How fitting that a character we first met while she was shoplifting has stolen our hearts. As the former fatty-turned-trim troublemaker Hanna Marin on ABC Family's addictive hit Pretty Little Liars, 21-year-old Ashley Benson is bringing a killer combo of humor and humanity to a role that could have been a cookie-cutter clone of all the Queen Bee teens who've come before.
TV Guide Magazine: First things first: Someone ran Hanna down in the mid-season finale and left her with a busted leg. How do you make a giant fake cast cute?
Benson: [Laughs] You can't! I'm in it for about three episodes and had to be wheeled around set and walk on crutches. One of the assistant directors had to get all of my stuff! I was miserable.
TV Guide Magazine: Ugh. What secrets can you spill about the second half of this season?
Benson: It's really about uncovering more about the night Alison disappeared — and how we deal with it all. The girls become much tighter and closer.
TV Guide Magazine: So we should expect more solidarity among these four?
Benson: Yes, and it's really nice. Because everyone's secrets are coming out, there are things I'll only tell them. Then Emily comes out... and we all just kind of band together.
TV Guide Magazine: Even though the show is only halfway through its first season, Hanna seems to have really evolved.
Benson: I think when we saw Hanna in the first few episodes, she was that typical Mean Girl. And I didn't want her to be just that. We did it for a bit, and I am so glad that she's more down-to-earth now. She's really come into her own instead of trying to be this person she's not.
TV Guide Magazine: Who would you say she is?
Benson: She's not the popular girl. Yeah, she's lost weight, she knows how to dress, she can do her hair... but she still is Hefty Hanna inside. So it's nice that she can have fun with that.
TV Guide Magazine: Yet she seems to have the most drama!
Benson: And in the first few episodes back, she's just tortured by "A." Then she comes home from the hospital and has to deal with financial pressures and her mom. So there is even more drama for Hanna, but obviously she's also the one who is always sarcastic or trying to lighten up the moment.
TV Guide Magazine: So she does get to have some fun later this season?
Benson: Oh, Hanna has a lot of fun coming up. She gets involved with this new character named Caleb [Tyler Blackburn], who randomly comes to the school. He's really mysterious and a bit of a bad boy, with a bad history. He's involved in a certain business that he's not supposed to be involved in.
TV Guide Magazine: Good thing Bryce Johnson's creepy Officer Wilden is gone from the scene.
Benson: Well, you know he left because he was doing Lone Star. And now there are rumors that he might come back...
TV Guide Magazine: So what else are the Liars hiding?
Benson: [Laughs] Everybody's got to keep a little secret.
Pretty Little Liars airs Monday at 8/7c on ABC Family.