‘Pretty Little Liars’ Creator Dishes on the Cast’s Very First Auditions

The show could have been soooo different

Can you imagine Pretty Little Liars with Lucy Hale playing Hanna instead of Ashley Benson? Yeah, me neither. But, believe it or not, that was a possibility almost a decade ago when PLL creator Marlene King was auditioning potential Liars.

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With only a handful episodes left of the popular TV phenomenon (*tear*), King chatted with Variety’s TV podcast, Remote Controlled, about the series, including spilling all the deets on auditioning the Liars: Lucy, Ashley, and Shay Mitchell, Troian Bellisario, and Sasha Pieterse.

Here’s what we learned from King’s interview about our fave liars.


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Lucy Hale Didn’t Even Have to Audition!

Not having to audition is what every actress dreams of — which is precisely what happened to Lucy. “She was coming off of Privileged and everybody wanted to do a TV show with her,” said King. “I grabbed a coffee with her … and she had read the script and she loved it, and she wanted to play Hanna and I didn’t think she was a Hanna; I thought she was an Aria, so I said, ‘Go home and read it again.'” Later Lucy told King, “You’re right. I’m Aria.”


Ashley Benson Was Feeling All the Feels at Her Audition

Ashley wasn’t crying due to nerve — it turns out she just learned about her latest series — Eastwick — was canceled right beforehand. “We knew we wanted a blonde for this role because it was one of the last roles to cast and other than Alison, we did not have a blonde in the show,” recalled King. “We couldn’t find the right person and she came in … there’s just something magical that happens with her and the way the camera captures her and those eyes. We all knew in the room that we found our Hanna.”


Shay Mitchell Wasn’t the First Choice for Emily (WTF!)

According to King, the show was having a hard time finding the right actress to play Emily. “We searched and searched and searched and we hadn’t found our Emily, and Shay self-taped from Vancouver and we loved her tape,” said King. “Emily is nothing like Shay — she is the most girly person you’ve ever met. There were two girls who came down and our preference was this other girl, but in the room full of a lot of people … Shay just nailed it in the room. I had never done this before, so the girls left, and I said, ‘Am I allowed to change my mind?’ And they said yes, and that’s how Shay got that job.” Phew!


Troian Bellisario Almost Blew Her Audition

Troian came to the audition without wearing any makeup, which, we know now in PLL world, is a big no no. King says,”We were like, “It’s ‘Pretty Little Liars’ — you’ve got to put on a little lipstick or some makeup.” …We’re like, “Come back. Go turn into a Pretty Little Liar and come back.” Troian took the note and returned wearing make up. “She was just so bold and so courageous, and then she got [the part] in the room.”


Sasha Pieterse Was Only 12 (!!!) When She Auditioned

Like Lucy, Sasha also wanted to audition for Hanna. However, when King and the producers found out she was only 12 years old, they recommended her to play Alison instead. “She read with a few of the girls as Alison, she was several years younger than all of them, but she scared the hell out of everyone in a good way.”

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