Now she’s hoping to raise money and awareness for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“I’ve always had pets growing up. I think my first pet was a hermit crab,” Hale told HuffPost. “I had everything from a turtles to fish to a cat to dogs. But I guess my real love of my animals when I got a dog when I was 15. I have a dog named Elvis now. He’s my little buddy, he’s like my child. In my opinion, animals are one of the most pure things on the planet, and they don’t always get a voice.”
To help raise money and awareness for the cause, Hale is joining with Cheerios for the Good Rewards initiative, which gives families the opportunity to do good while teaming up with celebrities by helping raise money for charity.
We caught up with Hale about the initiative, her new projects and more.
The Good Rewards initiative is also aimed at getting the whole family involved. What are some of you favorite traditions that you still do with your family now?
It’s so hard now that I’m older and everyone is all over the place, but most of our traditions revolve around the holidays. One thing that we never skip out on is every Christmas my mom will get us all matching pajamas. My family is not huge, but she’ll get us all matching pajamas and we’ll all take a picture. We’ve been doing that the last seven or eight years, which is super fun. And I have two nieces now, so we’re restarting all of the traditions again with them. It’s the best.
You’ve been pretty busy since leaving “Pretty Little Liars.” You starred in the series “Life Sentence” earlier this year. What’s next for you? Are you mulling other projects?
I am. You know when you can say you’re involved in something but you can’t say what because it’s not out in the press yet, but I start up with a couple of things in October, which is really fun. After the last series I did, we did a season of it and then it didn’t get picked up. So after that I made the conscious choice to take a little time off, which was fun and necessary. But it’s also cool because I can be picky about what I want to do next. So, I’m ready to get back to work. Most of the stuff I’m doing is film-related, which is cool, because I haven’t really done much film. I’ve been in the TV world, and the characters are nothing like I’ve done before. So it’s going to be a stretch, but I like a good challenge.
What at this point in your life are you looking for in a role now that you can be, as you say, more selective?
I’m at the point right now where people are allowing me to take risks and they’re giving me that shot, which is really cool because I haven’t always been in that position. For me, I love all genres. I love all sorts of films and TV shows. But I always want to be part of something that tells a story and that means something — that the world needs a lot more true stories and a lot more stories that make a difference. For me, it’s about finding those projects and characters. I always find myself in every character I play. I gravitate toward the darker, dramatic stuff, but one of things I’m doing in the fall is romantic comedy. So I’m all over the map.
You’ve also dabbled with music through the years. Do you think you’ll ever jump back into the music scene?
I do. I love music. It’s such a huge part of my life, whether I’m actively pursuing it or not. I just recently auditioned for doing a live-action version of a musical. I’d love to make another album. I think certain things would have to line up in my schedule, but you never know. There’s so many ways to utilize it now. I’ve always had a dream of wanting to do Broadway and theater. So, we’ll see!
You have great fashion style. You’re in the spotlight, but somehow you make it look effortless. What’s your approach?
I guess I’m lucky because I’ve always loved fashion. I think it’s such an amazing way to express your personality. I really don’t have any rules. I don’t really have a system. Like, my closet is a disaster. So me putting together an outfit is a miracle every single day. I just get inspiration from people on the street, on Instagram. Honestly, my approach right now is whatever is at the forefront of my closet because I’m not about to dig in there. I don’t take myself too seriously. I don’t take fashion too seriously. I always want to be comfortable, but I never want to be boring ― like, I’ll never do the same thing twice on a carpet. I keep it fun and light and hope that it works out.
Having been on “Pretty Little Liars” for some seven years, it tied you up a bit and now you have a little bit more freedom. What’s been the hardest thing about letting a series like that go, and what’s been the best thing?
I think it’s always really scary to let go of the familiar. We were on that show for basically my whole 20s. I basically grew up on that show. I grew up with those people. It was essentially the same crew the whole time. It was obviously the same cast. We really did create this comfortable environment where everyone genuinely loved each other. So to let that go was very bittersweet and sad. But at the same time, we all recognized that the show was a great platform for all of us. We all recognized that we developed huge support systems. And I think we were all ready to go off and spread our wings a little bit and try new things. The good thing about that show is that the fans of those characters and those stories — they’re always going to be there and will go down in history, I think. So, it’s going to follow me wherever I go, but I sort of welcome it with open arms and feel really grateful for all that it’s brought me, and the friends, and the fans — and it’s really helped be hone my craft, too. Eight years of being on a show, you learn every aspect of what you do.
At the same time, the new spinoff show “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” with “Pretty Little Liars” actors Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish is kind of letting the show live on in some ways. How likely do you think a reunion with you being involved is possible down the line?
I don’t know necessarily know what the show is about. All I know is that the characters are placed in this new world. I’m so open to that. I love Sasha. I love Janel. If, for some reason, they wanted me to be a part of it, I would absolutely do it. I just don’t know the roles that they live in so I don’t know how the characters would fit in, but absolutely — I would always be down for that … I’m very curious to see what they are going to do with it. I’m definitely rooting them and can’t wait to see it.
The show has helped afford you so many fans. You have some 21 million followers on Instagram. What’s your approach to social media these days?
Social media is something that I do struggle with the idea of it. I genuinely love sharing parts of my life and showing people my dog and showing people my family and promoting whatever project I’m doing. And then when you have a platform like that — I firmly believe that life is about giving back, and if you’re given a lot, you should give back … I do have this platform where I can speak to people and try to encourage them to do good as well. But it can be toxic. It can interfere with everyday life. It an interfere with your self-confidence and you can develop insecurities because of it. But I think that it’s different for everyone and you have to create boundaries for yourself and recognize what works and doesn’t work for you. For me, there are some days where I’m like, “I’m in a bad mood. I feel insecure. I’m not going to go on social media today.” And then I wake up and feel like I can handle it.
You grew up on “Pretty Little Liars,” and prior to that on various others projects — all in the spotlight. How do you stay grounded and true to who you are?
I mean, that’s a great question, because I didn’t always feel like I had an identity outside of my job or the public image of who I was. My journey over the last couple of years has been figuring out I’m a person outside of my career or how many followers I have. It really is about the little moments you take for yourself, and I love my people my people — my tribe. You really are who you walk with. And I have grounded, real, unbelievable people in my life that help me see the bigger picture because it’s really easy to think only inside your bubble. But there’s this big world out there. So, I love doing charity work. I love traveling and I love my family. These things help you see past your own little world. You know, it’s a process. But you figure it out as you grow up.