Now that the notoriously "A" was revealed to be Mona (Janel Parrish) at the end of the season finale of "Pretty Little Liars," it's probably safe to assume that things will get back to normal in the fictional town of Rosewood, right?
Wrong, of course!
In fact, tonight's season premiere of the ABC Family hit is off and running with the life and death adventures of teens Emily (Shay Mitchell), Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson) and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) as they deal with the fallout from finding out the identity of their tormentor for the past two seasons and also realize that there is much more danger and drama to come.
Our Jim Halterman interrogated Executive Producer Oliver Goldstick about the new season did his best to find out where the show will be heading with these new episodes including the paths for the various romantic pairings on the show, a big 'game changer' that is on the horizon and the deeper mystery about "A" and the fact that, more than likely, she may not have been working alone.
Jim Halterman: Now that this big secret is out does it open things up for the writers or does it actually make things more complicated and challenging because now you have to build the next step, whatever that may be?
Oliver Goldstick: Well, the book sort of set a template for us. We knew this because the book is a series and Sara [Shepard, author of the 'Pretty Little Liars' books] did some fun spinning with it because A is one larger person who is controlling others, a puppet master. So we've always played to this notion.
This whole first 12 episodes of - we call it 'Season Three A' - 'A' is very present still. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water 'A' is back. The question becomes can Mona be pulling strings from behind bars? Can Garrett (Yani Gellman) be pulling strings from behind bars? Does quarantining people mean that they can no longer perpetrate evil? Do they have minions? Do they have endless people they can send out into the world to do their bidding? That's one of the things we're exploring. It's just kind of exciting because, once again, we're going to find out more about Alison (Sasha Pieterse) and Maya (Bianca Lawson), both of them, the encounters they had that we just didn't see, that happened off camera those first two seasons. There were things that we didn't get [and] weren't privy to that we're going to start exploring. And you're going to realize, 'oh, wow, this web is very tangled because people did know each other and people like Holden (Shane Coffey) or Noel Kahn (Brant Daugherty), people actually had encounters that were very volatile and that will sort of pay off this coming season.
JH: How much time do we spend with Mona in what I'm going to call the insane asylum? That's such a great place to have a lot of really creepy, great stuff!
OG: As far as being in the snake pit, we don't spend a huge amount of time there but Mona is very sphinx-like. She seems to have answers but not forthcoming. So, our girls really do need something from her and they need to know if in fact Mona was acting alone and if Mona can still perpetrate these kind of deeds from her safe but enclosed cell.
JH: Is Mona an all-on villain now or is there still going to be reason for us to sympathize with her because we've always kind of felt for her because we know she's always felt like the outsider?
OG: I'm glad you said that because that's a big yes. In fact that's huge because there is, especially with Hanna. They both were somewhat ostracized and marginalized in junior high school and we do play into that. Particularly Hanna has a certain amount of sympathy and compassion for Mona's situation even with all the evil things Mona seems to have perpetrated in the first two seasons. There's questions because, as you know too, those who watch the show closely, there were times they thought how could Mona, indeed, be 'A?' How could she have been in the stable with Hanna and those horses and given Emily a massage across town? Do you know what I mean? Our 'Pretty Little Liars' bring those questions up in the first two episodes when we come back.
JH: Talk to me a little bit more about Hanna. I'm guessing she's going to be very conflicted because she does have these friends feeling for Mona but then also loyalty to her other friends, the core girls. Is that a conflict at all for her?
OG: I think she's torn. I think she's very torn because her friends don't share any history with Mona. And we should include Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) in this mix as well because Caleb is part of the series very much this year. You've got Caleb and the other three PLLs who would question any kind of loyalty Hanna would display for Mona. That kind of allegiance would be really questionable to them because they don't have history with her and to them this is a really dark person.
JH: And poor, poor Emily, who lost her love, Maya, in the season finale...
OG: Poor Emily... I shouldn't say poor [but] that's much of Emily's arc in this early part of the season coming back as everyone is perceiving her as that, too. She's kind of tired and it ends up coming to bite her big time by being perceived as made of glass. So she acts out in some ways because of that.
JH: From the preview clips it looks like it's going to be a dark path because obviously when you lose anybody, a loved one, you react, right?
OG: Yeah, yeah. She's got some fall out, some real dramatic fall out. Actually really all 12 episodes of this Three A season Emily is trying to put together the pieces of a lot of things that are broken for her. She basically has to find a way to find some kind of stability in her life. Again, there are people who she trusts, people she's somewhat leery of [and] for her to love and trust again is not going to be easy. Not particularly with our girls so much but with people outside the inner circle of the 'Pretty Little Liars.'
JH: Let's talk Aria and Ezra (Ian Harding). It seems like so many of the barriers that were kind of keeping them apart in the beginning of the series all seem to have gone away now. They've aged a little bit. He's no longer at the school. But what's their journey this season?
OG: Well, there's one different journey because now if they are out as a couple they are able to live aloud. The repercussions are he is at a place in his life where he's unemployed, he's struggling with work, which affects people's self-esteem, as we know. Aria has to deal with the fact of 'how do I integrate him into my life with my high school friends?' The bigger question we're dealing with in the first five, six, seven episodes is that her parents are not on the same page. Ella (Holly Marie Combs) has made some strides in accepting, to a degree, this relationship. Byron (Chad Lowe) has not. I'm happy to say there is a game changer, which I cannot tell you. There's a great game changer in episode eight with the parents, which is really interesting.
JH: Okay, very good. And 'Spoby' (aka Spencer & Toby)? I think we're 'on' right now as opposed to 'off,' right?
OG: Yes, 'Spoby' are on but Spencer has this growing relationship with Jason (Drew Van Acker), her biological half-brother, who really is estranged from his own family and Spencer feels estranged from hers and ends up bonding with him in an interesting way this season. She's willing to even fight for him. Let's put it that way.
JH: Yeah. Now, with everything going on with everybody, is there room on the show to still have some fun once in a while because these are teenagers?
OG: Yes, yes, yes. We found out Jenna (Tammin Sursok) had sight at the end of last season. She was hiding it from the girls. Well, the girls are going to find that out pretty soon. Maya's cousin is coming to town, a lovely actor named Sterling Sulieman is playing that. He's a new character in the show. Our girls also didn't know Allison had a mentor, one of Jason's ex-girlfriends, we're going to meet her.
But there's some fun to be had with that. And they still have the trials and tribulations of being in high school and trying to earn their parents' trust and constantly pushing the envelope of what they can get away with. That is where I think the show is deeply relatable. I don't think most kids deal with unhappy things and... if I can say this out loud... death and where they're being stalked by someone who would take their lives. Most kids don't have to deal with bullying. This is heightened and we know that. But the show has always made, I hope, a valiant attempt to make it relatable by the stories we tell. There is some fun stuff. It is still new loves, new romances, people coming into your life when you most need them, new friendships. These things are part of the season.
"Pretty Little Liars" airs Tuesdays at 8:00/7:00c on ABC Family.