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Meeting Mona: A chat with Pretty Little Liar Janel Parrish

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Recently, Janel Parrish of "Pretty Little Liars" came to the Charleston Town Center for a meet-and greet-with fans. Parrish plays Mona Vanderwall on the show.

Before "Pretty Little Liars," Parrish worked on many other projects. For instance, she was Jade, one of the main characters, in "Bratz." She also had a song in the movie called "Rainy Days."

She got her start in musical theater, and she has had appeared in nine movies and eight television shows. She's been featured on four soundtracks. For somebody who's just 23, that's impressive.

Parrish said that to have a successful career you have to stay busy, which is what she does. "I try to stay busy when I'm not shooting something, so I always try to have some different project lined up."

Two of her recent movie projects are now available for people to see: "4 Wedding Planners" has just been released on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon, and "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is in theaters (though none in West Virginia).

Outside of acting, Parrish likes to sing. She writes songs and can play the piano. She said right now she's focused on acting, but she would definitely consider any music opportunity that arose.

Last season "Pretty Little Liars" revealed that Mona was the first "A," the mysterious person tormenting the girls. This season, she has been in a mental hospital.

For Parrish, playing crazy Mona was scary at first. She wasn't sure how she would do it. She said the role is the most challenging and fun she's ever had.

"It's so much fun because when else would you be able to do something like that?" she said. "I've never had to play a character like that, which is why it was scary at first, but once I started doing it, I love it.

"I never know what I'm doing. I get a script each week and go, 'How am I gonna play this?' And that's fun. It keeps my brain challenged to go to set each day and play with it."

Mona has been seen in different lights on the show. First there was dorky Mona, then popular Mona and now, crazy Mona, who works with "A."

"It's always fun getting to create a new role," she said.

Parrish loves everything about working on "Pretty Little Liars," thought she does have nightmares that one day she'll be on set and forget her lines. Days on the set can be long or short depending on her scene and how long it takes to shoot it.

"Sometimes it can be a few hours, or sometimes it can be all day," she said.

Luckily, Parrish has some great friends to keep her company, like Ashley Benson (Hanna), who she has known for eight years. They have worked together before as have many of the other cast members.

"It's great to be able to have friends on set because you're there for long hours," she said. "We always have a great time."


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