'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin' Team Talks Horror Influences and Crafting a New Generation of Liars

'We always talk about A being one of the stars the way Jason is one of the stars of 'Friday the 13th,"' says co-showrunner Robert Aguirre-Sacasa.
by Amber Dowling — 

'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


It's been five years since Pretty Little Liars wrapped its seven-season stretch of averting and unmasking the murderous assailant A. That original series also unveiled two one-season spinoffs: Ravenswood in 2013 and The Perfectionists in 2019. That's a lot of Liars to go around over the past decade, so when HBO Max announced Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, some wondered why now was the right time to continue the world and what would be different. 

"The 'why now' is one of the things we love about the original was the female friendships and the bond of the girls. We started developing this in a global pandemic when everyone was separated during a lot of strife in our world and in our country. Thinking about celebrating five diverse girls and their friendships and their sisterhood felt timely," co-showrunner Lindsay Calhoon Bring tells Metacritic.

As for what's different, co-showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa tells Metacritic that, while the show exists within the Pretty Little Liars universe, the action moves from Rosewood to Millwood. There, five teens with no history of friendship are forced together when they're targeted by a new mysterious A. As they develop a friendship, they also peel back the layers of a tragedy involving their parents two decades prior. 

Unlike the original series, this show trends a lot more towards the horror genre, with homages to movies like Rosemary's Baby, Friday the 13th, and Halloween.  

"The original PLL obviously flirted with horror and there was mystery and suspense and things like that. But it wasn't ever a full-on slasher horror," explains Aguirre-Sacasa. "We wanted to honor what came before but bring something new to the table and introduce not just a new set of Liars, but a new kind of villain — a Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger type. We always talk about A being one of the stars the way Jason is one of the stars of Friday the 13th." 

But what should viewers know about the final girls at the center of this story, aka the new Liars ahead of premiere? The cast previews who they are and how they fit into the new group for Metacritic, below.  


Bailee Madison in 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


Bailee Madison as Imogen 

Madison was a "die hard" fan of the first series and reveals she looked up to the original actors in a huge way. "I did not shy away from being a very outspoken fangirl on my social media and the receipts are being dug up now as fans are finding them," she says. "My 14-year-old self is screaming right now." 

As for Madison's character, Imogen, there's lots to dig into right away when the show starts. Her family dynamics have never been worse, plus she's on the outs with her former BFF Karen (Mallory Bechtel) following a situation with a guy. When it comes to her new group, however, she's all about being the group mom.  

"Imogen mirrors me slightly within the group because I do think she's a bit like the mom," Madison says. "She keeps everyone on track and is hyper-focused on what needs to be done and uncovering these clues and reminding everyone how dire this situation is." 


Chandler Kinney and Carson Rowland in 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


Chandler Kinney as Tabby 

Kinney was also a fan of the original series and was in middle school when it debuted. "I remember feeling so rebellious because it was my first ever YA show I watched," she says. "There was something so addictive about it, where you just wanted to watch the next episode and figure everything out." 

When viewers meet Tabby, she's slogging long hours at the local movie theater and spouting her love of films with her much older (and potentially inappropriate) boss. That love of movies (especially horror movies) may come in handy when it comes to dealing with real-life serial killers, but in terms of the group, Kinney sees Tabby as the rock.  

"She will always be the shoulder to cry on and the listening ear," Kinney reveals. "Friendship is something that is really important to her and she will always show up for her girls and protect them.  


Zaria in 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


Zaria as Faran 

Zaria recalls being obsessed with Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars book series, on which the original show was based, and she recalls it was a friend (who later turned into her middle school bully) who introduced her to the series. "It's funny having this experience now because so much of it is about bullying," Zaria says. 

As Faran, Zaria is a high school ballet star with a dark past who is determined to succeed. To get into the role and the headspace, Zaria read Misty Copeland's book, Life in Motion. She also says the character feels like one of the most grown up in the group, since she cooks for her dad and makes sure the house has a straight foundation. As a result, Zaria says Faran can feel like a know-it-all at times, but within the friendship group she's also the one with foresight.  

"She always has the simplest answer," Zaria explains. "Like, 'Just stop reading the text messages' is Faran's energy. She's really level-headed and has a maturity in her that is a part of how she grew up at home." 


Maia Reficco in 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


Maia Reficco as Noa 

When Reficco got the part of Noa she was thrilled because she says the original series was a big part of her early teens. "Getting the honor to call myself a Liar now is so insanely exciting," she says. "I could not be more grateful we're in this position. It's pretty ridiculous. I don't know what I'm doing here." 

When Noa appears onscreen, she's got a more mysterious backstory than many of the other Liars — at least at the outset: As viewers dig deeper they'll learn there are specific reasons as to why the character does what she does, and Reficco promises people will understand her better as the season progresses. As for her place in the group, the actor sees Noa as a straight shooter. 

"We all have pretty similar roles in real life as we do within the group," Reficco says. "Noa's straight to the point. She's like, 'What do you want? Let's do this.' She'll hype you up and I'm pretty much the same." 


Malia Pyles in 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


Malia Pyles as Mouse 

When the original Pretty Little Liars came along, Pyles was quite young. But she remembers it being a beautiful piece about these female friendships with some dark twists, which is all the things she loves. 

"It just spoke so much to me and it was also the first time I'd seen a young Filipino actress and also queer representation on TV," she says. "That impact stuck with me for a really long time. Being able to carry on those stories through a different lens has been one of the coolest moments of my life." 

When viewers meet Mouse she's somewhat shy and reserved, but also happy to stick to her own little world. When these new friends come along, it's validating to her because she finally feels seen. That may be why she's constantly checking in with her fellow Liars as part of the group dynamic.  

"I'll check in and ask questions, make sure everyone is okay, ask if they need a hug," she says. "We do occupy different roles [within the group] and we're constantly switching. We all do service our friends in a really beautiful way." 


Mallory Bechtel in 'Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin'


Mallory Bechtel as Karen 

When Bechtel looks back at middle school, Pretty Little Liars was a huge part of her experience. She remembers having sleepovers with her friends and trying to put plot points together. 

On Original Sin, Bechtel plays Karen, a high-achieving popular girl who isn't the nicest person but she has some big dreams. And, as viewers learn as the show progresses, her home life isn't exactly the most stable place.  

She's also the initial villain on the show — or at least she is before A inevitably surfaces. That means she isn't quite in with the rest of the group when it comes to female friendships, but her presence is certainly known.  

"She's incredibly smart and clever and like so many villains are, she is a very sensitive, insecure girl," Bechtel explains. "You see early on she has these demons and the only way she has learned to cope with them is to just lash out and to dominate. She has to prove herself, constantly." 

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin debuts with three of its its ten-episode season July 28 on HBO Max. Two new episodes will then follow on Aug. 4 and on Aug. 11, with the final three episodes debuting Aug. 18.