Q&A: Janel Parrish Talks “Pretty Little Liars” Reveal, Future of Mona and Much More

March 21, 2012

JANEL PARRISH

Now that we know who “A” is on “Pretty Little Liars,” have you been rewatching the past seasons to see if there were clues you missed?

Janel Parrish, who plays Mona aka “A” answered a bunch of questions for press yesterday and we have all the scoop right here. Find out what Janel says about the future of Mona, the “A” team, maybe pitching a musical episode and more.

Was it a hard transitioning from the bubbly Mona that fans are used to, to the dark twisted Mona that we saw last night in the episode? Yes. That was definitely the most challenging part and also the most fun part was transitioning from this bubbly character that I’ve played for two years to this dark, psychopath character that I’ve never in my life played before. That’s what made it so appealing was that it was a challenge. It was fun and I had to just kind of let go of this character that I’ve built for two years and create a new one and just go there. That’s what was really, really fun.

You’re doing Spring Awakening in L.A. Does this mean there will be less Mona in Season 3? Definitely not. I’ve just been made a series regular for Season 3, so it’s very exciting. You will see more Mona. I am doing Spring Awakening in my hiatus because we do not start filming Pretty Little Liars until Season 3 starts April 2, so I’ve had time in my break to do a musical, which has been amazing because musicals are actually my first love.

You’ve probably had plenty of suspicions that you were “A” just because of the books to begin with, so take us through when you first actually found out that you were going to be making this crazy, kind of awesome transition. Well, like you said, I had an idea during the pilot because I read the books, and since I was “A in the books. I’d asked the producers if I was “A” and they were being very coy and saying that I could be “A” but things could change since we’re not following the books exactly. I’d always kind of put it in the back of my mind that I could be “A” and I found out officially the week that we were filming the finale. We got the scripts a week before we started filming it. I read it and I was super excited. It was surreal and it was really hard not to tell anyone that I was “A.”

Has Marlene given you any sort of details about what you’re going to be doing in Season 3 yet that you can share? I do know that Season 3 the premiere will take place six months after Maya’s body was found, so it’s the second anniversary of Alison’s death. Mona will have been in the Radley Sanatorium for the last six months. She’ll get a mysterious visitor. You’ll find out more about that and there will just be more answers and connecting the dots.

The episode kept us jumping from suspect to suspect, but before you found out for sure, was there a moment in the scripts that you became absolutely convinced that you were “A”? Was a there a moment you always look back on and, “I just have to be ‘A’?” I started to suspect that it was me once I started getting texts from “A.” That does happen in the books and I know that Mona was sending them to herself, so I had a feeling that that’s where they were headed with it. Like I said, they never confirmed that I was “A” until I got the script, so I was trying not to get my hopes up too high.

Mona mostly had scenes with Hanna, but these past few episodes you were getting more in with the other girls and Caleb, of course, but as “A” now it just opens up this entire new world for Mona and you both. Is there anyone in the cast that you haven’t had too many scenes with yet that you’d like to see Mona interact with the upcoming season? Interestingly enough, Marlene has said that people will start having scenes with each other that you didn’t even know knew each other, so I’m excited. I think a lot of people in Rosewood are connected that the viewers don’t know about yet, so we’re going to start to see all of that come to light in Season 3. I do think I’m going to have some scenes with people I’ve never had scenes with before, which is always fun to work with new people.

How is the revelation that Mona is “A” going to affect her friendship with Hanna? It’s safe to say their friendship is ruined. I kind of hope to see a showdown. I think that would be awesome. If Mona and Hanna meet face-to-face, I think it would be a very interesting interaction so I’m hoping Marlene gives that to me. It would be fun.

We learned at the very end of the finale that there might be a “Team A,” so what are we going to learn about “Team A” and Mona’s mysterious visitor in Season 3? You will definitely learn about that in Season 3. I don’t know exactly when. I know that they’ve started writing the episodes. I have not seen anything yet. I’m super excited to see where it’s going, but yes, Season 3 is going to start to get crazy.

Throughout the series there have been some hints that you were “A.” Can you tell us what any of those were? Definitely. I think once you look back now that you know who’s “A” you’d definitely find some sly little hints in there. Definitely the scenes where I’m helping Emily hack into the vice principal’s system to find out that he was bribed definitely shows that Mona had some technical skills that people didn’t know about. It also shows that she has a little bit of a devious side.

There is a scene where Mona finds out that Jenna is dating Noel and I saw in the script they wanted me to have a moment where I just looked very angry. I remember it said something like, “Mona is …, and not just in a ‘you stole my boyfriend kind of … off way,’” and that was kind of telling to me that they wanted me to show a different side. I think, yes, if you go back and watch some of the episodes you’d find some hints.

Mona has always been pretty harsh with Lucas and last night we saw Lucas maybe has a dark side coming out in him with his meeting Jenna. Is there any relationship there that we didn’t know about, that we should be expecting next season? Yes. It will be very interesting. I’m not even entirely certain the answer to that question, but I know that the writers do everything for a reason. If they show you a glimmer of something it’s for a reason. Nothing is an accident.

How are you going to be playing this role differently now that you know that she’s such a sinister character? Well, I think that kind of depends on what the writers give me because I’m not sure where they’re going to take this. I kind of need to get the script and see how I prepare, but I know when I did get the script for the finale it was totally different. My whole mindset of how to play the character was completely changed.

It’s really just, like I said earlier, letting go of everything that I’ve created for this character for two years. Everything that I’ve built upon for this character doesn’t really matter anymore. Unless there are flashbacks of me as that Mona, I’m now creating a new character. It’s really exciting and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Congratulations, you’re a series regular for Series 3 and I’m assuming that means that you’re not going to be stuck in that Radley Sanatorium the whole time. Where do you want to see Mona go? Do you want to just see her completely unhinged in Series 3 or seeking redemption? How would you like that to play out? I’d love to see her seek redemption. I’d love it if she could just break out and go crazy and wreak some havoc on Rosewood, but I can honestly tell you I have no idea where it’s going to go. That would be my choice.

We found Maya’s body at the end of the episode. Do you know if “A” was involved in that murder in any way? Was she texting Emily all along like with Melissa and Ian? I think all of those things will definitely be revealed in Season 3, but like I said, nothing is unconnected in Rosewood. It’s a creepy little town. There are creepy little people in it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if everything is connected in some way. I just don’t’ know to what extent yet.

Mona is one of the most complex characters on the show because her screen time is more limited. How do you feel that parameter helped her keep up the facade of being “A”? I think it was very effective because the fact that I wasn’t always everywhere, I wasn’t readily in the public eye, people can’t say, “Oh, it must be Mona. She’s always around.” They’re very smart with the way that they had my character kind of pop in and out every now and then and make an appearance and leave and then kind of start to build upon my character at the end showing me working my way into the group of girls before the big reveal. I think the writers have been really, really smart with that.

If Pretty Little Liars were to have a crossover with another show, which show would you like “A” to wreak havoc on? Revenge. I love that show so much.

Are you surprised that the TV show followed the book so closely and do you think that people who are watching it are surprised that it was Mona in the end? I am not surprised that we did follow the books in that way. I like the way they did it because it is such a big part of the books that Mona is “A” that I think fans probably would have been upset if they would have changed that, but I think that the way they revealed it went a little different than the books. Obviously, I didn’t die like I did in the books. I survived and they’re taking it in another direction. I think it’s actually great because the book fans get what they have been hoping for and been wanting and expecting, but they get a little bit more of a twist to keep them excited.

Since we were just talking about fan feedback, how has the fan feedback been since you were revealed? Have you been on Twitter and seeing what people are saying? Yes. I’ve been on Twitter. It’s crazy. A lot of it has been great. People are very excited that I’m “A” and they want to see where it goes. A lot of them said that they knew. A lot of them were shocked.

Some of them I guess feel a little disappointed because I guess they were under the impression that it would be different from the books, but really we’ve never said that “A” would be different from the books. We said that the reveal would be different and it kind of was. It didn’t happen exactly the way it went in the books. They will have nothing to worry about because there will be a lot more surprises coming their way.

Now that you know for sure that Mona was “A,” are there any scenes looking back you wish you’d have played differently or that maybe you would play differently now that you know the truth? Interestingly enough, I did go to Marlene King at one point and she gave me a scene. I went up to her and I said, “Is there a certain way you want me to play this because you haven’t really told me 100% that I am “A” yet? I don’t know if you want me to play these scenes differently or if you want me to keep doing what I’m doing. What do you need from me to make your big plan work?” She just said, “Keep doing what you’re doing. We’re giving you these scenes for a reason. Do your thing. We love all your instincts and everything will make sense in the end.” It was kind of nice because I feel like I never really had to worry about it. I just did the material the way they gave it to me and let them kind of guide me.

When you read the part of the script a week before shooting where Mona falls off of the cliff you said you were very excited to find out that you were going to be “A,” but was your excitement ever dampened? That brief moment where you see she falls off a cliff did you think, “Oh, well they just killed me off?” Absolutely. Definitely, especially because in the books that’s what happens is I pull the car over, Spence and I get into a fight, and she pushes me and I fall off a cliff and I die. When I read that my heart definitely stopped for a second and I thought, “Oh, great, this is my last episode of Pretty Little Liars,” until I found out that they saved my life and kept me in the show. I’m just so grateful to still be a part of it.

How did the rest of the cast react when you guys all found that out? Differently. Some of them were very shocked. Some of them had suspicions from the beginning. Overall, everyone was just extremely excited. It was the most intense episode we’ve ever had and everyone felt the excitement, even in the table read room. It was very exciting.

How did you get involved with doing musicals and acting?

J. Parrish I started out when I was six I did the touring company of Les Miserables and went to Broadway with that. That was my first love immediately and then back home in Hawaii I did musical theater until I moved here when I was 14 and then started getting into TV and film. It’s really exciting to go back to musical theater after all this time.

I saw on Twitter that Pretty Little Liars was trending eight times all over the world so that was great to see. How did Mona know about Aria and Ezra? I don’t think we quite find out how she got all the information. Yes. I think a lot of those questions will definitely be answered in Season 3. I don’t even know 100% how Mona gets everything. She definitely mentioned an “A Team” so that’s a possibility and you know she also had Alison’s diary. That’s how she knew about a lot of past things, but as far as a lot of the present things they did mention that Hanna’s phone was set to record every time it would turn on so obviously she can hear what’s going on. As far as everything else, she may have help and we find more about that in Season 3.

What do you think the chances are that we might see a Pretty Little Liars musical episode? That would be fantastic. Man, I would love that. I would love that, yes, because a lot of us do sing so that would be fantastic.

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