'Pretty Little Liars' "A" Star on Her Future With Show, Fans' "Mixed" Reaction to Reveal

Vanessa Ray tells THR how she approached playing the transgender character and why she is somewhat "bummed" by response to the finale.
ABC Family
Vanessa Ray as Charlotte on Tuesday's 'Pretty Little Liars' finale

Pretty Little Liars fans finally got the information they've been waiting for when "A's" identity was revealed this week.

On Tuesday season-six summer finale of the ABC Family drama, the Liars learned that "A" is a transgender woman, Charlotte (Vanessa Ray), who was born as Charles Dilaurentis and changed her name to CeCe Drake when she met Ali's (Sasha Pieterse) pals.

Read more 'Pretty Little Liars' Creator on Divisive "A" Reveal and If Season 7 Will Be Its Last

Charlotte, who was never accepted by her father and had been presumed dead by her siblings, threatened suicide before ultimately turning herself in. At the very end of the episode, the series jumped ahead five years to the Liars facing peril from a new threat, which is where things pick up when season six resumes in 2016.

Ray spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about her thoughts on the transgender twist, what's next for Charlotte and why fans' reactions to the finale have made her a bit "bummed."

How do you feel when you found out that CeCe is "A"? Was your reaction similar to how fans seem to feel?

I think it's similar to how I felt for sure. There is definitely like a, "Wait a second — what? Are you sure? Is this worth it?" It's been mixed, certainly, which kind of makes me bummed, but I'm just trying to love them through it. Every fan of this show has a theory about who they think "A" is. Whether you vocalize it or not, you have a strong sense of who you want it to be — who you want to kind of win the prize of "A." And when you find out that maybe your front contender didn't win, it's kind of a letdown, and it's hard to accept. But I think that sometimes just having the answer is the prize, and hopefully those of us that believed it was CeCe all along won't gloat too much, and those of us who never thought it was CeCe will be able to keep on keeping on because there are a lot more exciting things to come in the next season. 

What was it like to film such a dramatic and pivotal episode?

It was really great to get to do it — it was really rewarding to get to film such a special part of this story. The actual filming of it was intense because I was getting married that same week. You know that feeling when you go to summer camp and you fall in love with all the people quickly and you go home and you cry? It felt like that a little bit because, while I already knew all the people, going back to PLL always feels like going to summer camp. It was a lot of late nights and a lot of questions and a lot of trying to understand what was happening — trying to give an honest, authentic performance about backstories that I had never even thought about before. It was really, really rewarding. I'm really glad that the episode's out now.

You just found out in June that you're "A." Had you ever had an inkling before that about CeCe being "A"?

I think if I was being really honest with myself, definitely. I thought maybe I was a red herring. I thought early on like, "Oh, it was too obvious." The reasons for [CeCe] being "A" was the thing that blew my mind the most. [Creator] Marlene [King] even said to me early on that [the Liars] were like my dolls that I loved so much — you treat your dolls well sometimes, [and sometimes] you treat them terribly. So when she said that early, early on, I should have figured it out, but I didn't, of course. And you don't dare ask "Queen Bee" if that's going to happen because then you just put her in a position where she would have to lie or crush your dreams. I've just gone along with the ride the whole time being on this show, and it's been a really great one. 

So from the moment you were cast, Marlene had always intended for CeCe to be "A"?

Yeah, she always knew CeCe was "A." For that matter, she always knew CeCe was Charles. Ever since season three, she's known. It's pretty beautiful how she's masterminded this whole thing. 

What did you think about the transgender twist? Did that affect how you played the character?

I wondered if it would, honestly — I wondered if it was something I needed to play. But then I was like, "I don't want to play at this. I don't want to be, 'Now I'm playing a boy version. Now, I'm playing a girl version.' " I didn't want to do that, so I did talk to a few friends that are transgender, and I did a lot of research on it and really realized that the core of who you are is who you are, and that, I believe, for Charles is always Charlotte.

Really finding the core of almost the multiple personalities within Charles was what I ended up doing, was finding the moments when this is really Charles. [I focused on] distinguishing what Charles' characteristics are as opposed to CeCe's characteristics, which are an imitation, a copy of Alison's — a very over-the-top copy of her sister — and then Charlotte, when she finds out that she thinks that she killed Alison and they bury her alive and do all those things, there's nothing that Charlotte can hide behind anymore. She's just raw and vulnerable and broken, and I really loved playing that part of Charlotte. 

How involved will CeCe be in the rest of the season, and where will she be in her life after the time jump?

It's cool because we get to go five years ahead, so a lot will have changed, and yet a lot of the girls are going to have to be figuring out how to deal with what happened. The thing we know about CeCe is — as far as we know — at the end of this episode, she didn't die. She's still alive! For all that she's done, she might have deserved [to die], but I think that finding almost that humanity in her makes it OK that she lives to see another day. 

Email: Ryan.Gajewski@THR.com
Twitter: @_RyanGajewski

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