Keeping Secrets With Mallory Betchel

Photography:
Stephanie Diani
Words:
Sandy Aziz

Got a secret? Can you keep it? No secrets here, just some good Advice. “Take advantage of every opportunity,” declares American actress Mallory Bechtel. Despite being “shy as a kid,” at 24 years old, Mallory’s achievements are tenfold, starting with her Broadway debut as Zoe Murphy in Dear Evan Hansen to now starring in the teenage thriller cult classic, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, and the return of its second season, Pretty Little Liars: Summer School. Not to mention the Texan-native serves double the trouble in her role on PLL as twins Karen and Kelly Beasley, who are “type-A, prom queen, cheer captain overachievers.” She takes this opportunity to dish the deets on all things relating to the summer slasher and her experience playing twins.

Sandy Aziz: Congratulations on your role in the reboot of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin and the return of the second season Pretty Little Liars: Summer School! You shared that you were a major fan of the book series in middle school; that’s so relatable. How does it feel to be able to work in something in the same universe as Pretty Little Liars?
Mallory Betchel: Thank you so much! It feels very surreal. Pretty Little Liars was a massive part of my childhood. I have so many distinct memories that revolve around the series. I remember being in fourth grade and reading the books at night, getting scared, and having to crawl into my little sister’s bed to fall asleep. And then when the show came out, my entire friend group was immediately obsessed with it. A lot of recess and lunch was spent discussing our theories on A’s identity. (My siblings and I weren’t allowed to watch TV on weeknights, so I’d wake up early before school to watch the previous episode on Hulu on the family computer. Thank goodness for this loophole.) So, to be a part of a show that’s in the same universe as something I adored so much as a kid is an absolute dream come true. And my friends from Texas are pretty much just as stoked as I am. 
SA: Looking at your Instagram, it’s evident that your journey to success has been a long and dedicated one. You’ve stayed true to your dreams, from attending Broadway shows to being cast in Dear Evan Hanson. Can you share some advice for young actors/creatives who also dream of making it big in the industry?
MB: Probably to take advantage of every opportunity. I was a shy kid and there were so many times I didn’t want to perform or go to an audition. But looking back, I realize those were the times when I really grew and learned resilience, which is vital in this industry. You also never know who you might meet or what encounters may pave the way for future opportunities! (The first time I met the wonderful Alex Lacaimore, I was auditioning for a reading in New York. I was twelve and had a horrendous cold– it was a terrible and deeply embarrassing audition. But he remembered me six months later at another audition for a production he was music directing that I DID get cast in. And then he remembered me four years later when I auditioned for Dear Evan Hansen!) 
SA: Playing a set of twins in Pretty Little Liars, based on Alison DiLaurentis’s original storyline, must be a unique and challenging experience. Could you walk us through the preparation process for these roles and share how you brought both characters to life?
MB: My first tape was just for Karen, so when I was looking at Kelly initially for my callback, a lot of the process was just finding ways I could differentiate her from the character I’d already somewhat created. Karen’s voice sat a little lower and raspier, so I made Kelly’s voice slightly higher and airier. Karen’s an angrier, more judgmental character, so her eyes are usually narrowed and her brow is furrowed. When I play Kelly, I generally keep my eyes wide and my forehead relaxed. Then wardrobe and makeup play a big part too. They were very intentional about Karen’s style being more risqué while Kelly’s was more conservative. Karen was usually wearing a heel and that would naturally make me stand a little taller, while Kelly was typically wearing sneakers. And the rest involved a lot of conversations with the director about what motivated the individual girls. How their experiences and views of the world differ. I was also blessed to have an amazing actress as my twin double who is a dear friend now, Alex O’Shea. Getting to explore the Karen/Kelly scenes with her on set was a tremendous help. All of it was such a rewarding and fun experience. 
SA: The new season Summer School premiered earlier in May of this year, what was the process like to step back into your character’s shoes after a year off filming?
MB: Nerve-wracking! Kelly went on such a tumultuous journey of self-discovery in Season 1 and I was discovering who she was alongside her. So, stepping back into her ongoing identity crisis after a year was very daunting… I was worried I had completely forgotten how to play her. But the worldbuilding for this series is so spectacular, both with the script and the set. And the actors I get to lean on are so talented. You can’t help but feel totally immersed in the Pretty Little Liars universe when you’re shooting. It all came rushing back very quickly. 
SA: Growth happens naturally in every teenager’s life and progresses into their early adulthood. How do you portray your character’s personal development?
MB: I think Kelly is constantly battling insecurity, which of course is something all teenage girls go through. She desperately wants to fit in with the Liars but is caught between that desire and her desire to abide by the wishes of her mother. So, I try to show that struggle in the way she speaks and carries herself. She puts on this “everything-is-fine” smile and voice when she’s feeling threatened– that’s how she behaves around Faran and Imogen for most of this season. And then we only see glimpses of the true Kelly when she’s by herself, and that’s someone who is deeply lonely and hurting.
SA: I remember the fashion trend during the original show being business casual. We often saw the girls in peplum tops and knee-length pencil skirts, holding their books and strutting down the hallways in platform heels. How has the style of the new characters evolved? What trends have made their way to your wardrobe, and what’s been your favourite look so far?
MB: Karen and Kelly are the type-A, prom queen, cheer captain achievers, so most of the clothes I get to wear are very preppy – lots of collars and lots of skirts. In season one, pink was strictly Karen’s colour and blue was Kelly’s. But as Kelly has grown more into her own person, her colour palette has expanded too. The trend that’s made its way into my wardrobe is RINGS! I owned no rings before doing this show and just became obsessed with Karen’s and Kelly’s collection. And my favourite look would have to be this pink dress from Guizio I got to wear in the first episode of season 2… it’s very fun and flirty. I wish I owned it. 
SA: The original audition you sent in was for a different character, Imogen, and the casting directors had come back asking you to send in a tape for the twins Karen and Kelly. You’ve shared that during your second tape, you explored manifesting, and it worked! Can you share how you did this?
MB: This is TRUE, although I can’t say I still subscribe to this method of bringing about my dreams, especially in an industry where rejection is such a huge part of the game. Some things are meant to be, and some things are not. However! There is something to be said for behaving as if you already have the thing you want/thinking positively, which is essentially what I did. Confidence is everything, especially for a role like Karen/Kelly. But when you also have a mind to the things that are out of your control, you can take rejection in stride. The stars just happened to align for me and this role. 
SA: How have you kept grounded in overwhelming environments, like filming on set or doing press?
MB: I delete my Instagram and call my family. (The first part of the formula is a constant source of annoyance for my friends.) In all seriousness though, I’m very blessed to have such a close relationship with my three siblings and my parents, as well as pretty much all of my childhood friends. I feel most like myself when I’m around them and they definitely help to keep me grounded. I’m pretty much in constant contact with them. While we were on set last summer, the final season of Succession and season 44 of Survivor were coming out. Jordan, Malia, and Zaria all watch these shows. So does my brother Greg. So, it was a bit of a sweet inside joke with the cast that I could only attend half of the watch parties because I also had to watch with my brother over Facetime. I try to make family time a priority. It helps that I like them so much! (Greg also would’ve killed me if I watched Succession without him.)
SA: What can we expect from this new season?
MB:
You can expect a lot of blood, a lot of screaming, and a lot of funny moments. Season two leans into the campier side of horror, which I LOVE.
SA: Lastly, do you have any exciting new projects coming up?
MB: I’ve just joined the cast of Richard Linklater’s movie adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along, which I am SO psyched about. Getting to sing Sondheim in this capacity is such a privilege and I’ve been a longtime fan of Richard’s, so this project feels like the perfect cocktail of my love for musical theatre and my love for film.
Photography: Stephanie Diani
Talent: Mallory Betchel
Words: Sandy Aziz
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