Q&A session with Brant Daugherty: ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” (J!-ENT Interviews & Articles)
January 31, 2011 by J!-ENT
Brant Daugherty of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.” (ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES)
Brant Daughtery plays the character of Noel Kahn in the hit ABC Family series “Pretty Little Liars”.
In the series, Noel is one of the most popular boys at Rosewood High and a former crush of Aria’s. When Aria returns to town, Noel takes quick notice of Aria and pursues her, unaware that she is already dating Ezra Fitz.
In the mid-season premiere viewers learned that Noel caught on to Aria and Ezra and that Hanna saw him the night of Mona’s party, making the girls think he was “A.” Noel then used the information he had to blackmail Ezra for a better grade, possibly forcing Ezra to quit and leave Rosewood. But “A” doesn’t like amateurs messing with her game and quickly took Noel out of the picture for now.
Here is a transcript Q&A interview with Brant Daugherty.
Moderator What’s the status on Noel and Aria?
B. Daugherty Noel and Aria, I think you might have to ask Aria that. I think that it has been fairly clear at this point that she has gone the other way on that. I think that she has picked Ezra in the love triangle, but I’d have to say that Noel is a pretty persistent guy. I don’t think that he’s going to give up without seeing it through to the very end.
Moderator What are your views on the whole “A” thing and how Noel fits into that?
B. Daugherty My views on “A” is I honestly have no idea who it is. I’ve been watching and following it with the fans trying to figure it all out and God knows, they don’t tell me anything about that, but I’m right there with everyone. As far as Noel fits into that, you’ve got to look at his motives and the situation he was put in. He may not necessarily be working maliciously as “A,” but he’s still got a bone to pick and he’s still trying to figure things out for himself. Ultimately, at the end there, at the end of Episode 13, he becomes a victim himself, which adds another interesting twist to it, I think.
Moderator The female stars of the show seem so close with one another. Have you been able to bond with any of them or anyone else on the set?
B. Daugherty Yes, during the first ten episodes of the season we did over the spring and summer of last year, basically all my scenes are with Aria (Lucy Hale). So, we became pretty good friends pretty quickly just out of necessity, I think, to not go crazy working together, especially when we do like a guitar playing scene. It would just be me and her in a room for six hours shooting the scene. So, we became pretty fast friends. I love Lucy. She’s an amazing girl. Other than that though, I’ve made some actually some pretty great friends from the show. It’s been really good for my social life.
Moderator Is there anything you can tease us about the evolution of your character?
B. Daugherty Well, we’ve already seen a pretty dramatic turn in how we view Noel and the sides of him that we’re seeing. In the future, I think, we’re just kind of see how he’s going to relate to these four girls and what interaction he’s going to have. As far as specifics, I’m afraid I can’t delve too much into that, but he is a character in Rosewood and we’re going to see a bit of him around town and everything. But, yes, it’s mainly just how he relates to these four girls and when they’re ready for him, he’ll be around.
Moderator Are there any character traits of Noel that mimic any of your own. How are you best able to relate with the character?
B. Daugherty I think the biggest thing that Noel and I have in common is you’re not really ever sure what to make of us. I get that a lot in my personal life. I’m kind of a mysterious guy, I guess. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s kind of hard to figure out what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling. So, I think just that general sense of mystery and dedication definitely. We’re both very dedicated.
Moderator In your words, what do you feel is the key to viewers tuning in to Pretty Little Liars?
B. Daugherty Oh, wow. In a short answer, it has to be the four pretty little liars themselves. I think they so accurately depict sort of America right now for these young girls with their struggles and the lies that they have to tell and the secrets they keep. Especially hitting things like eating disorders in the last couple episodes and hitting things like coming out to your parents, the gay teenager. These things really resonate with the youth in the world today and I think it’s exploring story lines like that that keep us coming back every week.
Moderator What has been your favorite scene to shoot on Pretty Little Liars so far?
B. Daugherty Honestly I think one of the ones that was the most fun for me—and it’s so simple. It doesn’t sound like it would be the most fun at all, but—it’s the very opening of the midseason premier where you see Noel at the aftermath of Hanna’s accident, just so briefly and in a flash, he’s gone. I had such a blast filming that. They got to dress me in all black and I got to come up through the fog and give Aria that great look. The way they edit it; that was perfect, I just disappear. I don’t know, I think the combination of having fun filming it and then seeing it really sold that scene for me. I was really impressed with it all.
Moderator Why do you think Noel takes advantage of Aria and … relationship with the whole, “Give me a better grade,” thing?
B. Daugherty I wouldn’t say that he’s taking advantage of it. I think that he’s lashing out a little bit. I think maybe, he’s trying to get back at Ezra would be a better term. I feel like he thinks Ezra has taken advantage of Aria more than Noel is taking advantage of Ezra or Aria. Aria’s asked him not to do anything, so he’s struggling with how he’s going to handle the situation and ultimately try to get a dig in at Ezra the only way he knows how intellectually through his work.
Moderator Can you tell us what you enjoy most about portraying the character of Noel?
B. Daugherty It has to be his duality. When I was first on the show during the last ten episodes, Noel was this great standup guy. They would talk about how perfect he is and he’s got a great life, and all these great things happening for him. Then just suddenly, he just flips completely and then you’re never really sure what to make of him after that. Is he lying? Is he telling the truth? Who is he lying to? Why is he lying? I think, when I sat down and talked to Marlene and Oliver, the producers, about this transition, they were so excited to see how this played out and I was right there with them. I couldn’t wait to show this side of the character.
Moderator If there is one thing that you could change about Noel, what would it be?
B. Daugherty He’d have to get the girl. I guess that’s not really something about Noel that I would change, but it’s heartbreaking to put so much effort and everything into this character and to see him sort of go down in a tragic way at the end of Episode 13. It was tough for me actually, emotionally as an actor to see that happen to him. I care for Noel. I like him.
Moderator Your character Noel plays the guitar. I was wondering if you knew how to play the guitar before you started or if you learned it for the show.
B. Daugherty I took a beginning guitar class in high school where I learned to play “Wonderwall,” which is probably right under “Stairway to Heaven” as one of the most cliché guitar songs you can learn. So, I had a bit of a working knowledge of it, I guess in the way a carpenter could have a working knowledge that wood makes a house. But Oliver came up to me and asked me if I could play and I told him that I could learn anything provided I have enough time. So, he made sure I did and I’ve kept up with it since, actually. I’ve been trying to actually have it as a skill I can do.
Moderator If they came to you and said, “Okay, what story line would you like Noel to go into,” what would you say?
B. Daugherty I think if we continue down this kind of darker road with him, it would be a really interesting thing to see how that played out because knowing that your ex-girlfriend and your teacher, possibly ex-teacher, are together isn’t just something you can unknow.
Moderator When we first saw you, you kind of started out as a sweet guy that was trying to win over Aria, but of course, the last time we saw you, you kind of turned into a bad guy. So, how is the fan feedback been with that change? Have the fans given you any backlash or—?
B. Daugherty You can always tell where the fans allegiances lie by how they react to the situation. Some of them are just furious and hate me and can’t believe this dark turn I’ve taken and the way that I’m hurting their poor, dear Ezra. Some of them love it, on the opposite end. Some of them are kind of rooting me on and they’re like, “Yes, get him, get him!” So, it’s been interesting to see the kind of double nature of the fans that way, which it is great honestly, because I coming in, wasn’t sure if I’d ever win anyone away from Ezra, but I got a couple of them and I’m happy with that.
Moderator The last time we saw Noel, you’d been taken away in hand-cuffs, so everybody is kind of awaiting his return. So, if you were in that situation, what would you do in that episode where you come back?
B. Daugherty That’s a great question. I hadn’t thought about that too much. I would probably be on my best behavior on the surface. That’s for sure. I don’t think I’d—regardless of whether he actually wants to be pursuing his antagonization of Ezra or not, I think that he would play it pretty low key coming back. I think he’d be all smiles.
Moderator What is your favorite part of being part of the cast, Pretty Little Liars?
B. Daugherty It has to be the energy on set. There’s something so powerful about coming to work and knowing that what you’re doing is really resonating with people. It was great when we first had this new project we were working on and we couldn’t wait to see what happened. Then suddenly, everybody responded to it and it was amazing and we’re trending on Twitter and we’re top iTunes download for the show and it was so incredible. The energy on set just was amplified. It was great already and every time I walk into that place I feel like something magical is happening. Like we’re making something important. We’re doing something that is going to make a difference.
Moderator Have you read some book series by Sarah Shepard?
B. Daugherty I read all of them.
Moderator Did that help you by getting more into it?
B. Daugherty I was reading when as we were filming, so at one point, it became abundantly clear that we are not following the book verbatim anymore, and especially with the turn that Noel takes. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback, “He doesn’t do this in the books. ….” Yes, but if you know how the books play out, what fun would the show be?
Moderator I was wondering is there anything that you have added to the character of Noel that maybe the writers hadn’t put into his character.
B. Daugherty I think it’s the smile. They mention it a couple times in the script, Noel smiled. Noel smiles, it’s sweet. He smiles at Aria, it’s romantic. Then it kind of takes this turn. Noel smiles, it’s eerie. So, I really wanted to make that transition where, suddenly, it’s not romantic anymore and you look at him and you’re like “Oh! I don’t know what that smile means now. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.” That was my challenge, especially Episode 12 during the party. I have all these meaningful looks at all the different pretty little liars and just kind of genuinely smile at all of them and each one has a slightly different meaning to me.
Moderator Can you tell us how you originally got the role of Noel?
B. Daugherty That was quite a process actually. I had to fight for that one. I auditioned for the pilot to play Ezra. I was too young for that. Then, I auditioned again a couple of months later to play Toby, which was a fun audition. I had a blast with that one, I’m sure you could imagine. Toby’s quite a character. They liked me and wanted to keep seeing me and find me a fit on the show and then Noel came up and Noel and I just clicked. We get each other. I auditioned for the part and just a couple of days later, I was on set with the cast and the crew.
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