'Pretty Little Liars' Nia Peeples: Emily's mom is 'absolutely not a villain'

nia-peeples-abc.jpg"I'm gay."

Emily ( Shay Mitchell) boldly said those words to her father in the Jan. 3 winter premiere of "Pretty Little Liars." Those two words inspired two very different reactions from her parents. Her father was more accepting of the news, saying he was just thankful she's alive and healthy. Her mother, Pam ( Nia Peeples), had a less than desirable reaction: "How are we going to fix this? This is wrong."

Peeples spoke with Zap2it about the storyline and admits she initially struggled with Pam's reaction to Emily's coming out.

"I have to tell you, this is the first time that I've played a character that is so opposite me. It was really hard in the beginning because there just wasn't enough information for me to connect to the truth," she says. "As an actor, what we understand is that we are everyone. Every piece of everyone else is in me, but it's an issue of how much of that person am I? So am I a murderer? No, but if someone was coming after my daughter, I'd knock him out in a heartbeat. You can find that place that becomes your truth."

Filming the second half of Season 1 and learning more about Pam has helped Peeples understand her justifications, something she is extremely grateful for and excited for fans to see: "Because there was so little information on Pam, I didn't know why she was so uptight. Once they went into these 10 episodes, I was able to connect with the truth. Rather than to just show up and say, 'You're wrong. Homosexuality is a choice and you're wrong,' they actually allow me to explore why I might believe that and explore, 'This is my daughter and I love her. Who is she and how do I help her along?'" 

While a lot of fans are vilifying Pam and sending Peeples tweets saying, "We don't like you," the actress is quick to defend her character. "She's absolutely not a villain. She is a mother who loves her daughter. Pam reacts this way because she's scared," she tells us. "She does not want her daughter to just jump off of a cliff. she wants to make sure if the daughter jumping, she knows exactly where she's trying to land. That's different than just going, 'Woo hoo! I'm just going to check this out because it looks like fun because this other person is going there.'"

Peeples, who is a big  fan of "Glee," believes Burt Hummel's ( Mike O'Malley) reaction to his son's homosexuality is "setting the example of what should be," but also thinks Pam's reaction is interesting to see. "The truth is everybody deals with all these differences all the time. We don't have control of everything," she says. "So what are we actually trying to get to here? I think watching a parent explore that is just as important as watching the child explore it."

In a preview for Monday, Jan. 10's episode, "Salt Meets Wound," an extremely nervous Emily and Maya ( Bianca Lawson) prepare for dinner with Emily's parents. While there is definitely tension, don't expect any fisticuffs. "I don't like kick her in the face or anything. There's no fist fights," Peeples says with a laugh.


Photo/Video credit: ABC Family