It’s a snowy January day at the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan, and Lucy Hale hasn’t even ordered our afternoon tea yet before she makes the classic Pretty Little Liars pose. I ask her about the “a.” tattoo on her pointer finger, which she explains she got with the Pretty Little Liars cast while lifting her own fingers to her lips to make the signature “shh” gesture of the show. “I’ve gotten most of my other tattoos removed,” she says. “Not this one.”
Hale has had her ink removed for the same reasons anyone does: She was young or no longer likes the aesthetic, maybe they don’t match who she is now. And if Hale has been doing anything over the last two years since she got sober, it’s getting closer to what she wants in her career and her dating life.
“I show up to things 110% now,” Hale says, pouring tea into a tiny cup from a pot. “Whereas if you would've met me a couple of years ago, I might be sitting across from you and I might be spiraling thinking about what I did last weekend when I was blacked out. I think being present is the best gift. It really is the key to life, in my opinion.”
Hale is in New York to promote Which Brings Me To You, a romantic comedy out now in theaters, which she starred in and produced. The film follows Jane (Hale), who meets Will (Nat Wolff) at a Jersey Shore wedding. Drawn to each other immediately, they have a disastrous near-hookup in a coat closet, after which they spend the next 24 hours giving each other a highlight reel of their past relationships. It’s a distinctly modern rom-com, one for people in their 30s who have already been to therapy.
Hale — who has starred in a handful of rom-coms over the last few years, including Puppy Love and The Hating Game — is a big fan of the genre, rattling off a short history from Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail to Kate Hudson- and Katherine Heigel-era films. She says she loved Anyone But You, the Sydney Sweeney vehicle that’s inspiring articles about the format's revival, which she saw on opening night. “I think they're having a resurgence,” Hale says, reapplying her Rhode lip gloss. “They’re so fun to make. Especially if the chemistry is good, you're like, ‘Oh, this is going to work.’ It’s kind of like a dance with whoever you're acting alongside.”
And in Which Brings Me to You, Hale and Wolff together navigate no shortage of lessons that ultimately encourage them to show up honestly to a relationship — which is something Hale brings into her own love life.
“Where I'm at dating-wise, I want to be transparent about who I am, where I've been, what I'm looking for. It weeds out the people who aren't on the same path as you,” she says. “No bulls*it. I would expect people to be the same way with me. Like, let’s all throw it all out there. See what sticks and the right people will find you and stay.”
Hale didn’t always feel like this. When she was younger, and before she got sober, she says she wanted a whole different kind of rom-com archetype: a bad boy, because she thought that was more exciting. Now, she says she wants to meet “a respectful, kind, what you call a ‘good guy.’” “Mainly it's just finding someone who’s in alignment with me and where I'm at in my life,” she says. “I used to find that boring. I wanted chaos in every area of my life, and I don't want that anymore.”
Outside of romance, she tells me about her other aspirations: to have a better work-life balance and to see her favorite books, like Colleen Hoover’s Verity, be adapted into a film. She wants to farm. “Just a small couple of goats, some chickens,” she says. “I feel like I thrive with some space.”