Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale on the Aria-Ezra Controversy, Why People Think She’s ‘A,’ and the End of the Show

Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage

Not a day goes by without something unexpected happening in the charming town of Rosewood on Pretty Little Liars, but the season-six finale might be in the running for the craziest turn of all — the long-deceased Jessica DiLaurentis not only has an evil twin out for revenge, but it was also revealed she has an associate, Dr. Rollins, who married Alison as part of the plan. Through all of the turmoil and sadistic text messages, our Liars have remained relatively levelheaded compared to years past, especially Aria (Lucy Hale), as she ventures into the promising world of publishing while re-navigating her complex relationship with Ezra Fitz. Following the finale, we spoke with Hale about “Ezria,” why people think she’s “A,” and the future of the show.

First off, I want to say that “A-moji” is perhaps the greatest name for “A” yet.
I know, it’s hysterical. I’ll never forget it ... the season-six “A” starting those emojis. I was like, This is so ridiculous, but it’s so ridiculous that it’ll work. Our show has such a heightened reality that things like that really translate well. It’s of the time and it’s of our generation. I agree, it’s the best name we had for “A” so far.

And those emojis are such bootleg emojis.
A poor man’s version of an emoji, for sure.

How did you and the cast react to Jessica DiLaurentis having a vengeful twin?
I love Andrea [Parker], who plays Jessica. She’s an amazing person and a great actress, and I was devastated when they killed off Jessica. So when I found out they were bringing her back, I was personally really excited. She brings a lot to the show and I’m really curious as to see where they’ll go with that story line in season seven. I’m sure that the twin ... have they released the name of her yet?

Yeah, Mary Drake.
They did, I wasn’t sure. They’re going to work deeper into what Mary’s doing back and how she obviously has to deal with all of these story lines.

I’d like to discuss the relationship between Aria and Ezra. Before the time-jump, there was a decent amount of criticism regarding the fact that there was a romantic relationship between the two, since Aria was a teenager and Ezra was in his late twenties. Did you ever share those concerns?
I remember before the show even aired, and definitely during the first season, there were all of these groups, mainly groups of mothers boycotting the show because of issues like that one. I never as an actress have viewed it as Oh my God this is a forbidden romance, oh my God this shouldn’t be happening. I viewed it as two people who shouldn’t have been together but loved each other anyway. Once people watched the show and saw the chemistry between the two characters they accepted it a little more. Six years later, people will still occasionally bring it up. I personally never did have a problem with it, but I know that a lot of people did.

I really like that they kept them together. We’re nearing our seventh, and looking like our final, season, and it’s looking like they’re going to end up together, at least that’s what I’m hoping for. It just shows that true love pays off and sometimes people are meant to be together.

What have you found most interesting, or even challenging, throughout the evolution of their relationship?
Obviously the first six seasons it was a forbidden romance, not many people could know about it except for their friends, so I constantly had to remind myself that they couldn’t be public about it. Now that we’ve done the flash-forward they seemingly haven’t been with each other during the years that have passed. Ezra more so has been through a lot — he lost his fiancée. I think we later find out what happens to her. Now it’s that friction — they don’t want to admit that they want to be with each other, but deep down they really do. It’s a constant cat-and-mouse thing, a push and pull. But that’s what makes their romance supersexy and mysterious, because you never know what’s really going to happen with them.

Why do you think Aria has always been such a popular suspect for the identity of “A”? Is it really as simple as her name beginning with the letter “a”?
It’s really as simple as that. [Laughs.] Her name starts with an “a” and that has obviously been a very popular letter throughout the course of our show. But the fans of our show really pay attention to details and they come up with their own theories and stories. Some people put the pieces together, like, “Aria was missing in the woods that night because she was doing this or that.” It’s hysterical because a lot of it does make sense. I think, Wow, the writers didn’t think of that. Aria was the one “shushing” in the title sequence. It’s the little things like that. And out of all the girls, she’s the one who's missing in action a lot. Spencer is always there, she’s in the battleground. But Aria sometimes isn’t there, and that raises a lot of eyebrows for some people, too.

What would you say are Aria’s strengths and weaknesses?
She’s a go-getter, she’s very headstrong. Whether it’s finding out who “A” is or her relationships or her career, she sets a goal and does everything she can to achieve it. I’ve always really liked that about her. She’s very loyal with her friendships. She has a strong foundation in pretty much all of her relationships. She cares a lot about people; that goes for all of the girls, too. Weaknesses … it might just be the way that she’s written, but sometimes she can be a little negative. A lot of the other girls play the devil's advocate or are naturally more optimistic. Sometimes I get a little frustrated because I feel Aria takes the negative route, which I don’t necessarily like. And Aria and all of the girls don’t know how to say no. It’s what makes for good television, obviously — there wouldn’t be a television show if the girls just went to the police and tried to stop it all. I think she needs to set a few more boundaries.

How do you imagine Aria spent her college years?
We literally ended season “6A” and jumped right into “6B” within a day, so we didn’t have much time to plan out what the girls had been up to. As far as I know, I want to say Aria had a really good college experience. She left Rosewood and all of the relationships behind and was really putting her best foot forward to make the most of it and get the career she wanted, meet new people, meet a new love, and work hard to forget the torment she went through for all of those years. In my head it was genuinely a good time for her. I think that’s why she’s hating staying in Rosewood so much because she thought she had finally gotten over that chapter in her life.

What do you know so far about season seven’s narratives? Have you begun shooting?
I literally know nothing. We start back in a couple of weeks. I don’t think we even have an air date for when season seven is starting, but we’ll film until about October. The quote that the network has been using is: “this is the beginning of the end of PLL as you know it.” It might not necessarily be the last season of PLL, but it’s looking like this will be the last season with the full cast. As far as the narrative, I don’t know anything. I know the writers are working really hard to make this the biggest and best season yet, because it is the beginning of the end. I’m really excited. It’s fun to play someone a little bit older, it ups the stakes a little bit and changes it up.

There has been conflicting information regarding whether PLL will be ending after the upcoming seventh season. You and Marlene have both spoken out about it, so I won’t bother with that topic, but I will ask — why do you think that would be the right time to say good-bye?
It’s a sensitive subject. We’re going into our seventh year, we’ve shot over, God, 160 episodes. We’ve covered so much area. We really had a great show for a really long time and we’ve kept people’s interest, and I’ve always said that I want the show to end when people still really care and not when people are begging for it to get off the air. We flash-forwarded a little bit, and they’re in a good spot to finally get that peace and find out who “A” is. I’ve said that I even want it to end really darkly. But backtracking to what you said before, this may not be the end. With the complete cast this will be the last year. So in a way, it is ending because not everyone will be there. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Since you’ve been on PLL for so many years, I’d imagine it might be easy to be unfairly typecast into a teen, young-adult demographic —
Yes, right.

Are there any roles you haven’t played yet that you’re eager to explore?
There are so many things I’m itching to get to do. I love the show, don’t get me wrong. It’s been so good to me and I love playing Aria and I love the show, it’s as plain as that. But as an actress I’m constantly wanting to grow and learn and do things that people aren’t expecting of me, and I think I have a lot to offer. I’m ready to explore those areas and take risks on roles. It’s an easy problem to have to be typecast when you think about it; a quality problem. That just means I have to work a little bit harder and prove people wrong. And I love a good challenge. 

Do text notifications now give you major anxiety?
[Laughs.] No. It’s so funny — we use cellphones so much on the show that I’ve grown tired of them. People sometimes ask me, “Do you get scared, are you scared filming the show?” When you’re part of it, obviously you see past it all. No, I luckily haven’t experienced a stalker in my real life. So that’s all good.