Still wishing Pretty Little Liars was still on the air? Join the club. After seven seasons of pure unadulterated and glorious melodrama, the Freeform (formerly ABC Family) series finally came to an end last June, leaving fans with some kind of closure (even if it wasn’t everything one hoped).
Based on a set of YA novels by Sara Sheperd, the show was set in the fictitious Rosewood, PA, and followed four high school friends: wannabe writer Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale), overachiever Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario), the hyper-earnest Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell), and seemingly airheaded but actually smart Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson). One year after their friend and leader of their group, Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse), disappears, the girls are suddenly tormented by an mysterious person who calls themselves “A” and threatens to ruin their lives by exposing their secrets.
PLL became an instant hit, gaining a passionate fanbase who dissected every episode and obsessed over their favorite romantic pairings, from “Ezria” to “Spoby” to “Haleb”.
Still, there are some things that aren’t as well known about its young cast, as well as some things that didn’t quite hit right with fans, so we’re here to shed some light.
Here are 15 Secrets Behind Pretty Little Liars Die-Hard Fans Didn’t Know.
15. SASHA PIETERSE WAS ONLY 12 WHEN CAST
Say what? Sasha Pieterse was a mere 12-years-old when she landed the role of Alison DiLaurentis, the mysterious Rosewood teen who could slay with her biting words. The South African’s beauty, poise and maturity certainly showed in an early audition tape, which took place right before she got the Pretty Little Liars job (it was for The Beaver, a part that eventually went to Jennifer Lawrence). Clearly, Pieterse has some acting chops, but it’s hard to believe she was that young when she made the pilot for the hit show.
Another interesting note: Pieterse actually first auditioned to play Hanna, which as we know eventually went to Ashley Benson. It’s a little hard to imagine the enigmatic Pieterse as the bubbly Hanna, so it looks like the parts went to the right people.
14. TAMMIN SURSOK WAS SECRETLY PREGNANT IN SEASON 4
Australian actress Tammin Sursok – who plays Jenna Marshall, the younger step-sister of Toby Cavanaugh (Keegan Allen) – became pregnant in 2013 before Season 4 of the show, so they cleverly hid her pregnancy, as shows are wont to do, with big bags and loosely fit clothing.
Incorporating a pregnancy for teen Jenna probably wouldn’t have fit because the character was there squarely to be a major thorn in the PLL girls’ lives. Maybe it could have been a by-product of her forcing her step-brother into a relationship. But afrter Jenna was blinded by a prank orchestrated by Alison, all Jenna wanted to do was get even with the Liars. No time for a baby.
Meanwhile, Sursok and husband Sean McKewan welcomed daughter Phoenix in 2014.
13. IAN HARDING AND TROIAN BELLISARIO FOUGHT
After seven seasons, the cast of Pretty Little Liars are mostly pretty tight with each other, but there was a time when they didn’t know each another very well.
Troian Bellisario once admitted to Good Morning America that she got into it with Ian Harding, who played Ezra Fitz, the former English teacher at Rosewood High School, when the two first met on the set. Bellisario said, “I got into a huge fight with Ian. He annoyed me.”
So what was the tiff all about? They got into a conversation about biology. Bellisario, who was actually valedictorian of her high school class, didn’t agree with Harding’s comment about evolution. The actress apparently expressed her point of view about it, and it didn’t set well with Harding. Everything’s cool now, thank goodness.
12. ASHLEY TISDALE TURNED DOWN AN AUDITION
This may have been a “d’oh!” moment for Ashley Tisdale. After starring as the sassy Sharpay in the High School Musical series, Tisdale was a pretty hot commodity, and clearly had a flair for playing high-school princesses. It made sense that the producers of Pretty Little Liars would want her to audition to play one of their leads.
Tisdale, however, turned down the offer and instead signed up for the the 2010 CW series Hellcats with fellow Disney Channel alum Aly Michalka. The series followed competitive college cheerleading, but unfortunately only lasted one season – and of course we know what a huge hit Pretty Little Liars was. Oh well.
If we were to guess, Tisdale probably didn’t want to go back to playing a character in high school, even if it was a juicy role (since she herself was well in her 20s).
11. TOBY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE KILLED OFF IN SEASON 1
Toby Cavanaugh was supposed to be killed off in the sixth episode. In the books, Toby returns to Rosewood after being away at school and finds out Alison has gone missing. He and Emily spark, but he says he’s glad Alison is gone because she tormented him years before. Emily takes that as meaning he is “A” and that he killed Ali and wants to get away from him. Apparently, the stress is too much, and Toby ends up committing suicide by a drug overdose in the woods. Such drama!
Fans of the show, however, took to Keegan Allen as Toby in a big way, so producers decided not to kill him off – he stayed with the show for all 7 seasons.
10. SASHA PIETERSE HATED ALI’S YELLOW SHIRT
Because we see much of Alison DiLaurentis on that fateful night she disappeared, the character is seen often wearing the same clothes, including her signature yellow fringe top, bought by Ali’s mother, Jessica DiLaurentis. It became an iconic symbol of that night, and of Alison in general.
Now imagine having to wear the same thing over and over, season after season. Yeah, we’re pretty sure that would suck, and Pieterse has stated she absolutely loathed putting that top on.
On The Talk in 2016, the actress said, “I personally hate that shirt and have from the beginning. And because I got buried in it, and it got dirty and blood on it in so many scenes, there are 13 copies of that shirt. I’d like to take all of them and burn them. Just ruin it.”
9. TROIAN BELLISARIO & LUCY HALE BOTH STRUGGLED WITH EATING DISORDERS
The Pretty Little Liars co-stars each had their own personal struggles with mental health and body image.
Bellisario opened up about her issues in 2014 to Seventeen magazine, saying she put undue pressures on herself as a teenager in order to be what she thought was “perfect.” The actress said she would create “this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world,” like not eating or hanging out with her friends if she had a bad day. “It really backfired.”
Hale also admitted to Cosmopolitan in 2012 that she would go “days without eating” or “have some fruit and then go the gym for three hours” before she finally realized she had a problem and decided to make a change. Thankfully, both Hale and Bellisario have their PLL co-stars to support them at all times.
Bellisario even went on to write, produce, and star in an indie film on the subject in 2017: Feed.
8. THE CREEPINESS WITH THE EZRIA RELATIONSHIP
One of the biggest controversies on PLL has been the relationship between Lucy Hale’s Aria and Ian Harding’s Ezra, aka “Ezria”, because from the start it was creepy and basically illegal.
You see, 16-year-old Aria meets the 24-year-old Ezra in a bar, and they hook up in the bathroom. Later, Aria discovers Ezra is her English teacher, and while falling for your teacher isn’t that unheard of, the fact that they begin a romantic relationship is definitely against the rules.
It’s also later revealed that Ezra knew exactly who Aria was when he met her in the bar – he had been “researching” her for a book he was writing on Alison’s disappearance – and so he was perfectly well aware of how old she was when he kissed her in the bathroom.
7. WERE ASHLEY BENSON AND TYLER BLACKBURN A COUPLE?
Benson’s character Hanna and Tyler Blackburn’s smoldering Caleb Rivers, aka “Haleb,” were definitely one of the show’s hottest couples.
Because their chemistry was palpable onscreen, rumors of them dating off-screen started right up. Judging from all the affectionate Instagram posts, it would certainly seem to be true, but both actors have denied there was anything romantic going on, claiming that they were just besties.
Benson once said, “Relationships are so hard in this business. It’s too much attention when two powerful people are together. Everything is heightened and exaggerated. The strangest thing that I’ve read is that I’ve dated all the male co-stars I’ve had on Pretty Little Liars. None of it is true. It’s disgusting.” Uh huh. Those selfies, though.
6. PHOTOSHOPPED PHOTOSHOOTS
Benson, who has been a big supporter of body positivity, took issue with how the show would doctored the PLL promotional posters. She recently said, “PLL had put up this poster and it was from our first season and it was completely crazy. Nobody looked like themselves.” Her co-star Bellisario agreed, saying couldn’t they just look like themselves at least once.
On the flip side, though, when the girls participated in a 2014 GQ photo shoot, some criticized it for being overly photoshopped, to which Bellisario defended it, saying “OF COURSE WE WERE!” In an Instagram post, she said it was a “very specific type of photo shoot” and what the magazine was looking for. The women all had a real blast getting their hair blowout and wearing bikinis.
5. SASHA PIETERSE STRUGGLED WITH HER WEIGHT
Speaking of body image, Sasha Pieterse had issues with gaining weight because of an hormone imbalance known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. When it looked like she was putting on few pounds on the show, Internet trolls body-slammed her.
“It was really, really hurtful the way people reacted,” the star revealed. “People were staying stuff like, ‘She’s pregnant.’ ‘You’re fat.’ They were angry or mad that I looked like this. It was one of the hardest things I have ever been through.” Instead of hitting back, the actress posted an inspiring message to young girls that they should love themselves no matter what.
Last year, the actress competed on Dancing with the Stars and opened up about gaining 70 pounds in two years due to POS, but how being on the show helped her lose 15 pounds, and she was “feeling herself again.”
4. LUCY HALE ISN’T AS CLOSE WITH HER PLL CO-STARS
Naturally, when you have a cast of four young actresses, rumors will abound that they might not have all got along. From what we can tell, the PLL girls – Benson, Mitchell, Hale and Bellisario – enjoy each other’s company to this day. Benson and Mitchell are legit BFFs, appearing in each other’s Instagram posts all the time, and Bellisario and Hale making appearances as well.
There was a time, however, that it seemed like the others might have been giving Hale a bit of the cold shoulder treatment. When Hale released her Road Between album in 2014, right around the 100th episode of the show, none of the other women seemed to support Hale on their social media accounts (like they had in the past), and Hale was noticeably absent in many of their posts, leaving fans wondering what the deal was. Hale also didn’t join Bellisario on her bachelorette trip, though Benson and Mitchell did.
3. THE TRANSPHOBIC CHARLOTTE REVEAL
When the mask of the mysterious “A” was finally pulled back, many of the fans didn’t dig it. In Season 6, Alison DiLaurentis’ long-presumed dead brother, known as Charles DiLaurentis, was tagged as the leader of the “A” team tormenting our sweet PLL-ers – but when the reveal came in the mid-season finale, “A” turned out to be Charlotte “CeCe” Drake (Vanessa Ray), formerly Charles DiLaurentis and Ali’s transgender sibling.
Some fans felt cheated, waiting all this time only to have it be a lackluster reveal that didn’t explain the mysteries, while others thought of it as a knock against trans people being sociopathic. Showrunner I. Marlene King worried about the backlash but explained to Buzzfeed that CeCe wasn’t a villain because she’s transgender. She’s a villain because she came from a “crazy, crazy family” and it was genetics. Still, that’s kind of messed up.
2. WHAT’S WITH ALL THE LGBT CHARACTER DEATHS?
Speaking of casting shade on transgender individuals, PLL also seemed to kill off an awful lot of its LGBT characters on the show. Shay Mitchell’s Emily, who was openly gay on the show, just could not keep a love interest to save her life – including Ali, who strung Emily along before she “died.”
Other of gay or transgender characters who died include Emily’s faux GF, Sara Harvey (Dre Davis); Shana (Aerial Miranda); and CeCe (Vanessa Ray), who was killed by the first original “A,” Mona (Janel Parrish).
But the one LGBT character whose death really pissed off fans was Maya (Bianca Lawson), Emily’s first girlfriend, who was killed in season 2 by a stalker. King has said that was the biggest fan reaction they ever had on the show. “People sent us pens to write her back into the story. Fans are still very passionate about that storyline.”
1. THE EVIL TWIN BACKLASH
When the series came to a conclusion last year, not everyone was onboard with the major reveals, especially the biggie: Who was A.D. – or Uber A, whichever you want to call them?
There were some highlights and fan-service in the finale, but when it came time for the identity of A.D., we learned it was Spencer’s surprise evil British twin sister, Alex Drake, who wanted to take her sister’s place in life. Wait, what?
Most of the fans’ ire and disappointment were pointed at King who didn’t wrap up some unanswered questions from them (like how did the moms get out of the basement). They yelled about getting “seven years of their life back” and other disparaging comments.
Are there any other dark secrets about Pretty Little Liars we are missing? Let us know in the comments below!