This March, the greatest shocker in Pretty Little Liars history -- that ABC Family was launching a spin-off featuring Tyler Blackburn's Caleb Rivers -- left fans dazed and confused. Dazed because this meant we'd be gifted with two hours of Marlene King's unique brand of brilliance per week. Confused because, according to Blackburn, many fans didn't understand that this meant he would be leaving PLL, and Hanna, for good.
With four months to marinate on the implications of Ravenswood's introduction, countless questions have arisen about Haleb's future, Caleb's goodbye and the promise of this new series. All of which was up for discussion when I sat down with Blackburn, over coffee, at ABC's Television Critics Association Press Tour day.
ETonline: What was your reaction to Marlene telling you about the spin-off?
Tyler Blackburn: When she first mentioned it, it was tentative; way before ABC Family greenlit it. I was so flattered, but I've learned in this business that nothing is happening until the deal is wrapped. Then she called me four days later and was like, "We're doing this!" That was my first "Whoa!" moment, but thankfully I had so much time left on the PLL set. As we got towards the end, it was so bittersweet. But I'm very excited about Ravenswood from what I've heard. I think it'll be cooler than anyone has imagined.
ETonline: How supernatural is the show?
Blackburn: It's not too much. I'm not fighting goblins … yet [laughs]. It just has a tinge of supernatural stuff, so people will be intrigued.
ETonline: What was the Twitter experience like for you in the aftermath of the announcement?
Blackburn: Honestly, I think a lot of people were confused. For a while I think people thought I would be on both shows simultaneously. So we've had to be very vocal about Tweeting things like, "This is my last day on the show" or "Sad to say goodbye." The fans get it now and are upset, but they're the reason these shows are so amazing and I really think they'll be happy with how things play out. Marlene told me she cried reading the treatment for episode two, which has never happened to her before.
ETonline: How definitive is your exit from PLL?
Blackburn: Caleb can come home whenever. It's pretty open-ended ... until further notice.
ETonline: Marlene told me that Hanna gives Caleb permission to go to Ravenswood. What can you say about their goodbye?
Blackburn: In the Halloween episode, which all takes place in Ravenswood, the PLLs and Caleb uncover all these mysteries. One of those mysteries is the reason Caleb goes to Ravenswood, and Hanna understands why. She courageously and graciously lets him stay, and, honestly, she tells him to stay in Ravenswood.
ETonline: Ravenswood will be the second super weird town Caleb has lived in. Does the pilot feature any moments of self-reflection where he's like, "How do I keep ending up in these crazy towns?!?"
Blackburn: [laughs] Nothing like that, but ... dude, I know. There are so many moments where I would just leave. Like, why would I stay in this town? But Caleb has been through some weird sh*t as an orphan, so it might feel like the norm for him by now.
ETonline: What was your last day on the Pretty Little Liars set like?
Blackburn: It went from bittersweet to almost just bitter, truthfully. It was really hard. I'm getting a little emotional talking about it right now to be honest. Those people are my family and I am so close with Ashley [Benson, who plays Hanna]. I know it's not goodbye, goodbye. I can go to the lot whenever, but that crew and cast is so unbelievable. It's an interesting life lesson; in order to evolve you have to have some loss. I got some gifts and cards, which was nice. Someone said there was a cake, I never saw it. I was so emotional that day I couldn't even think about eating so I never went to craft services to see if there was a cake. It was just all butterflies in the stomach and knots in the throat. I was exhausted after that last day.
ETonline: Before we go to Ravenswood, there are still a handful of PLL episodes. What are you excited for the fans to see?
Blackburn: It's a lot less about "A" in the coming weeks because the girls are like, "Bring it on bitch" when it comes to "A" now. So the upcoming episodes have a large concentration on Ali's disappearance and the possibility that she's alive. The show started with her funeral, so everything is coming full circle and it's really going to be so cool when people see where we’re taking it.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC Family and Ravenswood premieres this October.