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Bailee Madison Explains Why ‘PLL: Summer School’ Walked Back Aria and Ezra Story (Exclusive)

Following fan backlash, Pretty Little Liars: Summer School didn’t just walk back their mentions of Ezria — they threw in a dig at Ezra as well.

During the Thursday, May 7, season premiere of Pretty Little Liars: Summer School, Imogen (Bailee Madison) surprised viewers when she discussed how her daughter’s adoptive parents were a gay couple who lived in the fictional Millwood town. The revelation came after Imogen previously said she chose Aria (Lucy Hale) and Ezra (Ian Harding), which served as an Easter egg to the original Pretty Little Liars series, to raise her baby.

Madison, 24, exclusively told Us Weekly that she wasn’t surprised by the decision.

“I understood what was probably coming. I think that there was some hesitation by viewership when they found out that information,” Madison explained to Us. “So the thing that [creators] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and Lindsay [Calhoon Bring] and all of us, I think try to do so well is to be as thoughtful and mindful towards the subject matters that we’re dealing with. So I wasn’t surprised by that.”

Bailee Madison Explains Why 'PLL: Summer School' Walked Back Aria and Ezra Story
Lucy Hale and Ian Harding in Pretty Little Liars. Freeform/Eric McCandless
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While addressing the choice onscreen, PLL OG Dr. Sullivan (Annabeth Gish) pointed out that Imogen was motivated by wanting to live near her daughter. Imogen, however, had a list of reasons — including a dig about Ezra having a “weird vibe.”

“I was so happy that they were able to write it in a way that’s still kind of a nod [to the show] and can make you chuckle and make you laugh,” Madison noted to Us. “But I do think at the core for Imogen, she’s lost so many things in her life.”

The actress continued: “The decision to give up the baby is the right decision for her. She knows that but she’s just lost something else. That’s really the thing she’s trying to hold on to. It’s so sad. Really sad. She’s really going through it.”

Meanwhile, costar Zaria poked fun at how PLL: Summer School shook up the story line, adding, “My reaction to that is that mama knows best.”

Max’s Pretty Little Liars spinoff, which debuted in 2022, introduced a new iteration of the hit series about a group of girls who get taunted by an unknown stalker. While the first season was referred to as Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, season 2 was rebranded as Pretty Little Liars: Summer School.

Bailee Madison Explains Why 'PLL: Summer School' Walked Back Aria and Ezra Story
Karolina Wojtasik/Max
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Due to Aria and Ezra’s controversial teacher-student romance in the ABC Family-turned-Freeform series, not every fan was thrilled to have them mentioned in the current version.

“I felt like there was a weight that was almost taken off of me a little bit just due to the fact that our first season had come out and thankfully had been received so beautifully,” Madison detailed to Us. “I think we all held so much respect for the original and so much respect for what we were trying to do with our story and with these girls. So there was a level of like, ‘OK, we’ve got this.'”

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Karolina Wojtasik/Max

Bring also weighed in on allowing the PLL legacy to shape their series.

“[Roberto and I] are both huge fans of the original show. So was our cast by the way — they are super fans. So it was really fun for us to come into something knowing how rabid that fanbase is [and] knowing how protective the fans are [of] the original show,” she said during an interview with Us. “When a show gets it so right, you can’t just retread those waters but instead [you can] be inspired by them.”

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School

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Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is able to stand on its own in part because of its slasher-style tone.

“While the original show definitely flirted with horror and slasher in some episodes, we thought, ‘A way we could be in this world and give honor to the show is create new characters, have them up against similar odds and really lean in and embrace this as a horror genre,'” Bring concluded. “That was so fun for us, given how much we love horror.”

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is available to stream on Max with new episodes released on Thursdays.

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