Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Pretty Little Liars: Telling the Truth with Ashley Benson
Ashley Benson first gained fans with a four-year stint on popular soap Days of Our Lives, but she’s found new celebrity as Hanna Marin on Pretty Little Liars. Once chubby and awkward, the character of Hanna emerged as the “Queen Bee” after former group leader Alison disappeared; only recently has she settled down and become a sensitive voice of reason among her friends. I spoke to Benson about Hanna’s personality changes, her boy drama, and why ABC Family’s dark teen drama is such a success.
TV.com: OK, I have to tell you. Hanna has definitely become my favorite character on Pretty Little Liars. Are you excited about the direction she’s taken?
Ashley Benson: I’m so excited. I’m just really glad that she’s becoming more down to earth. She's really funny now, so that's really fun to play. But yeah, I’m really glad about the direction they’ve taken her. I think that a lot of fans, she’s slowly becoming their girl that they go to. She was so mean and stuck-up, and now she’s a really good friend. She’s funny and she’s sarcastic and it’s really good to see the other side of Hanna now, rather than the stuck-up and snobby side. It’s good. I like it a lot.
So, Spencer’s plagiarizing, Emily’s kissing girls, Aria’s kissing her teacher. What’s going on with Hanna? Does she also have secrets we don’t know about?
They’re not touching a lot on stuff, but I think that in this period of Hanna’s life, she’s just kind of finding out who she is. I mean, she’s already gotten in trouble with the police and now she’s told her friends. She’s gotten in trouble with them quite a few times, from stealing sunglasses to wrecking Sean’s car, which nobody found out about. She’s keeping the affair with her mom and Detective Wilden a secret. In the midseason finale, she gets a little bit more information about A, so things happen in that way to my character. And it ends with a huge cliffhanger, so we’ll see where it goes from there. But she definitely doesn’t have as much darkness as the other girls. I think she’s just struggling with family things, with money. And we’ll see where the writers take it.
Hanna does have her share of boy drama. Do you have a preference for which guy she picks? Are you Team Sean or Team Lucas?
I’m Team Both. I adore both of them. They’re so sweet. I don’t know. I would love to see how the Lucas thing plays out, just because it’s something new and Lucas is not the type of guy that Hanna would go for. But she befriended him because she used to be just like him. They always saw each other, and she knows what it’s like to be in his position. So I think it’s great that she’s kind of opening herself up to people that she wouldn’t necessarily open herself up to. I can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for that, because I don’t know where that’s going to go. But I know that the fans really love that storyline, so we’ll see what happens.
It seems like you’re pretty in the dark when it comes to upcoming storylines. How much advance notice are you given about what’s going to happen next, or do you just find out when you get a script?
We get the scripts two days before we film the episodes. Everything is kept really quiet, just because there’s so much that goes on. But nobody’s really allowed to talk about anything. We usually find out everything when we get the script, and that’s about it. So we’re always on our toes to see what happens next. It’s always really exciting to see what’s going to happen in new episodes.
We’ve seen several flashbacks to the girls as they used to be, including a very different version of Hanna. As an actor, what’s your approach to playing that younger Hanna?
It’s probably my favorite part of Hanna to play, just because she’s so sensitive and so insecure and just so vulnerable. I’ve been there before. I’ve been in her shoes, where she hasn’t been included, and I’ve definitely gone through some friends who have treated me really poorly. It was to the point where I had to get a whole new group of friends that were just like Lucas. So it’s really interesting. But when I’m on set, I really just channel my character and it’s kind of easy for me to drift off and be Hanna, just because I feel for her and I know what it’s like. I’m really passionate about always playing into flashbacks, because there’s a lot that you get to see. You know, how she was treated and what she went through. That’s always really special to play.
Let’s talk about Hanna’s family a bit. I love Laura Leighton, who does a great job as your mom—is Detective Wilden completely out of the picture there? And what about the money situation that you mentioned earlier?
The whole money situation is really a problem because we can’t afford anything. I mean, Hanna sold her bags to get groceries. So there’s a whole thing there, because she also has to keep up her image, and obviously she doesn’t want people knowing that they’re broke and have no money and are about to go bankrupt. And Detective Wilden—he’s definitely still in the picture, but Bryce [Johnson] just got on another TV show, so he’s gonna come back when he can. But I love that storyline and I hope that it continues. He is going to be in the next two episodes. He’s great; I love working with him. And I hope that their storyline continues, because it’s so juicy. I love it, I love it.
The fanbase for Pretty Little Liars has really exploded since it premiered. What do you think accounts for the show’s success?
I just think the show is so much fun. There’s so much gossip and mystery. It’s great that the show ends with a cliffhanger, because then it attracts the audience to watch it again. It’s just fun. Also, the four girls are so relatable that I think every teenage girl can kind of go into their shoes. They may be dealing with some of the issues that we’re dealing with on the show. You know, it touches a lot of situations, which I love. I think that’s a big part of it. I get girls that come up to me all the time and they’re like, “I’ve been where you’ve been, and I feel like I’m Hanna.” So it’s really cool. I feel like a lot of girls are really into the show because they can relate to us so much. It’s really special that we’re able to do that.
Well, I know there’s a lot you still don’t know—and a lot you can’t tell me. But I have to ask: Do you know who A is?
In the midseason finale, I gather more information on who it could be, and you’re left with a humongous cliffhanger. So I can’t wait for everyone to see it, because it’s absolutely insane. But I definitely get more information about who it could be, and I’m kind of left with that. We’ll see what direction they take it in, but it’s definitely going to be an amazing midseason finale. Everybody’s going to be shocked.