Fans of Pretty Little Liars knew someone was going to die heading into last night’s summer finale. But the question of who—and perhaps more importantly, which character would do the killing—remained unknown up until the final minutes of the episode.
After spending the episode helping the Liars track down recordings of Bethany Young’s therapy sessions and apaprently discovering solid proof that Alison DiLaurentis is “A,” Mona Vanderwaal, the Original “A,” put her life in the hands of one deadbolt … and it did not go well. Although her killer’s identity isn’t certain, there are strong hints that Ali murdered Mona. Whoever did it took Mona’s body with them, hauling her off in the trunk of a car in the final shot of the episode.
We caught up with Janel Parrish, the very alive actress behind the very dead Mona to talk about that death, her future on the show, and what comes next on PLL’s first ever Christmas episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start at the beginning: How and when did you find out that Mona was going to die?
JANEL PARRISH: I found out the day before the table read. [Showrunner] Marlene [King] gave me a call, and I was very nervous. I was like, “Okay, I know what this means. She’s calling me, the creator of the show, I’m totally dead.” She was like, “Hi Janel, it’s Marlene,” and I was like, “Oh, am I in trouble?” And she was like, “No, you’re not in trouble. I just want to let you know you’re going to be getting the script tomorrow. You are being killed, but you’re not being killed off the show. You still have a job, don’t worry. You’re going to be in flashbacks now.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s fine.” She was like, “It’s just basically what Sasha [Pieterse] did for the first three years; Alison was the flashback girl, and now that will be you.” And I’m like, “Fine. I’m totally OK to fill those shoes as long as I still have a job.” So truth be told, I wasn’t sad at all. I’m kind of excited for this new little turn.
Were you happy with the way Mona got to go out? It was kind of epic.
Yes. Exactly. I think if Mona was going to die, that would be the way to do it. She is going to go out with a bang. So I’m so glad that her death wasn’t just like, you know, something small. Like you said, she went out with a bang. She went out claws out, teeth out, bloody handprints everywhere. That girl was fighting for her life. So I was like, “Yeah, you know what, I died, but I’m proud of the way I did it.”
Did you actually get to film her death scene, or did they just tell you the aftermath?
Yeah, I just saw what the aftermath looked like and I read it in the script. I read that there was blood everywhere and then I showed up to set one day and there was blood and broken glass everywhere, and I was like, “Okay, Mona fought though.” I’m proud of her.
Do you know who killed you?
Well, as things always are on set, the writers never really tell us what’s going on and who’s who. But as far as what I personally think,…There was blond hair under that hoodie. Mona uncovered some evidence incriminating Ali and suddenly she’s dead. So I think that it’s Alison, and I think everyone thinks it’s Alison.
I have to say: I was really really shocked with the trunk scene at the end, but I was also kind of obsessed with it. I love that the show went that dark. But I have to ask if filming it was as creepy as it looked.
It’s so funny. The reason why it was not creepy was because I was focusing so hard on keeping my eyes open. I was like “Must. not. flutter. your. eyelids.” So that was my thought process the entire time, just complete focus. Thank God it turned out okay. I just watched it and I was like, “Good, my eyes look dead.” But no, it wasn’t creepy. But it was creepy watching it for sure, with the blood on my cheek. It’s just a creepy image.
Do you think that Ali has gone “full-on socio,” as Mona put it?
It kind of seems like it. That girl can lie with a smile, can’t she?
But I thought, in a way, Ali going crazy was vindication for Mona, who’s been saying this all along.
But that’s what’s so sad. Like she finally looks herself in the mirror, sees her self worth after years of being bullied and just is like, “I win. I feel great. I’ve won this war.” And then turns around and meets her death.
When I was watching it last night, I was so in the moment. And then when the episode ended, I suddenly thought, “Poor Mike!” So how is Mike going to cope with this?
Yeah, you’re going to see his reaction. He’s going to be very sad. He loved Mona, and I think that she really loved him. I think it was a very, very sweet romance, so it’s going to be really sad when fans see how he reacts to it.
Every time I talk to Marlene, we discuss a different version of Mona—from 1.0, Loser Mona, to 4.0, etc. Who was your favorite Mona?
I don’t know. I really liked Madhouse Mona. Just an actress, it was so fun to play and the scenes just made me feel like such a creep. I’d never played a character like that before, and I just really enjoyed playing with that. I enjoyed how, wherever I went, people were like, “Gosh, you’re so creepy on the show.” And I was like, “Thank you. I’m very proud that I can play that role correctly and that I am able to be a creepy character.” I kind of enjoyed scaring people on the show for a little while. [Laughs] It was fun!
You tweeted that you will be in flashbacks even as early as the Christmas episode, correct?
Yes. The Christmas episode is going to be a really fun episode. It’s kind of a fantasy type of show, but it’s also still an episode where fans will get a lot of answers, so they shouldn’t miss it. But yes, Mona will appear as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future—and let me tell you, in a fantastic outfit, of course.
In terms of flashbacks, are you getting to play a spectrum of Monas? Are you revisiting multiple versions of the character?
I think that I am going to, and I’m very excited about that, because not only will it be satisfying for fans, but it will be satisfying for me. There’s always been holes in Mona’s history and her past, and I’ve always kind of had to connect the dots myself. Which is fun, but I think it will be really nice for everybody and also for me to see how Mona did things and why she did things. Mysterious Mona! Find out where she was when something happened.
You’re still such a big part of the show, they probably didn’t give you a goodbye gift. But my first thought when you died was, I wonder if they’ll finally tell her who “A” is now.
You know, probably not, because our writers are so secretive. They are so good at that. I can tell you, throughout the years, we’ve all tried to be like, “So Marlene, who’s ‘A?’” And she’s like, “No, not getting away with it.” “Dammit! I tried” [Laughs]
Pretty Little Liars will return to ABC Family on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. with a fan appreciation special featuring interviews with the cast and crew.