The end of Pretty Little Liars is upon us, and some of the creative team discussed the finale during the ATX Television Festival earlier this month. Here’s what Executive Producer I. Marlene King, Co-Executive Producer Lisa Cochran Neilan, and Costume Designer Cameron Dale shared during a press round table at the festival.
The version of the two-hour finale that we’re about to see wasn’t actually in place until recently. King told us, “Originally the show was going to be five seasons. In our third season it was such a big hit that the network and the studio called me after a premiere and said, ‘Figure out how to make this seven seasons.’ We had four years to plan for this, and I’d say we didn’t know the real ending ‘ending’ until this [final] season began. We always know the ending before we know the beginning of each season.”
The characters have gone through a lot over the past seven seasons. A notable change had to be their style evolution when the story jumped ahead five years. Dale talked about taking the fashions from girls to adults. “I came on in Season 6, basically when we jumped forward. It was really a nice time because I could establish new looks. They were adults.”
King said that the process was much like when the series began, especially about Aria. “We had conversations like we had during the pilot. It was really re-establishing how Aria would look five years later as a young professional. We had many discussions about that.”
Added Dale, “Lucy [Hale] had great input and of course Marlene was the first person I spoke to about it. It was really fun to see the girls jump forward. It was really special in a show with such loyal fans.”
King was partial to one style reinvention in particular. “My favorite age-up was Spencer. I felt like her look was so Katherine Hepburn. It was right out of the 1940s.”
Pretty Little Liars helped shaped a generation of young women obsessed with true crime stories. It was a gateway for them into that world, and also a way for them to see that anyone is capable of doing terrible things. King commented on the correlation. “I was obsessed with Serial, and it was a great mystery. At the end of the day, Pretty Little Liars works on many levels but we realized when we revealed Toby was on the A Team, it was our most shocking reveal on the series and fans loved it. [We realized] they wanted to be scared, they wanted romance, and they wanted to be surprised. That’s the true crime element of it all. You want to figure it out and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I get that those two things go hand in hand.”
Cochran Neilan added, “You can train the brain to realize that anything is possible at that point. If Toby can be momentarily a bad boy, then when it comes to moving your fascinations into true crime, then you start looking at it on a big picture level.”
Everyone working on Pretty Little Liars was truly a family, and wanted to be a part of that last day on set.Cochran Neilan described their final day of filming, which took place in October 2016. “When we scheduled the finale —
the last shot on our last day — the girls asked if they could all be in the same scene together. To me, that spoke volumes about the show in the end. Seven years later, the last shot was all the girls together, Marlene was directing, and we called a wrap. That video is on Instagram. It was a mess [emotionally], but it was also the best.” She continued, “It was really a great night. You could see how the girls wanted it to end, and it was important to Marlene and to the cast. The crew also wanted to be with that same group, so we all ended it together.”
King recalled that day for us as well. “We have a video village. That’s where the director is and you’ve got your monitors where you see what the cameras are shooting, and there’s usually five people there. [On the final day] word spread and it became this surreal experience. It was 10 people, then it was 20 people, then it was 50 people. I don’t know how many it ultimately was, but by the time we wrapped, there was a sea of people behind us who wanted to be a part of that moment.”
Even though the Pretty Little Liars finale hasn’t aired yet, some fans already want to know if the story ends in a way that these characters could be revisited in the future. “I hope some day because it’s really hard to say goodbye to these characters,” said King. “I think of Gilmore Girls and shows like that where a long time goes by, people go and do their own thing and find another passion, and then we find a way to come back together. That would be my ultimate goal.”
Cochran Neilan speculated on how that reunion could look. “If time goes by and there’s an interest in it, I would love to see those girls land together. [They would be] sitting around with a cup of coffee at a coffee shop when somebody’s cell phone goes off.”
The series has always been dark, but there may be a glimmer of hope by the end. King shared, “This is a unique season for us because the penultimate episode really feels like a finale. A lot gets wrapped up in that episode, so in the finale there’s a big chance for the characters to breathe and have real life before the [end].”
Exactly how many deaths can we expect in the finale? “I’m keeping it real mum about that because I don’t want to mess anything up in this final moment,” King answered. “It’s exciting, and it’s very big.”
Photos Courtesy of Freeform.