'Pretty Little Liars': 'A' Mastermind Sounds Off on Shocking Summer Finale Reveal

"It doesn't strike me as a one-off," the actor behind the culprit reveals to THR of where the character goes from here.
Ron Tom/ABC Family
Ian Harding

Where does Pretty Little Liars go from here?

[Warning: Don't proceed if you haven't watched Tuesday's summer finale.]

ABC Family's hit drama revealed on Tuesday's bombshell-filled summer closer, "Now You See Me, Now You Don't," that Rosewood High teacher and Aria's former love, Ezra Fitz, was part of the "A" frenzy. (Oh, and that Alison may be alive and Cece is Red Coat.)

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Ian Harding, the actor behind Ezra, jumped on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter the morning after the big cliffhanger to discuss the repercussions of the "A" reveal, how it affects Ezra and Aria's future, and why he wasn't surprised by his character's dark turn of events.

The Hollywood Reporter: Were you following along to viewer reaction last night while the episode played out?

Ian Harding: A little bit. I was in a class last night and I turned off my phone and when I turned it back on, I had 14 text messages from various family and friends. Most of my family knew because I had talked about this with them for a while, but several friends said, "Hey, you broke Twitter," which was pretty cool. It was a pretty fun, interesting reaction.

THR: When did you find out that Ezra would be the big "A" reveal?

Harding: I found out that Ezra was going to start taking a dark turn earlier this season, basically before we even started filming 4A. I knew that there was going to be something around this time in filming but I wasn't sure what — and I'm still not sure what the trajectory is going to be. We've obviously filmed several episodes after this finale and it gets pretty colorful.

THR: What were your initial reactions on being thrown into the "A" madness? Now Ezra is part of the active conversation.

Harding: It means I have to start paying attention a whole lot more because before, if I was busy or traveling or something like that and I wasn't able to read the whole script before I filmed my part, it was slightly OK because Mr. Fitz has been completely out of the "A" drama in some way. He's been hidden from it. Now I have to pay attention. (Laughs.) I'm kind of interested to see where it would go because I'm not quite sure how he plays into the whole thing either. I'm excited to see the development of this whole new layer to Mr. Fitz.

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THR: What was your first reaction?

Harding: I was super excited. There's only so much they can do with Mr. Fitz, the character, because it's all about the girls. The fact that he was going to take a bit of a sharp turn in the opposite direction and defy expectations, I was super excited to get into that. Somebody asked me the other day, "Is this painful for you? Do you feel like you're letting folks down?" And no, I don't. I think it's a whole new side to Mr. Fitz and it's a whole lot of fun for me to play.

THR: Does this reveal make sense to you? There had been speculation even from the start of the show that Ezra had some connection to "A" because everything started to happen once he came into town.

Harding: Yeah, I suspected it. From the word go. It was too convenient for him to just be Aria's love interest. It's too convenient that I'm just kind of there and all this stuff that's happening to me, but I'm not really connected to it all. I was suspecting it even from several seasons ago. It was not really a shock, more of they told me this is how it's going to go and I said, "Great, it's about time."

THR: Was there a moment or scene from this past season that should have clued us in?

Harding: He's always conveniently somewhere else and for the longest time I thought that was — in some cases in earlier seasons it might've just been scheduling, and they'd solve the "Where's Mr. Fitz?" problem by saying, "Oh he's visiting his mom." Or I guess he wouldn't be doing that because he hates her. (Laughs.) The biggest red flag for me was the last Halloween episode on the train. It just seemed too convenient that "Oh! I was ghost writing!" At one point when Aria finds money in his dresser, and he's able to play it off like, "Listen, I'm so sorry, it's just something I do. My past is hard." (Laughs.) It just seems a little … ah, "You made that up." There are a few red flags.

THR: How do you think the Liars will react if and when they find out about Ezra?

Harding: I'm trying to see how one would comment on this. I could imagine they would be shocked finding out. (Laughs.) Like I don't imagine them being like, "Oh yeah … good call." I don't think they're going to be happy about it but from what I do know, how things play out is not going to be as black and white as one would think.

THR: This obviously complicates the Ezra and Aria relationship, especially following their kiss. Where do they go from here?

Harding: They are going to try and figure out their relationship from here. As we saw from the kiss in this episode, the feelings are still there, and I thought it was hysterical when Aria calls Jake and asks "Do you want do this poetry reading?" and he says "I think I'll watch a movie." I was like, yeah, they're not meant to be. This is going to be a different dynamic that plays out with whatever their relationship will be; there's an added factor of perhaps danger or intrigue that is going to be there now. That's an interesting turn of events because for the longest time, it was Aria with a secret — with Ezra asking "Who's this 'A' person?" — and now that's kind of changed because I have a secret that she, at the moment, is not aware of.

THR: This could be a major character shift for Ezra. Are you hoping he continues to do the evil thing for a significant period of time?

Harding: It doesn't strike me as a one-off. (Laughs.) I don't think we're going to find out in the first couple episodes back in the winter that "Oh yeah, sorry, I got lost!" and then we're back to the old I just wandered into that lair and I said, "Oh damn, this isn't Rosewood!" Obviously they're going to carry this storyline out to whatever extent they can and it's been a lot of fun. From what we've shot already, it's been a lot of fun.

Pretty Little Liars' Halloween special airs Oct. 22 on ABC Family.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube