“”I am perfectly lonely,” Shay tells Crushable. “I just love it! I’m at a new place. I’m learning more and more about myself. … It’s good to do stuff on your own.”
The actress — who plays Emily on the hot new ABC Family show — was born and raised in Canada, where she had serious relationships and a close network of friends. Leaving familiar territory behind terrified her, but now she’s settled in, “hanging out and meeting new people.”
Like Spencer Grammer before her, Shay totally qualifies as a Crushable “Dudette”: After our phone interview on Saturday, she was preparing to go horseback riding, one of the “random” things she’s into; she considers herself a terrible liar and a loyal friend; she is unapologetic about loving the color pink and being “boy crazy.”
On Pretty Little Liars, she plays high-school athlete Emily Fields, one of four friends receiving creepy text messages following the death of their clique’s queen bee, Alison. The mysterious stalker — known only as “A” — threatens to reveal all the girls’ secrets, including Emily’s same-sex kiss with her neighbor.
“She’s curious, and she’s testing the waters,” Shay says of her TV alter ego. “I don’t know exactly how it turns out.” But in coming episodes, “People will be a little surprised with what happens to Emily.”
Emily quietly struggles with her sexuality, and fears the consequences of raising the issue with her mother; in reality, Shay, who says her parents are “extremely liberal,” wouldn’t be afraid to open up. She wishes Emily would do the same — but it’s not in the script.
“A friend of mine is struggling to come out to his parents because they are so conservative,” she says. “At the end of the day, this is your life. You have to be true to yourself and authentic. … And if (your friends) turn their backs on you, then they’re not your real friends.”
Shay, a former dancer and model, counts rapper Drake among her friends — they both had stints in the hit Canadian series Degrassi: The Next Generation — and has bonded with Liars castmates Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson and Troian Bellisario.
“We’re all just so different — there are a lot of laughs,” she says.