Elizabeth McLaughlin, best known for her role as Massie Block in The Clique, joined me to discuss her latest ventures in the acting world. The 21-year-old actress has been promoting her new show Hand of God featuring a stellar cast including Garret Dillahunt, Ron Perlman, Dana Delany, and others!
I had the pleasure of getting to chat with the star on her new role as femme fatale Alicia, her experience working on Pretty Little Liars and how much her and co-star Julian Morris love to troll the fans! Check it out below.
[SPOILER ALERT] For those who haven’t seen the pilot episode of Hand of God! Tread carefully, better yet head over to Amazon Prime and watch it now!
Tell me about your new show, Hand of God. It’s definitely a darker show.
“Hand of God is, I think, a show that is completely something of its own. There’s a not a lot like it on standard cable TV or on online streaming TV. It’s about a morally corrupt judge who undergoes this religious awakening and at the end of the three days that he’s missing, at the beginning of the pilot, he believes that he is being spoken to from God through his son that’s in a coma. That is the catalyst point for all of these very real and different characters going off on this journey together. It is an incredibly exciting show with, the content you’ll see later on this season, because in the pilot, once it starts it takes off running and throughout the first season it never really stops.”
I noticed that as I was watching. I was thinking there’d be these little lulls to introduce the characters but it totally just jumps right in. How does your character fit in? Your character Alicia, we find, is with Reverend Paul (played by Julian Morris).
“Judge Harris, played by the amazing Ron Perlman, when he goes missing at the beginning, he is found after visiting a new start-up church that’s run by a preacher who is an actor, turned con man, turned preacher. His sidekick, better half, business partner in crime is Alicia, which is my character. She is very much your classic femme fatale in the sense that she uses her sexuality and how she looks to get what she wants. She’s not afraid to do that but as we learn more about her in the first season we find that she’s an incredibly loyal person. She has such a deep connection and love for Paul that, that is her motivator through all of these things, these questionable things that she does throughout the season because she will do anything for Paul and his dream of starting this church.
What’s an interesting dynamic about our show is that these characters are never black and white. They’re never polarizing good or bad, they’re always both. So throughout the first season you really get to see the development of how real these characters are and the challenges that they go through. As an audience member you’re going to be posed with these questions of, “Is what they’re doing wrong or right? Or both?” and in my opinion it usually comes out to be both.
It’s a really exciting character for me to play because of that transition and journey that they go on. Alicia does everything for Paul and because of that she has to then learn how to take care of herself. As an audience member you’re constantly posed with the question of, “Are these con men and criminals who are trying to turn their life around and help people through this church? Or is the church itself one big con?” And so we get to see more of that through the first season.”
Already from the pilot I can see how interesting that’ll be for every character. It’ll be exciting to see how they go through their phases of development.
“Yeah! It’s very much a Bonnie and Clyde relationship that Paul and Alicia have. What’s interesting is that Alicia in the beginning of the season is really kind of the sidekick and the person who’s going to do everything for Paul. As the first season develops Paul’s dependence on Alicia becomes so much more important and she very much becomes this, not controlling factor but definitely the hard worker behind this organization. She’s bearing all of the labor for this effort.”
Julian Morris stars in the show as well and he’s also on Pretty Little Liars where you guest star as Lesli Stone, I know his character Wren and yours don’t interact at all. So what was it like working with him on Hand of God?
“No, Wren and Lesli don’t interact on Pretty Little Liars, so I’ve got to say that because of Hand of God the fans are totally convinced that we will! [laughs] Honestly, in the simplest way I can say it is that working with Julian Morris is an honor and an absolute pleasure. He is genuinely one of the kindest, most giving, and loving people that I know even personally. And when you have that kind of environment on set with someone, who’s really your partner on the show, it makes my job so much easier.
He is an absolute goofball, our show’s a drama and especially with our specific storyline we tackle some pretty heavy and emotional content. So having him as a source of humor and his light constantly around on set as someone who is so supportive of my work, individually as well as his own was incredible! There was a moment on set where we kind of connected the dots! “Oh you were on Pretty Little Liars!” and then, “Oh I’m working on Pretty Little Liars!” and then we figured out that co-star Alona Tal was on an episode as well during the first season. And then even better, in the pilot of Hand of God, the bank manager, he also did a couple guest stars on Pretty Little Liars as the principal of the school! It’s kind of crazy how we all reconnected on this whole other, darker, more adult show.”
I knew Reverend Paul looked familiar when I was watching! I was telling myself it wasn’t Wren though because he didn’t have his accent! I had to pause and check out IMDB to make sure I wasn’t going crazy because I totally knew it was him but that must have been really cool to connect that way.
“It was really cool. You know the fans have been so great. I’ve had such a wonderful experience with the fans of Pretty Little Liars. And oh my gosh, they are so dedicated to the show, it’s amazing! But because Julian and I are publicizing and doing press for Hand of God, it’s so funny because the fans of Pretty Little Liars are so excited by seeing us together that they think that there’s a connection between Wren and Lesli and where that might take the show. So it’s been fun for both Julian and I to see the response from the Pretty Little Liars fans of seeing us together in Hand of God.”
Oh they totally think something’s coming up! Going off of that I have to ask, if you know who A is.
“I do not. They have kept it a huge secret. I have my own ideas but I’m going to keep that to myself [laughs]. Being on set of Pretty Little Liars is similar to how I imagined going into the CIA would be [laughs]. They are incredible confidential on set and they don’t let anything out unless you particularly have to know. Which I think is really smart on their part, obviously for things like spoilers for the fans but also as an actress it makes my job really interesting. The fact that Marlene King will only give me information that I need to know, that day that I’m shooting. So, I don’t know who A is, I have my ideas but luckily we will find out soon!”
We get to find out so soon! I actually spoke with Dre Davis who plays Sara Harvey a few weeks ago and she had the same response as well. Things are kept on a need-to-know basis.
“I get very interested in storylines and so when I first got on the show, I had a really hard time with that. Just as a person who’s interested in the storyline, I was so taken in by it and I had to know what was going to happen next. And then Lesli didn’t return for like 5 or 6 episodes and I had no idea what happened to her during those episodes [laughs] and it drove me nuts! But they do a really great job of keeping everything under wraps until it’s time. I think it’s especially tricky to keep things from leaking because Pretty Little Liars is a show that is a show that is so based in social media. I think the show has really set the standard as to what social media should be like for a new show. They’ve completely taken over that and I think that set the precedent for shows being made. It really shows that you want to be drawing the numbers online as well as on TV. So the fact that this is a show that is so active in social media campaign and then the fact that they’re able to do that while keeping major spoilers out is just amazing.”
Do you know if you’ll be in the time jump?
“I haven’t heard yet. I ran into Lucy Hale the other day and she was saying that they were getting ready to start that portion of the show but I haven’t heard yet. They let me know pretty last-minute to keep things under wraps but I certainly hope so! I had such a wonderful time shooting the show and I hope that I’m able to return because my goodness Lesli Stone is a fun person to be!”
She is! I remember when we first meet her and I just remember thinking, “Who is this person?” and then she comes back and has these heavy, dramatic scenes with Mona. The last scene you were in your character was just screaming at her.
“Yes [laughs] that was so funny we actually shot that while I was still shooting Hand of God and so the scheduling was crazy. And I’m pretty decent friends with Janel Parrish in real life.
We were cracking up, that of course these two characters are supposed to be best friends and now the only time that she and I get to work together on set is when I have to yell at her!”
I’m sure there are many out there that hope to see and learn more about Lesli in the future! Other than Hand of God do you have any other upcoming projects we can share?
“Right now I’m doing a lot of press for the show so that’s been keeping me busy. After I’ll be heading back to the audition tool and seeing what’s out there but I’m extremely excited for Hand of God to come out on September 4! I should mention though that the first season definitely keeps up with its mature content and scenes so this is probably not for the younger crowd! I have such an incredible fan base that has followed me from the film The Clique that I did and because people are still watching it now, I have some younger fans saying, “I can’t wait to watch Hand of God!” and I’m going, “Check with your parents first!” [laughs] It’s definitely for mature audiences.”
Elizabeth isn’t kidding folks! Hand of God definitely covers some heavy topics and is definitely meant for mature audiences. The pilot is now available on Amazon Prime. You can check out the trailer below and catch the entire first season on September 4, 2015.