Janel Parrish began her career in musical theatre when Les Misérables came to Hawaii, her home, looking for a young Cosette. From there, she went on a national tour performing every day. When she was fourteen, Parrish and her family decided to move to Los Angeles so that she could continue pursuing her acting career. Today, Parrish stars on Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists as Mona, a beloved character from the hit Pretty Little Liars series. Parrish chats with us about the development of her character in the PLL world and the importance of on-screen diversity in our Spring 2019 issue.
How did you get into acting?
My parents took me to go see [The Phantom of The Opera] in Hawaii. I must have been almost six. I just remember sitting on my parents’ coats so I could be taller and see the stage better. I turned to my dad after it was over and told him, “I want to do that.” That was the moment that I knew I wanted to be a performer.
What was it like to play such an out-there character as Mona Vanderwaal on Pretty Little Liars?
It has been so amazing. I feel so grateful that I was able to play a role that has so many layers. I never got bored because the writers were always keeping me on my toes. I was always challenged; there was always a new, fun angle to play. So when Marleen King came to me and asked me to continue to play Mona on the spin-off The Perfectionists, that was a no brainer, I was excited to. Again, they did not disappoint! I now have a new version of Mona. As an actress, that character has been a dream to play.
I have been very fortunate to be a part of a lot of films and TV shows that celebrate diversity and have a lot of powerful women. I do think that it is something that a lot of our viewers love. They can turn on our show and relate to the way our characters look and the experiences that they are going through. That is so beautiful and important.
Tell us about Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists? What is it about? Who does it follow?
Alison comes to this new town, Beacon Heights, where Mona is. It is a seemingly perfect, picturesque town, but then the town’s only murder happens. Alison and Mona find themselves in the middle of a serious mystery again. They have to learn to become friends and team up in order to figure out what is happening. This town seems perfect, adorable, and secret-free, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. Everybody has secrets and is hiding something. There is also this element of spying, people in the town are being watched and we don’t know why yet. So how do you keep secrets when people are watching you?
How is your character, Mona, different on The Perfectionists?
I think Mona is a little bit more sophisticated and evolved. She is trying to leave her darkness behind her but doesn’t always succeed. She is still Mona but has definite setbacks, and darkness still finds her. Alison and Mona go through it together. You also see her trying to open up to people a little bit more. It is really a beautiful friendship between Mona and Alison. Right now, it is very tentative, but it kind of blossoms and the two learn to trust each other. It is nice to see that side of Mona; she is finally letting people in.
The women of The Perfectionists come from many different backgrounds. How do you think diversity on-screen impacts the audiences?
I think our show is very diverse in every sense of the word, from the way that our casts looks to the storylines to our characters and the relationships that are being represented. I have been very fortunate to be a part of a lot of films and TV shows that celebrate diversity and have a lot of powerful women. I do think that it is something that a lot of our viewers love. They can turn on our show and relate to the way our characters look and the experiences that they are going through. That is so beautiful and important.
STORY ANA SANDOVAL
PHOTOS DERRICK FRESKE
HAIR & MAKEUP GLENN NUTLEY
STYLIST LINDA MEDVENE
CREATIVE DIRECTION ANNA ZHANG
ORDER A PRINT COPY
click the title to purchase
Spring 2019 – Volume IV – Issue No. 002
Cover: Janel Parrish