To celebrate the show of the season Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, we meet the musician, actor and all round creative queen.
It’s the age of reboots right now, and Gen Z don’t know how lucky they’ve got it: from Gossip Girl 2.0 to Timmy and Zendaya in Dune, it’s a great time to be alive and with a working internet connection. Now though, we’ve really hit the spin off jackpot with Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, the slasher teen drama that’s rebooting the PLL world with a whole new generation. And starring as Noa Olivar is Maia Reficcio, the Argentinian-American singer, songwriter and actor you really ought to get to know.
At just 22 years old, Maia has already made some serious waves across her worlds of music, film and TV. Rising to fame in Latin America as the star of Nickelodeon’s Kally’s Mashup, she’s not looked back since: from dropping smash hits like last year’s ‘Tanto Calor’ and 2022’s ‘Rápido y Furioso’, to working alongside the likes of Maya Hawke, Sophie Turner and Camila Mendes in Do Revenge, Maia Reficcio is a name you need on your radar.
We caught up with the Boston-born polymath to find all about the must-watch HBO show, what it means to be representing her community in cinema, her vibrant life as singer-songwriter, and everything else in between…
Hey Maia, how are you doing? What drew you to this project?
Oh, really good. I’m so happy. I’m so excited. So overwhelmed… I was such a huge fan of the original Pretty Little Liars, such a huge fan. It’s so surreal for me to be here. It’s such an honour to be a part of. I remember getting that first email in my inbox about doing self-tape, regardless of whether I got it or not, I just couldn’t wait for the project to be out, and here we are.
Tell me a bit about your character, Noa.
Noa is an athlete, we find her fresh out of juvie: she’s in a lot of turmoil trying to figure out who she is, where she stands in the world and where she stands in regards to herself. She is finding what, from the past year of her life she identifies with because of what she’s gone through. She’s straightforward. She’s funny. She’s loyal. She’s been a great character to get to play: she’s layered and complex. I’m so thankful to [the show creators] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and Lindsay [Calhoon Bring] for writing such an awesome character and trusting me with it.
Have you found yourself relating to her much?
Oh, I really do. I think I really do. There’s a lot about being an athlete and the dedication and just drive that goes with it that I really relate to. I used to be an athlete as well. I think it’s really cool to portray that. At the same time, I’m a very straightforward person. I think I brought a little of myself to Noah and that world as well. Yeah, it was really cool to bring the bits and pieces of myself to this character.
Where do you hope her story will evolve to next?
Ooh, I don’t know. I think the girls are dealing with so much throughout the season as a whole and worrying about basically making it out alive. I would say, if we were to move forward, it’d be really cool to get to know a little bit more of who she is and what got her there.
What do you hope that people take away from this project? What kind of message do you hope it brings?
Honestly, the reason why I do what I do is for people to feel less alone and for people to feel seen. If anybody can feel that way by watching our show, I feel like our job will have been done. As I am the first Latina character [in the PLL universe], that is not something I take lightly. I definitely think that being a part of representation like that is a huge part of why I do what I do.
Do you have movies or TV shows that make you feel that way?
Yes, totally. Whenever any Latinx actor or actress makes room for one of us, it makes room for another one. I think making room for each other and finding unity in that is so special. Whenever I see Latinx representation, whether it’s people my age like Rachel Zegler, Isabela Merced, or Camila Mendes – who I just did a movie with! – or people like Salma Hayek or Ana de Armas, I feel like all of their existences in Hollywood means so much and makes me feel less alone and makes me feel like there’s room for us. I think that is inspiring, and I aspire to hopefully make somebody in the world feel that same way.
What do you feel like still needs to change in Hollywood? Where do you feel the conversation and action needs to move to next?
Oh, so much still has to change. I mean, I do think we’re definitely moving forward and acknowledging a lot of the flaws that are right now taking over Hollywood, but I do definitely think there’s still so much more to do. I think accurate representation is the only real way of representation. Just listening to people of colour and listening to women and listening to the people whose stories we’re telling. They should be in the room where it happens. We should all be helping make these decisions. I do at the end of the day think, as a queer Latina, it doesn’t feel the same when the person that’s reading a story about being queer Latinx, doesn’t identify with either, you know what I mean? In Hollywood, I think something really important is to follow through with actions and not just leave it up to performative, tokenising representation but ensure there is more realistic, real, vulnerable, raw, honest representation and listening to the people whose stories you’re telling.
Definitely, making sure there is that same representation behind as well as in front of the camera.
100%. I think tokenism does less good than people in positions of privilege would think that it does. It feels very belittling. As a human to get reduced to that and have to constantly justify your existence and your identity and be the butt of a joke. Growing up, I didn’t really see characters that looked like me or came from where I come from that weren’t the butt of a joke. I’m sure as hell that they weren’t written by a Latino, you know what I mean? Not even getting onto women, I think there’s so much more that we deserve and that we should be guaranteed that isn’t really even a part of the conversation, whether it’s safety and, and being able to walk onto a set without being scared and, and feeling that freedom, it’s such a big thing. I feel really blessed because I’ve always been pretty lucky. But I think there’s still a long way to go.
Tell me a bit about your upbringing, what kind of creativity were you surrounded by growing up?
I was born in Boston and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My mom’s a singer so I was always surrounded by music. My godfather, he’s a piano player. He literally sat me on the piano bench the second I could do it, so I was two years old and already starting to play the piano because I was just surrounded by music. Everybody in my life was playing music. It was always what I loved and what I wanted to do. I never really had a doubt in my mind about that which is really special. But when it comes to acting, it took a lot for me to believe in myself and it took a lot of convincing to my mom because she knows how hard it can be. She really didn’t want to put me through it but once I convinced her and I showed her what it really was that I wanted to do, she believes in me like nobody else in the world. I love her, she’s incredible. And so, here we are.
Do you remember a moment when you realized that acting really could be something that you pursued?
Actually, I remember telling my mom when I was a kid, I was nine years old and I looked at my mom and was like: “Mom, it really is what I want to do. I really do want to do it”. After that, she was like, “okay, if you focus on school, school is always your first priority till you graduate, you do it”. And it was. Somehow I was shooting a show, and we did 100 something episodes so I was exhausted, but I still managed to get through school somehow. I do not know how I did it. I think back on it and I’m like “god damn, Maia wow”. I’m really proud of that. It was just it was it was meant to be. I’ve always loved it and there was never room for anything else.
What movies or shows do you feel like have shaped you personally and professionally?
Pretty Little Liars was a huge part of my teenage years, so I actually would give it to PLL for sure. There were a lot of shows that I watched that I loved as a teenager and that felt so inspiring. But actually, I’m gonna give it to PLL because I remember watching set tours and videos like that, but I was just like, wow, this is all I aspired to be doing.
Were you a bit nervous to step into that world after loving it so much?
Oh, I was terrified. I was terrified!
If you could live in any TV or movie universe, what would you pick?
Honestly. I’m gonna say it. I’ll say Harry Potter… I would love it.
What about your music, where do you draw inspiration from there?
My music is like my diary, I would say. It’s just honestly, it’s my life in song. I’ve been really blessed, I wrote a whole album while I was shooting the show. That’s gonna come out soonish and I am really excited about it. I really am. It truly is just as honest and as vulnerable as I’ve allowed myself to ever get in terms of art so I’m excited for that.
How would you kind of describe your sound in a few words?
I would say it really it has evolved a lot. It changed so much. But right now I’d say it’s like pop R’n’B.
How do you find the worlds of acting and music blend together for you?
They’re, like, so different and at the same time they’re so similar. They both require sensibility and vulnerability in different ways and they allow me to tap into them in very opposite manners. But I would say – I always say this, it’s a cliche, but it’s true – acting is what I love to do and singing is who I am. Playing with that difference and what makes that difference, is always really fun, too.
You experienced a coming together of those worlds when you starred on Broadway as Evita, tell me a bit about that…
Oh, that was such a dream come true. Wow. That was one of the most surreal moments of my whole life. As an Argentinian performer who grew up in theatre, that is quite literally just the dream. It felt like the dream and it was the dream and it changed my life because that’s how I started working here. I don’t know, it truly was everything I could have ever asked for. It inspired me. I learned so much from it. I was terrified at the same time. It was exhilarating. I will forever be grateful to our director Sammi Cannold for having believed in me and having brought that incredible production to life. It was a dream come true and I’ll forever love it.
Would you like to head back to Broadway at some point?
Oh, yeah, I totally would love to. I would honestly love to go back for a shortish run in between seasons or something. It’s something I love to do and there’s quite nothing like it.
What would be your dream role on Broadway.
Ooh my dream role is by Wendla Bergmann in Spring Awakening. It’s an incredible role and actually had the honour of working with Steven Sater which was just so surreal. I would feel extremely honoured to play such an iconic character, such a beautiful, complex character as Wendla.
What’s next for you?
I’m so grateful. Life’s been really good. I’m really thankful to be working on quite a few projects right now, and I’m really excited because I’m getting to work on projects that really fulfil me as a person and as an artist. My album is definitely my number one priority in the music world, but I’m also getting to work on movies that make me feel so much. I just actually wrapped this past Monday movie for Amazon called One Fast Move with Eric Dane… It was just the most surreal experience ever, like working with people that I grew up watching. I mean Grey’s Anatomy, Euphoria… It was just stand and deliver. It was an insane experience. My character was a huge challenge so I’m excited about everything that’s to come. I’m really grateful and hopefully, people are happy to hop along for the ride and I’d be honoured to make them feel a little less alone and a little more seen with me representing Argentina. I’m very excited about it all.
Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is currently streaming on HBO Max.