‘Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin’ Bosses on That ‘Riverdale’ Reference in A’s Identity

Bailee Madison, Malia Pyles, Maia Reficco, Zaria in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin
Spoiler Alert
Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Season 1 finale.]

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin reveals A’s identity in a wild Season 1 finale that sees Imogen (Bailee Madison) go into labor after fighting off the masked villain, two major deaths, and the truth about 1999 revealed.

A, it turns out, stands for Archie Waters, Angela’s brother, but the real mastermind behind it all is none other than Principal Clanton (Robert Stanton), who, as Vice Principal back then, saw the pain his daughter (!) suffered at the hands of the Liars’ moms. While Imogen emerges victorious in her face-off with A, he escapes police custody at the hospital, kills Sheriff Beasley (Eric Johnson), who raped Angela, then goes and murders Chip (Carson Rowland), who raped Imogen and Tabby (Chandler Kinney).

Here, co-creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoon Bring answer our burning questions about A’s identity and tease what could be coming in a second season. (HBO Max has yet to renew or cancel it.)

A’s identity has been revealed. First of all, Archie — Riverdale reference or just coincidence?

Lindsay Calhoon Bring: I love it. It’s so funny. The real of it is obviously we needed an A name to go with Angela. In a whole season of working on a show where A is a really big deal, we thought that by the end of the season, surely we’d be able to clear an A name, perhaps an Andrew, perhaps an Alan. There are so many. It turns out Waters is such a common last name that it was a clearance nightmare to land on an amazing first name. However, I think I pitched Roberto, let’s see if Archie Waters will clear. I love it. I think it’s amazing. Roberto loved it. And it cleared. We thought, that’s it: Archie Waters and Angela Waters exist. I love it.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: We were saying that we were eventually going to get a time where someone said his name is Andrew. It was originally Andrew, I think, Andrew Waters.

Calhoon Bring: It was.

The Moms and Liars of Original Sin

Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

Aguirre-Sacasa: And then that didn’t clear. Then we went through maybe a dozen names. None of them cleared. Somehow I remember Lisa [Soper] saying, “this f**ker’s name is gonna be Archie, isn’t it?” Do you remember that?

Calhoon Bring: I think so, yeah. I think we were sort of joking — because Andrew Waters had existed in the script for a long time.

Aguirre-Sacasa: Oh, since the beginning.

Calhoon Bring: Since the pitch. We were like, oh surely, Andrew Waters has existed in this show for a year. That won’t be a problem. And then it comes time to shoot it. And you’re told Andrew Waters didn’t clear. It’s like, OK. But yeah, I think that you’re so right. Lisa may have made that joke because she was directing our finale and she had seen us struggle to try to find an A. Waters name for Angela’s brother and you’re right, Roberto, I think Lisa was like, this is gonna end up Archie. And we were like, Archie? Let’s see if it clears.

Aguirre-Sacasa: And then again, we thought even when it cleared, it was like, surely we’ll get a note that the killer’s name can’t be Archie, but no, it never came. It shows you try to anticipate notes, it’s impossible.

Then you have Principal Clanton not just involved, but the mastermind behind this, so it’s someone as an authority figure for both the moms and the Liars. But now Archie’s on the loose and it seems like without someone to maybe reign him in?

Calhoon Bring: Yeah. Principal Clinton’s in prison, as Tabby says in our finale. He’s in prison right now and Archie’s on the loose and he’s off the strings. He no longer has a puppet master. So he’s running around causing who knows what mayhem.

Malia Pyles, Zaria, Maia Reficco, Chandler Kinney, Bailee Madison in Pretty Little Liars Original Sin

Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

What are the chances of a second season and what could it look like?

Aguirre-Sacasa: Well, we’re hopeful that there’s a second season.

Calhoon Bring: Very hopeful. We want to tell more stories. You would definitely have our same characters, our same girls, and new stories, new mystery, new horror elements

Aguirre-Sacasa: Still slasher, though.

Do you know how much of a connection there would be between Original Sin and Pretty Little Liars? About the same amount as the first season, or would you want to do more?

Aguirre-Sacasa: That’s a really good question. I think for this first season, especially those first five episodes, Lindsay and I really talked a lot — and we talked about it in the room a lot — about really creating a totally new kind of town and characters and secrets and things like that and not leaning too much on the original just to really establish our girls. Now that we’ve done that though, I do feel like there is an opportunity for there to be a little bit more bleed between Millwood and Rosewood and elements from the original PLL into Millwood. That said, I don’t think it’s gonna be like universes colliding where it’s all of the PLLs come. That’s for Season 3. [Calhoon Bring and Aguirre-Sacasa laugh] That’s for Season 3, where it’s OG PLLs versus new PLLs. But I think there’s an opportunity for more bleed.

Lucy Hale, Ian Harding in Pretty Little Liars

Eric McCandless / © ABC Family / Courtesy: Everett Collection

The finale set up the potential for guest spots from Lucy Hale and Ian Harding considering they adopted Imogen’s baby. Is that something we could really see or is it just a nice nod?

Aguirre-Sacasa: I think anything’s possible.

Calhoon Bring: Agree. We say the door to Millwood is always open.

Where did you want to leave the Liars to set them up for a potential second season?

Aguirre-Sacasa: I think in good places, basically.

Calhoon Bring: It was important to us to find sort of a moment of joy for the show. The girls had been through so much and ending on Christmas and ending in that almost roundtable of the girls, all with their boyfriends and their mothers and all kind of having survived the season … In the beginning, Roberto and I pitched the show saying all five of our girls are final girls. I think that Christmas night is really a celebration of that and wanting to show that though these months were very hard, they all have something that made them a little bit better for it. [For example,] Mouse [Malia Pyles] is more open with her mothers now. One of the things we talked about was early on was if these moms and daughters would just speak to each other, if they would just communicate with each other, this show would be done in two episodes. And so to find them in a good place, a place where they’re communicating with each other, where they’re understanding each other, we actually think is gonna set them up for even more story moving forward in a way that we can really fold the relationships in more and fold our moms in more.

Would we see Archie’s face in a second season?

Aguirre-Sacasa: We talked about that a lot. Ultimately, we decided we just never wanted to see his face. What was that, Lindsay?

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Netflix once dominated the streaming market, but do you think another platform has taken the lead?

Calhoon Bring: The original series was so amazing in that A was the driving mystery of the show for seven seasons and 144 episodes and A was ever changing. We loved starting this story with A and making A our own. But as Roberto said, we still are a slasher show. I think we’d want to introduce some more horror elements, but A is out there, A is in the wind, A can always come back. I always think about Freddy versus Jason as sort of a future season.

Aguirre-Sacasa: By the way, Meredith, we got notes saying, can A take off his mask? Do you remember that?

Calhoon Bring: Yeah.

Aguirre-Sacasa: And we were like, they don’t really do that in slasher movies, or if they do, then it’s some horrifying, disfigured, monstrous, even worse thing underneath, which we knew we would never get away with. But there was a lot of talk about, should he reveal his face?

Calhoon Bring: Yeah. It’s so funny. I think the big face reveal to us in the story was Principal Clanton.

Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah. He was the face behind the face.

Calhoon Bring: He was the face behind the face, exactly. He was the puppet master and Archie was the puppet. I guess for myself, just as a fan and a viewer, sometimes I think unless the person behind the mask is going to be a character we know in the show like Scream like Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard, or unless if I’m watching a movie, it’s gonna be amazing stunt casting, I would rather fill in the blanks for myself. And we have this line that’s so funny that I love that we sort of fought for in the finale of Principal Clinton saying Archie has a face only a mother could love. And we thought, gosh, that is so Friday the 13th, that’s so horror-driven and it really does make the mind reel. So in our minds, A is an unspeakable-looking young man, and I think better to not show it, better to think it.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, Season 1, Streaming now, HBO Max