Lucy Hale must go from live-like-you're-being-hunted to embracing the long life ahead of you in her first post-Pretty Little Liars role.

Hale plays Stella in Life Sentence, the new CW series about a young woman who discovers she's been cured of terminal cancer. After eight years of living like every moment could be her last, Stella has to grow up quickly and figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. It's a disorienting experience as Stella realizes she's married to a man she barely knows and her entire family has been painting a brave face on all of their serious problems for nearly a decade.

Lucy talked to TV Guide at the Television Critics Association winter previews in January about Stella's journey and revealed how that struggle is going to unfold.

<p>Lucy Hale, <em>Life Sentence</em> </p>

Lucy Hale, Life Sentence

In the pilot, Stella admits that she's afraid of this cure that she's been given. What are the things that she's most afraid of?
Hale: When we meet Stella, she's just gotten the news that she's going to live after all. Stella had become very good at living like she was dying. She had made peace with that. Now she has to live like she's living, which I think for her is very scary because the questions that we all ask ourselves — What do we aspire to be? What do we aspire to do? What are our dreams? — she's never had to ask herself those hard questions, on top of discovering so many new things about her family. It's a little bit overwhelming. She's a very stubborn and a little bit headstrong and she's determined to live the best life that she can.

She gets a few revelations about the things her family has been keeping from her. How long can you sustain that before Stella goes, "Okay, that's enough!"
Hale: While Stella had cancer her family didn't want to dump in on an already very stressful situation. They just wanted to give her the best last years of her life. Meanwhile, her family is really struggling behind the scenes. Her mom and dad are no longer in love. They get divorced, but in Stella's eyes they were the perfectly happy married couple. Stella's mom is discovering her sexuality. Her dad is in debt. Her brother is a drug dealer (by drugs, I mean he sells Adderall to soccer moms). Her sister gave up basically everything to be there for her. There's a sense of guilt for Stella too. It's so much information to process that she will definitely hit a breaking point. She's such a fixer. She takes on a task and puts off her issues to try and help out her family, which is what we all do. We put ourselves on the back burner sometimes. She figures it out. I don't know how she handles all of it, but she does.

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For someone that has been taken care of for the past 8 years, she is incredibly capable of taking the reigns now. Is that an important part of her personality?
Hale: I think being taken care of at that level for so long she's a little, not a little, she's very much naive about the world and how painful it can be and how confusing it can be. You meet her and you think she's super independent and capable, and she is in a lot of ways, but throughout the series she realizes, "Oh, I have no idea who I am. I don't know what I want to do. This is too much for me to handle." I think there are moments where she just wants to run away from it all, but those are all very normal questions and things we all have to deal with. She just had to deal with it later on under much different circumstances.

Stella develops a friendship with a young girl, Sadie, who has her same kind of cancer. What can you say about how that relationship works for both of them?
Hale: Initially, Stella is drawn to [Sadie] because she knows exactly what she is going through and she sees this young girl who doesn't really have the support that Stella had. It turns out to be so much more than Stella taking her under her wing. It turns into Sadie actually taking care of Stella. Stella is kind of a hot mess some of the time and Sadie is so wise beyond her years. Stella ends up learning so much from this old soul that she never would have learned from anyone else. It becomes a beautiful little friendship. They give and take.

Life Sentence premieres Wednesday, March 7 at 9/8c on The CW.

(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies)

Additional reporting by Lindsay MacDonald