'Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists' Boss Talks Emison, Mona's Dollhouse & More Spinoff Answers!
By Leanne Aguilera
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So long, Rosewood -- and hello, Beacon Heights!
Now that Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists is officially heading to Freeform for a 10-episode first season, we've been dying to know how this next PLL chapter starring Mona (Janel Parrish) and Ali (Sasha Pieterse) is going to unfold.
To get the inside scoop, ET recently sat down with creator Marlene King at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, and now we have absolutely everything fans need to know before tuning into PLL: The Perfectionists. From checking in on Emily and Alison's rumored relationship woes to asking about Mona's Parisian dollhouse and discovering what Spencer and Toby are up to -- (Spoiler alert: They're happy!) -- only ET is spilling the exclusive spinoff secrets.
Marlene King: I'm so excited! The challenge for me was coming up with a story that paid homage to PLL, that really honored the brand, but yet felt really new. [It’s] a brand-new show with brand-new stories and I think we did a pretty good job of pulling that off.
Talk to us about Beacon Heights -- how is this town different from Rosewood?
Well, Beacon Heights is very different from Rosewood. PLL was shot almost entirely as a Warner Bros. backlot show, which most fans already know, but this pilot and the show is going to be shot in and outside of Portland, Oregon. We're being true to [The Perfectionists] books. They take place in the Pacific Northwest in Beacon Heights, so that's our new world.
This book is inspired by another book series from Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard called The Perfectionists -- how much are you drawing upon this source material and then infusing it into this new show?
Well, I don’t want it to be a spoiler for people who haven’t read the books yet, but the books have a twist in them that would be kind of impossible to pull off on a TV show. So I think it was great inspiration for the show, but we kind of go off [book] a little bit sooner rather than later -- unlike with PLL, which I think we were really true to the first four books.
In the 30-second teaser for PLL: The Perfectionists, we discover that Ali is moving to a new town, and it looks like she’s starting a new chapter in her life. Can you explain a little bit about why she’s moving?
Well, again, I don’t want it to be a spoiler because we do address that in the pilot, but she and Mona have a conversation about that and we understand why she's making this journey. It's a personal journey for her and there's something that she has to accomplish, I think, for her own sense of self. You'll hear about that right away in the pilot story.
A lot of fans out there are very worried that Ali is going off on this journey and that Emily is not seen in this promo. Should Emison fans be worried about their relationship?
Well, you know, the challenge of this [is that] the starting point [of the show] was who wants to do it? Who wants to really be a part of this new show? And the original four Pretty Little Liars were all ready to go do new things -- that’s just sort of the way the world works. So my challenge then, as the creator of this new show, was to honor Emison's relationship and continue to honor it as we launch this new story. It was a challenge, and I hope we've done the best job possible of honoring what we know is their truth.
You're still close with the original PLL cast — have you talked to Shay Mitchell? Is it still a possibility that we could see Emily on this show?
MK: I think everything is possible. I think our OG PLLs are really supportive of this show and they're really supportive of Sasha and Janel and me and our new cast, and I think everything is possible.
Will we see Alison and Emily’s twin babies in The Perfectionists?
You will see the twins, yeah. They’re a little older now. I think they're toddlers now. They’re, like, maybe 3 [years old].
So does that mean we’re getting a little bit of a time jump at the beginning of this show?
I think it's almost a real-time time jump. From the time that we ended PLL, which was a year ago, to the time this show will premiere, it's sort of real-time.
Let's talk about Ali and Mona -- two of my favorite characters are going to get to interact a lot more. How would you describe their dynamic at the beginning of this new series?
Well, Alison is surprised to see Mona -- you can see that from the sizzle reel when she stops by for pie. Mona is Mona. You never really know whether you can trust her or not, and that continues to be her truth in this new story.
When we last saw Mona in the Pretty Little Liars series finale, she was playing with her living dolls, Alex and Mary Drake, and keeping them captive. Will we get the answer of whether or not those women are still stuck in Mona’s Parisian dollhouse?
You definitely will get that answer in a very cheeky Mona way.
I loved Mona because she was so fierce and she never needed a man -- or a woman -- to define her, but are we see going to see her be in a relationship in this new show?
Yes, I think it's her turn, as an actress and as a character, for us to have a lot more time to spend with her and really get to know Mona better than we already do.
So that sounds like we could definitely get a love interest for Mona. Can you tease anything about this person that Mona will be interacting with?
I cannot, [but] give me a couple more weeks in the writers' room and then I can give you some more information.
We also have Sofia Carson coming into the show playing Ava, who I know has a lot of secrets. What type of secrets could she be hiding? What should fans know about her?
Sofia's character Ava has, in my opinion, one of my favorite [secrets]. Everybody has a secret going into this new show, and her secret is really one of my favorites. I don’t want to give up what it is, but it's pretty awesome and it's pretty cool and she's kind of a fierce badass -- in her own Sofia way because Sofia is so adorable.
I love the fact that we have the most badass girls all coming together in Beacon Heights. How would you describe their dynamic together?
Well, we find out in the pilot [that Ali] is coming to Beacon Heights because she got a job at Beacon Heights University. She’s a role model in some ways for these younger kids, and [Ava] is a student at Beacon Heights. I don’t want to give up too much, [but] it’s all good, you'll see.
We would love it. Yes, I talked to Troian about that, and actually Ashley Benson is really interested in directing an episode too, so that would be great if we could figure out all that stuff. She's a baller. [All of the OG PLLs] are smart -- they all could direct if they want.
Always. They’re always welcome. We would always want to find a place for them. I think there's just such a seamless sort of transition to this new show that it's always possible for people to just come in and sort of drop in and visit us.
Looking back at the series finale of Pretty Little Liars, a few fans were upset that Spencer and Toby’s ending was left a bit more open-ended than the other couples. You’ve expressed on Twitter that you’d like to write more scenes for the fans for Spencer and Toby’s future. Do you have any Spoby updates for us?
Do I have any Spoby updates? I kind of know where they are in my mind, and honestly I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write that chapter, but I still will. I'll do it.
Can you give us just a little peek into your mind?
They’re happy, I know that. They’re happy. They're living in Philadelphia; they're not living in Rosewood. Toby is helping to build housing for the homeless and Spencer is getting her law degree.
For the Pretty Little Liars fans out there who are going to tune into PLL: The Perfectionists next year, what do you want them to know before they watch this first episode?
MK: Well, they can go back and binge Pretty Little Liars, which I think a lot of people are doing right now. I just noticed on social media because of the “A” birthday or anniversary of the original airing of the show yesterday, and a lot of people seem to be going back to the show to binge. You don’t have to have watched Pretty Little Liars to enjoy The Perfectionists, but you'll find a lot of Easter eggs in the new show if you do. Just prepare for a fun new ride.
Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists will premiere in 2019 on Freeform.