She may have put A behind her and is ready to move on, but even when she moves to a new town, Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) can’t seem to escape mysteries altogether. Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, premiering on Freeform and W Network on Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, sees the return of Pieterse and fellow PLL star Janel Parrish, who reprises her role as Mona Vanderwaal, in a new high-stakes college environment. This time the murder that needs to be solved involves a murder in the college town of Beacon Heights, where everything may not be as perfect as it seems.
Pieterse recently spoke to The TV Junkies about how Alison’s environment isn’t the only thing that’s changed since her PLL days, but Alison herself is trying to change and be a better person. When someone in the high-stakes college environment snaps after reaching their breaking point, Ali works together with some of the students she meets — Caitlin (Sydney Park), Ava (Sofia Carson) and Dylan (Eli Brown) — to solve the murder.
Worried about not having watched Pretty Little Liars? Pieterse says that there’s no reason why new viewers can’t jump right in with The Perfectionists. She also previews how the show will deal with the fact that Ali’s wife, Emily (Shay Mitchell), will not be making the move with her to Beacon Heights.
The TV Junkies: You played this character for awhile now, but what was it about this spinoff series, and Ali in general, that made you want to keep exploring her and be a part of it?
Sasha Pieterse: There’s a lot of things. Alison has done so many fun things, and so as an actress, I got to play the mean girl, I was killed in many ways, went to jail, was buried alive and put in a psych ward. She’s done just about everything, but she’s turned a new leaf and is trying to be good and out of her bad habits. So for me, playing Alison with all these new layers is such a treat. It’s second nature for me, but it’s not boring. Sometimes if you keep playing the same role it can become repetitive, but I’ve never felt that way with Alison. This new version of her, with these new intentions, is just so fun, and I think the fans are going to love this version of her.
TTVJ: You’re also doing this series with Janel, who you worked with for many years. What’s it like getting to start this new venture with her along as well?
SP: Janel is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet and she plays Mona so well. Our husbands love each other so double dating is fun and being around her on set is great. The fact that we get to work with each other way more than on PLL is just amazing.
One of the appealing things about the show, reading and listening to what Marlene wanted it to be, was just that it sounded so fresh and interesting. I wasn’t worried about it being a lame spinoff because I was really interested in the storyline she was created and the new world. The blend of the PLL-vibe with this new mystery is just so fun. If you hadn’t watched PLL, you’re going to fall in love just the same, but if you have and grown up with PLL then you’re really going to love the nods and Easter eggs we leave for fans.
It’s been a lot of fun to film and get to know my new cast, but also the way everything is turning out on camera too. Our connection with the new cast will definitely show up on screen as well. Our fans are so supportive, and I care about their opinion so much, so I really hope they love it as much as I do.
TTVJ: In speaking about Janelle, what is the relationship between Ali and Mona like here in The Perfectionists?
SP: One of the fun things about this new world is the weird, complicated friendship between Alison and Mona. There’s so much history there and mainly bad things, but in the new world Mona has also turned a new leaf and is trying to be a good person. They go through a lot of trouble in Beacon Heights, and they kind of need each other. So between the wisdom and discretion of them both, as well as trying to help these students, it’s a fun new journey and venture. The fans who watched PLL will love seeing the new relationship between Alison and Mona, and you might get another slap in there.
TTVJ: Outside of Mona, can you preview some of the relationships that Ali will be forming with the other characters on the show? Is there anyone she really connects with or gets close to?
SP: There’s three students in particular — Caitlin, Ava and Dylan — that are so bright, smart and different that she sees herself in all three of them, for different reasons. It’s why she’s so interested in what’s happening and her spidey senses are tingling. She wants to help them and has a personal connection to each of them for different reasons. Certain things she really connects to, but she’s also got to teach them how to sleuth properly.
TTVJ: Emily isn’t going to be on the show, so how does the show address their relationship?
SP: Emison is still there and Alison has her wedding ring and babies. Part of what I love about Marlene and the world she creates is that she’s realistic about things. They are hyper realities, but they are also consistent with the way the world works. When it comes to PLL and where we left off with Alison, it’s important for the fans to remember that A isn’t part of their life anymore. They are real people going through real things and the dust has settled and they need to pick up the pieces.
Emily and Alison have a complicated relationship, a loving relationship with two beautiful twins, but things aren’t as simple as they seem. Alison has done a lot of harm in their relationship — not recently, but in the past — and the main reason for Alison coming to Beacon Heights is to be a better person. She wants to prove to Emily, her friends and her family that she can be that good, trustworthy person. She wants to get her degree and go back and teach at Hollis and really connect with her family and friends. Things don’t always go as planned and Alison has a lot of trouble and some bad habits she can’t get away from.
TTVJ: Is there anything else about the show you wanted to touch on?
SP: I’m just really excited to see what people think. It’s different, but still very much the PLL vibe that I fell in love with, and I think a lot of fans did too.
Are you looking forward to Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists? Sound off below!
Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists premieres Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform and W Network.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.