Q&A: Malia Pyles on Surviving Slashers and Supporting Queer Rights in ‘Pretty Little Liars’

Minnie “Mouse” Honrada, played by Malia Pyles, is one of the leading ladies in “Pretty Little Liars: Summer School.” (Photo courtesy of Max.)

Class is almost dismissed for “Pretty Little Liars: Summer School,” the second season of the staple teen drama’s reboot. This series traded black hoodies for the mutilated masks of serial killers, amping up the gore and horror from the original. After the Liars, played by Bailee Madison, Chandler Kinney, Zaria, Malia Pyles and Maia Reficco, survived the massacre of Archie Waters in the first season, “PLL: Original Sin,” they spend the summer trying to take down the new big-bad, Bloody Rose. Pyles, who plays Minnie “Mouse” Honrada, sat down with Character Media to discuss the LGBTQIA+ and Filipino representation she delivers and her relationships to the series and her character.

Mouse (Pyles) hanging out with Faran (Zaria), Noa (Maia Reficco), Imogen (Bailee Madison) and Tabitha (Chandler Kinney.) (Photo courtesy of Max.)

The eighth and final episode of “PLL: Summer School” is out now on Max. Watch Pyles and the rest of the cast in the finale to find out the identity of this season’s slasher!

Character Media: How does it feel releasing another season and seeing the show reach new heights?

Malia Pyles: I’m just so grateful. I think the gift of a season two is [that] we have established our characters and friendships, and now we get to explore them in new circumstances that are absurd and crazy and fun. It was such a joy to play Mouse in this new lore and watch her solve this mystery. The show crescendos in such a way where they’re literally running away from “Purge”-like characters, and it’s so fantastical. It was a joy as an actor and as a human to get to live on these sets and in these horror pieces. [I’m] incredibly grateful to have another year of getting to deepen my friendships with the girls and get[ting] to see a lot of familiar faces on our crew. It’s like family at this point.

CM: What similarities and differences do you share with your character?

MP: Mouse and I have grown hand in hand. Coming onto the show, it was my first time being a lead character, [and] I was pretty introverted; I was meeting all these girls and they were all amazing, shiny and beautiful, [so] there was a lot of fear there. I was like, “Oh my God, what if I don’t belong?” Similarly, with Mouse, we’ve both grown into our power and voice. As far as differences go, there’s a certain level of absurdity to Mouse that I love, and it’s been so fun as an actor to discover that. Her weirdness has always been in me, and it’s fun to let it bubble out a bit more.

CM: Which episode this season is your favorite?

MP: It’s tough because each episode is so different. I’m partial to episode three, where Mouse is trapped in a burning building and has to crawl through a vent “Die Hard”-style. But overall, my favorite episode is episode six, because the themes of that episode are so important. We explore pride, the struggles of trans folk and the idea of redemption, love, sacrifice and catharsis in the face of trauma and turmoil. Everything comes to a head in that episode.

Mouse (Pyles) and Ash (Jordan Gonzalez) partying at a pride celebration. (Photo courtesy of Max.)

CM: In the Redemption House episode, what was it like tackling the anti-queer messaging with your costar Jordan Gonzalez? What do you hope to get across to viewers through Mouse?

MP: Representation, as much as it is a privilege and a joy as an actor, is also such a huge responsibility. We both don’t take that lightly at all, and we make sure to be diligent in tackling these conversations. There was a lot of dialogue between me and Jordan, making each other feel secure. We’re in the midst of a time when there’s a lot of anti-trans legislation being passed, [so] that felt very palpable and very close. But our duty as actors is to create safety when we’re handling these themes and to make sure we are there to hold each other and the rest of the crew and the cast and our audiences.

CM: In addition to Emily from the original PLL (who was also a queer Filipina, like Mouse), were there any Asian or LGBTQ+ characters you looked up to growing up?

MP: Shay [Mitchell] was the big one for me because I don’t think I even recognized she was Filipino until I was older. I think that was the first time I’d seen two women kiss on television, and it was incredibly impactful for that to come from a Filipino woman. Then, to work with Lea [Salonga] — who’s related to [Shay] — it was so full circle; being in this project was aligning for me in such a real way that it just feels predestined or preordained. But it’s hard for me to think of other queer Asian characters, and that’s why I think this job is so important. I will shout out my close friend, Sherry Cola, who’s done so many great things for representation on “Good Trouble.” I think she’s bringing so much heart to queer Asian characters, and I want to see a push for more.

Mouse passing out missing person posters. (Photo courtesy of Max.)

CM: What was it like acting alongside Loretta Ables Sayre, who plays your lola?

MP: She’s amazing. I can’t speak more highly of Loretta. I was a huge fan growing up with “South Pacific,” so it felt really special to be in the presence of greatness. She is also so supportive and always comes with a certain lightness about her. We were filming this incredibly dark show, and Loretta would come to set with chocolates, a big smile and these lovely stories from her past. She quickly felt like a real family member — a real lola — to me. And she’s also so funny. I’m obsessed with her. 

CM: How do you and the cast react to theories you see online about the show?

MP: It’s so fun. In a lot of ways, it mirrors the conversations we had while filming because we didn’t get the scripts until we were shooting those specific episodes. So, the entire time, we were guessing who’s Bloody Rose. I remember Zaria got it right off the bat, but we were like, “No, girl. It would never be that person.” We ended up getting to episode eight and were like, “Oopsie, we have to go apologize!” It’s been really great and really affirming watching the fans go through the same ups and downs and fall for the same red herrings. They’re able to thread the story in a way that I never could have even imagined because they’re so smart. And their ideas are so intriguing! I’m like, “I want to watch that show that you just laid out on Twitter.”

Mouse, along with the other liars, investigates a cabin in order to find clues about Bloody Rose. (Photo courtesy of Max.)

CM: How do you hope your character’s arc grows in the series?

MP: One thing I love about Mouse is that she has an unwavering positivity about life; even in these dark moments, she could still find a way to laugh with her friends. [But] she’s undergone so much trauma now, I want to see her get a little fucked up. I think she could go darker and more into the recesses of her imagination and isolation. I don’t know what it would look like, but I want to see her rage out next season.