Pretty Little Liars Showrunner I. Marlene King on Fan Theories, Uber A’s Identity, and That ‘Batshit Crazy’ Finale

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Photo: Eric McCandless/Freeform

The game has ended. Following months of speculation and a never-ending supply of fan theories, the series finale of Pretty Little Liars revealed the identity of “Uber A,” the archvillain who betrayed the Liars and everyone they love most. After all of this time, Spencer Hastings had an evil British twin named Alex Drake, who meets Wren in London by fate and becomes slowly obsessed with Spencer’s life in Rosewood. After her half-sister Charlotte gets murdered, Alex assumes the identity of “A.D.” to discover who did the deed, solidifying her desire to kidnap Spencer and take over her life to finally get the friends and family she never had. It’s an absolutely insane finale, and frankly, the perfect way for the Freeform drama to bow out after all of these years. Earlier today, showrunner I. Marlene King called Vulture up for one final chat about the finale, keeping Uber A’s identity under wraps, and the one death scene that had to be cut.

I loved the finale. It was just as batshit crazy as I hoped, so I’m glad to talk with you one last time about the show.
Thank you. That’s one of my words, too, batshit crazy. We’re on the same page.

Are you getting the reaction you hoped for?
To be honest with you, I have not gone on social media. I’ve stayed off intentionally because every time there’s a finale, there’s all these people who love it and all these people who don’t love it, so I’m saving myself a few days.

How did you keep the Uber A revelation from leaking on set? How many people were privy to it? Did you use a code word?
We would use code words for A a lot. Especially because Warner Brothers tours are really popular on the back lot, we would have code words or a phrase. We wouldn’t say names and we wouldn’t even use the letters A.D., but I will say this was the longest we asked our actors or cast and crew to go with a secret, because we finished in October and the finale didn’t air until last night. We really did a give a big disclaimer of, “You guys, this is the biggest secret of all and you’re going to have to keep it for the longest amount of time, so please, do your best.” They did great, though. I always say that if Snapchat were invented when the show first started, we would have been screwed — so many spoilers came out with Snapchat — but other than that we did alright.

I’m guessing NDAs probably helped as well. Did you make the cast sign them?
Yes, we did that. We didn’t in the first couple seasons, but then we started to with the last couple.

What were the conversations like between you and Troian Bellisario to help her develop this entirely new persona?
We talked about it a lot together. Troian loved this dichotomy of Alex having grown up on the streets, so we worked that into the mythology and the backstory of her character. She wanted her accent to be very different from Wren. Wren is polished and she wanted to be much less polished, so we worked on a lot of that stuff together. There’s even a little notice that she has a little chipped tooth before she meets Charlotte.

When did you tell Troian? I know she learned about it before everyone else.
She knew two years in advance, so she knew at the beginning of season six. Very much on the down-low, we worked together over the course of season six and we talked so much about the character. We saw the black hoodie and stuff, but we didn’t see Troian Bellisario as Alex Drake until season seven.

Before you decided to give Spencer an evil twin, did you float around any other serious contenders for the “Uber A” title?
We did. You know, I loved the idea of Wren, I knew he was going to be a part of it. Originally, he was the first on my list to be Uber A, but Julian Morris is such a busy actor. We got him for a day for the finale as it was, so we realized early on that we really had to pick somebody who was a series regular, so we could guarantee that they would be available to us.

I can’t believe you turned Wren into a necklace. That poor beautiful man! 
Well, I’ll tell you: We were supposed to have him for two days and we wrote this great death scene where Alex Drake killed him in the finale, but we couldn’t do it because we lost Julian and we only had him for one day. So, that was a happy accident that came out of Julian’s availability.

What was Wren’s death scene going to be?
He was going to show up at the church and then try to get Alex to change her mind about becoming Spencer, basically. She just couldn’t handle the thought of always thinking of her as Alex, so she basically was like, “Step in the fire escape.” The ladder from the fire escape was going to come down and cut off his left side. It was going to be an awesome death scene. I’ll save it for something else.

The show already had one twin reveal with Mary Drake and Jessica DiLaurentis, and then you revealed that Alison gave birth to twin girls as well. How and why did you decide to inject the narrative with a final set of twins?
We knew Alex was going to be the twin. Since they were having babies and twins run in the family, we thought, “It’s the finale, come on, one more set of twins. Everything in threes.”

The “Spencer has an evil twin” theory has been popular among fans for a few weeks now. Looking back, do you wish you dropped fewer clues, or were those hints important to telling the story?
We really wanted to make it possible for the fans to figure it out. It was a popular theory, but there were other popular theories too. I think with the original Mona [revelation], more people wished that we had strayed away from the books with Charlotte — people thought it was too scary — so now we wanted to split it down the middle in that sweet spot.

Were you disheartened that internet sleuths developed the twin theory so quickly, especially since the “A” reveals of Charlotte and Mona were met with such genuine shock?
I feel like people started seeing it as soon as we did that dream scene. Over the course of the last ten episodes, I just kept seeing it shift back and forth on social media, so it was still a question in people’s minds. There would be times where we’d make you think something on the show and we’d do it intentionally and then twist it at the last minute.

I appreciated the last scene of Mona, who finally got justice by winning the game. 
We’re on the same page! You and I should write a show together.

I. Marlene King on the Pretty Little Liars Series Finale