Pretty Little Liars' big "A" reveal was just as shocking to the actress playing the show's ultimate villain as it was to the audiences who watched it play out on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Vanessa Ray tells Us Weekly the morning after the answer-filled episode aired that she didn't even know her character, CeCe, was A until just before shooting the Season 6A finale.
"I didn't find out until right before we started filming," she admits to Us. "The beginning of June I found out!"
Like many of the show's actors, she'd considered the many ways in which her recurring character could be the one torturing the group of Pennsylvania teenagers. "I thought it could totally be me but I assumed it would be somebody else," she confesses. "I'm like, 'Oh, that’s just wishful thinking,' you know?"
And yes, just like you, Ray, 34, had been down many an Internet spiral reading fan theories about A. "I had that night where I had fallen down the rabbit hole and watched every fan theory on YouTube and read all the accounts, done the whole thing, and I’m like, 'Oh, that seems like a good enough reason! I would buy that,'" she reveals. "But what I couldn’t have guessed — and I was so grateful I am so excited to see — was just this family dynamic and the whole point of it was like, 'Careful what you teach your kids because they will grow up and become monsters or they will become angels.'"
Also, just like fans, once Ray found out the truth, she was able to look back on information about the character that creator I. Marlene King had discussed with her in years past.
"When I first got the role, we had lots of conversations," Ray dishes. "We would have these long phone conversations about how she was a sociopath and how there was more to her than just being a villain. When did she become victimized? How did she become a villain? Cece was not the villain then, she was kind of this larger-than-life, all about herself [figure]. I found all these conversations that I would have with Marlene all make sense."
The end of the summer finale jumped forward five years — in part so the poor twentysomething actresses playing the Liars can play closer to their own age — and Ray says it's exciting to see the characters in new places in life.
"We get to explore these characters that we love so much in a new way and that’s so neat," Ray gushes. "I think sort of a big tell is all the girls leave at the end of this episode, and Ali stays. Why would Ali stay? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense — she seems to be the one who would be cruising out of there, first train out of Rosewood."
But the moment when Alison (Sasha Pieterse) and CeCe connected at the end of the summer finale — CeCe has "never experienced authentic human love until at the end when Alison is like, 'You’re my sister and I love you,'" Ray explains — was a formative one and could be one reason why Ali stayed in Pennsylvania. "I think that maybe it has something to do with that love I was talking about — the newfound love that they have."
Pretty Little Liars will return to ABC Family in early 2016.
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