That wonderfully creepy dance performed by Maddie Ziegler in this week’s Pretty Little Liars wasn’t completely unexpected to the more dedicated PLL fans, or at least to those PLL fans paying attention to the Pretty Little Liars hiatus spoilers, but it was still a surreal event to witness. The episode, aptly titled “She’s No Angel,” featured Maddie presumably dancing for Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario) in a performance as dark and gothic as any scene before witnessed on Pretty Little Liars.
It seems Ms. Ziegler’s appearance in Pretty Little Liars has been planned for some time with the Pretty Little Liars creative team looking for the earliest opportunity to write Maddie into the series.
“Maddie is represented by the same agency that I am,” said Pretty Little Liars executive producer Oliver Goldstick, who co-wrote the episode with Maya Goldsmith. “They called me last year toward the end of the season and said, ‘Can you put Maddie in it? Maddie’s a huge fan of the show.'”
Goldstick had hoped to bring Ms. Ziegler in on the last season of Pretty Little Liars, but dance sequences that featured PLL stars Shay Mitchell and Ashley Benson had already been filmed. The Pretty Little Liars E.P. felt adding more dance scenes might begin to detract from the story.
“I didn’t believe [that] with three episodes left in the season [that] I could ask for another dance sequence without them saying, ‘Oliver, this is not Glee. You can’t keep doing this to us,'” Oliver laughed.
As the series moved into its sixth season and the storyline centering on Charles’ Dollhouse began to become a central part of the plot, Goldstick saw an opportunity to bring Ms. Ziegler in as a natural evolution of that story, according to Entertainment Weekly.
“After the dollhouse in the last finale I thought, okay, we’re already in a place where we don’t know who was in that bunker besides our girls, so the idea was we would find a way to create, at least if not a legitimate sequence, a fantasy sequence.”
Travis Wall of So You Think You Can Dance was brought in to work with Maddie on the Pretty Little Liars‘ scene and Oliver instructed the choreographer to create a dance that was haunting yet not too much. Nailing his idea down, Goldstick said that he wanted to avoid making the scene “overly Exorcist.”
“It’s very gentle and delicate. It’s not horror music,” Goldstick said of the music he provided, which was “Syrinx,” a flute solo by Claude Debussy. “I said, ‘I want you to listen to this because I want to juxtapose the sweetness of this music with a childhood that’s gone dark. This could be one of these Allison girls that ‘A’ has possibly kidnapped and kept down here.'”
Once the dance had been nailed down, the Pretty Little Liars E.P. went hunting for the perfect atmosphere. Confessing that Radley had become too commonplace for PLL fans, he sought out something new and fresh for the Pretty Little Liars scene.
“We’ve done every room in that hospital; there’s nothing that’s fresh about Radley.”
Instead, the setting of that Pretty Little Liars scene was based on Cane Hill Asylum, an abandoned mental hospital in Coulsdon, England. After some research, the PLL executive producer found the institution on the internet.
“For years it was empty and people would go there and hang out and they would take photographs. I saw those tubs. They were filled with blackish water. So I printed it out and took it to our production designer and said, ‘This is what I want it to be.'”
Putting setting together with the dance created one of the creepiest Pretty Little Liars scenes ever filmed and fulfilled Maddie Ziegler’s own dream of joining the cast of Pretty Little Liars.
The next episode of Pretty Little Liars, “No Stone Unturned,” airs on Tuesday, July 7, on ABC Family.
[Featured image: Maddie Ziegler courtesy of ABC Family/Pretty Little Liars]