Troian Bellisario: ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Exists Because of Social Media

Troian Bellisario at the People’s Choice Awards. Photo: Getty Images

On Wednesday night, Pretty Little Liars scored the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Drama, a win that should be unsurprising considering the show’s rabid online fan base. The series will be back on January 12 and the upcoming episode marks a big change in its plot line. As the second half of season six opens, the show will jump five years ahead, taking its four main characters out of high school and into the real world. There’s also now a new villain to contend with. We caught up with Troian Bellisario, who plays Spencer, to discuss where that time jump brings the characters both personally and style-wise. Plus, the actress had some thoughts on how Hollywood could put social media to better use this year.

Yahoo Style: What’s the biggest thing that’s changed for Spencer when Pretty Little Liars returns?

Troian Bellisario: She got bangs! No, it’s that she has a career and she has a life and she has a life outside of Rosewood. That’s what’s amazing. She’s no longer going to Rosewood High. She gets to be her own woman and she has a job that she has to be responsible for. I think that the was the most exciting thing to play. And the really big change is that A is no longer the center of her life. So she actually gets to be a normal person after so much trauma.

So much trauma! I don’t know how those girls even get out of bed in the morning.

That’s what I keep asking the writers. I was like, ‘Do we ever just have like a beach vacation episode? Or an extended therapy week-long episode?’

Is it a relief for your character not to be a high school student anymore, especially since you’re not high school aged yourself?

Yeah. The interesting thing is that was never really a high school show. It took place in a high school, but we were always meeting in the bathroom. We never turned in classwork. It was just like, ‘Meet me in the cafeteria. We gotta talk.’ So I never felt like I was stuck in high school. The funny thing was the scenes with my character’s parents, who I love to death – they’re the greatest actors ever. But they would exercise parental rights over me and in my head I was like, ‘Dude, I’m 28 years old. Shut up!’ So that was a little bit weird whenever they would restrict Spencer. But I did play a high school role recently that was really about high school.

What role was that?

I can’t really talk about it yet. It’s a film. That actually made it very clear to me that I haven’t been in high school really until now. That was interesting.

Is fashion on the show changing much with the time jump?

Yes, the fashion is changing. Mandi Line, our original costume designer, is now working on a number of other things. We’re now working with this incredible new costume designer. The girls’ styles have really grown up. Spencer has always been very sophisticated and now she’s more sophisticated and elegant. I would say they’re part of the workforce. She’s still very fashion-forward, but she has clothes that are appropriate for an office. And there’s a lot more heels.

Have you ever stolen a look from Spencer?

Yeah, for sure. I think the fans think we steal a lot more than we do, but we’re not allowed to. Because if we ever have to reshoot scene or go back in time – as we often do on our show – they need the outfit. So if you do steal something you have to let them know because they’ll come back to you and be like, ‘We need that shirt from four seasons ago. Go find it or you’re dead.’

The People’s Choice Awards are voted on by fans, unlike most awards. Does that especially resonate with your show?

Yeah. Our show is entirely in existence because of the fans. We were fortunate enough to be one of the first social media bubble shows. Our show lives or dies by Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat – all of those things that have just recently come into play. It’s all a way of connecting the fans who watch the show and work on the show. Something like the People’s Choice Awards is almost a mirror of that similar process where it’s not voted for by the Academy, it’s not voted for by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or a small group of people. It’s voted for by anyone who can go online and click a button for who they want to see win. Pretty Little Liars really is a fan-driven show just like this is a fan-driven awards show.

As we head into 2016, what do you think Hollywood could do better this year?

We’re all getting used to the fact that social media connects the world in a way that we’ve never previously considered. So what I’m hoping to see is that it goes less in the direction of connecting people in Tokyo with the breakfast burrito I just ate and more so with wildlife foundations they can support or ways they can decrease their energy consumption. So many people do use social media as a tool for good and I’d like to see Hollywood use it as a tool for good rather than a means of gossip.

What is a good way to decease your energy consumption on a daily basis?

Well, I just got a bike. I’m terrible on bikes. But my finance and I just bought bikes and we’re about to start a play down in San Diego so we’re committed more to getting around on bikes. I’m very excited about that – and terrified because I’m not so good on a bike. And also look at what you eat and the way you eat. The way we have become accustomed to eating in America with meat three times a day it takes a lot of processing and causes a lot of methane gas. I’m not trying to take away your bacon, trust me. But if we minimize our meat and eat in a more conscientious way I think we could actually make a lasting impact on the world.

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