ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let me start by saying this is the one thing I never wanted the show to do, but now I’m kind of loving it.
IAN HARDING: Yea, that seems to be the theme. I’ve been checking Twitter and all that, because I don’t want to disappoint the fans, and if people are like, “Oh my god, this is so terrible; I’m going to go shoot myself,” I obviously don’t want that to happen, but it seems to be that I’ve developed a nice little sort of codependency with all these teens in the sense that — nice codependency, that’s an oxymoron — but in the sense that they’re all like, “Oh man, you’re so terrible, you’re so terrible how could you do that, I love you so much, I’ll stick around.” I’m like, “I don’t know if this is a good thing that we’ve developed in young girls,” but I think it went pretty well last night, and I was happy with the episode.
How long have you known this?
I’ve known about it for a while. To what extent I was unclear of only up until a couple months ago, but really in February, there was this other project that looked like it was going to happen for me, and we had to go to ABC Family and say like, “Hey, what’s the deal?” And Marlene King actually said, “Hey, we can’t let you go because of what’s going to happen with Ezra.” I’m like, “Oh, what’s going to happen with Ezra?” She alluded to the sudden shift in his character arc that would happen toward the tail end of 4A and then would continue in some way, shape, or form into 4B. So I’ve known since like February.
What was your reaction? Are excited to be the bad guy in some sense?
Super excited. I’m super excited. It’s not like I’m like, “Yea, I get to be evil now!” I don’t think that he’s evil; I think that he’s driven by something that has made him do very morally questionable things. And so playing with that dynamic as an actor is super fun, and getting to investigate this guy that technically I’ve been living within for 3 seasons, to suddenly have this whole other shade to him is a lot of fun. So when she told me, I was far from disappointed. She said “Hey listen, you might go slightly bad -” before she finished her sentence I said, “YES. Let’s do that.” It’s not like I want to ruin the relationship between Aria and Ezra, but just for creative purposes, I thought to myself, “Yea, let’s go there.”
In your mind, is Ezra in love with Aria? Do you believe that’s true?
Yea, I say this, like, I don’t think he’s a sociopath. We’re not going to find him laughing in a straitjacket at the end of the season — or I hope not, maybe I just killed one of the writer’s ideas — but I think he is, was, and will be in love with Aria in some way, shape, or form. How he got to that point is maybe questionable and may be a little bit a tainted side, but I could be proven wrong in a few episodes. But I personally don’t think that this was all a ruse, that he’s just some amazing liar and just didn’t love her, you know?
When I talked to Keegan Allen about his reveal, he talked about how he only learned about his character from scene to scene or episode to episode. He didn’t know if Toby was good overall. He only knew what Toby was in any given moment. Is that how they pitched this to you?
I think that’s just kind of TV in general in the sense that you, I mean good TV ideally is that for the actor it’s always you’re moving from different moment to different moment and you’re finding different shades of this person as opposed to like film, where you have a set storyline and you can act within those parameters, as opposed to “In this moment, you’re absolutely in love with Aria and you have no fear or doubt in your mind,” and then the next episode like, “Oh god I don’t think I should do this, and by the way, I have a drinking problem.” And so even though I knew that this was going to, I knew about this dynamic shift back in February, when we were filming certain episodes, I mean, there’s not like, as you saw from the beginning of the season, there was no like weird dynamic shift with me personally or “Ah! I was suddenly very henchmen-like,” you know? I only have like a rough estimate pretty much at all times of where I’m going to go.
Did everyone else know or was the reveal a secret from the rest of the cast?
I think they knew, or at certain points, they found out, but at the same time, I think the cast, having worked within the parameters of the show, which is nothing’s ever what it seems, nobody went “Ah yea, case closed!” Everybody kind of went “Okay, why are you doing this? We can’t wait to figure this out.” Shay [Mitchell] I think had a few choice words. She was like “I knew it.” And I was like, “Whatever,” and we got into fisticuffs. But that’s just me and Shay. So yea, I think people were able to gather it early on.
In your ideal world, what awesome nickname would Ezra get? I want him to be like Black Suit or something.
Black Hat. Uh, Cool-Jacket-with-Overly-Arching-Collar. I think that will tweet really well. I’m not quite sure. What would be an interesting name for him? I think just Super Sneaky. I think that would probably sum it up pretty well. I do like the whole hashtag that happened afterward with the, it was the Ezra and then the A in his name was an “A,” so I was messing around with that like Ezra-“A” [pronounced Ezra-Ayy], so maybe that could work.
Finally, if you had to pick three words to describe Ezra as a character through and through, what would you choose?
Layered, conflicted, and super-driven, even though that’s technically four words. Maybe if we throw a hyphen in there. Or maybe ambitious. Whether or not that whole room was his — we’re not sure yet — that’s an interesting set up and the fact that he followed them all the way to Rosewood, something’s driving him, and I’m not sure if it’s just love for Aria — “Oh now she’ll be okay.” I think there’s something else going on, so … I forget what the three words were that I just said.