July 16, 2013 4:57pm PT by Philiana Ng
'Pretty Little Liars' Spinoff 'Ravenswood' Makes Major Casting Change (Exclusive)
Weeks before Pretty Little Liars spinoff Ravenswood is to begin production, the ABC Family series is making a big casting change.
Model Elizabeth Whitson, originally cast to play one of the lead roles Olivia, is departing Ravenswood, while actress Merritt Patterson, originally set to play Olivia's former best friend Tess, will take over Whitson's part, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.
The character of Olivia is described as a former prom queen who is struggling with a recent fall from grace. Olivia used to be carefree and effortlessly happy, but recent events have left her questioning what’s truly important.
Brett Dier will continue on as Olivia's twin brother, Luke, with other regulars Nicole Gale Anderson, Britne Oldford and Pretty Little Liars' Tyler Blackburn transitioning onto the new show following the Halloween special. A replacement for Patterson's former role has yet to be cast.
"As we dug deeper into the mythology of Ravenswood, we decided to re-conceive the character of Olivia. Merritt Patterson seemed to be the best choice for the direction the character is now headed," executive producers for Ravenswood said in a joint statement exclusive to THR.
Ravenswood centers on a town not far from Rosewood, Pa., that has suffered for generations under a deadly curse. Five strangers find themselves connected by the fatal curse and are charged with investigating the town's mysterious and terrible history before it's too late for everyone. The town of Ravenswood first will be seen in the July 16 episode of Pretty Little Liars when two characters venture to the new location.
The casting shake-up comes as filming on Ravenswood is expected to begin next month in New Orleans. ABC Family gave a straight-to-series order in March, along with a season five renewal for Pretty Little Liars. It is rare for actors to swap roles on the same series, but it has happened before: In 2011, Laura Allen was cast for one role on NBC's short-lived drama Awake before ending up with another part prior to its debut.
Marlene King, Oliver Goldstick, Joseph Dougherty and Leslie Morgenstein are executive producing Ravenswood. Alloy Entertainment and Warner Horizon Television produce Ravenswood and Pretty Little Liars.