When Freeform released the key art for Season 7 of “Pretty Little Liars,” fans were shocked to see one face missing: Ashley Benson’s.
The promotional material for Season 7 prominently features the other four main cast members — Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Troian Bellisario and Sasha Pieterse — so Benson’s absence seemed to suggest that her character’s current situation in the teen mystery/thriller might be more dire than fans had previously assumed.
“People weren’t taking the idea of Hanna possibly meeting her demise as seriously as they should until they saw that image,” executive producer I. Marlene King said in an interview with TheWrap.
The decision to omit Benson from the promotional material was a bold choice for Freeform’s runaway hit series, and it comes as the show — the most successful in the network’s history — appears to be heading into its home stretch.
But despite whispers that Season 7 could be the last of “Pretty Little Liars,” both King and the network are adamant that no decision has yet been made. In fact, King even told TheWrap that there are “lots of ideas floating around” for a potential Season 8, or even a movie to wrap up the series.
Regardless of what the future holds for the series, the new season is being touted by the network as “the end of ‘PLL’ as you know it,” and promises plenty of the twists and surprises fans of the series have come to expect.
Excerpts from the conversation with King:
TheWrap: Were you involved with the decision to keep Ashley Benson out of the Season 7 key art?
King: Ashley was in my office that day when the network came over with the key art. It really was an idea they generated, but they looped us in toward the end to make sure we were on board. Ashley and I both loved it, we thought it was provocative, fun, and exciting … I think people weren’t taking the idea of Hanna possibly meeting her demise as seriously as they should until they saw that image. So I think it was really effective for us.
The twin twist is a big one for fans of the “Pretty Little Liars” book series, so how did you come to the decision to incorporate it in the show now with Mary Drake?
First of all, we just love Andrea Parker, she’s just amazing. I told her when her character died that it wasn’t the end of her story, and she didn’t know what that exactly meant because that was in Season 4. But we’ve had this idea coming for a while, and she’s been very patiently waiting for us. It just felt fun and delicious, so we went for it.
Was Charlotte aware of her mother? Did they meet while they were both in Radley?
That is all part of the story moving forward, but I think you can take from the fact that they find Mary Drake‘s file in the finale that Charlotte was aware of her birth mother.
Did you plan for this backstory from the beginning, when you first introduced Charlotte?
Yes, yes we did … It’s crazy, but if you go back and watch it, it all makes sense. We connected all the dots in a way to make you go, “oh my gosh.” It’s like when we said to the audience a couple times that CeCe was A. If you go back and watch it, it’s right there.
So are we to assume that Mary Drake has been the one texting the girls since the time jump?
I wouldn’t assume anything, but she’s definitely suspicious. And so is Elliott Rollins. But I think the takeaway is that “A-moji” has morphed into “AD.” I think that’s the clear takeaway from the finale.
Aside from the mystery, the romance is a big part of the show’s DNA.
My favorite quote about this season came from Ian Harding when he said it’s the most romantic and deadly season of all.
How do you balance those two elements?
We just sort of found that sweet spot in the middle early on. It used to perplex us. We used to wonder how they could be laughing or having sex while getting these really dark “A” texts, but it just became the world we live in. They still have real-world relationships and real-world problems within this bigger picture where a cloud of doom hangs over them.
A lot of the news surrounding this season has been about old character who we haven’t seen in a while returning to the show. What drove that decision?
Because it’s the end of “PLL” as you know it, we really wanted it to be a season of homecomings and reunions. We thought it would be fun. I literally called every person who’s been on this show and asked them if they would come back this season. Overwhelmingly, everybody wanted to do that. We’re just really happy to have everybody back and be able to populate our show with old familiar faces, as opposed to new ones.
How are you handling that story-wise? Is there one event that brings everyone back together?
It’s many different ways. They all come back for different reasons. Some of them are suspects, some of them aren’t, and some of them are love interests, some of them aren’t. They all bring their own special-ness back to the show and we’re just having fun with them.