Yes, Pretty Little Liars is over. But fans of that series now have a chance to continue exploring their world on Freeform's new show The Perfectionists. But that's not how Pretty Little Liars and The Perfectionists showrunner I. Marlene King views it at all. Instead, she tells Bustle at a set visit last year that the hardest part of creating the new series was maintaining a sense of closure for PLL fans while continuing to expand their world. And according to The Perfectionists stars Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish, the writers, cast, and crew managed to pull that feat off.
In fact, they love this new story so much that they both think PLL fans will hardly miss the old days of Rosewood, which might be a little hard to take for those of us who used to gleefully mark Tuesdays "PLL DAY" on our calendars. But both Pieterse and Parrish are insistent that once fans start getting to the know the Perfectionists, a clique of overachieving college students whose frenemy turns up dead and turn to the best secret-keepers in town (Mona and Allison, duh) for help, they'll be hooked.
And they're mostly right. If you're looking for a straight PLL sequel, this is not going to be for you. But if you want a show that feels and looks just like Pretty Little Liars — and provides the same amount of whodunnit suspense — The Perfectionists will immediately become your favorite new show.
Pieterse explains how the writers achieved that tricky balance. "It’s such a fun concept. You know, you always have spinoffs for different kinds of shows, and you never know how it’s going to go," she says. "I think this is such an awesome contrast between this brand new idea and a series also by [author Sara Shepard] and the PLL world that we all love together and it actually fits flawlessly."
Parrish agrees with her cast mate, adding, "It feels like we’re doing Pretty Little Liars and this new group of Perfectionists has always been there. It just feels like an extension of our family, it doesn’t feel different, it doesn’t feel better, it doesn’t feel sad, it just feels like our PLL family has expanded."
It's actually entirely possible that the Perfectionist clique grew up in the same universe as Mona, Allison, and the rest of the Liars. One major difference is that although PLL was set in a fictional Pennsylvania town, it was filmed on a soundstage. The Perfectionists is filmed partly on a set built to look like the fictional Beacon Heights University, but a lot of it was also filmed on location in and around Portland, Oregon. That minor tweak in filming makes all the difference when it comes to making the new world as rich as possible.
Parrish says she thinks the setting makes the show "much darker than PLL" if only because it doesn't feel as cartoonish as Rosewood sometimes did. Her co-star Sydney Park, who was also a major PLL fan way before the spinoff was ever in the works, agrees.
"I’m excited for people to see the show have the same integrity as Pretty Little Liars, but it’s sort of the 2.0 version," Park says. "It’s set in a college, it’s darker, it’s sexier, we’re in Portland filming, so it’s on location ... the background is a character in and of itself, like creepy street corners and parts of Portland that are moody." All of that comes through in the pilot and develops throughout the season, they say.
It might seem impossible that you could love any group of characters as much as the original Liars, but both Pieterse and Parrish can't help gushing over the new cast members, including Park, Sofia Carson, Eli Brown, Haley Erin, and Graeme Thomas King, and how seamlessly they fit into the PLL world.
"Honestly, I’m so ready for fans to meet the Perfectionists," Parrish says. "I think it feels very organically PLL. If you are a PLL fan and you turn on the show, you would still feel like you’re watching it." Pieterse agrees. "It’s intriguing in a way that PLL was, but it’s such a different story in that it doesn’t feel redundant."
Well, except for the whole murder and secret identities thing — but if you're a PLL fan, you know that never gets old.