Troian Bellisario is not only the star of TV’s Pretty Little Liars, but also wrote and produced her own short film.
ON hit TV series Pretty Little Liars, the four leading lasses are a catty, backstabbing bunch who turn on one another for personal gain.
In real life, however, the actresses portraying these roles are anything but that.
The teen mystery-drama stars Troian Bellisario, 27, Lucy Hale, 23, Shay Mitchell, 25, and Ashley Benson, 23.
In an interview in Singapore recently, Bellisario says the cast have become such fast friends that a co-star even recommended Bellisario over herself to directors for certain roles.
Looking chic in a pink blazer and cream high-waisted shorts, the leggy brunette says with a laugh: “Lucy, for example, went out to lunch with this director for a movie role, but she acted like my agent the whole time. She was, like, ‘Listen, you don’t want me, you want my friend Troian for this role.’
“So because of that, I got to have lunch with this director later on. And he said to me, ‘You know, your friend on the show pitched you harder to me than your agent.’ So maybe I should start giving commission to Lucy Hale.”
Pretty Little Liars, which is loosely based on Sara Shepard’s best-selling book series, follows the lives of four girls whose clique falls apart after their leader disappears and is then found dead.
Bellisario says with a chuckle: “The thing is, all four of us girls are so different from one another, so there really is no room for competition.”
The Los Angeles native, who plays the wealthy and incredibly smart Spencer Hastings in Pretty Little Liars, recalls how she bonded with the other three girls, long before the series took off.
Shooting the show pilot coincided with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, so they celebrated together over dinner and clicked instantly, she says.
“The pilot was shot in Vancouver, Canada, and we were all away from home, so we sat down to this dinner with no idea who the others are or what they’re like. But by the end of the dinner, we were four best friends.
“I think because we all came onto this crazy rollercoaster together that is the show, we understand each other and the chemistry is just there.”
Bellisario is the daughter of producer and screenwriter Donald Bellisario, who created several hit TV series such as Magnum P.I. (1980-1988), Jag (1995-2005) and NCIS (2003-present). Her mother is Deborah Pratt, a screenwriter and actress who has appeared in TV dramas such as Quantum Leap (1989-1993) and Airwolf (1984-1987). The pretty actress has been dating actor Patrick J. Adams, the lead in hit TV series Suits, for the past four years.
So even though female relationships are so often seen as mean or malicious onscreen, Bellisario says that she, for one, “would not know what to do” without her co-stars.
She says seriously: “There is no one else who understands how hard it is to go through relationships or how hard it is to get roles in this business, than these girls. It’s actually pretty amazing to know that you’re not alone.”
You have been playing Spencer Hastings on Pretty Little Liars for three seasons. Do you still find it fresh, playing this character?
Yes, and I think she has grown a lot over the seasons. She becomes a fleshed-out person and not just a caricature. And the way I look at it is that, as long as there is still something to say about the character, then it’s okay doing it. Like you see what (screenwriter) Alan Ball did with Six Feet Under – he could have gone on for 10 seasons because it was so great, but he did only five because he’d rather have the show go out when everyone still loved the story and the characters, than for everyone to eventually lose interest. For me, I think there is still more that we can see develop from Spencer, so I’m not bored yet.
Pretty Little Liars is among many shows that centre on young women, such as Girls, The Carrie Diaries and 2 Broke Girls. Do you feel like women are getting more variety in TV roles these days?
Yes, definitely. One of my great inspirations is (writer-creator) Lena Dunham and what she has done for Girls, because in that show, she portrays the women as not just hot TV babes. They are so real. They cry and their boobs are out. And even on our show, we have these moments where the girls are really very flawed and unlikeable, roles which I think women struggled to find just a few years ago. Everyone says that today, TV is experiencing a golden age, and I really think that’s true. It’s exciting to be part of TV now, where all these possibilities are popping up.
You received a Teen Choice Award last year for Choice Summer TV Star: Female for your role in Pretty Little Liars. What was that like?
Winning that was really surreal because you do a lot of work and you want to be recognised, but the Teen Choice Awards is also oddly like a popularity contest. Everyone I was up against that night was amazing and does awesome stuff, but maybe I won only because more of my fans happened to show up to vote that day. I’m honoured by the win, but it’s also odd because it’s like winning the prom queen title or something. Now that you mention this, I have yet to actually get hold of the award, which is a surf board.
You wrote, produced and starred in your own short film Exiles (2011), inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. Are you going to do more writing and producing of your own?
Absolutely. My parents are both writers and producers, and they instilled in me that I should never wait around and I should go out there and create the job I want to perform in. So I wrote this short film, got some of my best friends together and just made it. We’re still waiting on festivals but we are so proud of it.
This was a character that I wanted to explore and play and that’s what’s so awesome about doing your own project. I play Spencer Hastings for nine months of the year and I love her, but it’s nice to write characters that will hopefully allow people to see me in a different light. And when you write your own character, you love every bit of her. It’s not like when you’re given a script, where you may love the character but there are certain bits about her that you find annoying. I loved every aspect of the character that I wrote.
Your actor boyfriend Patrick J. Adams shoots TV series Suits in Toronto but you film Pretty Little Liars in Los Angeles. Do you have to fly back and forth often?
I practically live on the airplane, flying back and forth to see him. I call myself the foldable girl because I’ve gotten so used to folding myself in a position to tuck myself nicely into the plane seat. That’s why I’m into yoga. Most people would say it’s for flexibility or for health. For me, it’s so that I can be a collapsible person.
You co-starred with him in the short film The Come Up (2012). What was it like working with your boyfriend?
It was actually really wonderful because he was so supportive throughout. Before filming The Come Up, I had just gone through something like 36 straight hours of shooting, so I was completely exhausted and probably delusional. And our first scene for the film was this massive monologue, where I had to recite a lot of lines, and I wasn’t even sure if I made any sense. But after every take, Patrick would always say, “Don’t worry, baby, you’re doing a great job.” In between takes, he would even find cars for me to go sleep in. It was a blessing for him to be there.
How would you like to be remembered?
I turned 27 and it wasn’t until a few days after that I realised this is the age when a lot of famous people died, like Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. So I was like, I better start living. If I die now, the headline will just say, “Pretty Little Liars star dies at 27”. There is still so much more I want to do. So hopefully, I get a beautiful run on Pretty Little Liars and eventually get to segue into more wonderful roles and be remembered for those
I’ve added eight HQ photos of Troian and her Pretty Little Liars co-star Ashley Benson attending a pool party at Coachella! I hope more come out soon.
Rachel Antonoff has a penchant for casting TV darlings in her lookbooks: Parenthood‘s Mae Whitman, 30 Rock‘s Katrina Bowden, and Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat have all been featured over the years. Not to mention Antonoff’s recent short film collaboration with Girls creator Lena Dunham.
For Spring 2013, the starring role goes to Pretty Little Liars‘s Troian Bellisario. “I am a really big fan of Troian and was really excited to get to work with her on this,” Antonoff told ELLE.com. The two met up with photographer Lindsey Byrnes at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles for a day of jumping on beds, lounging by the pool, and a game or two of tennis. “The hotel was such a perfect backdrop,” Antonoff said. “We had a lot of fun.”