Photographer: Angella Choe Makeup: Kirin Bhatty Hair: Michael Silva Styling: Mui-Hai Chu
Pretty Little Liars is back on July 28 with a whole new story and set of liars. On July 28, you can tune into the world of Millwood and find Malia Pyles, who plays Minnie AKA Mouse, among the group of girls tormented by A. Ahead of the HBO Max series’ premiere, Pyles peeled back the curtain on Original Sin.
Were you a fan of the original Pretty Little Liars TV series?
Oh my gosh, absolutely. I believe I was 10 when the show came out. And it already just had such a cultural impact on my generation, and it was something that you almost couldn't escape. I always had a fascination with the things that are a bit darker and mysterious.
Growing up, the actresses became so iconic and role models in a lot of ways. And so to be a part of it and to carry on the torch in one way or another has been just fulfilling so many dreams not only as an adult and an actress, but also childhood fantasies that I never thought would have actually come true.
How do Original Sin and the original series relate to one another?
Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin exists in the same Pretty Little Liars universe and it's still dealing with the core elements that made the original show so wonderful. We have our five liars: these strong young women that have to band together when the anonymous, masked assailant A starts terrorizing their lives. What makes the Original Sin a new take is that it definitely leans into horror. We have a delicious amount of creepiness and gore that is a departure from the original.
I think in playing in the external horror, we get to really form how the issues that young teen girls, and young people in general, go through and how nuanced they are and how internal horror can be just as terrifying as the external.
Do you know if leaning more into horror was intentional or does that just speak to the style of writer-producers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoon Bring?
It was absolutely intentional. I think, of course, them being our wonderful captains and showrunners is the reason why the show is the way that it is and is in the style that it is. And it was so obvious just reading the first script that we were going to be a part of something different and exciting. Even coming into the process, there's such an attention to detail and a richness to their storytelling. There was a storyboard that was presented to us by Lisa Soper, who's actually the director of the first two, and in that storyboard, there were a lot of references to existing horror and slasher films.
We’d love to hear more about Mouse! How does she fit in with this new group of liars?
She calls herself Mouse because of her mothers being Disney obsessed, but her real name is Minnie.
Mouse is the youngest of the five liars and she is quiet. She has removed herself from a lot of her peers. She had suffered a trauma in her early childhood that has shaped her life. And in her perceived victimhood, she's developed quite a fear of the outside world and because of that really has welcomed digital and online communities and a certain amount of solitude, while also still yearning for friendship. She's quiet, but she is not shy, if you know what I mean. She has a really strong sense of herself. She can be biting at times when she needs to be and she's very smart and analytical. And I think she has something really wonderful to the group dynamic. She's very different. In the sense, of course, she is experiencing things for the first time and welcoming independence into her life for the first time and she has a lot of glee and optimism about finally having friends and having the freedom to to express herself not just by herself, but amongst people that understand her and validate her and see her. I like to think of her as a big part of the heart of the show. She's always there with support and a smile.
In the beginning, of course, there's a distrust. There's a trepidation in the way that she welcomes people, but it's quickly dissolved by the need to lean on these friends and to find strength in these bonds because of the horrific things that are happening around them.
What was it like establishing a close connection with your costars to be able to portray that bond?
We were all really lucky in the way that it was pretty immediate. We got to upstate New York, and we're all super far from home in this new place that none of us have ever been. We actually stayed in Woodstock, New York, which is a small town and we all stayed on the same grounds, and so it definitely felt like a summer camp at first. We’d go to the lake or we’d sit by the river and just get to know each other, and it was really wonderful— the embrace that all of us had for each other in the very beginning. I think in creating a horror show, or any show, really, that deals with real issues, you have to sometimes work and operate in vulnerability and feel vulnerability and feel empathy for the people around you. And it was really important to be just in tune with all the other girls and all the other people in the crew cast and really hold each other not only on screen, but off screen as well.
How do you think Original Sin’s horror approach speaks to the Gen Z experience?
First and foremost, as a horror lover, just playing in horror and watching horror and being a viewer to horror, it's just a lot of fun. And I hope people can scream along with us, as well as uncover the mystery. But I definitely believe in exploring external horror. We're also able to emphasize more so the contrast of the issues that these girls experience. I think they're all dealing with a trauma from their life and, in growing up, I think things can feel so big at times and larger than life. And I think looking at their circumstances through a horror lens really does really well is that it makes all the things that are more cerebral and internal feel more tangible.
I think the original show also does a really great job at that. What our show is doing is just looking at different relationships and adding to the world that they've already created. With my character, for example, I'm in a queer relationship with a trans man who is played by the wonderful Jordan Gonzales and that's a relationship that I didn't see on screen… There's so much more availability for different stories to be told and it's been really great to be able to explore those relationships, and hopefully someone at home can feel seen by that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Angella ChoeBarbara; Nitke/HBO Max; Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max;