Pretty Little Liars premieres tomorrow night at 8 pm on ABC Family. The show centers around four girls: Aria, Hanna, Spencer and Emily who grew apart when their best friend Alison went missing. There is drama, intrigue, mystery and everything that makes for a hit show. And of course, big secrets and big lies. I recently had the chance to chat with Laura Leighton, who plays Hanna’s mom, Ashley Marin. She talked about playing strong, female characters, how she relates to her character, and what it’s like playing a single mom.
How did you find out about this role?
Pretty Little Liars is a pilot script that was going around during pilot casting season, and everyone I knew had read it, and everyone was loving it and hoping to audition for it. I was going through the process. I read the script, loved it, and auditioned for the role of Ashley. I waited to find out who they were going to cast as Hanna, and I was lucky enough to match up with Ashley Benson.
What do you find challenging about the role?
It’s a juicy part, which I love. It’s challenging, always, to have a character that’s acting sort of outside your own moral compass; making choices that you wouldn’t necessarily make. Ashley is certainly finding herself in the position of making some parenting choices and choices in general for herself and her family that are a little bit shocking. You have to find a way to justify that within the character and go, “Okay, what kind of person would do this, and where is she coming from?” And it’s a challenge. It’s fun. It’s always fun to figure that out, and certainly more fun than playing someone who is very boring and milk toast and predictable.
But is it a show your own children will be allowed to watch?
I do have a couple of older children—teenagers, that I think are within the demographic and it could be appropriate and definitely appealing for them. My younger children definitely not, but they’re use to that. Just sort of like that’s where we go to work, and as far as their concerned they’d rather we’d just stay home and play.
Could you tell us a little bit about your character and what we can expect to see from her in the show. Just her personality or things you like about her; just a little more info.
Well, Ashley Marin is the single mother on the show, parenting one of the girls—one of the pretty little liars, and Hanna is her daughter. And Ashley is working to keep it all together, as any single mom has to. She’s a business woman; she’s got a bit of an edge. She’s very matter-of-fact, and she places very high value on appearances. She wants to maintain her image and pulling herself together every day is high on her list. So when her daughter makes the mistakes and she needs to cover those up, she acts in desperation and thinks of the best thing she can think of at the time. Like how she should try to cover up and what’s the best way to do it. She’s really just trying to maintain appearances and her life and her lifestyle. She’s struggling to balance it all.
I just wanted to know how playing this character compares to some of your previous roles. Sydney, for example, comes to mind.
Well, yes, going from Sydney to this character, I definitely think they’re completely different characters, different roles within the show, and the shows themselves are different. But it is funny. I find myself playing a character who makes some controversial choices. I don’t know if it’s because once you play one role that goes in that direction it’s easy to see you doing it again, and some people are able to envision you in that role and you’re more likely to get cast. I don’t know. I’m happy to have the opportunity. Like I said, I think it’s always much more interesting to play somebody who’s got some gray areas, and maybe a dark side and some questionable attributes. There’s some humanity in them. It’s just interesting. It’s interesting to try to figure it out, and I think it’s more fun than playing somebody predictable.