Pretty Little Liars: Summer School Star Chandler Kinney Talks Tabby’s Trauma, Bloody Rose’s Tests, and Hopes for Season 3

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Pretty Little Liars: Summer School Star Chandler Kinney Talks Tabby’s Trauma, Bloody Rose’s Tests, and Hopes for Season 3

Max’s Pretty Little Liars is back and better than ever in its Summer School sequel, delivering summertime horror homages and even more unhinged teenage drama. The series, which is a spinoff of the long-running Freeform hit, follows a group of teens—Imogen (Bailee Madison), Tabby (Chandler Kinney), Faran (Zaria), Mouse (Malia Pyles), and Noa (Maia Reficco)—as they are targeted by a mysterious, all-knowing tormentor called “A” who seeks to punish them for the sins of their mothers. In the aftermath of the first season, “A” Archie Waters is in jail, but the Liars find themselves targeted once again, this time by a mythological bastardization of Archie’s real-life mother Rose, dubbed “Bloody Rose Waters.”

Throughout the season, we see the Liars attempt to cope with their traumas, all while trying to survive this next horror. There is so much to unpack about this season, so, thankfully, Paste sat down with star Chandler Kinney to discuss Tabby’s storyline, what to expect from the rest of the season, and hopes and dreams for Season 3.

Note: This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Paste Magazine: Second seasons are so rare today, what was it like to step back into Tabby’s shoes with Summer School and reunite with the cast for another round? 

Chandler Kinney: I was just filled with so much gratitude. You don’t always get to do that and we had such an incredible time on the first one. I learned so much, more than I ever have on any other project—I mean, it was a long shoot, and I was challenged in ways I had never been before and I was just craving more, and we all really wanted to come back. When we got that call, it was incredible, we were just so grateful.

And I think Tabby’s story was not over. In a lot of ways, it was really just the beginning. So getting to come back and dive into her mind again and wear her shoes and dive into where we left her, with really the reckoning of this trauma and the confrontation with her assaulter, and what that would mean for her moving forward and how she’s going to heal. It’s been really, really fulfilling—for me, for Chandler as a person, and also for the actor in me. 

Paste: Speaking of which, Season 1 handled Tabby’s trauma and storyline surrounding Chip and her sexual assault so well, which has only continued into Season 2. Now that Chip is dead, Tabby is really embracing her anger. Can you speak to her mindset and how she reckons with what happened to her over the course of the season? 

Kinney: Absolutely. That is an experience that no one should ever have to go through, and it’s not something that the human body and mind are built for. So much of it is just trying to find herself within it all. It really is a story of identity, of bravery, and of trusting people again and trusting herself again. There’s guilt and a feeling of “Oh, I put faith in the wrong person, will I do that again? Can I trust myself to make the right decisions for myself?”

So you see that manifested in her personal relationships: she has a new co-worker, who is very sweet—which also makes her very anxious and doubtful, of course, because anything that’s safe is something that she has now been taught to run away from. It’s a long journey for her, and you also see it manifest in her work, disentangling her trauma from her passion and love for film and filmmaking. What I love about our show is that it really doesn’t shy away from diving deep into these traumas, and with therapy being the centerpiece of this season, you really have the opportunity to get in their psyches and understand who they are and where they’re coming from. 

Paste: So much of Tabby’s love of film was connected to Chip, is it cathartic for her to reclaim her passion through her short films or still traumatic? 

Kinney: It’s the loss of a partner in doing something you love, and that loss is really traumatic. The question is: “How do I move forward with this thing, and how does it affect my relationship with it?” And that touches on a bit of the guilt that I mentioned. There are so many questions of “What is right? What is allowed?” I don’t know that there are clear answers to them, but it’s cool that our show asks those questions.

Tabby really is so courageous as she moves through all of it, and really centers her honesty and has to look at herself and be real. She’s a really brave girl! I speak with a lot of love for her. And [her anger] really shifts and transforms into so many different things throughout the season, but I think it’s a very satisfying ending for her, this season. 

Paste: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about my favorite relationship on the show, between Tabby and Imogen. I love them, they’re a bit like an old married couple! What’s it been like to build this relationship that’s changed so much from Season 1 Episode 1, working with Bailee [Madison], and creating this dynamic that is so rich? 

Kinney: I love them too! It is rich and layered and multidimensional with so many different forms. Iconic, never been done before… [Laughs]. They are like a little old married couple sometimes! And it’s really sweet. They’re so similar in their experiences, and a lot of the things they have moved through both in Season 1 and Season 2 parallels the other, but it’s also really cool to see their differences and the ways that they are like Yin and Yang—how they complement each other in ways.

Tabby is ultra protective of her girl, she will not let anyone near her. [Laughs] Yes, she does the cooking and the cleaning, and she will pour the tea and bake the biscuits and be ready for her girl to come home… but it’s really, really nice to play, it’s really, really nice to see because so much of Bailee [Madison] and I’s relationship is infused in it, and so those days feel really easy for us. Those are some of the easiest things for us to play on the show. And it’s fun and it’s always amazing to see young women bonded together in the best of times and in the worst of times [Laughs]. 

Paste: The relationship between the five Liars is also stronger than ever this season. What was it like to play a more rock-solid group in Season 2?  

Kinney: There’s more opportunity to see the five together and have that dynamic with the five of us established. Bailee [Madison] and I were just talking about this literally yesterday—we’re, like, always on the phone—it’s really cool because these girls are so different. It’s really lovely to see this palette of color and personality and experience and the ways that they play on each other and get under each other’s skin—which we do get to see a little bit of, which I think is nice. I like a little bit of push, a little bit of challenge. We’ve got a serial killer to catch, baby! The stakes have never been higher, so you see them in their states of paranoia and stress and how that can pull them and stretch them and then push them back together, which is representative of any friend group.

What [showrunners] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and Lindsay [Calhoon-Bring] do so well is balancing the line between showing their traumas and carrying the weight of that and everything that they are going through, which is so real, but then also trying to show them trying to be normal teenage girls. That brings a lot of fun dynamics. 

Paste: Bloody Rose is so creepy. What was your reaction when you saw her on set for the first time? 

Kinney: I actually wanted to stay away. Which I think is a really good reaction to have [Laughs]. Really, really, really creepy—you can see the blood oozing and glistening in the light. “A” [Archie Waters, played by Travis Patton] was amazing because, just, the stature and figure of that guy walking towards you… You’re going to run in the opposite direction. Bloody Rose, she still wields her knife and it is sharp and she does know how to use it, but she also has this psychological warfare on the girls. She’s always five steps ahead, she knows how to get under their skin and push their buttons, and it makes her really creepy because it really could be anyone. She really has a way of digging into their psyche and putting them in a perpetual state of paranoia. 

Paste: What was it like working with someone from the original show in Annabeth Gish as Dr. Sullivan, while also knowing that it’s PLL, so there’s likely more to her than what she seems? 

Kinney: Pretty surreal! I was a fan of the original, and I think it’s the biggest tribute to the OG show by starting our second season in therapy with the Annabeth Gish, which was wild! We all screamed when we found out she was joining the show, and she’s lovely and everything that you want her to be and is such a warm presence—and brilliant, both on and off screen. Working with her was literally like a masterclass every day. Not going to say much about our girlie Sullivan… but there is definitely more than what’s on the surface there. 

Paste: As of Episode 3, Bloody Rose has started bringing her tests to each Liar, starting with Mouse. What can you tease about Tabby’s showdown with Bloody Rose, whenever that may come? 

Kinney: I can say: one, it’s coming. Two—I’m trying to be careful—it was the hardest thing I’ve ever filmed in my entire life, not to be dramatic. Three, it took several days to film. And four, I was really sore after. I will leave you with that [Laughs]. 

Paste: That’s so interesting, especially after seeing Faran’s test—that was crazy, just so good! 

Kinney: So intense! [Zaria] killed that. She literally hit the gym before doing it, she put in work. And every part of that, from the stunt sequences to the way that it was edited with the music, the cinematography through the fence! [Chef’s kiss]. I don’t know if you can see [she holds up her arm to the camera to show off goosebumps], I get chills every time I watch it! I love these girls, I love our show. I’m so excited for people to see it! 

Paste: I know you can’t say much, but is there anything you can tease about the finale? 

Kinney: No one’s been bold enough to ask this question yet… You’re going to get me in trouble! [Laughs] It’s a challenging episode for everybody… I will say, I’m really proud of my work and I really hope that I did the story justice—I think we all did. I’m really nervous for people to see it, but also equally excited. 

Paste: I think we’re all hoping for Season 3. After surviving Original Sin and (hopefully) Summer School, what is your dream theme for Season 3? Like, Pretty Little Liars: _______

Kinney: This is our joke, in our group chat: Pretty Little Liars: Spring Break. But is that going to happen…? Is it possible? Yes. Is it plausible? No. We just finished summer, so we need to go forward to Junior year, probably. I’m like, Pretty Little Liars: Study Abroad! I’m saying, let’s go to France; let’s go to Italy—let’s get out of Millwood! 

Paste: Pretty Little Liars: Mama Mia, Pretty Little Liars: Greece? 

Kinney: [Laughs] Yes! This is a joke, if it goes in writing: I feel like Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] wants to get us singing. 

Paste: Yes! I’ve been saying, we need Pretty Little Liars: The Musical! Every Riverdale musical episode is amazing, you’re extremely talented (obviously, Zombies), there’s so much potential! 

Kinney: I will say, let me just out everybody: everyone in our cast can sing. [Bailee Madison] dropped her single, everybody can sing! But this is all based on nothing. 

Paste: Well, I would love to see it. Manifesting. And manifesting Season 3!   

Kinney: Yes, we’re manifesting! 

Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is now streaming on Max. 

Anna Govert is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and her unshakable love of complicated female villains, you can follow her @annagovert.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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