'Pretty Little Liars' Shay Mitchell Has Big Plans Post-Rosewood
Like many TV stars looking to break out into film, Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell picked a first movie role that's about as different than it gets from the part she's best known for. In Garry Marshall's ensemble comedy Mother Day, out April 29, Mitchell plays Tina, the 20-something new wife of Henry (Timothy Olyphant), a dad of two pre-teen boys. Tina is kind, friendly, and, in the eyes of Henry's ex, Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), way too young to be step-mom to her kids. For the 29-year-old Mitchell, whose years playing a teenager on PLL alongside her equally adult co-stars have often raised eyebrows, getting to take on a role in which she was considered not old enough was a big draw.
"It was kind of nice and very complimentary to be called the young one," she tells Bustle, laughing. "I was like 'alright, I’ll take this.'"
Mother's Day may be the first time most audiences are seeing Mitchell in a role so different than Emily Fields on PLL, but it certainly won't be the last. The actor just premiered the indie drama Dreamland at the Tribeca Film Festival, in which she plays the best friend of the film's female lead, and she tells me that she'd love to be in more films that are "completely different" than Pretty Little Liars. That's not to say she has anything against playing Emily — it's clear from the way she talks about PLL that she'll be heartbroken to leave the show, whenever it ends — but only that, after seven seasons of Rosewood drama, she's ready to make a change.
And Mother's Day is a solid start, with Mitchell in a small but memorable role opposite Hollywood veterans like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, and Julia Roberts. For the PLL star, getting to work with these actors was "a dream come true," and Aniston, with whom she shares most scenes, was a particularly big deal. "It’s not every day you get to work with someone you’ve grown up watching on TV, you know?" Mitchell says. She also loved working with the "legendary" Marshall, a director known for making beloved films like Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries, plus the ensemble holiday film series that now include Mother's Day. Mitchell, a giant rom-com fan, says that she's thrilled to work within that genre.
"I like movies where you get to go in and you walk out feeling good and happy," she says. "To be a part of that is just the cherry on top."
Mitchell also had some fun getting to school Marshall and the filmmakers on a subject she's particularly experienced in — social media. Tina is described in Mother's Day as the typical technology-obsessed millennial, telling Sandy to "tweet me" if she has questions or "check my Instagram" for photos of the kids. With 3.25 million Twitter followers and 11.7 million on Instagram, Mitchell is one of social media's reigning queens, and she says that she was more than happy to educate the movie's writers on the platforms Tina would and wouldn't use. Says the actor, "People can really tell when it’s authentic and when it’s you... I play a huge part on social media and I love doing it, so it was funny that my character also mentioned that."
Unsurprisingly, Mitchell has spent the last few weeks chronicling the Mother's Day press tour on her accounts, but she's been equally busy posting about her day-to-day life: attending Coachella, promoting PLL Season 7, and taking exotic trips she jokingly titles "Shaycations." But more than anything, she's getting ready for her post-Pretty Little Liars future; although she tells me she'll start "bawling" if she thinks too much about the show's impending end, it's clear that she's already exploring the possibilities outside Rosewood's walls. There are the movies, yes, but there's also her lifestyle blog, Amore & Vita; a YA novel Bliss, which she co-wrote with Michaela Blaney; and a clothing line, Fit to Wander, that she launched in 2015. Music, too, could be in the works ("I may be dropping an album, you never know — don’t hold your breath on that, though," she says, laughing), or more TV roles, or even, she adds slyly, Broadway.
Mitchell is keeping the door open for anything that comes along, acting or otherwise, and she couldn't seem more excited about it. "I just want to be happy doing whatever it is that I’m doing," she says. "If that’s acting or not, if it’s being an entrepreneur and going down that way, that’s awesome. You never know."
In other words, the sky's the limit — and Mitchell's fans are excited to see how far she reaches.
Images: Open Road Films