Executive producer previews 'Ravenswood': New characters, Caleb's family, and 'an adversary of some dark underworld'

Ravenswood

Image Credit: Skip Bolen/Eric McCandless

The “A” team might wear black hoodies and send threatening notes, but the town of Ravenswood has darkness running through its veins.

Tomorrow, Pretty Little Liars spin-off Ravenswood debuts when PLL‘s Caleb finds himself in a new town where a curse connects him to four other individuals. But what’s the curse, and why were these five teens chosen? That’s what will be explored in the new series from the team that brought you Rosewood, “A,” and countless shocking revelations.

We talked with Ravenswood executive producer and co-creator Oliver Goldstick about what we can expect from the new series (hints: mystery, friendship, and Mrs. Grunwald):

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Caleb is leaving for Ravenswood in tonight’s Pretty Little Liars Halloween episode?
OLIVER GOLDSTICK: Yes.

The last time we saw him, he was getting on a bus to Ravenswood, so what are his reasons for returning? What’s pulling him there?
The reasons pulling him are very much PLL: Hanna, Hanna’s safety, Hanna being in peril. That’s why he gets on the bus. It’s what keeps him there that’s compelling, because Caleb ends up discovering something that has nothing to do with Hanna and has very much to do with himself as a reason to remain in this town and unravel a really deep mystery.

Everything I’m reading about the show’s premise talks about this curse. So is there a supernatural element to this show? What can you tell us about that?
There is a supernatural element. The idea is the minute you arrive in Ravenswood, which we’ve already arrived there of course in Pretty Little Liars episode 406 this year, but there’s something not quite right about the place, and the longer you spend there — if you actually stayed for breakfast or brushed your teeth — you will notice something’s not right. And the residents of the town, who are accepting of its differences, don’t present it right away to outsiders. But you’ll know the place is haunted. We’ve described it in the past and we continue to describe it as a place where the dead mingle with the living.

And you mentioned that we’ve seen a little bit of Ravenswood from PLL, and to me, it feels a little darker and creepier than what we’re used to. In terms of what we’ve seen, is that indicative of the general feel of Ravenswood?
Yeah. There will be people who you feel like are a bit out of time. There’s some eccentric characters and people you’ll feel like, “Wow, when’s the last time she went to a Target?” if there even is a Target in Ravenswood, which there probably isn’t. And if there is, it sells only very specific things. Shrouds. [Laughs] But seriously, the idea is that there is an eccentricity to the town, and one of the reasons we were looking forward to shooting in New Orleans is we could embrace some of the color of that setting. The town is not picture-perfect. The townspeople take pride … relish in the fact that things are in states of decay. It isn’t about painting the pretty picture. With Rosewood, we tried to present a very picture-perfect, Edward Hopper, postcard place where there was isolation and loneliness, but it was all happening behind beautifully manicured lawns and freshly painted shutters. That’s not the case in Ravenswood. The snakes in the grass that are hidden in Rosewood are very visible in Ravenswood. The snakes in the grass are very visible.

The only citizen of Ravenswood we really know of is Mrs. Grunwald. Is she a big part of the new show?
She is indeed. You’ll see her again in the Halloween episode and after. She’ll be very much a part of the series. Mrs. Grunwald is a connection for Caleb. It’s actually a nice bridge between Rosewood and Ravenswood, because she recognizes he came there for Hanna, and she’s met Hanna now.

And on PLL, we had just started to get into Caleb’s family drama, meeting his father and so on. Will we continue to explore that?
Yes. His father will be coming in by episode 6 or 7, and he’s also going to learn about some other family he didn’t know he had.

Was there a reason you chose Caleb?
He has the most diverse, open background. There are so many experiences he’s had, being a kid who’s been shuttled from foster home to foster home — we’d already alluded to in the series he’d had an arrest record, he’d had a run-in with the police in Allentown, he didn’t know his father at all. He had a lot of holes to fill, if that makes sense, in his background, so we thought this was a good character to take. Because with Toby, you knew where he was from, the Cavanaugh backstory. This was a character … he was wide open.

With PLL, fans are used to every frame meaning something, being a clue in this big mystery. Is that also applicable to Ravenswood?
It is. The “A” of it all, people forget it was so many years ago — I’m about to direct episode 96 of the series — so we forget at the beginning it really was, there were questions about Alison being alive, was Alison sending the texts. It wasn’t necessarily a person who was an evil villain who was going to kill them. It was someone who was teasing them. It was nasty and it was cruel because it was things like, “I’m going to tell your mother about your father’s indiscretion” or “I’m going to tell your mother about the fact that you’ve got a crush on a girl.” They all had stakes, but it wasn’t “I’m going to kill you in a dark alley,” “I’m going to drown you in a tub.” That’s not what it was about. [Ravenswood] has a darker element to it, because it seems as if the evil force is much less of a bitchy teenager than a, let’s just say an adversary of some dark underworld that wants to drag these kids under. I’m not trying to diminish the PLL villain, the bully of it all, because it was harrowing for a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old girl to be dealing with this kind of bullying, these kinds of threats. But this is a bit different. We never really dealt with the supernatural in PLL; it wasn’t part of the design of the show. And this embraces it from the get-go.

With PLL, everyone’s a suspect, even the core four. Is it safe to say, with this show, we don’t need to be suspicious of the main five?
I think that’s a smart observation, although I will tell you from the beginning, there’s some wariness on the part of, for example, Luke is very wary of Caleb, because Caleb seems to have brought some darkness or more darkness to an already dim place, a place that was needing light, he brought more darkness to. If not suspicion, there’s a hardy wariness.

Talking about Luke, what can you tell us about these new characters? Give us a brief rundown.
You’ve got paternal twins who are an interesting family, because they’ve lost their father. Their father has been murdered only months ago. That’s Luke and Olivia. And they have a mother who many people in the town suspect is responsible, even though there’s no smoking gun that’s been found, there’s just a sneaking escalating suspicion within the community, her alibi being shaky, her relationship being volatile, the marriage rather. People start to wonder, “Oh my God, is this what happened?” But rather than take pity on these kids, the kids actually suffer under the slings and arrows of it. The kids aren’t given a pass, because the kids look like they’re protecting their mother and protecting a murderer. So that’s an interesting dynamic. Both kids, particularly Olivia being an aspiring prom queen, a girl who’s a popular girl, an attractive girl, a girl who’s used to getting what she wants, having to suddenly face [that] her life has turned upside down within a year. Her whole family life has been fractured. It’s been shattered basically.

Now across town, another family’s been shattered to some degree, and that’s Remy’s. And Remy’s mother was in Afghanistan. She’s recently returned, she’s clearly a victim of PTSD, something’s going on with her mom. And Remy, we call her the Spencer of Ravenswood, because she basically lives above her eyebrows. Wonderful actress playing her, Brittney, and she basically is an investigative reporter without having the press credentials. She asks a lot of questions. So Remy, who’s Luke’s girlfriend, these three are already entwined. Luke, Remy, and Olivia have their own world already before Caleb and Miranda enter it. But the collision of the two worlds causes some friction.

So who’s this Miranda character?
Miranda’s very much, we talked about her being sort of the female equivalent of Caleb, a kid who’d grown up in a series of foster homes, scrappy, charming, street-smart, vulnerable. I could list six, seven adjectives that would equally apply to Caleb. That was always our intention is that they would have an immediate bond because if he had a biological sister, this might be it. There’s chemistry between them, but I don’t want to get into anything icky, that doesn’t preclude a potential romance down the road. They’re not related, but they just seem like it, that’s all.

This show has lots of potential for PLL crossovers, and I hear Caleb makes a call to Hanna in episode 5?
Yes, by 105, yes. Well, she’s growing increasingly concerned that he’s detaching. She needs to see him. It’s been too long!

So she’s still very much a part of his world?
Yes.

Overall with PLL, there’s always a question or a theme of the moment that drives all the action. Is there something of that sort that kicks off Ravenswood?
I think there’s a “why us” that drives the first three episodes. These five kids, who have absolutely no other connection to each other, find themselves inextricably bound by something that is way beyond their control and may have happened many many years ago. So these five teenagers have to question “why us” and that becomes, thematically, very prominent at the beginning.

It’s time for one final tease. What is maybe the biggest difference or similarity between Ravenswood and PLL? How can people mentally prepare for tonight’s pilot?
I think the idea that there’s still a group of young people who are, I don’t want to say targeted, because maybe targeted is an ugly word, but they are in fact beleaguered, and it’s a group of beleaguered young people who find strength in their bond to fight against an unseen enemy. I think it’s very similar in that sense. We have taken that template and applied it here as well, because these five do grow very close within the first five, six episodes and become a unit.

Ravenswood premieres tomorrow at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.

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