Lucy Hale on flip phones, Bratz dolls and her new show, Katy Keene



It’s almost impossible not to be nostalgic when self-isolating in my parent’s home in a bedroom surrounded by my old possessions—stacks of CDs, early 2000s Nylon magazines, and a copy of the illustrious Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen fashion book, Influence. All this prescribed alone time has me craving TV shows that call to mind my teenage years—with Pretty Little Liars at the top of my Netflix cue. Even when the show aired back in 2010, I was most drawn to the character Aria Montgomery, played by Lucy Hale. Aria was sweet, artsy and had an alternative fashion sense compared to her Rosewood peers. Even though my high school years weren’t filled with murder and menacing texts, I couldn’t help but relate to Aria’s sensitive, yet spunky personality, complete with her accessory choices of a leather cuff bracelet and oversized earrings.

Ten years later it seems Hale is still drawn to good girl roles. The actress currently stars in the Riverdale spinoff, Katy Keene (the show airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on W Network in Canada), playing the titular Archie-verse character, with a heart of gold who’s willing to do anything for her friends. Despite that description, Hale doesn’t play a one-note sweetheart—she imbues the character with ambition, gumption, that New York chutzpah, doing whatever it takes to make Keene’s dreams come true.

I recently chatted with Hale from her home in L.A. to learn about what led to iconic roles like Katy Keene and Aria Montgomery and that path was paved with memories of flip phones, Bratz dolls and our beloved 2000s heroine, The O.C.‘s Marissa Cooper.

"I thought I could wear a crop top and low-rise jeans and get away with it. But my mom did not let me do that."

What made you most excited about taking on the role of Katy Keene? 
I was really excited that she was already a known character. She was actually created in the 40s within the Archie Comics Universe, so I was kind of familiar with who she was but didn’t know what she did. When I did my research I found out she was a designer and kind of a fashion It-girl. I was really excited to join the Archie Universe because the fans of those comics are really loyal and passionate. But I also loved what they created with Riverdale and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and was very curious to see what world they would create with Katy. When I read the script, I knew I had to play her. I was kind of born to play her; I saw a lot of myself in her. I was really inspired by her passion for life. She’s just a really good person, but she still holds her ground and is a strong character, who’s also flawed. She’s been really fun to bring to life.

The show’s look and feel has a timeless quality yet it’s steeped in nostalgia. Can you speak to how the show mixes mid-century, 50s pop art with modern plot lines?
Upon watching the show, you’re like “what era am I in?” There’s a lot of vintage clothes and vintage cars, but it’s set in modern times and we have a lot of modern pop culture references. A lot of what makes our show have that nostalgic feel is the way it’s lit and the way it’s directed. When Roberto (Aguirre-Sacasa, who developed the series) was creating Katy Keene, he wanted the show to be the nostalgic version of New York City that everyone has made up in their head. A fairytale version of New York City.

In the Archie Comics, Katy Keene was known as “America’s Pin Up Queen,” complete with the Bettie Page hair. How does the show incorporate the comic character’s style into the Katy Keene of today?
In the pilot we use a lot of the exact outfits from the comics and as the season progresses, we’ve taken the bones of her style and given it a very modern twist. Katy has a very specific palette—she loves red and pink and sequins and hearts—and she rarely strays from that. In the Katy Keene comics there are lots of hearts and butterflies, so we tried to incorporate while making it a bit more modern and cooler.

"I was obsessed with Mischa at the time. I just remember the nerves."

Who were your style icons growing up?
I loved the Olsen Twins! I still do actually. I was of the age when they were doing all those movies, and TV shows and in my mind, they could do no wrong…I absolutely loved everything they wore! It was also of the age of Britney Spears, who was one of my idols. I thought I could wear a crop top and low-rise jeans and get away with it. But my mom did not let me do that.

Katy has a pretty solid squad on the show. If you could choose three nostalgic celebrities to be in your squad, who would they be?
Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. The three of them and Lucy Hale (laughs).

I love that the show includes Josie (of Pussycats & Riverdale fame). Were you a fan of the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie as a kid?
Yes! I hadn’t thought about that until actually a couple months ago, thinking, “wait they already did a remake of this!” I mean it’s one of those movies that makes me happy when I think about it. I remember I used to watch it over and over when I grew up. It’s very different from the Josie we know nowadays. I have good memories of it.

There are some great musical numbers in the show. Do you have a go-to song that you’d perform that brings back all the good nostalgic feels?
My favourite album growing up was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrissette and I always wanted to be that angry version of myself like she was in the album. Alanis is my go-to karaoke. Although Alanis Morrissette is not very Katy Keene, she is very Lucy. So I would do something like that.

Katy’s New York has a lot of similarities to that of Gossip Girl, do you think Katy would have idolized Blair Waldorf or Serena van der Woodsen?
Katy has the style of Blair, but she’s definitely more Serena in personality, I think. She is a good hybrid of the two. As the season goes on, Katy becomes a little more Blair, but at the start is more Serena. I will gladly take the Gossip Girl comparisons to our show any day.

Read our interview with Gossip Girl star, Leighton Meester

Speaking of iconic teen shows, you had a great spot in an episode of The O.C.—what do you remember about filming it?
I remember I was so nervous because it was the peak time for that show. I had auditioned for a couple characters on the show before I got cast as Marissa’s sister’s roommate, Hadley. I just played this promiscuous little teenage girl. That’s all I really remember. We were on a college campus and my scenes were with Willa Holland and Mischa Barton. And I was obsessed with Mischa at the time. I just remember the nerves. I was underage—I was still 16 so my mom had to be on set with me.

Which 2000s fashion trends did you also sport back in the day? Ultra low-rise jeans, skinny scarves or dresses over pants?
I never did skinny scarves but I rocked the dress over pants! What were we thinking?! That is the worst idea ever! I’m sure you can find somewhere online, I did this show called American Juniors which was a singing show and for one of the numbers I’m wearing this pink striped dress over flared jeans. How was there ever a time when that was popular? I don’t know. Low-rise jeans, yes, as I mentioned Britney Spears was my idol. Those are just god awful, they never need to come back. Now I’m the opposite, the higher the better.

Your Pretty Little Liars character, Aria Montgomery, seems like the type of person who would move to New York City—do you think she and Katy Keene would get along?
I feel like Katy is the type of person who could be friends with anyone. She’s just that girl. Aria is a bit more sceptical of people because I’m sure her experience in Rosewood left her a little bit traumatized. But I think that they could bond over their passion and I think that they’re both really good people. I’m going to say there is a universe where they could be close buddies.

What do you think we’d find in 16 year old PLL Season One Aria’s time capsule?
Oh wow! Probably love notes from Ezra. She loves poetry, so she’d include books of poetry. Her pink hair extensions. Her feathered earrings—there were these iconic feathered earrings Aria wore.

Maybe her flip phone?
Her flip phone! Oh my god, that’s right. We didn’t get iPhones until way later on in the show.

When you had to pull out your phone in a PLL scene, was there actually a text displayed on the phone’s screen?
Later on in the series we started to do that, but early on no, you reacted to nothing. I mean, ridiculous. What’s crazy about those shots was when we had to read a text message, we would hold that expression for ten seconds. So you would have to hold it for an unnatural long amount of time and you would just feel insane, but you learn to make it your own.

I screamed when I found out you were in a Bratz doll commercial? What do you remember about filming the commercial?
That I was way too old to be playing with dolls at age 15. I remember being mortified that I was doing this. That was actually my first pay cheque ever. Like ever ever. I want to say it was a couple weeks after my mom and I had moved to LA.I think I probably got paid $200 or something. I went to Forever 21 and spent all my money.

As a fellow horror movie fan, I would be remiss to not ask you about your cameo in Scream 4. Were you a fan of the original Scream?
I was so excited for Scream 4 that I got to be the Drew Barrymore of the fourth movie. I got to work with Wes Craven. Those movies are so unique. They are just different from any other horror movie, as they kind of embrace the campiness and the comedy of it all while also being a thriller. So it just makes for a really interesting balance.

Did you actually hear Ghostface’s scary voice on the other end of the phone?
Actually yes. Someone was reading it off camera in the Ghostface voice, which was cool. A lot of times they will do that in movies. They will obviously have someone reading it off camera, but very rarely will you have someone that’s in character or the actual actor does it. So to have someone actually do the voice too was very cool.

Was there a horror movie that truly scared you growing up?
I started watching horror movies at a very abnormally young age so it takes a lot to get me scared. But I think the first time I remember being truly scared from a movie was Blair Witch Project because that was the first movie I remember seeing that was documentary style so for some reason I felt like part of it was real. The next movie to scare me was Paranormal Activity and I haven’t really been scared since so I’m due for a good scare.

You’re known for your iconic thick eyebrows. Do you think the super-plucked thin brows of the 2000s will ever become in style again?
Jesus Christ I hope not. But look at the evolution of brows. if you look all the way back to the 20’s up to now there has been every style of brow. Definitely for me, no, mine are going to stay big and bushy. But it might come back around—I hope not for everyone’s sake.

Is there any other makeup or fashion trend you hope to never see again?
Low-rise jeans like I said no, that’s a big no. The grandpa sneaker trend, I’m a little confused by. They work for some people, it just doesn’t look cute on me. But everything else is kind of a go. I feel like everything comes back around.


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