's shown herself to them now.
ETonline: You're about to film the 4B finale -- looking at next season, what are you excited for fans to experience?
Pieterse: First of all, the season finale is incredible. Let me just say that. It's so rewarding for all of us because everything we've gone through over the last four years has kind of been resolved to a degree with this episode. I'm excited for fans to experience that. Every single character is taken on a dramatic, tragic journey -- all the girls have dealt with tremendous pain and struggles in their lives, so finding out Alison is alive is somewhat of a relief because it means everything they've gone through hasn't been for nothing. It's not just a wild goose chase; there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that's important for fans to know. There's hope now and that's a good thing.
Pretty Little Liars returns January 7 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.