Most fans may know Shay Mitchell as shy, resilient Emily Fields on Pretty Little Liars or, more recently, as Peach Salinger, literary heiress and queen bee of her slew of brunching, hashtagging millennials on You. These days, however, Mitchell is readying herself for one of the biggest roles of her life: new mom. Mitchell announced her pregnancy with partner Matte Babel in June, nearly six months after revealing she suffered a miscarriage with the “child of [her] hopes and dreams” the year prior. Her candor on social media extends to her new YouTube series, Almost Ready, in which she navigates the ups and downs of her pregnancy journey which fans initially were not privy to in real time.
In conversation with Refinery29 over the phone, Mitchell — who will next appear on Hulu’s Dollface opposite Kat Dennings — talked about the next chapter in her life, why she wants to share more than just Instagram pics with her followers, and who she’s leaning on as a mom-to-be.
Refinery29: Did you confide in anyone about your pregnancy before revealing it to the world?
Shay Mitchell: “With the first time going how it did, I wanted to keep it under wraps a little bit more until I was comfortable. It was hard [the first time] to go back to the few people I had told. I was on a show as well, that I wanted to make sure that, when the show wrapped, it felt good to come out about it.
“Troian, my co-star on Pretty Little Liars and really good friend of mine, she knew about [my pregnancy] earlier on, and she became an ear for me. She was someone who I confided in a lot, which was so amazing. She’s also a mom. She said embrace it. Time goes by so fast, as it does. I watch her daughter grow up so quickly. It’s crazy. To have that example in front of me, I really took it to heart.”
Why did you choose to document your pregnancy journey on YouTube rather than on a reality TV show or over social media exclusively?
“YouTube is a place I’ve grown over the years. It’s a space that I’m comfortable with. We’re rooted in being genuine. There’s a lot of vlogging, a lot of our own home videos that are incorporated in that. I didn’t want it to look too polished, like a show might if it was on TV. I have other videos on my YouTube, and I wanted to do it on YouTube over Instagram so I could share more of my story. It’s great to post a photo, but as I said in [the first episode of Almost Ready], I wanted to share the whole experience — the good and the bad — and not just post a photo and make people think their own thing.”
You had a really wild sex reveal that almost ended in a serious catastrophe. Can you share some details about how you chose the Power Rangers fight?
“Luckily it didn’t end up being a catastrophe, though it certainly looked like it could be headed that way at one point! My assistant came up with that idea, and I just thought ‘This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.’ I was looking at other [sex reveal videos] and I had never seen anyone do something like that. Matte and I were very shocked at the end, and scared for that second when they couldn’t breathe. When it comes to being creative like this, I really do lean on other people because I would have probably done like a balloon or a cake, which could also be really fun. We wanted it to be really [different] though, and with the YouTube video, it was just perfect.”
What was it like filming Dollface during your pregnancy?
“I couldn’t have had a better show to be a part of during this process. I remember telling Kat, who is also an executive producer on the show, and she said ‘We’re here for you, whatever you need.’ I told them the last month of shooting, and everyone was just so incredibly supportive. I’m really fortunate that I got to do the last three months on that show.”
How is Dollface different than other shows you’ve worked on?
“It’s the first comedy that I’ve ever done, and I think it’s fun for people to see me play a whole different genre. The character is really different, too. I’m super excited for people to see a different part of me and my acting. The show is so relatable.”
You have a young fan base from your Pretty Little Liars days. Does that affect how you present yourself on social media?
“At the end of the day, whether you’re my age or younger or older, I would act the same way acting as myself. The most important thing is that I feel happy with what I’ve accomplished. If I’ve had fan groups growing up with me from my Pretty Little Liars days, I love that. Whether they’re at [my point in life] or not yet, when they get there, I hope they feel a little bit less alone. I really want to be as honest as I can with my fans and anybody that comes across my page on social media. I think it’s so important we speak about the ups and downs. Pregnancy can be a very lonely feeling if you’re like me and you’re not really speaking about it at the beginning. There are so many different changes going on in your body.”
You played fan favorite Peach on You — would you ever go back to You if they asked, even though Peach is a little, um, indisposed?
“I’m obsessed with You. I can’t wait for the second season to come out myself. I had so much fun shooting that show, and I just think it was so well done and so relevant in this day and age. I’m like everyone else, I can’t wait for the announcement date. I will definitely come back to that show, that’s for sure. If it’s not Peach and they want to bring her twin sister Tangerine in, I’m more than happy to do that and come in and play that part. I keep [telling people] ‘I’m pretty sure there’s a twin sister we haven’t met yet.’ I want to come back so badly.”
How personal will Almost Ready get about your pregnancy journey?
“I wanted to do a show on YouTube to really share my most honest feelings about this entire process. A lot of people go into pregnancy without really knowing what’s going to happen. You can read as many books as you want, but unless you’re really experiencing it for yourself firsthand, you have no idea. I felt really guilty because I felt physically great, but mentally I was struggling with a completely different beast.
I was really depressed for the first five months of pregnancy. You hear a lot of people talking about postpartum, but I didn’t hear so much of that happening during the pregnancy. Whenever us women can really speak up in the most honest way about any experience we have, good or bad, it’s a really helpful and beautiful thing, because it can make other people feel less alone. When you’re pregnant, everyone is like ‘Oh my God, that’s so exciting, are you feeling great?’ When you aren’t feeling those things, it can be really difficult. That’s why I didn’t want to just put a photo up on Instagram, because then everyone could just say ‘Okay, cool.’ I know how I felt when I saw people [post pictures like that.] When you don’t know the struggle, it can add to your sadness. The best feedback [I got] when I made my announcement was ‘Wow — we know what you went through a year ago [with your miscarriage], it’s a light at the end of the tunnel.’ That, at the end of the day, is why I chose to do it.”
Would you consider doing a follow-up show?
“I would love to do a follow-up series, and whether we get a pickup again with YouTube, I will continue to share my journey. There’s so much to learn, and there’s a lot of funny moments in there as well.”