Sasha Pieterse of Pretty Little Liars discusses being sexualised in the role at age 12

By Abby Amoakuh

Published May 13, 2024 at 12:32 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

If there’s one thing the internet absolutely loves, it’s tea being spilt on a celebrity podcast. Enter Pretty Little Liars: True Crime, a podcast hosted by none other than PLL alums Tammin Sursok and Lindsey Shaw. The duo set out to reveal all of the show’s dirty little secrets, especially in one episode featuring the iconic Sasha Pieterse, who spoke out about her treatment on set when she filmed the show’s pilot at only 12 years old.

In case you’ve never watched it, Pretty Little Liars is an American mystery teen drama television series based on the novel series of the same name written by Sara Shepard. The storyline focuses on four teenage girls—Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily—whose darkest secrets are about to come to light after the supposed death of their friend Alison.

PLL, as we fans call it, is one of the most successful teenage TV shows of the past decade and kicked off a lucrative franchise with the spin-offs Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. And here is another fun little nugget for you: it’s set in the same universe as Riverdale and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

But back to business. When interviewed by Sursok and Shaw, Pieterse, who played Alison in the series, revealed that she was only 12 years old when the pilot was shot. This information has actually been no secret. In the past, Pieterse has insinuated in multiple interviews that she got a little thrifty with her age to get the part of mean queen Alison Dilaurentis.

@hojinmklsn

Sasha being 12 and working with 20+ years olds is crazy- (no one else could be a better alison) CR: @PrettyLittleLiars: True Crime @PodCo #prettylittleliars #pll #alisondilaurentis #foryou #foryoupage #fyp #fy #sashapieterse #agegap #plltruecrime #podcast #prettylittleliarstruecrime

♬ original sound - 𝐇𝐎𝐉𝐈𝐍𝐌𝐊𝐋𝐒𝐍

Yet, looking back at their experience filming the show, her former costars couldn’t help but vocalise their concern over her portrayal.

“Back then, girl, we were okay with it but I don’t think I’m okay with it now,” Sursok said, visibly shaken. “You were so sexualised,” she continued. “When you watch it back and know that you were 12, I don’t think I mean I couldn’t imagine anyone else as that part but I don’t like that you were 12.”

For reference, Alison was supposed to be 15 at the time she went missing. As we learn during season one, she was also entangled with Emily, played by Shay Mitchell, who is around ten years older than her, with the two filming multiple scenes kissing. When her character Alison was 15 she controversially also had an affair with an older man called Ian, played by Ryan Merriman, who was roughly 28 while filming season one took place.

The show was also rated for 14-year-olds due to its content of violence, sex, and frightening scenes. Considering that she shouldn’t even have watched the show during season one, it seems all the more absurd that Pieterse was able to act in it next to the grown adults she was filming intimate content with.

“It’s a hard thing cause like I don’t feel like I was ever taken advantage of on Pretty Little Liars,” Pieterse clarified. “No, I loved our crew, like they were incredible and protected me so well. I mean Allison was sexualised. That is the character. It was in the book, but yeah, should they have gotten an 18-year-old to play her? We can debate about that all day, I don’t know.”

Online, netizens couldn’t hide their confusion over the casting decision either:

Most expressed their discomfort over how Alison had been sexualised, similarly to Sursok and Shaw, while also plauding Pieterse for her incredible performance at such a young age.

Nevertheless, the casting decision raises doubts over the safety and security of child actors, as well as what content has previously been deemed appropriate for them to shoot.

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