words | Daniel Larsen
Janel Parrish was born to entertain. The star’s immense talent, drive and tenacity have led her from the stages of Broadway to screens across the globe. And it’s no wonder her career has spanned such a variety of roles and mediums – beyond her raw talent, there is something inexplicably captivating about Janel’s poised assertiveness.
You likely know the starlet from her notable role as Mona Vanderwaal on Pretty Little Liars – a character dynamic enough to help Janel expand the bounds of her craft like she’d never done before – or as Margot in the Netflix film To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Janel has also taken her skills to the stage, including delivering a remarkable performance as Sandy in a Toronto production of Grease. If you weren’t lucky enough to catch that performance, you can see Janel in her upcoming film Tiger, which hits theaters November 2nd.
Luca Magazine had the opportunity to do a Q&A with the talented young artist and got to know all things Janel – from Tiger to her exquisite wedding day. Aside from having the cutest wedding hashtag ever, #janelgoeslong, find out why we’re completely obsessed with Janel Parrish:
How did your career begin and what successes brought you where you are today?
I started on broadway at six years old in Les Miserables. It made me fall in love with the stage, which lead to falling in love with TV and film. It’s been my life...my biggest passion. I’ve been very fortunate to be blessed with amazing experiences in what I love to do. I feel my experience on stage at such a young age lead to my lifelong passion and pursuit of my dreams. I will never give up chasing it.
When did you fall in love with musical theater?
My family took me to see The Phantom of the Opera when I was five and I was transfixed. I immediately fell in love with the music and the power of telling stories in front of a live audience.
How old were you when you scored the role of Young Cosette on Broadway? What was that experience like?
I was six! It was incredible – I wish I remembered more of it. I’m so glad my mom took a million pictures for me. It’s a dream of mine to return to Broadway as an adult!
What have been some of your favorite roles and why?
Mona in Pretty Little Liars will always be my favorite role. She challenged me every day for seven years (and still does in Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists coming next year) and is the most layered and interesting character I’ve ever had the privilege to play.
Sandy in Grease – it was always a dream role and one I never thought I would get the chance to play, since I am not what comes to mind when you think of Olivia Newton John in the film! This is the color-blindness I spoke of before: to be on that stage every day as a diverse Sandy and be accepted and given a chance to do my own version was wonderful. Also, I could never get sick of singing “Hopelessly Devoted”.
And Charlotte in Tiger. Wait til you meet her! She’s a little bundle of dynamite. It was unlike any role I’ve played and I loved the challenge.
What was it like on the set of the Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before?
FUN. Lana Condor, Anna Cathcart and I developed a truly sisterly bond and every day we laughed our faces off. I love those girls so much. We had a blast.
What should audiences take away from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and from your character Margot in particular?
Her love of family over anything else. Margot just wanted to take care of her family and would do anything for them. It reminded me of my big sister, which is what drew me to the role!
In regards to Mona from Pretty Little Liars, how does it feel as an actress to have audiences be somewhat hot and cold towards your character?
I think it makes it fun! She’s interesting and unpredictable...but at least she piques your interest!
What can fans expect to see from Mona in Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists?
A somewhat humbled Mona. She’s trying to reinvent herself. But ultimately, she’s still Mona. Darkness will always follow her.
Can you tell us about your role as Charlotte in Tiger and what it means to you?
Charlotte is not what initially meets the eye, which made her really fun to play. She’s a smart, sharp lawyer, and a little rough around the edges...but still with a soft side and a big heart.
What was it like on set?
So much fun. I was in awe every day working with Prem [Singh] and Mike [Pugliese]. Their passion and talent is unmatched. I have so much respect for how hard they worked to get this beautiful project made. Not to mention that they WROTE IT! We had a blast every day and to work alongside them, as well as Mickey [Rourke], was a dream!
What was it that drew you to the role of Charlotte?
Her passion. She finds herself deeply moved by [the main character] Pardeep’s story; So much so that his fight really does become her fight...and not just because it’s her job.
Do you feel like you took something away from the experience of playing a strong female fighting for equality?
It’s an honor. This story needs to be told...to be discussed. To be part of that narrative, especially as a female and a minority, feels powerful and a step in the right direction.
What do you hope the audience will take away from seeing Tiger?
That everyone has a voice and a right to tell their story. Everyone has a right to fight for their beliefs.
Hollywood seems to be going through a very dramatic shift toward inclusion, which has finally begun to extend to Asians in film. What’s your take on all of this?
More please. When the industry is truly COLORBLIND is when I feel we’ve made it. I’m glad it’s all becoming a discussion right now, but one day...let’s truly have diversity be NORMAL. That’s my wish.
Please tell us everything about your dream Hawaiian wedding!!! When it came to planning, did you know exactly what you wanted?
It truly was a dream! My favorite day ever. I pretty much knew what we wanted; Our styles are similar! We wanted something rustic, intimate and genuine in a gorgeous setting! We got married in the mountains I grew up with in my backyard, with our best friends and family! It rained the second we started our vows...it was like a movie.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I would love to be on a show that I love, with kids and pups and my hubby. The best answer I can give is to be happy and creatively fulfilled with my loved ones. Life is crazy and short and I intend to live every second to the fullest.
What are you most proud of?
Chasing my dreams no matter what hurdles have come my way and not taking no for an answer.
Chasing your dreams and never taking no for an answer is just one of the many things we can learn from Janel Parrish. She’s doing her part to make Hollywood more inclusive and using her voice for good. The story in Tiger, and the story of Janel’s character in it, are stories that need to be told. Young stars like Janel taking roles such as this keep Hollywood moving in the right direction.
Whether it’s on the silver screen or on stage, there’s no role this multifaceted young actress can’t slay. Janel’s presence is enthralling; She has the ability to captivate audiences with each and every performance. To fall deeper in love with the star, follow her on social media and catch her in Tiger, in theaters November 2nd.