For the last seven years, Holly Marie Combs has been connecting with TV viewers as Ella Montgomery on Pretty Little Liars. Mother of show lead Aria (Lucy Hale), Combs has been part of the seemingly never-ending mystery drama and its twists and turns up until only recently, when the show wrapped on filming its final season.
Out in Australia for Supanova, she feels bittersweet about the show’s end, but notes that she’s been lucky to be a part of such a successful franchise. Of course, to many of us, Combs will always be Piper Halliwell, one of the Charmed three; she definitely knows what it’s like to see a show out with an enduring legacy ready to be left behind.
“I did a show for eight years and I was able to be part of this one for seven – I couldn’t ask for more.” Combs says. “It’s nice, especially with this show, to go out when people are still interested in it and still really want to watch it, as opposed to having it fade away into obscurity! It’s nice and it’s sad at the same time, but I get to see Lucy when out in Australia, so we can pretend like it’s not over just yet.”
For fans who might be in denial that Pretty Little Liars is finally coming to a conclusion, with questions and threads set to be tied up after so long, don’t worry – Combs and the cast were in just as much disbelief too.
“We wrapped last month and we’re like, “It can’t be over, it can’t be!”” she laughs. “For the audience it isn’t yet, because we don’t premiere here until next January, I think. They get to see the last half of the season and the ending that everyone’s been waiting for for seven years.”
“It’s painfully addictive,” she adds. “I totally understand; all I can say is that the pay off at the end will be very much worth the wait. I think people will be very satisfied and hopefully still wanting more.”
Though some actors might shirk at the idea of being tied down to multiple franchises at a time at the risk of typecasting, Combs has instead relished the opportunity.
“It’s always nicer to be on a long running show than a short running show, which there seems to be a lot of these days.” she admits. I’ve been incredibly lucky; I’m very aware of it and I don’t expect much more. Especially when my kids are older and not in need of me as much, I always have a tendency to want to work as much as I possibly can.”
“It was such a big part of my life that it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.” Combs says of the importance of Charmed, even now, ten years on. “It’s still very much at the forefront of many peoples’ lives and consciousnesses that doing stuff like these conventions really does bring it to my attention that people do still watch it.”
Having jumped from one female-dominated cast to another and being in a position to watch a similar group dynamic go through their paces as she did has been an interesting experience, Combs explains.
“It’s been nice to watch the girls grow up on the show, much in the same way that I did with the girls on Charmed.” she says. “They came on to the show as mature as could be, which was fascinating for me; they were all very professional and all very dedicated to the success of the show. The wide success of the show is testament to their efforts and how much energy they put into their characters and how much care I. Marlene King put into the storylines. It translated and it was nice to be part of something so successful and those girls definitely deserve the credit for that.”
When it comes to meeting fans at events like Supanova, Combs takes me through what’s become a normal experience for her, now she’s got as many Pretty Little Liars fans approaching her as she does the Charmed diehards.
“It’s very funny,” she says. “The Charmed fans and the ones who watch Pretty Little Liars, they yell at me because I was not in it enough, as if it was under my control! Then there’s the core of Pretty Little Liars fans who are like, “You’re Aria’s Mom,” – Ella doesn’t even have a name, I’m just ‘Aria’s Mom’. They’re like, “I didn’t know you played in a show before about witches,” and I’m always like, “…Really?!” – it’s so funny to watch.”
“The thing about the two shows is that there are generations who watch it together; younger sisters will sit with older sisters or daughters will watch it with mums or daughters and sons will watch it with dads. Even grandparents. It’s always surprising to me and it’s funny to hear their stories, where people will be watching Charmed and little kids will go, “That’s Ella!” and the older person will go, “No – that’s Piper.” They argue about which character they associate me with more, which is great. That means I did my job correctly!”
While Combs and her on-screen daughter Hale linked up for panels in Brisbane and have been meeting Pretty Little Liars fans throughout the last weekend (Adelaide is up next this weekend), Charmed fans also have the opportunity to see Combs reunite with her on-screen Charmed hubby, Brian Krause. It’s not the first time the two have hit the convention circuit together and when it comes to the enduring investment fans have put into the fictional relationship of Piper and Leo, Combs is still slightly dumbfounded.
“It’s always astounding to me how many women are in love with Leo,” she laughs. “Because Brian and I were friends for a really long time before we did the show, manufacturing some romantic chemistry was a little difficult for me because he’s like my brother. I really didn’t think people would believe in it all that much but man, when I see these girls just start crying and shaking over him, I look at him and go, “I must have made you look really good, because these women cannot get over you,” – It’s amazing how that aspect of the show has stood the test of time! There are so many people who want pictures with Piper and Leo and it makes me laugh every time, because our relationship is very platonic and we very much give each other a hard time.”
Jokes aside, the longevity of the show definitely isn’t lost on Combs and connecting with the amount of fans she’s been able to over the past few years alone has offered up some special, memorable experiences.
“It [Charmed] became of personal importance to people that I just never anticipated,” she explains. “I was always just trying to make it the best and most believable I could, which was not easy, especially with our special effects and the things they dreamed up for us to portray to the world. It was a concern of mine to keep it grounded in reality as much as we could and have the relationships be real and the family life be real; I never anticipated the effect it would have on people and families and the bonding effect it had on people’s families it still does. It surprises me every time.”
Supanova hits the Adelaide Showgrounds this weekend, November 18th – 20th. Visit www.supanova.com.au for tickets and more information.