Last week, Shay Mitchell squeezed us into her schedule to talk about Pretty Little Liars, Dollface, motherhood, her partnership with Hydralyte, and so much more! As a huge Shay fan, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a morning than chatting with her about our shared favorite Filipino dishes and gushing over #Emison. Here's everything we talked about (spoilers ahead for PLL, The Perfectionists, and Dollface!):
1. What are you currently binge-watching?
I’m almost done with Ozark, so there's that. I finished Yellowstone, which I was obsessed with. Also, Money Heist was one of my favorite shows of last year.
2. Who have you been the most starstruck by?
I think Beyoncé. I’m a big fan, and everybody knows that. But honestly, at the end of the day, I think that everybody is just people. I meet some people sometimes, and I'm like, “Oh, I'm in awe of your talent.” And that's more exciting to me than meeting a celebrity. If I meet a great photographer who shoots for National Geographic, I'm more starstruck by that than the actual person just because they're a celebrity, you know?
3. You shared a lot about your first pregnancy and your mental health while going through it. What’s something about mental health and pregnancy you wished more people talked about?
I think the first time around, it was super important for me to talk about prepartum depression. I hadn't heard much about it, which is why I kind of went on a whole thing speaking about my experience. I wanted people to feel like they weren't “crazy,” like they weren't alone if they weren't feeling like a glorious goddess during their pregnancy. It's okay to actually not feel amazing. That doesn't mean that you're not grateful to be pregnant — I am extremely grateful. But there were also times where I was like, this is shitty. And that's okay! We don't all have to be pregnant, glowing goddesses the whole entire time.
4. How did you first become involved with Hydralyte?
I've always been an avid water consumer. This time around, obviously, I was pregnant, and so I was a bit more tired and sluggish. But there was something else that just wasn't kicking in. I was talking to my doctor, and they were like, “You need more electrolytes, try adding these in.” I'm not a fan of sports drinks or coconut water, just because there's so much sugar in them. So, my friend recommended Hydralyte, and I became a super fan of it. I loved it, did my research on it, and was like, “Oh my God, this is awesome. I want to work with them.” Partnering with them — and now maybe coming out with my own little something, something — it's just cool because it really helped me with my [second] pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, I sat in bed and watched Game of Thrones. But this time around, I’ve gotta keep it moving.
5. What’s been the most challenging part of navigating motherhood and pregnancy in the public eye?
Coming across a negative comment or two. I mean, it's just more annoying. Because I know that if I'm getting that, then other people are, too. I can take it; I don't really care. I think when I turned 30, I sort of stopped caring. As long as things feel right to me, and I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day, I'm good. Everything you do is going to be criticized, and you’ll be criticized 10 times more when you're a mother. We’ve all got to just do what feels right. We're all doing the best that we can, and that's all you can focus on.
6. You and your partner are both of mixed heritages, and you’ve spoken about the importance of raising your kids to be connected with all of their cultures — how have you approached this with your daughter, Atlas, so far?
We love to watch different shows that speak about it. I think it’s important for her to see characters that look like her and ones that don't look like her. I feel like there's a lot more that's out there now in terms of content for children, which is awesome. Her favorite movie right now is Coco — we watch it in Spanish, and it's really cool. I think also having our families share our traditions with her as well, even just food. … She loves sushi. She loves Ethiopian food. Just exposing her to as many different cultures as possible is super important.
7. What are some of your favorite Filipino traditions or foods that you plan on passing on to your kids?
Right now, pancit is [Atlas's] favorite food. I like seeing her enjoy that as much as I do. We also have my aunts come to the house and make lumpia, and it's fun to be able to see her with her cousins and experiencing that. Truthfully, you can't really pinpoint what she looks like or what her ethnicity is — she has bright eyes, a little fairer of a complexion than me or [my partner] Matte, and lighter hair.
BuzzFeed: Yeah, I’m mixed Filipino myself, so my sister and I grew up the exact same way.
8. Do you speak any Tagalog?
Only the bad words.
9. What’s a behind-the-scenes fact or funny story you have about your time on Pretty Little Liars?
Oh, my gosh. Honestly, girl, I can't remember what I did yesterday. [Laughs] I think just the laughs that we had between all four of us girls on set. I remember I'd actually have to dig my nail into my skin to stop myself from laughing when the cameras started rolling, because one of us would do something stupid. It was just, it was so fun. And I think that that time for all of us just fit so perfectly. We shot it in our 20s — I don't know if I could do that again in my 30s. It was such a beautiful time.
10. Your PLL character, Emily, was one of the first queer Southeast Asian characters on TV. What was your favorite part of playing her and portraying her journey?
Just that it wasn't over-thought, you know? I played a similar character in Dollface who also had relationships with women. People are like, “So, do you just pick characters that are lesbians?” And I'm like, “No, I pick characters with great stories.” Their sexuality is an afterthought [to me]. Like, do we question when other actors are playing straight characters? No. So, what does it matter? I may play a character that has the interest in the same sex for the rest of my life. I don't know. But that's never a deterrent for me.
11. Given the ending of the PLL spinoff The Perfectionists, do you think Emily and Alison find their way back to each other? If so, where do you think they would be now?
I think they’re living happily ever after. Maybe they've had some more kids. Maybe they adopted more kids and are, like, living on a farm. They're living their best lives, living happily.
12. Out of all of Emily’s relationships, which one was your favorite and why?
I think I’d have to say Alison. That's how [the show] ended and started. There’s something really special there.
13. How do you feel about the PLL reboot, Original Sin? Would you make an appearance if you were asked?
I would say never say never, but I also don’t have plans to. I’m rooting for all the girls who are in it.
14. If you could have chosen anyone else to be “A,” who would it be?
I think the show ended it perfectly!
15. What was your PLL audition like? Do you have any fun stories from it?
I mean, I still have that green T-shirt that I wore in my audition. That's what I remember. Honestly, I would have to look back at the tape — I'm sure there's a YouTube video out there. I think it was a little cringe-worthy, but hey, that's all part of growing. [Writer's note: We found a YouTube video of Shay reacting to her audition! Here it is below.]
16. Dollface was unfortunately canceled after two seasons. If the show had continued, what kind of storylines would you have liked to see for your character, Stella?
Maybe a throuple? [Laughs] I think Stella’s character was very fun. She just kind of rolled with whatever and did what made her happy. I love the idea and the concept of the bar. I'm still talking to the producers like, “Hey, regardless of the show, you guys should truly open a women's only bar.” I think that would be awesome. It was so much fun to shoot that show. Those girls are amazing, and we're still in contact.
17. What was your favorite part of voicing your character, Alexandra, on the Filipino anime Trese?
Honestly, I love doing voice-overs. I think it’s the perfect job — you're literally showing up in your pajamas and going into a sound booth to record, and it’s so fun. They have great snacks there. I would love to do it again.
18. What’s your favorite Filipino food?
I would say chicken adobo.
BuzzFeed: That’s mine, too!
19. You’ve said that in the past you used to hide your Filipino heritage, but you’re now very proud of it. What has that journey been like for you?
I think it's what everybody goes through when they're young and just trying to fit in. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian community, so all of my best friends had blue eyes and blonde hair, and I just wanted to fit in. I think after finishing high school and moving away, I got to settle into who I really was, appreciate what I was born with, and love the fact that I was, you know, unique.
20. What’s been the most rewarding part of seeing your daughter grow up so far?
Just getting to see the world through her eyes is awesome. It makes everything more exciting — you know, like holidays that you stopped celebrating get brought back to life with a new kind of sparkle. It’s just awesome seeing her grow and learn and develop into who she’s meant to be.
21. What’s your favorite part about working with Hydralyte?
That it's not hard to talk about because I believe in it. I drink it every day, and so does my daughter. It's one thing if I'm consuming something, but it’s another thing if my daughter is, too, because the amount of research I put into everything. ... She loves it just as much as I do. It's so fun. It's ‘special water’ for her, that’s what she calls it. So yeah, I love when you can have those partnerships you organically and genuinely love.
22. What’s a show you guest starred on that you would’ve loved to return to?
I love You. It would be fun [to return] now because they’re shooting in Europe. However, I did also get to live my dream of shooting in New York City for the show, which was super fun.
23. If you were to put all of your iconic characters — Emily, Stella, Peach from You — in one room, who do you think you would get along with the most and why?
Probably Stella. I think Stella was basically me in my single years.
24. What’s your most used emoji?
25. Is there a role people would be surprised to learn you auditioned for, but didn’t get?
I mean, I auditioned for Spencer originally on Pretty Little Liars. But no, I don’t think so. I’ve auditioned for a lot of different things.
26. Have you ever caught someone watching a show or movie you were in on a plane?
Yeah, they were watching Pretty Little Liars, and it was super cute. I love that. I mean, what's not to love about somebody enjoying the work you put into something? I think that's awesome.
27. Finally, if you could work with any actor, who would it be?
Oh my God, Bryan Cranston would be one of them!
Thanks for chatting with us, Shay! You can learn more about Hydralyte and their mission here.
Note: Some answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.