Warning! Do not continue reading if you have yet to watch Pretty Little Liars' epic season five finale. This post-mortem contains major spoilers, obviously!
Nice to finally meet you, Charles.
After five seasons of threatening text messages, terror and theorizing, Pretty Little Liars finally revealed "A"'s identity to fans in its insane-in-the-best-possible-way season five finale on Monday night: "A"'s name is Charles DiLaurentis. And he has a soul. And an origin story. Both on the show and behind-the-scenes of the ABC Family hit series, one that has been five-years in the making. Of course, this is just "the birth of a new story."
E! News exclusively chatted with executive producer Marlene King about finally answering one of TV's biggest mysteries in recent history, her other candidates for "A" and how she actually revealed the big bad's name back in season three.
E! Online: Holy finale! That was amazing. I think it's my favorite episode of Pretty Little Liars ever, it was just so delightfully creepy.
Marlene King: Thank you! To me, it's a toss-up between this one and the pilot, and that's the first time I've said it. This is the first one that even comes close to me to the birth of our story. It feels like the birth of a new story, which I really love.
How does it feel now though, after five seasons, for fans to finally know the answer—relieved or is it a little bittersweet?
You know, I'm excited. I'm really excited because it is a big, big answer but we have so much more story to tell between now and the end of summer, and it's just this sort of straight trajectory toward the finish line. It's exciting, it feels like we've earned this closure.
What I loved is that fans got an answer but so many more questions. We'll finally get to find out why Charles became "A."
The motivation of this "A" has excited me as much as the identity and having these last 10 episodes to find out about the why—it's important. We've been so invested for so long in the who that it's time to start asking 'why?'
I think my favorite line in the finale was "'A' has a soul," because we've never really thought of "A" as a person so much as an evil entity.
Even how Mona calls "A," an "it," she's stripped "A" of any identity and then for her, the first person who calls "A" "it," to say "'A' has a soul"...Thank you for saying that, it's my favorite line, too.
So "A"'s name is Charles DiLaurentis. Was this always your plan, to have Charles be "A," or has it evolved as the show has gone on over the last first years?
I started dropped references in some of my earlier episodes, like if you go back to season three where the girls see the mime and the mime's name is Charlemagne, which is the root name for Charles. So we've been dropping little nuggets along the way. And those anagrams that came out a couple episodes ago—it means a lot of different things, but one of the six or seven things it means is Charles DiLaurentis. I want to say that I had this idea in the back of my mind and I played with it for a couple of months before I pitched it to the room, sort of saying, ‘Is this going to work?' And I didn't get one negative reaction. But we did not tell the studio or the network until not too long ago. [Laughs.]
Did you ever consider having someone else be "A" before landing on Charles DiLaurentis?
We did. When we decided that we were going to reveal that Mona was original "A," which was always our intention, we started to think, well, someone needs to steal the game from her. Who is Big "A"? And I had three people in mind, all of whom were great choices. But then I made this immediate shift and said, "Well, what do you think of this?" And everybody really liked it. Just by the looks on people's faces, we all knew it was just so exciting and interesting.
Can you say who the other two people were?
Will you ever reveal the other "A" candidates?
I will say. When the show ends, I will say.
When you finally revealed to the cast who "A" was, what was the reaction?
They all loved it. The thing about it is when you tell the story of "A"...because I don't say the identity until I tell the story of "A," and when I start at the beginning, it takes an hour to tell the story, and it's the story you don't know yet because it's the why. And then everyone is so reeled into the why of it all that when I say the actual identity of the person, they're like, ‘Oh my gosh!'
Fans always speculated that one of the girls or their loved ones could be "A." Was anyone really disappointed that they weren't "A"?
They all want to be "A!" Except for Lucy Hale. She doesn't want to be "A." She's never come to me and said, "Can I be ‘A'?" Ashley Benson and Troian Bellisario are the two who always, always, always ask to be "A."
While watching the finale, I was just obsessing over every detail and thinking I couldn't wait to watch it again and look for clues. I even Googled what year "Unwritten" came out because it was playing when the girls walked down the stairs at "A"'s prom!
Yeah, that's a specific clue.
Which scene do you think is most important for fans to go back and watch for clues?
They call it the vault room, but I call it "A"' soul room. When they're in that room, there are a lot of clues in that room. I'm sure people will be screen-grabbing everything frame of that scene, and they should, by the way!
Want even more season six scoop from Marlene King? Check back with us tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT for some major news!