On an uber-popular show like Pretty Little Liars with a high social media presence primarily focused on the four gorgeous leading ladies, how does a poor guy manage to stand out? You do what actor Keegan Allen has done and become the bad boy of the show…and one that frequently takes off his clothes!
Allen, who plays Toby Cavanaugh, has been a fan favorite since his early days on the ABC Family series, but suddenly he’s become even more desirable. As was revealed recently, Toby, who we all knew to be the do-good boyfriend to Spencer (Troian Bellisario), is really working with the diabolical Mona (Janel Parrish) to make life hell for our quartet of Liars, which includes Bellisario, Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell, who plays lesbian Liar, Emily.
Throughout the series the girls have been endlessly tormented by the mysterious ‘A’. Once it was revealed last summer that Toby was part of ‘The A-Team,’ fans spoke up on social media to figure out whether he was just pretending to be bad to help the girls– or if he was truly a bad seed. “I will tell you he has an ax to grind with the girls,” Allen said to AfterElton during the TCA Winter Press Tour.
“From season 1,” Allen continued, “he was really tortured, not just by Alison, but by the girls as a team. They were really, really awful to him and in high school that’s a tough place to be already. But to be an outcast and an outsider, have an abusive step-sister [Jenna] and then be accused of blinding her and having to go to juvenile hall, you keep that with you, so we’re finally seeing the fruition of his revenge and there are real reasons why he is this way.”
Allen strikes a pose with co-stars Troian Bellisario and Shay Mitchell at the TCAs.
But Toby’s days of being secretly part of ‘The A-Team’ may be coming to an end since in last week’s episode his girlfriend Spencer finally clued in that the man she gave her virginity to (yep, that’s right) is not who she thought he was. Watch for things to amp up even more in the coming episodes, King promised. “Spencer’s discovery of Toby being on ‘The A-Team’ shifts the story…and we’re really all so proud of that storyline. It’s, I think, such a mature and sophisticated storyline for us and rich and deep and layered and we’re really excited to share that with the fans.”
Asked if he was playing Toby any differently now that he’s a bad boy, Allen said he doesn’t think so, though he believes if viewers think that he is there is a technical reason for that. “The camera does stay on [Toby] a bit longer…and there’s that tension now when you watch and go ‘What is he going to do?’”
One way you can usually tell a bad guy is by his clothing with baddies in dark clothes and good ones in light. However, the opposite has been true in the evolution of Toby. Series creator Marlene King explained during the Liars TCA panel that “the original dark Toby, which was sort of mysterious Toby, he wore all grays and darks.” But then, she added, “on the Scrabble date night, when [the characters] spent the night in the hotel together, we put him in this white ‘I’m the hero’ Henley…from then on he started wearing light blues and whites [that] helped him make his shift, for the audience too.”
Bellisario and Allen take direction from series creator (and director) Marlene King.
Despite the change in clothing colors, Allen doesn’t seem to mind when his character is sans clothes altogether. “He’s hot or he needs to go to the hot tub,” the actor explained, tongue in cheek. Allen did admit that these scenes are not the most comfortable to do for any of his fellow PLL actors. “All the guys on the show,” he said, “we’re all so insecure and we go and do these scenes and everyone is so supportive on the set. I am not an exhibitionist and it is a really interesting part of my life that a lot of people have seen me almost half-naked.”
He did add that he’s willing to give it his all as an actor and stated, “I’m all about whatever works for the show or whatever projects I work for. I enjoy that aspect of living in the character and if he needs to take his shirt off, I will take my shirt off.”
Now what happens if Allen gets cast on a racier cable series or film and has to take off more than his shirt or drop the towel altogether? “I’m ready for it!” he said with a laugh.
Casting directors, take note!