Pretty Little Liars, a breakout hit drama from ABC Family, has been embraced by critics and fans alike. It is one of those shows that is popular among a wide variety of demographics and contains everything that makes an original, successful show. I adored the book series it was based on and was even more thrilled when it came to one of my favorite networks. It has exceeded my expectations in so many ways and I can’t wait to see more. This week’s episode, titled “Please, Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” is a pivotal one. And as Shay Mitchell (Emily Fields) says we will get to see a lot more layers to Emily that we haven’t seen before. Shay was sold on the series since the title (who wouldn’t be?) and we talked about everything from the Emily and Maya relationship to her similarities with her on screen persona.
What originally drew you to the role? I know you originally tried out for the role of Spencer.
Everything from just hearing the title. I got the call from my manager and she was like I have this pilot called Pretty Little Liars and I was like “Stop. How cool is that title?” She’s like “I know, but let me tell you more about the storyline.” So really, I didn’t know too much about it when I auditioned for it. I had my character’s background, and that’s kind of where I got the whole idea of what it was. After getting further along in the audition process, I did a Google search and a whole bunch came up at me. I got that it was a book series, and had a very big popular fan base. So that’s kind of where I found out about all that. I only really knew about my character, but the title was amazing.
Yeah well, it’s a really good title! And are you anything like Emily at all?
There are some qualities about Emily — especially when she’s with her four friends — sometimes the things she does, I’m like “Oh, I’d be that same way.” I think she has a lot of respectful qualities about her. One: she’s extremely loyal to her friends. She can keep a secret. I’m sure that if you were to tell your secret to someone, you should tell it to Emily. She’s the smoother-over. She wants everything to be good, so she tries to keep the peace in her group of friends. I like that about her, and I try to do the same in my group of friends, so those qualities.
Emily’s obviously going through a phase of her life that I feel like a lot of teenagers go through. It’s a rather groundbreaking subject for a show like Pretty Little Liars. Why do you think it’s important to tackle?
I think the way that they’ve done it with her character is completely different from other shows and other characters. On other shows, they have a lesbian character, or they have a gay character. But with this show, you can’t really label her. And I think there’s so many teens, they watch these shows and they are like “Oh yeah, that girl is a lesbian, or this guy’s gay,” but with Emily, they’re like “I might be able to identify with this character more because she doesn’t know.” And they might not know at that time what they’re going through. So I love the fact that they are not putting her in one category right now, and she’s just figuring it out, going along with it. She’s experimenting and figuring it out. So I think that’s really cool. And it’s different from other shows that I’ve seen in the way that they’re doing it.
Yeah, absolutely. Have you gotten a lot of feedback on the Emily and Maya storyline?
I have. Some of the most amazing comments I’ve been getting was that the show has really helped them out a lot, they’ve been able to find themselves a little bit more. And from the older fan base, they’re messaging me saying they wish the show as on ten years ago when they were in high school, it really would have helped them out to know that someone else is going through the same thing. And I think it’s awesome. The fact that teens are watching this, sometimes with their family, the subject may be a little bit easier to talk about, or start talking about, because it’s right there, and we’re not hiding from it. I think it’s very cool. So yes, I have been getting very good feedback.
That’s very good to hear. Emily’s the peace keeper as you said, but she also has many layers. Is there a lot about her that we don’t know yet?
I think there is. It’s like peeling the onion. And right now, I think we’ve only got through the first few layers. She is different from the other characters, because she’s not putting it all out there. She’s a very mysterious person, there’s a lot of different layers to her. So going along, I guess she is quiet, and she is a peace keeper, but there may be some other stuff about her that will be coming out in the later episodes that people might not have expected that that’s who she was. There’s many different layers to Emily.
And has playing a character with so many layers been a challenge for you?
No, it’s been very, very exciting. In every episode, I learn a little bit more about Emily. And I learn a little bit more about the way that she would think about things or handle the situation. And I’m very excited to come back and shoot the next twelve, with more knowledge of her. And even on my break, I’m always kind of wondering “Huh, I wonder what she would do.” I put myself in her shoes for a little bit, and it’s very exciting. I think it’s great to play a character with different layers.
You read the books. Did you take any of what you read and bring it into your portrayal of Emily?
Oh totally. I think for an actor to have such an amazing back story, with the books being written about her and any other character, it’s amazing to go in with. That’s who the fans loved when they heard about Pretty Little Liars. They got to love the Emily that was written about, so of course I had to take that on, along with other things to make it a little bit different. Because I am playing it and it’s coming from my imagination on the show. So yes, I did take a huge, huge chunk of what Sara had written about her. And from reading it, I feel like her spirit came into me and that’s what I’ve been playing with. Not all the events are the same that happen in the books, so with that, I have to do my own take on what I feel Emily would do. And that’s kind of been what I’ve been doing.
Right, I know a lot of the Emily and Toby moments weren’t in the book and they’ve been great. So I wanted to know if you have a favorite moment from filming the show?
Favorite moment? I must say, as bad as I felt for Emily, in the homecoming episode, for me, was very exciting. (laughs) Getting to run around in those heels was fun, and I had a blast shooting that episode. I won’t speak for Emily on this, but for me, I really enjoyed shooting the homecoming episode.
Well, it was great to watch. And I know you can’t spoil too much, but can you give us a little teaser of what’s coming up for Emily? I know there is a big episode coming up this week.
Yes, I will say that you will get to know a couple more layers of Emily’s character tomorrow. And (laughs) I wish I was able to say a lot more, but I can’t!
I understand. I’m obviously sold on the show, but if you had to tell viewers why they should tune in, what would you say?
I would say if you like drama, mystery, good relationships, and to be on the edge of your seat for an entire hour, then you should watch Pretty Little Liars because it has all that and more!
Be sure to tune in tonight to ABC Family for an all new episode of Pretty Little Liars!