The Writers' Room (2013) s02e06 Episode Script

Pretty Little Liars

These girls live in a world of heightened reality.
Crazy stuff is happening to them.
They're doing crazy stuff.
In other words, high school.
There is somebody who's trying to kill them, and yet they're concerned about "you did not tell my boyfriend that.
" Why don't we hold hands? Tonight on The Writers' Room Pretty Little Liars is the story of four beautiful girls untangling the mysterious disappearance of one of their own while being stalked by a shadowy character only known as "A.
" This show has become the most tweeted show in history, and clearly, it has its fans wrapped around its pretty little fingers.
It's so much fun that you kind of get freaked out and scared, and then you want to watch the next one.
There are all these secrets, right, and they're just woven and stacked in on top of each other.
Right when you think something's going to happen, the complete opposite will happen.
We were promised a lot of answers this past season, and we got them, but now I have so many more questions.
Pretty Little Liars, right now on The Writers' Room.
That's awesome.
Outrageous success, horrible mistakes, last-minute changes.
The creators of today's most groundbreaking TV shows tell all in the place where it all starts Joining me in The Writers' Room to discuss the unique impact of the show we have the executive producers of Pretty Little Liars, Marlene King, Oliver Goldstick, and Joseph Dougherty.
Additionally, we have two of the show's stars, Shay Mitchell who plays pretty little liar Emily Fields, and Sasha Pieterse who plays Alison DiLaurentis, the character whose supposed death pretty much started this whole thing in the first place.
So welcome, and thank you for being here.
Thanks for having us.
It's such an honor to have you guys.
You know, I-- In preparation for these interviews, I try to think how I could best sort of get us into the discussion to sum up the impact that Pretty Little Liars has on its fans.
I pretty much just decided to go with this.
- Oh, wow.
- Look at that.
What is going on? - Take my hand.
- Oh, my God.
Get me through this, guys.
"Get me through this, guys.
" Look out.
- Come on.
- That was awesome.
What are you kids doing up there? That's your fans filming themself watching you.
Which has made us tempted to change the show to this title, Little Women on Mushrooms, because when you watch those, you're thinking "wow, whatever they have, I want a case of them.
" It's like this weird nanny cam they've created.
It really started-- It started in season two.
I think after we started our big, very twisty, oh, my God, W.
, cliffhanger endings, cliffhanger finales, that's when we started to see fans, like, sending in these tapes, like, "look at what you do to us.
" Also, we're defeating the DVRs, 'cause basically, they want to watch it in groups, and they want to watch it now.
And they're watching it live, which is so amazing, you know? Yeah, I think part of why fans want to watch it live is because they are having this giant worldwide Twitter party.
And normally, as a writer, I should hate this, because-- Why aren't you just watching the show I wrote? Except for the fact that they don't watch it once.
They've DVR'd it, and then they watch it again, and they watch it again.
They have this live experience, which is counter to the way people have been experiencing television for the past couple of years.
What I think is so great about it is that I feel like our fans are investigators.
I think that's what keeps them so hooked, is they're trying to find little things that they think connect Oh, for sure.
To their own theory or our theories or the storyline, or who is "A.
" They watch previous episodes.
"Oh, that connected with this," and they go back and forth, and I think that's actually what's so great about it.
Take me to the beginning of all this.
The book series.
Well, it really started with Sara Shepard's fantastic book series.
I read their first four books before I wrote the pilot.
The pilot really became book one.
And what Sara did that was so remarkable-- And I think it's why the books continue to be huge successes-- With every book she answered something, but then she'd ask you this amazing question.
So it really became the template early on, if we could bring that energy and that sort of great cliffhanger tone to the show, which I really think we accomplished.
I think that's what we pulled off, and that's why we're still here.
There was a pervasive atmosphere of fear and menace, which-- In other words, high school.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It was there from the beginning, you know, and the idea was, how can you maintain that without exhausting it, and at the same time have them live lives that are relatable, with story lines that are high school story lines still.
It's outrageous-- In one episode-- We always laugh about this-- That, you know, one episode they can be dealing with, there is somebody who's trying to kill them, yet they're concerned about, "you did not tell my boyfriend that.
" Exactly.
We started out a show very much that just caught the eye of teen girls, but we saw very early on-- I think because the characters were well-developed and the mystery story is also so well-developed-- their mothers started to watch, and now their fathers and their brothers.
And there's a connection that they have, obviously, to your show, because you are really using social media to sort of keep in touch.
They've created a family.
They call themselves "The PLL Family" or "The PLL Army," and they-- They are a big, giant social media family.
You see the connection and the love.
Like, we were in France recently.
It's global.
It's not just here.
It's global.
It's this new relationship between an audience and a television show.
We have fans who actually acknowledge the fact that the show is written.
They're not just reaching out to the cast.
They're reaching out to our directors, our producers, to the writers.
I think that's great too, because they ask you to-- "Please put that in.
Please write that.
Please write more of this scene," or "please write more of this character," which I don't think's ever really been done before.
I think-- Come on.
And they also get mad at you at times too.
Yes, they get mad.
Take me into the writing process.
There's always an endgame.
We knew from the beginning that Mona was original "A.
" - We know now who Uber A is.
- Right.
We really work from the backward forward, even with each season.
We know what the ending is, and then we work backwards and fill in the blanks.
Like, mystery comes first, and then comes all the great character stuff that So there are tent poles.
The tent poles are there, and you basically have to do the set-ups.
You're writing to those set-ups.
You're building up ramps to suspicion of a certain character, and the idea is, make surprises happen.
You certainly want twists.
You want an audience to be, "I was on this path," and it has to be legitimate.
- Yeah.
- There has to be motivation.
Why would this person want to hurt Alison? We can be outrageous with situations and events and crime and coincidence as long as the emotional material is completely grounded.
The more grounded the actual emotions are for the people, the further we can lean over the melodrama.
They can live in an outrageous world if they're real.
Yes, if they're real.
And I think, you know, for us, we try to, you know, own the fact that this is-- These are still teenage stories we're telling, and hopefully filter it through that prism.
This is a time in your life when you don't make the best decisions, and that's what's kind of fun about writing for this age, is because it's emotional, and it's very gut, visceral reaction to things.
It's not always so well-thought out.
But we don't take it lightly.
It's-- We're not-- Yeah, we don't do things arbitrarily.
We don't blow things up for the sake of blowing them up.
It's going to be part of this person's journey.
Paige and Emily is a really good example, 'cause I think I've broken you up and put you back together three times.
- Oh, gosh.
- I mean, we've done this.
In the writers' room, we argue over it too, going, like, "wow, they just were having a good patch.
"Do you really want to do this? "Do you want to curdle this relationship when it's finally working?" That's the horror though, when you break somebody up or do something that they don't like.
You fear having-- Being pilloried by thousands of people who you've never even met.
We should also mention how wonderful it is to write for you guys, because we've watched them grow.
Oh, this is a love fest.
No, no, we've watched them grow.
No, this is a serious, genuine thing.
You know, we did a very poignant story line that was important to all three of us, you know, for Emily about her sexuality.
And we wanted to be able to tell those stories in ways that we hadn't seen before.
Shay can tell you the impact she's had on how many teenagers who write to her as if they were talking to a big sister.
And that goes for Alison too, because with these flashbacks that we've had to do Yeah.
From the beginning, you know, at first, they were just sort of bites to get little feelings of, "oh, no wonder this person wanted to kill her.
No wonder this person" No, but that's what it was.
It was all to build up the ammunition to go, "no wonder this girl"-- "This happened to this girl.
" But yet, she also-- We ask you to show moments of humanity.
Otherwise, you would think the pretty liars were fools for befriending her.
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
Have there been some sort of extreme fan interactions for you guys? Yeah, I mean, I think at one point when Emily, you know, had that kiss with Nate, that for me got a lot of, like, "no way, the writers can't do that," you know-- And especially the gay community.
They didn't want me swinging back and forth, and I understood that.
Right, right.
Ironically, in the books though, she does.
- Yeah, exactly.
- That's what's ironic.
In the books, she does do that.
And I guess not everyone knows the books, but, you know, we thought we wouldn't get that reaction because it happens in the books.
Because they're prepared for something like that.
- But it was not.
- Well, I mean, I think-- also it happens in that age group as well.
Confused, not sure what's going on.
I mean, I think that's a very realistic thing that could happen.
Vulnerable moment.
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
With a killer.
Well, that's good.
When we come back, we'll dig deeper into the writing process-- When The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Pretty Little Liars.
As you're tackling season five, do you ever have pitches that go too far, or you just sort of say, "there's no way"? We created this fictitious show called Strawberry Patch Lane, and if we pitch something-- even-- Somebody will say, "okay, this is probably for Strawberry Patch Lane, but let me throw it out there.
" Can we see Strawberry Patch Lane some day? - It's gonna be on season nine.
- Season nine? No, I want it now.
Give me, throw me some examples of pitches that got stuck that became possibilities for-- - Anything regarding amnesia.
- Odd couplings.
Like, I've been-- I think somebody pitched Odd couplings.
Reveals about couplings.
Ezra and Mrs.
Montgomery as a couple.
That's definitely Strawberry Patch Lane.
Although, you might see it in season seven.
There you go.
How do you share the show runner responsibilities? There's a rapport we have in a shorthand.
Did you guys experience that? I mean, is that for you as well? Yeah, I mean-- We have a-- We have overlaps in our sensibilities in terms of what we like in drama, but at the same token, we also have particular idiosyncrasies, which seem to-- One of the reasons the show works, I think, is basically-- is we do have three different sets of tastes that are not tugging at each other, but they're-- - They complement.
- They're complementary.
- They complement.
- They're overlapping.
They're a little overlapping color wheel thing.
I don't know that we're like most shows in the sense that it is okay for us, and I think it's what keeps the show fresh, that you know what's a Marlene episode.
- You know what's a Joe episode.
- Yeah.
You know what's an Oliver episode.
We let the writers bring sort of their true sensibilities to their episodes, and it keeps them very fresh.
And also the writers are all very invested in their episodes in a different way.
I've been on many shows where writers sense the script's gonna be taken away from them.
They're not invested in the same way.
They're part of the editing process.
They're part of the producing process, of being on the floor.
They're entitled to talk to a director, to be in a tone meeting.
It's unusual.
We work with such speed.
It moves like a hospital room, you know, a gurney going through.
Yeah, when we get our scripts we do table reads about a day, sometimes about two days before we start shooting.
But that's the first-- You know? That's the first time that we see it.
It's coming fresh from the press, you know, and as soon as they come out, we're, like, reaching for it, 'cause we want to know what happens just as bad as the fans do.
How important is it for your show to connect with these fans-- And for the network as well? I think from the beginning it's been hugely, hugely important.
When we were making the pilot-- Because there was such a huge fan base of the books and Twitter was just starting to be born, fans started finding us and started talking to us, and we started talking back, and it grew into something that changed the way people watched television.
When I started Twitter-- And I was like "ugh, Twitter.
I don't want to go on Twitter.
" I started it.
Someone had already taken my name.
It's huge.
It's absolutely huge.
And I think that's what kept us so connected.
I get told all the time I should be with one of the other PLLs, and it's very interesting to me, you know? And now with Alison.
And now with Alison.
Everybody's obsessed about that.
"Emison", you know, we have a name.
Yeah, Emison.
We have a relationship name.
So it's really fun.
All right, I'd like to check out some of the more interesting tweets that your fans put out there.
Here's one.
That was happening in the moment I'm guessing.
It's a happy person, believe it or not.
And not one misspelling either.
- #thebetrAyl.
- Oh, #thebetrAyl.
- #thebetrAyl, that was-- - Here we go.
- Oh, no.
- Yes, wow.
That's great.
How does it feel to be the biggest show in sort of social media right now and to be the biggest show tweeted in history? - Good.
- That's a title.
- That is such an honor.
- Crazy.
- That's a huge honor.
- Bigger than I Love Lucy.
There was no tweet activity for that show.
But what does that mean? I mean, that's a very big thing.
It means we have a relationship with our fans, and they have a relationship with us, which we really embrace.
We have a remarkable tool.
Those fans are very empowered, and they can make things happen.
They can--if we say, you know, "let's trend 'Emison' if you want Emily and Alison to be together," and within five minutes, "Emison" will be a trending topic on Twitter.
That is the power of the Pretty Little Liars social media fan base.
It's actually-- From a network standpoint, it's become another metric, faster and more accurate than other audience measuring things, because it's an indicator of passion more than just watching.
- Yes.
- Yep.
- Tribal.
- Yeah.
And they know that we're online.
It's that one hour.
I don't go on Twitter that often, but every Tuesday when I'm watching the show, I will host #pllaywithshays because I am online talking-- And, you know, if I had been able to do that during The O.
When I was a fan of that show, to know I could've talked to Mischa Barton would've been amazing.
I think it can be scary for a lot of people, because you do get-- These guys don't get - the hate tweet like we do.
- No.
Never read anything all caps.
It's not gonna be good.
- That's a good tip.
- Not gonna be good.
- Or exclamation points.
- Yes.
More than two, you've got to move on.
Caps, just don't-- Nah, don't even bother.
We did not set out to be this Twitter sensation.
It happened very organically, and that's, I think, because of our passionate fans.
Well, when we return, we are going to reveal the most notorious moment from Pretty Little Liars-- When The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Pretty Little Liars.
Your fans are rabid.
You have plot twists galore.
They get shocked.
They jump on their couches.
They scream.
They sound off.
They tweet you.
They say "never again.
" "Okay, I'll watch you again.
" So I'd love to just go down the panel.
Let's just all sort of guess for fun what we think a big moment might be for the fans where they would want to chime in.
I would say Ezra being "A.
" In retrospect, for the audience, he was the most romantic relationship in this show, and we've emphasized the soul mate romance of this relationship between Aria and her teacher.
And not only that, but all of the girls we've tried to have scenes where every one of them has bonded with him in some way, so every one of these girls trusts him, completely trusts him, and to find out that this person was an opportunist and possibly using these girls to write a best-seller book about Alison DiLaurentis, I think that's pretty heavy for the audience.
For me, Mrs.
DiLaurentis being the person who buried her daughter alive is probably the most shocking choice that we've made with a character on the show.
Let's see the clip that took the crown.
- Take a look.
- So excited to see this.
Ezra? Hey, hey! Hey.
I know who you are, and the police are on their way.
Oh, my God! Get it! I love this part.
- Take off your mask.
- Now! Take it off! Oh, my gosh.
Oh, you guys haven't seen it.
No! There is no way that's your mom.
- Oh, my God.
- I love that clip.
Oh, my gosh.
We haven't even seen that.
Look at us.
I'm like This is huge.
- Ezra's shot.
- Yeah.
We have a little bit of this moment.
What does this mean? Well, there is someone who knows who "A" is.
I mean, Ezra said, you know, "I know who you are," and the fate of Ezra, though, remains, you know, a secret until we come back next year.
We really turn it on in that finale.
I think it might be the biggest cliffhanger so far.
There's so much that went on in that episode.
That episode is entitled "'A' is for Answers" and it's still-- I have goose bumps when I think about it.
I still get chills.
I'm just getting chills right now when we're talking about it.
You have provided your fans with a lot of questions, a lot of possible answers, and you're getting ready to go into the room and start tackling this next piece of the beast.
The game changes with the girls knowing Alison's alive.
Everything is different now.
The world, you know, really just changed drastically.
We've hit this kind of reset button, and we've moved everyone to different emotional places than they were previously.
It's exciting to rethink who they are now versus who they were, and what will be the impact of a queen bee deposed, gone for a long time, returning to this world.
On top of the fact, there also is other people, not even our four girls, whose lives will be deeply impacted by her return.
The mystery of season five-- which these guys don't know about yet-- I'm like this.
But the arc of the mystery that we've already laid out It's so unfair.
It's so unfair.
It's going to be one of my most favorite seasons.
I just-- I love where the mystery's going this year.
It's really such a well-thought out plan.
Executing it is going to be really fun.
That's exciting.
All right, up ahead, the future of Pretty Little Liars when we return to The Writers' Room.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Pretty Little Liars.
I'd like to show you all some questions from your fans.
Mona said she's never met "A," but she was in the hospital, and the girl in the red coat came up, and she said "I did everything you said.
" Wasn't that "A"? - Ooh.
- I'll answer that.
Okay, please.
I think Mona was heavily sedated in the hospital, and she can't really trust her memory and-- Was it real or was it not? We did a subsequent episode where Mona saw Ali, and I think for us this sort of shored that up-- That we knew that Ali wasn't there, but Mona saw Ali in the hospital, and we realized it was Mona's vision of Alison.
What I love is, because Alison is now alive, so many of the "dream sequences" that we've done, the fans are now like "wait.
Was that real, or was that fake?" Because every single one, there was a reason for it.
Where, you know, Emily came out of the garage.
She was stuck in there, the fumes.
Hanna was on drugs.
Spencer was on drugs.
You know, that kind of thing.
Well, I feel like your fans would expect us to tweet from here.
Can we do that from right here? - Yes.
- Yeah, of course.
Okay, thank you.
We have our phones right beside us at all times.
Our social media.
Our social writers' room will be a trending topic on Twitter within five minutes.
But you have to have your phones-- #thewritersroom.
Ask them for a question that we can answer right now.
- Sasha, what do you got? - Okay.
"Sasha, now that your character is alive, "were you thrilled to finally get out of the same outfit you've been wearing all these years?" Yes.
Okay, the yellow shirt has been in my life for almost five years, so I don't know if you're going to see it again.
You might.
It's a good chance you will.
But what I have to say is, I am so glad that I am going to be wearing current clothes.
Okay, so, Marlene, what do you got? So for the writers, "what television show inspired you to write?" It's kind of an easy question, because, really, I don't have a career without Rod Serling, so it's Twilight Zone that really got in there and just screwed up my hardwiring.
First television show I really fell in love with in regards to writing was The West Wing.
I thought it was just brilliantly written.
- Yeah.
- I loved the characters.
I loved the dialogue.
I was devastated when it ended, so I think that would be the one.
Do you know how long this could go? From the beginning, I always thought five seasons, but then when we started looking at what the end of season four was going to be, we got so excited that in my mind, automatically a season six came in there.
You know, we can end it whenever we want, because we know the ending.
Oh! We don't know about any of this.
As long as the fans are still loving it Keep going.
Pretty Little Liars: The Golden Girls.
There you go.
Just like, "did you get your text from 'A'?" Well, I want to thank you all for being here today.
Why don't we hold hands Yes.
Hold your legs really high - And look at the TV - I can't really do that.
And scream as if we just watch what happened.
- Help us get through it.
- Get me through this! Get me through this, Shay.