Returnees as well as new characters fuel fresh Freeform mysteries
With the role it played in helping Freeform build its brand, it figures the network would bring “Pretty Little Liars” back in some form.
Original co-stars Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish return as the spinoff series “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” premieres Wednesday, March 20. Echoing the first show – which ended in 2017 and also was based on Sara Shepard’s novels — secrets and lies abound in supposedly ideal Beacon Heights, where a death prompts locals to probe the skeletons in many closets. Kelly Rutherford (“Gossip Girl”) plays a pivotal resident, with Sofia Carson (“Descendants”), Sydney Park (“The Walking Dead”) and Hayley Erin (“General Hospital”) also in the ensemble cast.
“Pretty Little Liars” fans will see some shifts in characters they’ve known, as with Pieterse’s once-manipulative Alison. “What’s charming about her now is she has a lot of wisdom,” the actress maintains. “There’s humor that comes with that, but also, it’s way more than that. It’s deeper, and what I love about ‘The Perfectionists’ is that if you’ve never watched the (original) show, you totally get it. You understand all of it. But if you were a ‘Pretty Little Liars’ fan, you appreciate so much of it without it being too in-your-face.”
Returning executive producer I. Marlene King concurs that the “PLL” faithful won’t feel “The Perfectionists” leads them astray. “Our fans are our family,” King says. They’re ‘PLL Fandom,’ as they call themselves. We’ve embraced that tonally with the new show, but we’re bringing extra-special juju that’s new and exciting and fun and relatable. With social media’s influence, it feels like it’s something we really want to address … this idea that people feel like they have to live their perfect lives and be perfect in every way. Because we know that’s impossible.”
One aspect “The Perfectionists” intends to carry over from “Pretty Little Liars” is not talking down to its core audience. King explains, “We sort of had a rule in our writers’ room that we never would say, ‘Would a 15-year-old say that?’ We treat our characters as if they are adults because they are solving very important, mature problems in their lives, and I think that helps us just create this natural balance. Even though they are their age, they are still dealing with very grown-up problems and situations on our show.”
Pieterse agrees with that approach, as she always has. “On ‘Pretty Little Liars’ in the beginning,” she recalls, “those decisions and those thoughts were very respected because I feel like teenagers, or young adults, need to be heard. Their opinions matter. It’s justified and valid, and I think that’s part of what moved us and made us so relevant and loved.”