This was right before the Season 6 premiere "Game On, Charles" aired. Bellisario was very charming and candid about the show, its characters and her career. No real surprise if you've ever watched or read one of her interviews before, but here are just a few of the interesting details she had to share with us.
Apparently, some of the gems of this story came from Bellisario herself!
"Season 3 was very special because in the second season, when Mona went to Radley, I was living in a TV show that's based in reality, and I started to hear speak about mental illness in a way that I really didn't like," she said. "I started to hear references to the nuthouse, the crazies, the loons, and that's something that's very personal to me. So, one day, I went into the writers room and said, 'Ya know you guys, I have experience with mental illness, and I really just wanna say that it does not sit with me well. And to be honest, if you're going to talk about Mona cracking up, the kind of pressure you've been putting on these girls, they should all be having mental breakdowns, and we should be actually, really truly exploring that if we're gonna ground this show in reality.'"
And that led to new kinds of opportunity for the show. As Bellisario said, "It was kinda great cause everybody in the room kind of stopped and had this new idea which was, 'Oh, yeah, the girls would be absolutely nuts, and what would that look like?'"
And that led to the further exploration of the Liars as our heroes and protagonists of the show, who didn't have to always be perfect or heroic.
"I know we're the good girls that have just done bad things, but isn't there a little bit of bad in all of us?" Bellisario then found herself asking. "Why are we always on the good side?"
"So the conversation then became, how to make Spencer fully crack since she's always the most tightly wound," Bellisario said. "As Hanna says, 'Emily wasn't the weakest link, it was Spencer.' You'd think Spencer is incredibly strong, but she's actually the most fragile in a number of ways."
And Bellisario talks about how they did that in Season 3's story line with the character of Toby, her boyfriend on the show, whom Spencer discovered had actually been working on the A team with Mona against the girls. And the discovery of that betrayal eventually caused Spencer to go to the dark side herself.
Spencer found herself joining the A team to get some answers of her own, but the initial plan was for her to be a bad girl for longer than they ended up getting.
"I was supposed to be dark for like, a long time," Bellisario said, "and that was something that actually the network got freaked out about. They were supposed to end the season with me being A, finding out Toby was A and then me being A, and you thinking that I was fully working to take down the girls."
How would the audience have reacted to that?
"That became something that everybody was like, just so freaked out about because they were like, 'We don't want people to hate Spencer,' and I'm like, 'I don't know if we'll hate Spencer. Let's try it.' But that's why it was such a quick turnaround with Hanna trapping me, and me saying very quickly, 'I'm a double agent.'"
"I really do believe that everybody, or at least a lot of people, watches the show, they just want the people that they love to be together," Bellisario said.
It's something she gets and respects, but would caution fans that it's not always likely, just due to the nature of those characters being on a continuing TV show.
"One, because you like drama and you love watching these characters struggle, and two, the characters are growing up," Bellisario said. "And the relationships you formed in high school are not necessarily the relationships you're going to keep for the rest of your life. And I think that's a very important thing that we have to go through."
And she said this from the perspective of someone who understands her character better than anyone and wants to be true to Spencer Hastings.
Referring to the many things Spencer has been through on the past seasons of Pretty Little Liars, Bellisario said, "I once believed that my boyfriend was dead. And then I went to the dark side, I fully accepted his death, and then accepted that he was alive and then he's torturing me, and that I've lost my virginity to someone who's manipulating me. Then, me going to the dark side and possibly betraying my friends just to figure out why he's done this. And then we get back together, and we're fine. And then I get kidnapped and trapped in a dollhouse. To me, realistically, I cannot continue to play Spencer as just the loving girlfriend. It all depends on what is going on."
But it's from that drama, and a desire to keep her character grounded and be honest to her experiences, that excites her about where her character goes from here, and how she bounces back, or how or if her character's relationship with Toby bounces back.
"I know that the Toby is her safe place to land," she said, "but they've done a really good job of presenting a problem with him joining the police force. Which, these girls do a lot of illegal shit, and he cannot hear about it anymore, and Spencer is showing no signs of slowing down, and that's a real rift between them. As much as they may love each other, I think that is something that needs to be represented so... I dunno. I'll be playing that, and I don't think the fans would be happy. I'm not trying to piss off the fans, but I also do think that it's important for these characters."
"I've spoken to Marlene a lot about this, and we're both very clear that Spencer is an addict," Bellisario said. "Her biggest 'thing' that she has to get over is that she is an addict. She has an addictive personality. One of the things she's addicted to is the adrenaline of this past story and mystery of A. She has been the one who's always… She cannot let it go. She has to go deeper, she has to find the answers, and it's oftentimes dragged her and her friends into really dangerous situations. So, I think that whether those are explored through her past with drugs or her past with her following her sexual impulses, there's always something about her personality that's going to be addicted to the wrong kind of thing."
"I would say she will, but that's just me being selfish and wanting to see what Spencer would actually do with a normal life," Bellisario said.
But there's Spencer's addictive personality to come to terms with, as well as the adventures the character has had on the show so far, and Bellisario is looking forward to seeing how her character will deal with all of that.
"I'm interested to see how as an adult, she either comes to terms with that or continues to struggle with that because I think that this story, more so than any of the other girls, it's formed Spencer's consciousness into what she's going to do with the rest of her life," she said. "I don't know if that means she's going to, like Toby, became a cop. I don't know if that means she's going to continue to need to solve dramas or, you know… Whether it's to be a lawyer or being a detective, or something like that. She's going to need to keep that into her life."
"I don't think she's going to like, disappear and become like, a landscape painter," Bellisario continued, "although that would be very interesting to just see what landscapes Spencer would paint. They'd probably be like, satellite pictures from space. So I am interested to see."
"Spencer's always in a weird costume drama in her head, I don't know why," Bellisario said. "My favorite look for Spencer would be in Season 1, when she first tries to tutor Toby and she's wearing that black capelet, like a weird French nanny who also is in like Scotland Yard or something. I think that was probably my favorite."
Bellisario couldn't give us any hints, but she did share with us a new sleuthing duo to watch out for: Spencer and Hanna!
"At this point, Aria and Emily have gotten back into their relationships, and they're doing a lot of soapy drama," Bellisario said. "And Hanna and Spencer have just taken charge as this duo, and that's been a lot of fun, because the Spencer/Hanna scenes have been just too much good comedy. 'Cause Spencer is so dry, and Hanna is so blunt. They are delightful together."
We're not the only ones looking forward to it.
"I'm so excited for this time jump to see where she ends up," Bellisario said, referring to Spencer, "and with who the people are that she surrounds herself with? I don't know if Spencer's going to be the healthiest person five years after this. I hope so, but I don't think that would make for very good TV."
If you get a chance, I would highly recommend checking out the rest of the interview. Bellisario talked quite a bit about the production of the show from an actor's perspective, some of the other projects she's working on, as well as hypothesizing about the little details of her character (like what could be in Spencer's Google search history), as well as what advice she'd give Spencer Hastings about her future.
Pretty Little Liars' next episode, "Songs of Innocence" airs on Tuesday, June 9.
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