You’re originally from Memphis. What was it like moving to LA to pursue acting at such a young age? Do you think taking on a challenge like that (I’m guessing it was a challenge!) shaped who you are today?
I got this crazy idea to want to move to LA when I was 14 and by the age of 15 I had convinced my mom. We packed up our Prius and drove the 32 miles from Memphis to LA not really knowing what we were getting into or how long we would stay. My mom took a travel nurse job out there and that was the only way we could afford to go. We lived pay check to pay check and my mom was practically my only friend for 2 years. It was us against the world and without her undying love and support, I would absolutely not be who I am or where I am today.
I sort of dove into this acting idea blindly. All I knew was that I loved it and that I felt like it was my calling. I had absolutely no idea that the competition would be so stiff and that I would hear "no" a thousand times before hearing one "yes". Nothing can really prepare a young girl for that sort of rejection and criticism, but through everything I learned how to take on the world. I've been doing this for almost 15 years now and I can honestly say that I have no regrets. It has been extremely challenging and heartbreaking at times, but I wouldn't give up what I do or what I've been through for anything.
How did it feel to land the role of Aria? Did you have any idea how big Pretty Little Liars would get, and how it would impact your life?
Getting to be a part of PLL was ultimately what changed my life. It is so rare to be involved in such a phenomenon like that. It was a rollercoaster and sometimes we were hanging on for dear life, but it was one hell of an experience. I honed my craft, learned about every area of television, made great friends...the list goes on and on. Honestly, I don't think anything could have prepared us for what the show brought to our lives. It was one of those situations where all the stars aligned. It was meant to be.
Was it bittersweet to wrap PLL? What were some of the highlights and challenges of playing Aria for seven seasons?
Of course it's sad when something wonderful comes to an end, but we were all in a good place to say goodbye. Almost 8 years of filming and 7 seasons is unbelievably special and we all knew that it was time to go. I still have days where I get sad and want to just drive onto the WB lot and put on Arias wardrobe again, but the chapter has been closed. I am forever grateful for what PLL brought to me and I had the time of my life playing Aria. She taught me to wear my heart on my sleeve and to fight for love, how to be loyal, how to take a risk with fashion, and most importantly how to track down a stalker :)
Do you have a dream role, or a type of character you haven’t gotten to play yet that you’d like to?
I'm in such a cool place in my career now because I can be picky. I don't have to do the roles that are given to me that typecast me. I can do things that are left of center. I'm ready to take risks and surprise people. The great thing about acting is that the roles and characters and layers to someone are endless. There are no two characters that are alike. I'm more drawn to darker material, stuff with an edge. Thats where im leaning towards now in my career.
Of all the roles you’ve played, which character do you relate to the most, and how so?
I bring parts of myself to every character I play. For me, I have to find how I relate to the character. As people we are all alike in one way or another. I relate to Stella (Life Sentence) optimism, Aria's stubbornness, Lily (Dude) type A personality, Olivia (Truth or Dare) ability to be a leader...
You’ve been in a couple films that have released this year. Is it a nice change from TV? Do you see yourself focusing more on film or tv in the future, or some of both?
I grew up and lived and learned on TV. For a while it was all I knew. It is very fast paced and often you don't get a lot of time to prepare. But it really does train you to be on your A game at all times. I love film. I love being able to bring a story full circle and to live with a character.
What shows are you watching right now? Are you a binge-watcher, or do you have the self-control to space it out?
I definitely am a binge watcher. I couldn't tell you the last time I watched something live on TV. I won't start something unless I know the whole season is done because I get anxious. I just finished Sharp Objects and it was fantastic. I watch a lot of true crime documentaries. That's probably 95% of my watch list.
I’ve heard that music is your first love. Any plans or desire to get back into the music business in the future?
Music will always be such an important part of my life. As far as plans for the future, I'm unsure. I do know that it will always be a part of my life whether it be another album, or theatre, or through acting...
What’s on your playlist right now?
Billie Eilish, Troye Sevan, ODESZA, Borns, Ruston Kelly...I'm kind of all over the place
You’ve recently teamed up with St Jude for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That’s awesome. How’d you get involved with the cause?
I'm from Memphis which is where St. Jude is located. Its a magical life that truly saves and changes lives. Having visited there, I knew that I wanted to share with my platform how they can help. The great thing about St. Jude is that patients and families receive housing, treatment, food, etc for free.
What are you most excited for next in your career?
Challenging myself and pushing the limits. I love being creative and finding different ways to release that creative energy. Obviously excited about new characters and stories to tell. Also looking forward to new ventures in the beauty & fashion world.