Tonight, ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars had its season finale. The cable channel cashed in on the phenomenon of today’s mothers and daughters watching the same TV shows with The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, so Marlene King was to target the same mother-daughter audience when she was asked to develop Pretty Little Liars. Based on young adult thrillers by Sara Shepard, the series is a product of Gossip Girl‘s Alloy Entertainment. In this interview at Warner Bros, King, who co-runs Pretty Little Liars with exec producer Oliver Goldstick, talked to Deadline contributor Diane Haithman for this Showrunner Q&A about how a 47-year-old mother of two young boys came to partner with Alloy, Warner Bros, and ABC Family on the story of four small-town girls with secrets who start receiving mysterious text messages from their “missing” best friend:
DEADLINE: How did you get involved in this show?
KING: In a traditional world, I would have met with Alloy, then met with Warner Bros, then met with ABC Family. But we did it in reverse, and we did all right. I had a general meeting with ABC Family. I had only written features [Now And Then, If These Walls Could Talk, Just My Luck] and dabbled in TV only one other time. I had written a pilot for what was The WB. Kate Juergens was over there as WB’s SVP of development and she is now EVP of original series programming at ABC Family. And we had such similar sensibilities, we were like long lost friends. I knew we could do something together. And the next day they sent me the first Pretty Little Liars book.
DEADLINE: Had it been in development long?
KING: Before I came to the project, it was in development at The WB, and again at The CW. I think they tried to develop it twice at The CW. And then Alloy at WB took it to ABC Family. I think it was a perfect fit for me. I come from the heartland and I grew up in a tiny tiny town, and so I know that world very well. It was relatively easy getting the pilot made and getting the show on the air and staying true to what it was. The only struggle we had originally was the tone. We probably had 50 ‘tone’ meetings before we made the pilot. But it is what makes Pretty Little Liars unique unto itself. It is a little bit of mystery, it is a little bit of soap, it is a little bit of heightened reality, it is so many things rolled into one that it became original in that way.
DEADLINE: How did it affect you to have Paul Lee leave as head of ABC Family and become president of ABC Entertainment Group?
KING: It hasn’t really. We were nervous that it would because Paul was a huge champion of this show, and he embraced the darkness and the edginess very early on,. It is a very different show for ABC Family. But the executives over there have been very true to what the show was early on. They have told us many times, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Paul is still very very proud of this show and checks in often to see if we’re all happy. I think he thinks of this as his baby, too. Kate Juergens continues to spearhead what this show is, and she has stayed very true and solid with us about the process. (more…)