It's been nearly two years since Pretty Little Liars ended in June 2017, and just about that much time has passed in the PLL universe ahead of The Perfectionists spin-off premiere on March 20. That's because The Perfectionists takes place in the present, which necessitated what showrunner I. Marlene King called "a real-time time jump" in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
"From the time that we ended PLL … to the time this show will premiere, it's sort of real-time," she said. Sasha Pieterse, who plays Alison DiLaurentis, added in another Entertainment Tonight interview that "it picks up from PLL kind of seamlessly [even though] there’s a two-year gap."
That time jump from when viewers last saw the two original show characters joining the spin-off, Alison DiLaurentis (Pieterse) and Mona Vanderwaal (Janel Parrish), allowed for the characters to grow up a little bit and end up in a new place in their lives and careers. When we last saw Ali, she had just proposed to her girlfriend Emily (Shay Mitchell) and was helping raise their young twin daughters. Mona was living in Paris and working at a doll shop, still up to her old dollhouse games. But when The Perfectionists picks up, Ali has just taken a job far away from Rosewood, Pennsylvania. A trailer shows she's now a teaching assistant at the fictional Beacon Heights University in Oregon, according to The Oregonian. Mona's reason for being in Beacon Heights has something to do with the University, so clearly Paris didn't work out long term for her.
And while Mona still seems up to her usual tricks (she shows up at Ali's door with a giant knife in the trailer, for one), the nearly two years that passed since viewers last saw the Liars has given Alison a lot of time to reflect. "I want to leave the mean girl I was in high school behind me," Ali says during one teaser trailer. TV Guide reported that, in the series, Ali really wants "to turn over a new leaf" in her life, and by all accounts she seems to be doing that — as far as we know.
Ali finished college and got her first post-college teaching job at a high school in the original PLL series, but here she is two years later in her mid-20s with a new job at a prestigious university. The time jump from PLL to The Perfectionists has allowed Alison time to really become an adult, which was something Pieterse was eager to tackle as an actor. "I really loved seeing Alison’s character grow," Pieterse told Entertainment Tonight in the aforementioned interview. "I feel like we played teenagers so much that it was really so nice to kind of be this adult figure … and there's so much room for her to grow and for the fans to explore."
Part of Alison's growth includes being a mom to toddlers now. King told Entertainment Tonight in the same interview that viewers will see Ali and Emily's twins, but they're about three years old now, which poses a whole new set of challenges for Alison as a mom. The time jump has allowed the series to not only catch up with the present, but also to unveil a new, adult Ali and the challenges that come with that growing up.