Lea Salonga & Malia Pyles Talk Filipino Representation and More in HBO’s ‘Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin’

HBO's new slasher-thriller starts streaming this July 28!

New lies are made, new secrets surface, and a new generation of Liars must uncover the truth behind the bloody murders committed by the new A in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, streaming on HBO GO this July 28.

Instead of a full reboot, Original Sin is set in the universe of the original Pretty Little Liars series, with the events taking place in the town of Millwood where new characters face a mysterious menace familiar to fans. This time, the teens are pursued by a new killer taking the alias of A, for the secrets that their mothers have kept since they were teens themselves.

What’s no longer a secret about Original Sin is that our very own Lea Salonga stars in the show as Elodie, the mother of one of the latest Liars, Minnie “Mouse” Honrada. Elodie is described as an overbearing mother who is trying to keep her daughter safe from past trauma.

Salonga’s on-screen daughter Mouse is played by Filipino-American actress Malia Pyles. The cast also includes Bailee Madison, Chandler Kinney, Zaria, Maia Reficco, Mallory Bechtel, Sharon Leal, Elena Goode, Eric Johnson, and Alex Aiono.

We recently had a chat with Salonga and Pyles in a virtual roundtable interview where the two stars shared details about the show, their characters, and more. Check out the highlights of the interview below:

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Malia, how excited were you when you heard that Lea was playing your mother in the series?

Malia: I’ve been gushing about her in all of these interviews. But seriously, you can go back on my Instagram– I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you, Lea– I made a post for International Women’s Day, I would say in 2016 or 2017. And in that post, where I was posting pictures about the women that inspire me, one of those photos was of you.

Courtesy of HBO GO / HBO Max 

I definitely didn’t have to have a lesson about who Lea was. First of all, I’m a huge Disney princess fan. Also, [Les Miserables] was the soundtrack of my childhood. My parents didn’t raise me on normal music, they raised me on [theater music]. So Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, those two roles, they meant everything to me. And to get to a point in my career where I had the opportunity to work with her, especially to work so intimately with her, it’s just a dream come true, really.

Lea, were you able to inject your own parenting style into the role of Elodie?

Lea: It’s not so much that I have a lot of the freedom to do whatever I wanted, because the character is the character. I think her parenting is a result of this character’s circumstances and what she has been through as a younger person. So all of that will be made much more clear, and I think then we will understand why all of these characters are the way that they are, as a result of things that happened in their lives as younger people[…] But I think there will always be some sort of instinctive maternal thing anyway that will just kick in regardless of whatever this character is doing.

Malia, how did it feel to transition into the thriller or horror genre?

Malia: I am a huge fan of horror and slasher, and so I was so ready to sink my teeth into this. And I felt so supported by our creative team. We came into rehearsals and our director for episodes 1 and 2, she had a storyboard for us and it depicted a lot of different elements of horror as well as different references to horror films, and so it was clear to me that this was a very visual medium that I was getting myself into.

Courtesy of HBO GO / HBO Max 

In tandem with the delicate and nuanced issues that we cover, there’s also this huge external horror that follows and terrorizes these girls and their families, and so it’s really lovely to find the balance of that. I think when exploring trauma so intimately, it’s been helpful to have the horror medium as the backdrop because it almost makes that internal horror that these girls are experiencing more tangible.

I know growing up and coming of age in high school, everything feels so big and impossible at times, and so it was just a testament to how smart our creative team was, exploring this known IP with a different lens. I think it just heightened all the drama so much so in a really beautiful way. And it’s really fun as an actor, and also just as a viewer of drama and horror.

Lea, what made you decide to join the project and how did you get the role of Elodie?

Lea: In this case, I had to actually audition, so it was not like ‘Would you like to take this role?’ It wasn’t like served on a plate. I don’t know how many actors were up for this, but I know it was the beginning of September, I auditioned for it, and sent everything to my manager who then sent everything to the creative team to see if I would be the right person for it.

Courtesy of HBO GO / HBO Max 

There might have been something that I did [when I was a teenager] that had some mystery and some detective work and some horror in it, but that was so long ago. Certainly nothing like this, for something like HBO. This is something, I guess, new, and I don’t think I’m an actor that’s necessarily associated with scary things? As I’m normally associated with things made for families or for children, or big musicals where there is a tragedy but not necessarily something like this. I think it’s just one of those things that I just totally left out when I auditioned for it.

And I’m somebody that tends not to choose horror as an audience because I watched The Ring, and that kept me up for so many nights that it ruined the horror genre for me. So it’s kind of karmic, that I ended up on an HBO show that’s horror, slasher, and frightening. It just happened that way, and I just feel very very fortunate.

Lea, aside from the original series, and you and Malia’s involvement in the series, what do you think will make the show appeal to Filipino viewers?

Lea: First of all, there are four of us Filipinos in the show. Besides myself and Malia, we have Emily Bautista and Sharon Leal who is actually one of the mothers– she’s not playing Filipino but she is Filipino. She’s really Filipino, and in our conversations on set, it’s very obvious that she’s Filipino, at least it’s obvious to me.

Second, even though this is a horror-slasher show, at the center of it, there are these five young women, and how their own families figure in this show. We see mother-daughter dynamics from all of them, from all of these young women, and their mothers are very much involved.

Courtesy of HBO GO / HBO Max 

We see that there’s dysfunction within families. That there are secrets that mothers keep from their children and vice versa. You know when you’re growing up and you’re a teenager, I remember thinking there are things that I have to keep from my mom. And as I get older and as I’m having conversations with my mother, I’m like ‘How on Earth did I not know this?’

So I think what’s going to appeal to us Filipinos, is watching how these families and how the members of each of these families interact with one another. And how one member of the family affects another, and how trauma affects one generation versus another, and how each of these families deals with this common enemy, that they have to figure out how to combat[…] We love family drama, and there’s an abundance of that here.

Malia, were you able to watch the original series, and did you pick up any pointers when working on this new show?

Malia: I was a big fan, it came out when I was 10. So I was definitely at an age where maybe I should not have been watching it? But I think what the original show does really well is that it does deliver truth and adult themes among these teen girls who are discovering things about themselves and there’s something deeply relatable about that for all ages.

So I remember growing up and watching it, and just thinking how beautiful and iconic these girls were. Also for me in particular, I’m queer and I’m also Filipino, so Shay Mitchell had a huge impact on me, being a Filipina and also playing a queer character. I think it resonated so deeply with me and so it’s been incredible to be able to fill those shoes, in one way or another– continue that Filipina representation in this show, in this universe in particular. And now it’s not [like before when] Shay was the only person of color onscreen in that show. We have such a diverse cast, and we’re representing so many different stories, and it’s been really lovely to not only be able to be something for my people but then also learn from these other girls, and their backgrounds, and where they come from.

It’s really cool, and also just getting to call myself a Liar, it’s just been a dream of a lifetime.

Courtesy of HBO GO / HBO Max

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin streams on HBO GO this July 28. All seven seasons of the original series are also available for streaming on the platform. Subscribe to HBO GO now at www.hbogoasia.ph or the mobile app via the App Store or Play Store on your device for as low as P99.70 per month.

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