Who is Maia Reficco? “I don’t even know,” she says, laughing. “No, I’m kidding. I think that is such a constant work in progress, and something I’m forever going to be working on, obviously, as we all will be. But I’m an Argentinian girl, a queer Latina, who wants people like me to feel less alone.”
My call with Reficco is bright and early. The actor, who plays Noa Olivar in HBO Max’s slasher teen drama “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin,” is still adjusting to this new life. “We’ve been doing split shoots, which is insane, because we start at 3 p.m. and end at 5 a.m.,” she explains. “My body just does not understand what it is to be alive right now.”
With major change often comes the need to protect one's mental health and finding ways to wind down after a long day, which Reficco says is one of the most important things to her. In addition to listening to music, reading, or getting in a good workout, Reficco notes that therapy is a must. “Therapy is the best thing to ever happen to me. I recommend it so much. Everybody should go to therapy. It's the best thing in the world, truly,” she says. “I’ve been going since I was a kid, and it changed my life in many ways.”
But the work, while exhausting, is a dream come true.
Born in Boston, the now 22-year-old Argentine-American singer, songwriter, and actress, moved to Argentina with her family at a young age, spending a large part of her youth in the South American country. There, Reficco rose to fame in Latin America after starring in Nickelodeon’s series “Kally’s Mashup.” Living in Argentina not only served as Reficco’s breakout into acting, it was also a cultural experience that she says made her so grateful for the move.
“There’s something about growing up [somewhere] where everybody’s from where you’re from that really connects you to it. When I’m in the U.S., I definitely do feel less welcomed,” she says. “Speaking in Spanish almost feels like a political decision sometimes, which is really heartbreaking. Life here in the U.S. — honestly, it is harder. I’m having to justify my life, and my existence, and why I’m here so many times a day.”
Reficco stars as Noa, the first Latina Liar.
“I’ve felt really grateful to get to play a character that comes from where I come from, has so many layers, and that is complex,” she says.
When viewers meet Noa on July 28, she is fresh out of juvie. “We’re finding her at a time when there’s a lot of turmoil in her life,” Reficco says. “She's finding her footing, understanding who she is, and separating herself from whatever it is that people perceive of her. And as the story progresses, we get to know her and her vulnerability more and more, and who truly hides behind that tough girl facade.”
A former gymnast, Reficco finds herself completely intertwined with her character.
“I relate to her on so many levels. Noa is an athlete; I was also an athlete. So I understand the dedication, and how she puts that above everything else — and her undying loyalty to her mom and her boyfriend. I think there’s a lot to learn and take from Noa. It's been really inspiring and really, really exciting,” she says.
“Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” is much darker than its predecessor. Taking inspiration from ‘90s slasher films, Reficco says the look and feel of this series is completely different. “It gets progressively darker and grittier,” she shares. “It’s been really cool to work on such an iconic universe, but with such a different and unique spin. More so being such a big fan of the original, I think we could have never competed against how good the original was, so we tried to make it our own in any way we could.”
A fan of the OG series, one of the questions that stood top of mind was: Who was Reficco’s favorite Liar? “I was obsessed with Aria. I loved her,” she says. “I think I had a crush on her. No, I definitely had a crush on her. I was finding out that I was gay, for sure. I love Hanna, too. All of them looked great, but Aria was the love of my life.”
As Reficco sets the stage for her success, the one thing that remains vital to her is allowing her path to be an inspiration. “It’s definitely been a hard journey to get here,” she says. “I think having to have justified my existence so much in the last couple of years has been really, really hard. But thinking about it in hindsight, I’m like, if there’s any other little Latina girl or little queer Latina that ever sees me, and I can be some sort of inspiration to her, and have her feel less alone than what I felt growing up, because there was nobody like me in mainstream media that wasn’t the butt of a joke, that’s all I need, to be honest. I feel my job will have been done.”
"Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin" is currently streaming on HBO Max