Pretty Little Liars fans may know Troian Bellisario best as overachieving Spencer Hastings, but the talented actress took on an entirely different — and much more mature — role in her WIGS web series, Lauren. Now, the emotional series, which follows a soldier who is sexually assaulted by some of her superiors, is back for Season 2, and Troian told Wetpaint Entertainment she’s excited for viewers to explore more of Lauren’s complicated story.
Wetpaint Entertainment: I was really excited and equally surprised to see that Lauren got a second season. What were your thoughts?
Troian Bellisario: I guess I did feel kind of equally surprised. Not because I didn't think that there was a lot more of this story to be explored, but just because I didn't know that it would do more than one season. I thought that that was just kind of what WIGS was doing, but I was really fortunate when Jon Avnet told me that there were a few that they wanted to extend into second seasons and that Lauren was one of them.
Was it one of those things where you're like, damn, I wish we could explore what happened and what happens next?
Well, I didn't really feel that way about the body of the piece, but definitely about the ending, when you see that Lauren says, “I could embrace the suck,” and she walks away from her opportunity to further pursue justice and accepts it and falls back into the system, there was always a part of me that — although I also respected that ending — was also like, there was so much more to tell. Her story just doesn't end here. It doesn't end with whether or not she gets a yes or no from Stone.
So what was it like to jump into it, and what was the time period in between the first and the second season?
Oh my God, it was about, I would say, a full year. It was very nerve‑wracking. I was completely nervous to jump back into Lauren because when I first jumped into Lauren, it was so fast. I got the project two days before we started shooting. So it was just like, be a sponge, learn as much as you can and jump in. But then, when two, three months before we shot it and to then sit with the material over that amount of time, it was very nerve‑wracking. When I'm on Pretty Little Liars, I'll get my material about a day or two before we start shooting. So it’s that same kind of, “jump in, and go”. But when you get to sit with something, and you get to consider it over a long amount of time, so many questions come up.
What was it that you did with more time that improved upon season one?
Well, the amazing thing about Season 2 are the relationships that are explored. You get to find out about her daughter. You get to find out about her husband. You get to find out about her relationship with primarily one of the men that actually ends up raping her. It was wonderful to have a lot more time to explore that because that's a lot more to take on than just building the event to the rape and then building what kind of happens with Stone, which is the first three episodes.
Was there a difference in production value between the first and the second?
I was blown away. Lesli Linka Glatter who directed the first three who's a very close friend of mine unfortunately couldn't direct these next set of episodes, but Jon Avnet, who’s a producer of WIGS stepped in and decided to direct them himself. And I think we were very fortunate to get one of the main producers of WIGS to direct because he just spared no expense. We have actual combat scenes. We have locations on a military base. The world is so much bigger than the first time around. So that was really exciting to play around with.
What was the reaction like from women in the military after the first season?
It was incredible. I was very nervous, especially because it holds the army up to a standard. It says that you have an issue, and I was really worried about how it was going to be perceived by people in the military and particularly by women in the military. And the amazing thing was that Jennifer Beals and I got incredible letters, incredible phone calls. And I wish that I could have gone with her but I was filming. She went to see this SWAN organization, Service Women’s Action Network which she'd been working with. We’re trying to fight to change legislation so that this becomes less of an issue in the military and they totally loved it. They felt completely supported and honored by it and are using it to kind of actually help spread their message which I could not be more excited to be a part of.
For an actress, what's the beauty of WIGS?
Jon Avnet put it one way incredibly well. He said, “I think WIGS is the actor’s playground. It's like recess for them.” It's true, there's something going on in Hollywood right now — it has been going on for a long time — but it's really difficult to make a movie and even a massive franchise movie that has been proved a hundred fold. It’s difficult for those major studio movies to get off the ground. It's nearly impossible for beautiful honest, raw, character pieces to be made because it's something that a lot of people don't want to spend money or take the risk on and WIGS is kind of amazing because — television is now beginning to do that, and that's why a lot of film actors are moving to television — and WIGS is the next branch of that on the internet. It's not waiting for anybody to say, “Okay. Now you can make this film about this woman's story.” It's just doing it. And I think that's why it's gotten so many incredible actors who are just dying to be a part of it because you don't see these roles very often. I certainly don't. I'm really fortunate to be a successful actress and have a television show that's doing very, very well, but let me tell you, these roles aren't out there. And if they are out there, unfortunately, they're being offered to Kristen Stewart like three times. But it's true. You don't really get the opportunities to explore stuff like this, and so that's why when it fell into my lap, I was like, there's no way I'm not doing this.
Check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Troian, where she spills a few secrets on Pretty Little Liars Season 4 and Spencer and Toby’s Ravenswood adventure. You can watch Season 2 of Lauren on WIGS.