Elena Goode Gives Us An Inside Look At Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin - Exclusive Interview

The residents of Rosewood aren't the only ones with secrets. In a nearby city called Millwood, a new group of pretty little liars are being haunted by the memory of A in the spin-off series "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin."

This time around, however, the stakes seem to be even higher than before. A is out for revenge, and the new series has been tinged with even more horror. Every episode leads us closer to discovering who exactly A is, and the latest pretty little liars have a lot of explaining to do for themselves along the way.

As it turns out, each of their mothers have their own set of secrets that are turning up from their past, too — and there's a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to Noa's mother Marjorie, who's played by actress Elena Goode.

In an exclusive interview with The List, Goode gave us an inside look at the long-awaited spin-off that's bound to create an even bigger fandom. She shared the special connection she made with her onscreen daughter Maia Reficco, recalled the terrifying story of staying in a haunted hotel while filming, and teased the season finale that is sure to shock fans.

How Elena Goode feels about joining the world of Pretty Little Liars

Did you watch the original "Pretty Little Liars" series at all in order to prepare for "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin" in any way?

Yes, and I also watched it when it was originally out. I was late to the party, so I started [around] Season 4 or 5. I really loved the finale. I loved all the twists and turns. That really grabbed me, and all of the unexpected relationships that unfolded between the girls [were] really interesting.

I also rewatched it to prepare for this experience to get to know everyone's work and have a better feel for that world.

The spin-off has nods to the original, but it's also its own world as well. Did you feel any added pressure going into a spin-off series where there was already such a large fandom?

This is the exciting thing about it, because it's not a reboot. It's in the "Pretty Little Liars" universe. There was a part of me, and I can't speak on behalf of everybody, but I want to say this: All of us felt we had a lot of freedom to explore the characters that we were creating in a whole new and fresh way for the fans — yes, the returning fans, but also the new fans to connect with this new storyline and these new people.

As far as pressure is concerned, if anything, there was more excitement to offer something that people can connect with and be surprised by.

What she loves about playing 'complicated' characters like Marjorie

How did you find out you landed the role of Marjorie? Do you have a fun story?

We were deep in the pandemic, and the funny truth is, I was super thrilled to be connecting with the community of creators and creatives again, especially at a time when we were all going through different levels of isolation and that part of the pandemic experience. The whole process of it was thrilling because of the project and the role, but the other aspect of it was the ability to be so creative with such an incredible team of people.

The typical way — not everything happens in person, but a lot of it does unfold in person. In this case, it was a phone call. Whenever you get that group phone call from your agents, and then they're patching in someone, and patching in someone, you go, "Ah. This is going to be good." [Laughs] It was one of those moments, one of those conference call moments where I discovered I was selected for the role.

What was your first impression of Marjorie? Does she feel different than any character you've played before?

This is the interesting thing, and I feel really lucky in this way that I've been able to play women that are complicated. I find that very interesting, because we are complicated. Yes, in life, we have situations, whether it's the office or high school, where you can pick out these archetypal roles in people. That's the "this." She's the "that." He's the "this."

What is really exciting about the roles that I've been able to play is that they are complicated. There will be moments when you are rooting for the person, and then there'll be moments when you're gasping, and you're really concerned, thrown off by their choices, their behavior, and how they're treating the people around them.

My impression of Marjorie was pure excitement, because she is complicated. She is dynamic. There will be moments when you're rooting for her, and there will be moments when you gasp and say, "Why?" [Laughs]

Each episode was a surprise for all the actors to film

Did you know the entire trajectory that Marjorie's story would take going into filming, or were you learning along the way?

I was learning along the way, and that was the interesting process of shooting. We were given the material close to filming, and so the beauty of that is like: You, in life, are living in this moment. You don't really know the actions that you're engaging in, how they'll unfold in the moment that's yet to come. That's how we would receive the material.

The fun of not knowing the arc allowed me to play into the here and now. I don't really know how the choices I'm going to make are going to impact my daughter in the next days and weeks to come as my life and my story unfolded. The fun of how they offered us this material was that they didn't reveal where everything was going to go.

It's fun that you get to learn it like a viewer would along the way.

That's how I felt when I read the finale. We were all in a group text, and we were like, "Did you see that?" "Oh, my God. Can you believe this?" "No!" That was really fun to have that journey, have that ride, that hopefully the fans will have, of the surprise and the discovery.

What it was like working with the new cast

You worked with executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has created major shows like "Riverdale" and "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina." What was it like working with him on "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin"?

It was amazing, because you just said it: With someone with the experience level and weight that he has in the business, the eye that he has, the skill that he has, you can step into that with a sense of awe, maybe even intimidation. The beauty of his personality and how he works is that there's none of that.

He loves to engage with the people that he works with, and he loves to make people feel completely at home, and one of the things that I noticed about him immediately was a comfort level that he offers to everybody that he works with.

That was one of the most unexpected traits that he brings to the table, because all of the other things are obvious, right? Powerhouse, witty, experienced, skilled, strong, great leader. Feeling right at home was not something that I immediately expected [Laughs], but it's how I felt working with him and that was a wonderful surprise.

You also worked with actress Maia Reficco, who plays your daughter Noa. What was it like working with her to develop your mother-daughter relationship? From watching, it seems like a shattered or broken relationship.

That's a great word that you used, "shattered," and this is why: because it's broken in different ways. Just as you described it, there are different ways in which their relationship is broken. You have that final thread of: We're bonded to each other as mother and daughter, so you can't escape that thread, and yet, there's a lack of trust. There's a lack of communication. There's a lack of caretaking that is all unfolding that affects how they interact day to day.

On the flip side, the fun part, especially as actors: You really have to have a lot of trust, a lot of communication, and a lot of comfort. Maia is a powerhouse, and she brings to the table a lot of warmth and a lot of energy. Connecting with her was very fast and very easy. I instantly was like — my heart felt open, and hers did, too, and that aspect of working with her made the acting relationship so seamless.

How did you two meet for the first time?

It was on Zoom [Laughs], and I saw her beautiful little face, and the group Zoom montage with everybody in the room, and I remember looking at her and really feeling that connection where I felt like we could really go there and experience some highs and lows of emotion without holding back.

Some of the sets were actually haunted

I've also heard that you shot some scenes at some haunted locations. Is that accurate?

Yes. Everything felt pretty haunted around where we were [Laughs], and there's some interesting stories in history in one of the towns, the towns that me and the other actresses playing the mothers were staying in. It's very interesting to look up.

I have a really good friend who was shipping me a gift, and I hadn't been sleeping that well, and she said, "This is very soothing. It's for a nighttime ritual. What's your address?"

I got the link to the hotel, and I sent her the information. This friend is also a channel, [depending] on what you believe, but she can sense energy and receive energy in messages.

She opens the link. She looks at the image of the hotel, and I didn't tell her this, but she goes, "How are you sleeping?" I said, "Not well. [Laughs] I feel there's an energy of unrest."

She said, "I'm sensing that, too, off of where you're staying and off of the town and everything." I said, "That's so weird."

There was this very old church right outside of my window. Late one night, probably not a good idea, I start researching the history of the church, and long story short, it was built on top of over a hundred unmarked graves. The pastor would say that people wouldn't want to work in the church past 10:00 at night, and that there was this sense of people being in there and feeling that they were being watched, that there was an energy of unrest.

So [Laughs], I think I was picking up on that.

Were there any scenes that you worked on in spaces that were haunted? Were you ever scared yourself or really creeped out to work on a scene?

Yes, and that was the excitement of it, because I do love the genre so much, and I'd always wondered, "What would it feel like? Would you have to act, or would you really genuinely be scared?" The answer is genuinely scared. [Laughs]

There were some incredible sets, and I won't give any of it away, but the tone that was set [and] the creativity that was brought to the table to build some of these environments were phenomenal, and they were genuinely spooky. [Laughs]

The moment she'll never forget from this season

Is there a behind-the-scenes moment from filming the season that's been the most special to you?

There's a few, but there's one that I'm nostalgic about. It was the last day of shooting. We didn't know how late we were going to run, and who was going to wrap when, and we were in a large group.

All of a sudden, I start to see people circling and gathering around me and having this look on their faces as they started to walk towards me. I realized it was my last day, and we had spent so much time together. I get chills talking about it. We had spent so much time together, we'd really become this tight knit group, and everyone slowly starts clapping.

I lost it. I got lots of hugs from everyone, and congratulations from everyone, and it was a very memorable and emotional behind-the-scenes point of closure for me after an incredible ride to wrap in the middle of the night on this surprise note with everyone standing around in the darkness. [Laughs] It was really magical and memorable.

Were you surprised by how the season ends?

Absolutely, and that's [the fun part] about how we received the material, where we were really able to go on the ride with everyone, which is why, when we all read it, we thought, "Ah. People are going to love this."

Yes, it is definitely surprising. You will be following all the twists and the turns, not knowing how things are necessarily going to unfold until the very last moment.

Have you heard any really crazy theories yet, or is it too early?

I've heard a few different things [where] I'm like, "Huh. [Laughs] I didn't see that coming," or like, "Oh, you're getting warm a little bit."

It's interesting. Everyone has different theories ... I've heard things that are all over the place. [Laughs]

The first three episodes of "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin" are now streaming exclusively on HBO Max. Two new episodes will be released each Thursday.

This interview has been edited for clarity.