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Keegan Allen Has Himself a Pretty Little Christmas

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

Keegan Allen stars as Toby in "Pretty Little Liars."

Keegan Allen stars as Toby in “Pretty Little Liars.”

Keegan Allen

Has Himself a Pretty Little Christmas

by Deborah Wagner

His name is Keegan Allen, but you may also know him as Toby Cavanaugh, half of the popular, super couple “Spoby” on ABC Family’s mega-hit television show Pretty Little Liars.  Either way you know him, this young actor is passionate about his role and feels lucky to be part of the tight knit cast that calls Rosewood, Pennsylvania home on PLL.

Soon you will get to know more about Allen as he is branching out and sharing another of his other passions with his fans.  When he wasn’t becoming a cop or attempting to match wits with the dangerous and elusive “A” on Pretty Little Liars, Allen has been putting a lot time into his other love – photography.

In February 2015, his accomplishments in taking photos are being set in print with the release of his first book, life.love.beauty.  To round off his very busy schedule, Allen is also working on music which he hopes to release sometime next year.

Recently we found out more about Allen, the upcoming PLL Christmas special and some other Pretty Little Liars teases!  And did we mention…  He really does know who “A” is?!?!?

Keegan Allen

Did you have any idea how big the show was going to be when you first auditioned for Pretty Little Liars?

No, I had no idea it would be at this caliber!  I was just happy to be auditioning as an actor, happy to get an audition like this.  I skateboarded to the audition with a hat on and very much showed them this character that I read about.  Someone told me Pretty Little Liars is a huge book series and I started reading the book series and it sucked me right in.  Sara Shepard wrote an incredible series.  It was halfway through Season One airing that I started to recognize that people outside in everyday life would turn and immediately proclaim their existence hinged on Tuesday nights.  I was pretty blown away by the caliber of this show from the beginning and still to this day.

What have you learned most from being on the show and what was the most important lesson to you?

What I’ve learned the most from being on a television show this long, is to be grateful for every moment.  Not just for having a job, but also being able to work on a character for this long.  It’s been a learning experience, through the layers of the character, the objectives of the character and the writing.  Just appreciating that, appreciating that process, has been the most exciting thing.  As far as what I’ve learned, it’s just to appreciate every moment of it.

Do you have a favorite episode or scene that you’ve filmed so far?

There are a few now!  I would go back to one, but now there are a few episodes.  I loved “Shadow Play.”  I loved it for the cinematography aspect of shooting in black and white.  As far as favorite scenes, I like all of the scenes where there’s a lot happening at once.  I filmed a really fun scene just recently and there are so many to choose from.  I think for sure, “Shadow Play.”  That episode was just really fun to work on.

Keegan Allen

What can you tease for the Christmas episode in regards to Spencer and Toby?

The Christmas episode is really, really well shot and really fun.  I can definitely tell you that the fans for all of the relationships, not just Spencer and Toby, will be very happy with it; that Christmas element, that holiday element. It’s going to be really fun.  It’s a really cool episode.  It’s an homage in true Pretty Little Liars fashion to paint a world from classic cinema.  We’re nodding to a couple of classic cinema pieces in it.  It’s really, really wonderful.  I’m sure the fans are going to love it!

What did you enjoy about filming this Christmas episode?

It tells a story that’s so different from anything that anybody would expect.  But it also explains a lot in the process.  It’s a story being pulled that everybody can understand at any point in the storyline.  People that have never watched the show before can step into the realm of Rosewood and understand that universe for the first time.  Fans of the show that have been watching since Season One, Episode One will get an amazing experience as well.

Who will be targeted by “A” the most in the Christmas episode?

There’s really never any way to tell.  When somebody looks like they’re being targeted, it could be a chess move, which is brilliant to me.  I love that the writers do this because it does the bait and switch, where someone is thinking, “Oh, this person is going to be targeted.” Or they think, “Oh, they’re screwed” and it turns around and it has nothing to do with that person.  It’s somebody else.  I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but I can tell you everything is in a chess move.  Everything may not be always what it seems!

What was your favorite part about the Christmas episode?

I love that I got moved around without having to move the whole time because Toby is in a wheelchair throughout the whole episode.  I didn’t have to really do anything, which for me sucks, because I’m a super active person. They put me in this full leg cast so I couldn’t even get myself a cup of coffee if I wanted one.  I guess that looking back in retrospect it’s nice because Troian would pretty much just wheel me around everywhere, which is fun.  (laughs)  Another element of it, I took a lot of fun pictures and it was just a really fun episode to shoot, mainly because everybody was in really great spirits.

We were in the middle of summer shooting Christmas, so there was that element as well of we got the Christmas spirit.  Everything smelled like Christmas trees and everybody was happy.  Then we went outside and it was the middle of June or July – so we get double holidays!

Pretty Little Liars

Will we see any Rear Window/Jimmy Stewart references in the Christmas episode?

It’s already out there a little bit!  That reference is spot on.  It’s really, really beautifully done, in a way that nods and pays homage to it, but at the same time it’s its own creation.  I’m really excited about that.

Will your background in photography ever show up as a personal interest of your characters on the show?

In the Christmas episode there is a moment in which Toby is using a camera for something.  And me, myself, I was fascinated with it between takes and just loving every second of it.  I do share an interest in a craft, similar to Toby’s with his carpentry and I doodle, just like he does. There are a lot of similar traits between myself and Toby in that realm of creativity.  You can see it in the Christmas episode.  Maybe it shines through a little bit how I’m having way too much fun with that camera.

Where do you get your inspiration for your photography?

I draw my inspiration from the fact that I have an obsessive need to capture moments on film. It started when I was as young as nine years old.  My dad let me borrow his camera.  I got into the idea because he was so obsessive about taking photos, because the idea of keeping a photograph is keeping an actual memory.  Being able to step back into it as it’s a time machine.

You, yourself and others can live vicariously through that photograph and share it.  The inspiration has always been rooted in the idea of sharing my photography, because I am normally a very introverted person.   I say that sweating as I say that.  (laughs)  My way of branching out socially and feeling comfortable with the world is to take these photos of people.  To be able to go to them and say, “Look, I took this photo of you and I think it’s beautiful.”  For them to experience that, which I think is beautiful.  Sometimes of them, or sometimes of architecture, or nature, or sometimes of abstracts.

The book has been a photo journal that I’ve had for as long as I can remember with musings and poetry.  I’m urging people now to grab the last few of the signed copies from Barnes & Noble and the hard copies, because I personally designed them.  It’s just exactly how my photo journal is.  I’m just really, really excited for people to share that photographic journey with me.

It’s also an interesting thing when it comes down to it – film versus digital – because I’m shooting a lot more digital than I normally would, but most of the book is film.  If anything, I hope that it inspires others, not just fans of the work, but anybody to pick it up and be inspired to share their moments of their life similarly.

Keegan Allen

What else should fans know about your book?

I hope that everybody pre-orders the book because I feel like this is something that needs to be held in your hands.  It’s available electronically, which is cool, but there’s something about having the paper.  I went through and selected all the paper.  It’s all emulsified film scans, so it’s made to be held and seen and felt and the topography on the casing.  I worked for a long, long time – months and months and months on this with my designers at St. Martin’s Press.  I really hope they can see that and they can learn first and foremost my attention to detail of something like this because I’m a crazy design freak.

I love beautiful things.  I love creating beautiful things.  I find beauty in imperfections.  I hope they are able to see and learn that about me, but also to learn about themselves.  [That] is what I’d really like them to learn from this book.  It’s not so much about me, even though it’s a book that circles around my experiences.  It’s all about these esoteric experiences that we all go through as human beings.  I tried to stitch these images and these words to a real beating heart, not so much just my own, but to anybody.

I tried to give these images a voice that anybody could pick up the book, just as it’s like a Tumblr blog.  There are people that go on Tumblr and they sit on Tumblr for six hours and they’re looking at other people’s lives and other people’s experiences, but yet feel so completely rooted within them.

Was Toby’s car accident in fact a car accident? Or did someone purposefully crash into him?

That’s probably a better question for Marlene King.  (laughs)  I am assuming that it was.  I have my theories.  Everything in the show has a linear point that it’s trying to make so I always have paranoid conspiracy theories about everything.  As far as the actual fact of what that was, I have no idea actually.  I can’t give you a real answer except that I have my own crazy conspiracy theories just as much as the next fan!

Do you know who “A” is?

Yeah, I do – I found out!  It was pretty mind-blowing.

What was your reaction when you learned?

I think it’s genius.  I think it’s 100% incredible.  It’s mind-blowing and in the way that it comes to form, the whole storyline of this and it’s explained.  It explains everything in such a classy way and also in a way that makes it feel like history in the making.  I can just promise that everyone who loves the show for what it is will not only appreciate what Marlene King, Oliver Goldstick and Joseph Dougherty have come up with from the very beginning essentially, but what they plan to do and how they plan to execute it is just phenomenal.

Keegan Allen

How will Toby’s new career as a cop affect “A’s” game?

I think it’s more of a strategy changer.  I don’t know if “A” maybe knew that Toby would have done this or not, so I can’t say that it really affects any game other than we’re looking at something that.  “A” is an extremely intelligent character.  It’s just another pawn chess move, which is even scarier.

Toby’s gone through many hairstyles.  What was your favorite?

The fans were expressing to me in person that they like my hair shorter apparently.  I had my hair really long for a little while and the network was completely understanding of why I was doing it – it was for Locks of Love.  My mother has breast cancer.  Cody Christian’s mother has breast cancer.  Everybody has a story of somebody they know that has cancer.  One of the hardest things to deal with is, and it’s not so much a vanity thing as it is just a human thing, [is] losing your hair and feeling completely powerless.

So I grew my hair out as long as I could, 11 inches, and I cut it off.  During that period of time I think there was a little bit of an uproar of people saying, “Oh my gosh, what is he doing with his hair?”  It was for a good cause and, hopefully, I can do it again sometime in the future.

If you weren’t playing Toby on the show, which character would you want to try out for?

It fluctuates from time-to-time.  Right now, Ezra has been having some pretty cool scenes.  I’d probably want to dip my feet into Ezra Fitzgerald and maybe some Caleb Rivers sometimes.

If Toby wasn’t dating Spencer, which girl would you want him to be paired with?

I recently did this convention in London where all these fans were asking me questions and this fan asked me if I would have gotten the role of Wren – because I originally auditioned for the role of Wren – do you think Marlene would have changed the storyline so that Wren and Spencer would have been together?  So I asked Marlene and she said that if I was Wren, yes.

As far as what character I would want him to be with, I really don’t know.  It’s something more of a storyline rather than personal preference, because if we start talking personal preference then I’ll get punched in the gut next time I walk into the set.  (laughs)  I would date all the girls!  I think Toby is like pretty much paired perfectly with that polar opposite fire that Spencer is and him being this very calm person.  It balances itself out.  I feel like if you pair him with anybody else it might be a little bit volatile.

Who do you tend to hang out with on and off the set?

Usually whoever is on set working with me!  On set, it’s whoever is working with me.  Most of the time it’s Troian [Bellasario], but off set I’m really close with Ian Harding.  I’m really close with Ashley Benson, Shay Mitchell, Troian and Lucy [Hale].  It fluctuates on set, but as far as off set, we’re all really close.  It’s unlike anything; most of the time when you hear about casts going into their fourth, fifth year, they all hate each other.  (laughs)  This is completely not the case.

We’re all really, really close friends and very supportive of each other. Even with my upcoming photo book, they are all just extremely supportive.  In a way that’s just overwhelmingly kind. It hits me in a really soft spot in my heart, because they all want me to chase my passion.  They always are posing for photographs or let’s go on photo shoots or let’s go on photo journeys.  It’s been great growing up with them and a total honor to support them in all of their things.  Ashley with her movies, Troian writing her own movies and starring in them, Shay doing her new blog and product lines, Lucy with her music, Ian with his charity work, it’s incredible.  He’s incredible.  It’s an honor to support them and be part of their world, too.  We’re all really close.

What other ABC or ABC Family show would you like to cross your character or maybe even take over another character on?

If Ravenswood was still around, I would want to work with Brett Dier and Tyler Blackburn.  That would have been fun to do that because I’m really close with Brett in real life and, of course, Tyler and I are really close.  So that would have been a fun world to step inside of.  Also, Young & Hungry with Emily Osment, that’s a show that I would love to do a cross-over on.  That would be so much fun to do that because I love doing comedy as well.

Which character change of Toby’s has been the most challenging?  The serious loner, Spencer’s boyfriend or the bad guy on the A-Team?

When he was the mysterious person, there was this cloud around him at all times, so that was a little bit hard to sometimes translate to the audience.

Does your personality in real life match Toby’s personality at all?

No, not at all!  We’re totally two different people.  Starting out on the show, being a young actor with a character I knew that would have a strong hold on me.  I’d be playing it for so many years.  When I step into his shoes I recognize even more so, even to this day after all these years, how completely different he is from me.  He’s very much this side of me that I never really bring out and I’ll sometimes look at.  I actually envy him.  I envy his personality and how they’ve written him.  Not so much envy as I do admire it, because there are times where I will ask myself, “What would Toby do in this because he’s such a moral compass?”  He’s such a good guy.  I will sometimes go to that extreme because of how well he handles huge situations with such calm.

If Toby were going to buy Spencer a Christmas gift, what would he buy her?

I think he would make something for her.  I don’t think he would ever really buy her something.  He would make her something because they’re both sentimental.  Their whole realm is sentimentality.  He might build her something that’s beautiful, craft; he would sit and he made her a chair once.  He might make her something super nice, just with his hands.  Something beautiful.

What are some of your own holiday traditions that you’re looking forward to?

My own holiday traditions are probably really boring compared to a lot of other people’s.  I just like to be around people that I love.  Run around with my camera and take pictures of everything that is the holiday-ism.  I really love watching Nightmare Before Christmas.  That’s my favorite movie – and A Christmas Story.  I think both of those were on ABC Family recently!  I’m going to be watching ABC Family over the holidays.  Even before I was on an ABC Family television series I was watching 25 Days of Christmas as a kid.  That’s what my holiday tradition has always been – watching those classic Christmas stories and just littering the couch with junk food and drinking lots of hot cocoa.

Is there a dream storyline that you would like to see the writers write for your character Toby?

I think they’ve written me every dream storyline, to be honest.  I’ve gotten to play every single element that ever could be played by a character in the history of television.  (laughs)  I’ve played the super villain, the best friend, the boyfriend, the moral compass, the insecure, the craziness; every element is in there so as of right now, I can’t even formulate what a dream storyline would be.  I think I’ve already kind of gotten one!  I’ve been very lucky and the writers are extremely generous in the way that they write this character.

What was your reaction when you found out that Mona was going to be killed off the show?