Seriously, what is up with the stars of “Pretty Little Liars” and the Philippines? It’s interesting how two of the stars of the hit show have been to the Philippines. Lucy Hale, who plays Aria Montgomery in the show, visited the country in February 2012 when Bench got her as an endorser. And then Shay Mitchell, the half-Filipina who portrays Emily Fields in the show, dropped by the country for a vacation January this year. Now, another pretty little liar is in the country: Troian Bellisario, who plays the straight-A student and overachiever Spencer Hastings in the show. The actress arrived a couple of days ago to accompany her boyfriend, actor Patrick J. Adams, who was flown to the Philippines to promote his show “Suits.” After doing promotion for their respective shows, the lovebirds enjoyed the sun in a beach recommended by Shay.
We got to chat with the pretty, intelligent (she was class valedictorian in high school!), and charming Troian before she flew for that secret hideaway, and discovered so many interesting truths about her. Here is Troian talking about being the most difficult pretty little liar to dress, life back in high school, and lying.
Did Shay and Lucy tell you anything about the Philippines to prepare you for your first time here?
Shay and Lucy, they told me that the fans are really amazing and very dedicated and that it’s just beautiful here. [They told me], “You’re gonna have an amazing time, everyone’s so kind and welcoming, and as soon as you get to the beach, it’s heaven on earth.”
You’ve been traveling lately. What places have you visited recently?
I do like traveling. We shoot “Pretty Little Liars” for nine months and when I’m shooting “Pretty Little Liars,” really the only place I travel to is Toronto to go to my boyfriend so I don’t get to travel anywhere.
So I really like on my break to try to plan one cool trip somewhere. I went to New Zealand, which was amazing. Had such a good time there. Recently I went to Costa Rica, my first time. And now that I’ve been here I think I really want to see some place like India or Nepal. I’ve never been to Africa. We were in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, first time in both of those places as well. It was amazing. They are such different cities.
Your costume designer for the show said in an interview that you’re hard to dress. Do you agree?
She was so funny! She wrote me an e-mail and she was like, “I was totally complementing you!” I do agree probably because I’m on the show and I’m willing to do a lot more of whatever she wants because she and I created Spencer together but I definitely have some ideas. I really like having ideas and input.
And the thing is that our outfits, you don’t really realize it but we’re wearing them for over 12 hours a day for like a week straight so I better be pretty comfortable in it! We’re running through the woods in heels half of the episode. I am a little bit finicky about what I have to wear.
How different is your personal style from your character’s?
So different. I love Spencer’s clean lines and classic American style. She’s very much a Ralph Lauren kind of girl, which I love when I dress up. But I never dress up.
How do you feel about playing different roles or at least roles that are different from your character in “Pretty Little Liars?”
I love playing different things. It’s fun. I love doing it. There are so many stories I want to tell. I love Spencer deeply and she’s such a big part of me but I think that as an actor you want to experience so many different stories. Like recently, I got to shoot more of this web series called “Lauren,” where I get to play an American soldier serving in Afghanistan. Playing Lauren is such an honor and so different from playing Spencer; they’re two different ages, Lauren is a mother and she is also a service woman, she’s in the Army and she’s the strongest woman I think I’ve ever played. And Spencer is a totally different ball game. You want to be as diverse as possible.
What’s one character that will be challenging for you to portray?
I like a challenge! I think I’d probably have a difficult time playing kind of like uninformed people. You know, people that don’t know where they are. Those would be so much fun to play. I’d love to try to play that.
Apart from acting, you’ve also dabbled into writing and producing.
I did. I wrote a movie, produced it, and acted in it, and I’m very, very proud of it. It’s a little movie called “Exiles.” It’s a short film and right now we’re sending it out to a bunch of festivals and as soon as we have a festival run, we’re going to make sure that we get it out to the fans.
How similar or different was your high school life from Spencer’s?
It was quite similar in a lot of ways and very different in a lot of ways. I didn’t have a massive stalker threatening my life. I did just go to school all the time. I was very similar to Spencer in that I put a lot of pressure on myself. And I was very academic; I was the valedictorian of my class. I was very studious like Spencer is and very, very anxious.
So you like those school and studying scenes on the show?
Whenever you see Spencer studying, whenever they give me a textbook on the show, it’s like flashback. And it’s funny because, in between shots when we’re shooting, I can actually do the problems in the book. I find it so much fun. It’s funny whenever the directors come in and look at the page and they’re like “Ohmigod you’re actually doing it.”
Do you miss school?
Ohmigod, I’m one of those weird people that actually does miss school. I really liked it because I liked doing work. I really enjoyed the pleasure of sitting down and working on something or writing an essay that really described how I felt about a certain book. I really liked using my mind.
What do you not miss about school?
I don’t think I miss the social political aspect of school. I had a lot of friends, but I wasn’t like the It girl like Hannah in school. I couldn’t do that.
How were you like back in school?
My superlative was “Funniest Girl” because I was known for just being the crazy person that would do anything to make people laugh. I was like the class clown in addition to being the girl getting the best grades. It’s a weird combination but it’s really me. I was willing to put things up my nose. I was willing to impersonate teachers.
What’s your favorite Spencer moment so far?
It hasn’t happened yet and it’s pretty crazy. It’s coming up the second to the last episode before the finale. It’s one of my favorites because I think it’s her most honest moment and it has to do with her reaching a new point in her journey with the girls.
How has the show changed your life?
The show has changed my life in so many ways. It’s so interesting to go from being an actor at school or in theater and all of a sudden doing one thing where everybody is really having a thought about it or is really watching it. It’s like everywhere in the world I go there are fans. It’s reaching such far and remote countries and it’s really going well so it’s kind of a shock because when you get into this business, most people will tell you that it’s going to be a big long struggle and you’re not really going to get a lot of credit. And then all of a sudden, I got out of school, and this was my second job out of school so I was very blessed very quickly. The world just kind of said, “Actually you’re going to do really well.” So it was such a huge blessing but that’s also such a big change in your life. Like all of a sudden everybody knows you and everybody knows you as one thing so that’s what’s really interesting for me. Some of the fans have seen my other work but I haven’t really had the chance to show people the different kinds of roles that I can play; most people just know me as Spencer so it’s kind of interesting to see the world with most people knowing you as somebody else, not as yourself.
Do you feel pressured to be a good role model?
I want to be a really good role model for people who look up to me. I think it’s dangerous because I’m a human being, I am flawed, and I might make mistakes and also I am of a different age. I play a high-schooler but I’m not in high school anymore. I am an adult and I can make my own decisions so there is that kind of discrepancy.
But I do want to be a good role model and especially a good role model for girls to make them feel good about themselves. I want to make sure that I am not the kind of girl that you know people struggle with their own body image over or feel uncomfortable about themselves. I want them to look at me and think, “She’s being herself and doing her own thing and then I can do my own thing.”
Did you have issues when you were in high school?
So many issues. What girl doesn’t have issues? And I think it’s very difficult to grow up being a girl struggling with, you know, whether it’s body issues, you don’t like your nose, you don’t like your hair, and then having to go into an industry where you’re put through about two hours of hair and makeup every day to make you look a certain way. But the weird thing is that that’s what people think I look like. When people post pictures of me on Twitter or Instagram where I’m not wearing makeup but I look like me, they’re like “Ohmigod she’s sick. What’s wrong with her? What’s wrong with her hair?” And I’m like, “No, this is just the way I look like.” I don’t look like Spencer every day. Nobody does. It’s hard because I want to make sure that while girls are loving the show they are also not buying into it as their ideal. They’re not saying “I have to look like that every day” because I don’t even look like that every day. I’m not like that today!
What’s the most interesting lie you’ve ever told?
I don’t like to lie a lot because a.) I feel I learned a lot from the show—don’t lie, it ruins your life—and b.) Honesty is the best policy. But I think the worst lie you could ever tell is saying that you’re happy or satisfied when you’re not. The only person that really gets hurt in that scenario is you. I think that’s the most dangerous lie that I try to stay away from.
“Pretty Little Liars” Season 3 airs all new episodes every Saturday at 8 p.m., match aired with the IS on ETC. Watch out for the “Pretty Little Liars” Season 3 finale on March 23, Saturday.
The author is the editor of CoconutsManila.com, a local news and reviews website.