A New Generation of Pretty Little Liars Takes on the Horrors of Being a Teenage Girl

Meet the five young actresses bringing HBO Max’s spinoff Original Sin to bloody, suspenseful life.

In the Pretty Little Liars universe, “A” is Alison DiLaurentis, the manipulative queen bee who once trafficked in secrets, ending her texts with a signature initial. “A” is also Mona, the long-ostracized underdog who clawed her way to the top. At various turns across seven seasons, “A” has also been a stalker, a hidden sibling, an originally well-intentioned friend who lost the plot. A bully. A victim. “A” is what happens when the tormented dare to fight back against their tormentors. Maybe there’s an “A” in all of us, a little spark that could be catalyzed into burning vengeance, if only given room to breathe.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, which premieres on HBO Max today, July 28, is the latest spin-off of Sara Shepard’s mid-2000s young adult book series that tells the story of A and the group of girls who get caught in A's wrath. The series has always been about female friendship via trauma bond, of the secrets we keep and how they unravel us from the inside. But in 2022, Original Sin raises the stakes: It’s not only our own mistakes that follow us around, but those of our parents. Co-creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (of Riverdale fame) and Lindsay Calhoon Bring (who worked with Aguirre-Sacasa on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) turn this thrilling teen drama into a slasher, imbuing a familiar story with blood, gore, and endless classic-horror references. And like its iconic horror forebears, Original Sin reminds us that there’s nothing more terrifying than being a teenage girl.

The new group of girls, meanwhile, has more than its fair share of secrets: There’s Imogen (Bailee Madison), a ruthlessly curious, pregnant teen reeling after a family tragedy; Tabby (Chandler Kinney), an outspoken movie buff and filmmaker who has her camera lens in some unexpected places; Faran (Zaria), a committed ballerina who isn’t afraid to go head-to-head with show villain Karen; Noa (Maia Reficco), a fun-loving athlete fresh out of juvenile detention and dealing with all kinds of sh*t; and Mouse (Malia Pyles), a sweet, tech-obsessed loner with a complicated past under her Disney-character demeanor. Together, they can face any enemy that comes for them, whether that’s an incompetent town cop or a vigilante on a killing spree. Friends share secrets, after all. That’s what keeps them close.

The original series catapulted its stars into mainstream fame. As another generation of Liars picks up A’s heavy curse, these rising stars prepare for a new chapter in their real-life coming-of-age stories. (Hopefully, with much less blackmail and murder.)

Front: Maia Reficco wears an Alberta Ferretti dress, Wolford tights, Manolo Blahnik heels, and The M Jewelers bracelet. Bailee Madison wears a Fendi dress and underpinnings, Gianvito Rossi heels. Chandler Kinney wears a PH5 dress, Jimmy Choo heels, and Joomi Lim necklace. Back: Zaria wears a Chanel cardigan and skirt, Else bra, Wolford tights, and Dorsey necklace. Malia Pyles wears a St. Johns dress and Jimmy Choo heelsPHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

The Glitter Is in the Air

Each new cast member came to Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin as a fan first. At 16, Reficco wrote “Ezria” — the couple portmanteau for Aria Montgomery and Ezra Fitz — in white nail polish with a heart on her bed frame. Kinney devoured the book series and bonded over the show with friends at lunch in middle school. At age 10, Pyles found in Emily Fields an early representation of what being queer could look like. Madison watched every Tuesday night and even dressed up in A gear for Halloween.

Zaria discovered the PLL book series in a very fitting way: “I changed schools a lot, and when I was going to a new school, my friend — who ended up not being such a friendly person — gave me that book,” she tells Teen Vogue. “We had some racially charged confrontations where she would say some really nasty things. So having this role in this world where someone that I thought was a friend gave me this book, it just all seemed so magnetic.”

PLLOS is Zaria’s first starring role on TV (she previously guested on Black-ish and acted in the Oscar-winning short film Two Distant Strangers), and, now in her 20s, she’s been working toward this moment for years. She calls the approaching Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin premiere “a glitter-in-the-air moment,” after the song by Pink. It’s a fitting reference, given that “Glitter in the Air” was used twice in the original series, in season one and again in the final season. The beginning and end of a chapter that forever changed the lives of the first PLL cast is already shifting the lives of this next generation.

“It basically is a poem for how after the glitter falls to the ground, nothing's the same anymore,” Zaria says, sitting in the dark of a kitchen set at the studio where PLLOS is filmed in upstate New York. “You can't get rid of all the glitter, [but] there's some magic to how it looks.”

Zaria wears a Chanel coat, Hanro bralette, Levis jeans, Roger Vivier belt, Chanel shoes, Van Cleef & Arpels necklace, Marlo Laz ring, and Zoë Chicco earrings.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

One of a few former child stars in Original Sin, Bailee Madison, 22, lived a fan’s dream as she befriended the cast in real life, from Troian Bellisario to Shay Mitchell, and eventually Lucy Hale. Hale had long been in Madison’s orbit through Los Angeles acting circles, and it was Hale who urged her to pursue the spin-off. “We were in a workout class together. She looked at me when we were doing abs and was like, ‘You should do the new PLL,’” Bailee recalls with a laugh. “I'm pretty sure my words were, ‘That would be a dream, but I'm not getting my hopes up.'"

A dream that each young woman reiterates with awe in her voice: The group spent more than nine months holed away together in upstate New York, in their own little bubble, and now it’s time for the fruits of their labor to be borne out into the world.

Malia Pyles, 22, compares her experience of filming to going away for college. Born in Orange County, California, the Filipina American began modeling and acting around age eight, mostly in student and short films — anything to be on a set. A family friend used to call her George, as in George of the Jungle, because she refused to speak to anyone, but acting opened her up and enabled her to find her voice. Eventually, she was landing small parts on The Fosters, How to Get Away With Murder, and Baskets.

Pyles had just moved into her first adult apartment in Los Angeles when she got the call that she would be playing Mouse. The apartment was left bare and she moved across the country, where she didn’t know anyone. “It was a really confidence-building experience," Pyles says, "knowing I can go and be diligent and have fun and find friends, and that wherever I am going to be, I'll land on my two feet.” 

This presented a bit of a mirror to Mouse’s story in season one and is a reason Pyles related so much to the character, who keeps to herself before she’s able to befriend the other girls. Mouse — a kid with overprotective parents and past trauma that has prevented her from stretching her wings in spaces beyond the internet — is going through her own metamorphosis. “She finds solace in her isolation, and I think that's why the relationships with these other girls are so impactful," Pyles explains. "Because it's the first time that she's had friends and community. She really steps into a protector role in a big way this season, and finds her power and her voice.”

Malia Pyles wears a Still Here New York jacket and jeans, Else bodysuit, Aquazurra heels, Zoë Chicco necklace, Jade Trau ring, and Roberto Coin earrings.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

Pyles isn’t the only actor to have some art-imitating-life moments in the series. When Zaria read for Faran, she had a weird sense of déjà vu: The audition scene had her confront fellow ballerina Kelly, who had been dropping microaggressions left and right. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I think I just said this monologue to myself yesterday.’ It was so similar to what I was experiencing in acting classes,” Zaria says. 

When the cast announcement came out with not one but two Black women leads, Zaria remembers feeling excitement mixed with heartbreak because such casting is rare. “But it is a really amazing thing to have a sister in the same space," she says, "in the same field, and to work alongside Chandler [Kinney] is just the dream come true.”

Chandler Kinney, 21, is another former child star in the Original Sin cast. She was a disruptive, artistic kid in Southern California, always dancing around the backyard or directing her older brothers in little homemade films. Her mom put her in dance lessons at age three to get out some of her boundless energy, and Kinney ended up pursuing it professionally as she got older. 

“Think Dance Moms — that was me as a young child,” she says, laughing. Through her dance studio, she got cast in a Gap ad, which led to an agent and acting lessons. She appeared in shows such as American Horror Story before making her way into the Disney ecosystem with a guest role on Girl Meets World, which led to K.C. Undercover and a leading role in the movie series Zombies, as Willa, a character she reprised this year for the third installment.

Original Sin has been a turning point for Kinney, marking the beginning of an acting era in which she is being more selective about the roles she pursues. “When I was younger, I was just so hungry to work and to be on set,” she explains. 

Even as a kid, she was aware that there weren't abundant opportunities for young Black girls compared with their white counterparts. “It made me, at a very young age, get really serious about my craft, because I knew already that I had to make every opportunity count," Kinney recalls. "Now that I've been doing this for about 10, 11 years, I've grown so much as an artist and as a person. I know what I'm attracted to, what stories are important for me to tell.”

Chandler Kinney wears an N21 coat, Aquazurra heels, NJ Miller Millinery hat, Van Cleef & Arpels necklace, Zoë Chicco earrings, and Scosha ring.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

Maia Reficco, 22, has also been thinking about the stories she wants to tell. It’s what drew her to Noa, aside from her preexisting PLL fandom. In the show, Noa wears an ankle monitor and is doing community service as part of being on probation for drug use. But everything isn’t as it seems — her mom has a history of substance use and that impacts Noa’s life. “I think that's also a very heartbreaking story, but necessary to tell because it's a lot of people's realities,” Reficco says. “It's a huge story to tell, and I want to be as respectful and honest with it as possible.”

Reficco, who is Argentinian American, was born in Boston and grew up in Buenos Aires. In her early childhood, she felt her identity was split down the middle, even as she pursued singing, acting, and gymnastics. It was only after her family moved to Buenos Aires that she began to feel grounded. She still lives there, speaking Spanish with her family and releasing music in Spanish and English when she’s not working in the U.S. 

As a kid, Reficco dreamed of being Hannah Montana, but she had never seen a Latina or Argentinian girl in a part like that onscreen. By 15, though, she was starring in the telenovela Kally’s Mashup, about a piano prodigy who has to balance her normal life. “I hid behind so many different layers and shields, stories that I would tell myself to justify myself being more American, or less this or less that,” Reficco says. “To now be able to tell a story and go to set with my [yerba] mate — all of these things are just so incredibly moving.”

Maia Reficco wears a St. John bandeau top and pants, Manolo Blahnik sandals, Jade Trau necklace, Roberto Coin earrings, Bea Bongiasca ring, and The M jewelers tennis necklace.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

In this first season of PLLOS, Madison’s character, Imogen, is pregnant, so the actor wore an artificial stomach that weighed six or seven pounds. When Madison started having some back pain in real life, a masseuse asked her outright if she’d ever been pregnant or worn a pregnancy suit. After filming, she returned to L.A. and had dinner with her sister, who could see the shift in the way she carried herself. “She was like, ‘It’s weird…. You're like 80% Bailee,’” Madison says.

The impact of her PLL character on her real life is notable given just how many roles Madison has previously played. Like Kinney and Pyles, she started young, acting alongside Salma Hayek and John Travolta in the 2006 film Lonely Hearts. The youngest of seven children, she nabbed that role by accident as she waited for her older sister Kaitlin to finish an audition of her own. 

That kicked off a life rarely spent at her family home in Fort Lauderdale, as Madison traveled to film locations all over the world. “My mom, from this point on, was like, ‘Okay, this is the only thing you're going to do,’” she says. “And then Bridge to Terabithia came and she's like, ‘Okay, we're quitting after this.’” Instead, what came next: Disney Channel shows, big-budget family films, and a slew of horror projects that have culminated with Original Sin. “[My mom] was not Team Industry, but she was Team Keeping Me Happy.”

But this acting experience feels different. It’s something Madison and Kinney talked about recently, how they filmed the series “low-key in the woods,” as Kinney puts it, and not on a Warner Bros. stage in Burbank, California; what it means to focus so immersively on something and then have to pull yourself out of it; and then, some months later, give it up to the world for opinions, criticisms, and takes.

Because of the show’s cult-like following, all five actors — though they’ve each had years of experience — are on the precipice of more fame than they’ve known before. Whether it’s their first leading role or their first time dedicating so much time to a project, they’re deeply invested and excited for this moment, nerves notwithstanding. They’ve thrown the glitter in the air and now it’s someone else’s turn to catch it.

Bailee Madison wears a Helmut Lang jacket and skirt, DKNY bodysuit, Tiffany & Co. necklace, Jade Trau necklace, David Yurman earrings, and Maison Miru ring.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

Did You Miss Me?

A self-described horror fanatic and Pretty Little Liars fan, co-creator Lindsay Calhoon Bring knew that Original Sin would have to be its own thing. We’re not in Rosewood anymore, my darlings. “I don't think we could touch that show because it is so beloved and iconic,” she tells Teen Vogue. Underneath the horror movie allusions and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's aesthetic, however, the show’s core is similar. “For me, it was really about five young women and making this about something aside from the horror, aside from the mystery," Calhoon Bring notes, "[instead focusing on] what it's like to be a young girl growing up.”

I. Marlene King’s Pretty Little Liars ran from 2010 to 2017, capturing a post-Gossip Girl snapshot of a time when cell phones were ubiquitous but the power of social media was just beginning to reveal itself. “PLL paved the way for modern-day fan engagement,” Vulture reported in 2017. As Aguirre-Sacasa tells Teen Vogue, “I feel like PLL was one of the first really big social media shows. When I was approached about [Original Sin] and I went back to see it, I understood why, because I don't think there would've been a Riverdale if there hadn't been an original PLL.” 

The fans built a community that has lasted through the short-lived spin-offs Ravenswood and The Perfectionists — a community that still exists today in vibrant group chats and ultra-invested stan accounts. “It was very unique for us because we were lucky to start our show when Twitter was really gaining traction,” says Sasha Pieterse, who played PLL’s original mean girl Alison DiLaurentis. “[The show was] one of the first to create such a buzz around the world with social media. It was so nice to be able to connect with people all over the world in real time.”

(L-R): Ashley Benson, Shay Mitchell, Troian Bellisario, Sasha Pieterse, and Lucy Hale in 'Til Death Do Us Part' (Season 7, Episode 20, aired June 27, 2017).Eric McCandless/Freeform

It’s been only five years since the series ended, even less time than it took to make the 2021 Gossip Girl spin-off after that original. Why do PLL all over again in 2022? Obviously, there’s the built-in fandom and relatively low financial risk of extending an existing property. It’s also a way to break through a crowded young adult TV landscape, Aguirre-Sacasa points out. But he asked himself certain questions when Warner Bros. came to him with the idea: “Is there a worthwhile story to be told? And is there some way to honor the original, but also find a different sort of POV on it or expand the mythology in some way?”

“You have to find your personal connection to the story you want to tell," he continues. "And if you find it, then it's worth it. As a fan of the original PLL, I hope that this honors it and isn't trying to correct it or anything like that. Celebrate the world that Sara created in her books and Marlene created in her show — that those OGs created — and expand it rather than try to replace it.”

Original Sin takes the opportunity to shift point of view, and though correction wasn’t the goal, this version has the benefit of seeing where certain PLL storylines have aged badly. Take Ezria, for example: The pairing is notoriously one of the most glamorized portrayals of a student/teacher relationship in media. There's nebulous plausible deniability in how they meet — at a bar in Rosewood where Ezra mistakes Aria for a local college student — but they begin dating even though he’s her 22-year-old high school English teacher and she’s 16. The series then takes away that deniability in season four by giving Ezra a deranged storyline in which he knew all along that Aria was underage, and even targeted her specifically to get material for his book about Alison, who was 14 or 15 when they met and flirted at a different bar. There aren’t any long-lasting consequences for this; the show ends with Aria and Ezra getting married, ostensibly living happily ever after.

“That is something we talked about,” Calhoon Bring says. “As much as we love that show, I do think that relationship was romanticized and presented as aspirational.” (Even Reficco, the Ezria shipper, admits, “I was obsessed with Ezra and Aria, which now in hindsight I'm like, ‘That was a weird ship.’”)

Things feel more intentional from the very first episode of Original Sin, which shows Tabby beginning to deal with her 20-something boss’s advances at the movie theater where she works. There’s no romanticization to be found here, and the horror elements — a creepy, lurking score, tense scene cuts, and Tabby’s own skepticism and ability to keep herself safe — help enforce that message. The storyline is inspired by Calhoon Bring’s own experiences working at a movie theater as a teenager.

“Tabby's story is very close to my story,” she says. “I had a boss who was older than me, who groomed me. My first kiss was with an adult when it should have been with a teenager…. He's not the right age and he's not the right guy for this 16-year-old girl. So we really wanted to make sure that felt like horror and that felt wrong.”

Across this first season, horror tropes are a vessel for discussions about misogyny, racism, bullying, and discrimination. PLLOS is better equipped to take on those discussions than its predecessor, which featured four white leads and only one woman of color in the main cast. But the show also builds on some of the groundwork PLL laid for LGBTQ+ representation. For many kids and teens in the 2010s — including members of the cast of Original Sin — Emily was the first queer person they saw onscreen. “I'm bisexual, so Emily was also very important in my coming to terms with everything,” says Reficco. Watching Emily and Alison’s slow-burn relationship over seven seasons was a romance with the kind of happy ending rarely granted to LGBTQ+ characters at the time.

“I think I can speak on Shay's behalf when we say that we were honored,” Pieterse says. “There were a lot of parents watching with their kids, and a lot more people and different dynamics were shown what a relationship like that could look like.”

Original Sin takes that queer representation several steps further. Mouse has two moms, and a queer storyline of her own that doesn’t involve coming out in a traditional sense; her early love interest is Ash, a teenage boy played by trans actor Jordan Gonzalez, who gets to be a heartthrob without an asterisk. 

“I think the most impactful part of the original for me was Emily's storyline in season one,” says Pyles. “Especially because for women or female-identifying people, there wasn't a lot on TV at all. And if it was, it was fetishized in a number of ways. There's such a purity to her story and the struggles she went through. So to be able to also identify as queer outwardly on the show has been so cool.” It’s an expansion, not a replacement.

While Aguirre-Sacasa is a co-creator and has helped shape the show’s aesthetic and base, it’s women who take center stage behind the scenes and in front of the camera in Original Sin. Women have always been at the center of Pretty Little Liars, but in Original Sin we see its stars and behind-the-scenes directors, crew, and creators center a woman’s perspective in every aspect of the show. (There are five female directors total in season one, with nine out of 10 episodes directed by women.) Even the filming location, Upriver Studios in Saugerties, New York, is founded and owned by women. “It's really exciting to not only feel that theme obviously in what we're telling,” Reficco says, “it's actually happening behind-the-scenes as well.”

(L-R): Malia Pyles wears a St. Johns dress and Jimmy Choo heels. Zaria wears a Chanel cardigan and skirt, Else bra, Wolford tights, and Dorsey necklace. Bailee Madison wears a Fendi dress and underpinnings, and Gianvito Rossi heels. Chandler Kinney wears a PH5 dress, Jimmy Choo heels, and Joomi Lim necklace. Maia Reficco wears an Alberta Ferretti dress, Wolford tights, Manolo Blahnik heels, and The M Jewelers braceletPHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

The Devil Is in the Details

There’s a meta commentary on the horror genre that runs through this season. In one school project, Tabby is literally remaking the classic-horror film Psycho through her own lens — and that’s what the series as a whole aims to do. The creators fully expect fans to hunt for horror Easter eggs (and Rosewood allusions!) throughout the season, whether props, costumes, or establishing shots. 

Here’s a head start: Tabby’s mom, Sidney, was named for the Scream heroine; movie theater boss Wes’s name is a nod to director Wes Craven; the pilot was heavily inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween; and Imogen’s name comes from 28 Weeks Later actor Imogen Poots, whom Calhoon Bring pictured as the character in her mind. Each character also has an object motif, with a continued symbol cropping up that specifically represents something about who they are and what they want. Even the wallpaper designs are significant.

Calhoon Bring and Aguirre-Sacasa had fun with this, injecting the show with these particular elements from their own fandoms. That fun is what has allowed Calhoon Bring to feel excited, rather than stressed, about possible reactions to Original Sin and comparisons to the first series. (It also helps that she’s not on Twitter.)

“Some advice that was given to me by Michael Grassi, who is a wonderful executive producer and writer on our show, was, ‘Some people are going to hate it, but it's going to be somebody's favorite show,’” Calhoon Bring recalls. “The things I love, not everybody's going to love, and it's okay to differ. I'm a superfan of things too. I loved the original Roswell. [A reboot] is not ever going to capture the way I felt when I watched it in 1998.”

Oh Honey, You Didn’t Even Know Me When You Knew Me

The core mystery in Original Sin revolves around a character named Angela Waters, who was a teenager in the year 2000, when the moms of our five leading girls were themselves a tight-knit Y2K clique. But something went wrong back then, something the present-day moms feel guilty about, something the next generation of Liars will have to pay for. What do you do when the parents you trust turn out to be as fallible as anyone else, or worse, capable of inflicting long-lasting harm?

We’ve come a long way from the delightful comic relief of the “wine moms” in the first series. The new show is deeply interested in the question of what we carry from our parents, whether it’s generational trauma or the consequences of their actions. This question makes Madison think of something her dad told her years ago: Parents aren’t superheroes. “They also have their own past trauma,” she says. “They also have things that they're working through.”

Bailee Madison wears a Helmut Lang jacket and skirt, DKNY bodysuit, Tiffany & Co. necklace, Jade Trau necklace, David Yurman earrings, and Maison Miru ring.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES
Chandler Kinney wears an N21 coat, Aquazurra heels, NJ Miller Millinery hat, Van Cleef & Arpels necklace, Zoë Chicco earrings, and Scosha ring.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

Those levels of nuance add another layer to Original Sin’s expansion of the PLL universe. By the end of the first series, PLL was just beginning to delve into the aftereffects of serious trauma. Fans joke about the absurdity and intensity level of A’s memorable season-five dollhouse, but the truth is, if you were locked inside an underground Barbie dream house of your life and gaslit into thinking it was your actual home for weeks on end, you would feel that forever.

“I loved that we started talking about [what comes after],” Pieterse says. “I think that given the opportunity, we could have gotten a lot deeper with it. ‘A’ was the bully, and it was entertaining to watch, which obviously we had to do. But there are real-life aspects of the fact that these girls were getting tortured in basements and the long-term effects of that. What that would look like in real life is really intense.”

Troian Bellisario, who played Spencer Hastings, tells Teen Vogue that one of her favorite storylines was Spencer’s relationship to Radley Sanitarium, which began after she brought up the stress and experiences the girls had been through. “When Mona was exposed as A, and then she was sent to Radley, I went to the producers and I was having a conversation with them,” Bellisario says. “I said, ‘I don't really understand why [just] Mona is in a mental institution. All of these girls should be, with what they're going through. There's just so much stress. I don't know how any of them aren't having full-on mental breakdowns.’ And they were kind of like, ‘You're absolutely right.’”

The way we talk about mental health has shifted over the past decade, especially in the aftermath of trauma. The characters in Original Sin come to the first season with plenty of difficult life experiences — they don’t need A to torture them or their parents to have already been scarred by what people can do to each other. The cast and creators often bring up this idea of internal vs. external horror, and it plays into the show’s dynamics of good and evil. A racist ballet teacher, an obtuse school principal, a malicious sheriff: They inflict as much, if not more, damage than an A, who is out to avenge their past.

An undercurrent in Original Sin is the way the girls figure out how to reframe trauma on their own terms in order to survive, and maybe even thrive. Tabby is the overt example, using her filmmaker’s eye to hold up a mirror to the people, ideologies, and systems she sees around her. But as Pyles says, all of the girls have their own suffering and each one has to find a way to live.

“Alongside all of this external horror that is happening, they want to feel at peace with the spiraling nature of the issues that are occurring in their lives,” Pyles notes. “Although other people looking in might not understand it, it's so important to validate the fact that the actions you need to [take] to feel okay with things that were not previously in your control are so important.”

Malia Pyles wears a Still Here New York jacket and jeans, Aquazurra heels, Zoë Chicco necklace, Jade Trau ring, and Roberto Coin earrings.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES
Zaria wears a Chanel coat, Hanro bralette, Roger Vivier belt, Chanel shoes, Van Cleef & Arpels necklace, Marlo Laz ring, and Zoë Chicco earrings.PHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

It’s Immortality, My Darlings

PLL lingers because it’s an immortal story. It’s about the relationships among women who bolster you and keep you alive. It’s a story about secrets, which is to say it’s about power — who has it, and who can reclaim it. Who gets to make choices about their own lives?

Zaria, Pyles, Kinney, Madison, and Reficco are about to see themselves embody a story that a new audience of young adults will obsess over. A new generation will forge friendships over weekly episode drops, find central ships and make fan edits, and see themselves in characters that more accurately reflect the lived experiences of teenage girls. Their whole lives are about to shift, and they're feeling the nerves of that headed into the premiere, wary of social media reactions and what the future will look like for them. 

“I don't know if anyone is ever ready for this,” Zaria says. “I feel like I'm in the eye of the storm. I can see it happening, but I can't really feel it happening yet.” 

The actors can’t control how people respond, necessarily. But they can take everything as it comes, knowing how wild it is that a book they loved in middle school has changed everything for them. Bellisario looks back on her years of filming and thinks about being locked in a carnival ride, or falling off a train, or playing a British twin. “You just never know what you're going to get,” she says. “I hope that they enjoy the ride.”

Front: Maia Reficco wears an Alberta Ferretti dress, Wolford tights, Manolo Blahnik heels, and The M Jewelers bracelet. Bailee Madison wears a Fendi dress and underpinnings, Gianvito Rossi heels. Chandler Kinney wears a PH5 dress, Jimmy Choo heels, and Joomi Lim necklace. Back: Zaria wears a Chanel cardigan and skirt, Else bra, Wolford tights, and Dorsey necklace. Malia Pyles wears a St. Johns dress and Jimmy Choo heelsPHOTOGRAPHY BY IZACK MORALES

Photography Credits

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