'Pretty Little Liars' Producer on Show's Many Detours: 'We Always Know Who Uber-'A' Is'

"These girls' stories will not be over when they discover who 'A' is or who killed Alison," star Troian Bellisario told reporters Thursday during winter TCA.
"Pretty Little Liars" panel at winter TCA

Pretty Little Liars is sticking with the "A" mystery for the foreseeable future, and although there may be twists and turns along the way, yes, the producers have a plan.

"We always know who uber-'A' is," executive producer Marlene King said.

"It's very specific season to season," executive producer Oliver Goldstick added. "There are tentpoles we create, [but] there are a lot of detours along the way." So much so that King admitted that sometimes "we've surprised ourselves" with where some of the characters' arcs go.

While answers are given, they're more like breadcrumbs, but the producers believe they're giving exactly what viewers are looking for.

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"Part of the fun of the show is trying to figure out who 'A' is, and I think they like not knowing," King said of the social-media savvy fans. "We have mysteries within the big mysteries. We give credible clues...giving little bits and pieces [of information], that seems to be enough to satisfy the fans."

For viewers wary about the show's future past an "A" reveal, series star Troian Bellisario offered reassurance that there is far more to Rosewood than the overarching mystery set up in the series premiere. "These girls' stories will not be over when they discover who 'A' is or who killed Alison," she said.

King credited the digital and marketing teams at ABC Family for being able to sustain Pretty Little Liars' online life. "We work very closely with them. They are part of our success," said King. Though the show has one of the most vocal and active social-media imprints, Goldstick likened the Tuesday night chatter to "old-time communal" television viewing. "It's cutting edge, but it's old-fashioned," he said.

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Time in Rosewood moves slowly ("Their senior year lasts a long time," said Goldstick), but the high-school setting is merely that. "Although they are in high school, we treat them like people. They have adult problems. We don't write down to that," said King. "We empower them...They're all flawed characters [but] as a unit, they're pretty strong and invincible."

Other highlights:

  • The episode set to air in two weeks, which marks King's directorial debut, is misery-themed. She also teased that the finale "pays homage to North by Northwest."
  • "I can neither confirm nor deny that," Allen said when asked whether someone on the "A" team can be fully redeemed.
  • Because of the frequent detours taken by the show, many of them false alarms, the producers often go to the actors to discuss their character's specific intentions for a particular episode. "For this episode, this is your truth. This isn't your truth for the whole season, but this is your truth for your character [right now]. It's pretty fascinating in that regard," King said of conversations she's had with her cast.

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