Film & TV

Tyler Blackburn on ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ Female Fans, & His Soap Opera Past

Film & TV

Tyler Blackburn on ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ Female Fans, & His Soap Opera Past

Tyler Blackburn could be Johnny Depp’s kid brother. The 25-year-old actor and singer shares Depp’s boho sense of style, precisely disheveled chestnut-hued hair, and affinity for good music, from shoegazing sounds by Active Child to nostalgic hits by Oasis. But unlike Depp, Blackburn is a high school hacker with a checkered past—or at least plays one on TV. He stars as Caleb Rivers on the teen drama Pretty Little Liars, which returns for its third season next month. We spoke to Blackburn—who is one of our Primetime Heartbreakers—about his soap opera origins, the qualities he looks for in girls, and his crush on Katniss.
You have tons of fangirls. How do you handle it?
It’s the weirdest thing! It feels like validation in a way, but it’s different because they don’t really know you. It’s a very weird dichotomy. There are elements of it that I like and elements of it that I don’t like very much.
It comes with the territory.
Yeah, but you can’t be prepared for that, you know? You don’t really know what to expect until it happens.

Before Pretty Little Liars, you were on Days of Our Lives. Did you pick up any suave moves from the experience? Soap operas are obscenely romantic.
Everything’s over the top. My character, luckily, was not one of those sappy dudes. He was a computer hacker, so he had that nerdy edge to him, which –

Which can be sexy, too. Girls like a little vulnerability.
[Laughs] Exactly! The experience was really great training because soaps are shot very differently. There are three cameras set up and very specific marks that you have to hit. You really only get one take to do the entire scene, so you have to be on top of your shit. And you have to have all your lines down because they’re not going to let you do it again unless you really mess up, and if you really mess up, they’re going to be mad.

It sounds cutthroat.
It is! But it was great because when I went to Pretty Little Liars, it takes around four hours to shoot a scene. I felt very prepared. I have no problem improvising lines now.

What does a girl have to do these days to get your attention?
I want someone who’s really just enthusiastic about life. I don’t like that weird game-y thing that girls play sometimes. Why do people play games?

Like when people don’t respond right away to a text or call?
Yeah! You know what I mean? Let’s just have a conversation. Let’s be normal human beings, please, and have fun in life. I like passion in anything I do.

What’s your idea of the perfect date?
Ideally, I would say some of the best ones I’ve had—and there’s only been a couple—include a really nice dinner and some live music.

Who have you been listening to lately?
That’s the hardest question. There’s a guy who goes by the name of Active Child—he’s pretty amazing. He plays the harp and sings at the same time. He has this falsetto voice that you would never expect to come out of him because he kind of looks like a hipster. He has a song called “Johnny Belinda” that’s unbelievable. I also like The Weeknd. I’m not set on one type of genre. I love old blues music, The Black Keys…there’s so much stuff.

What’s your all-time favorite love song?
There are a lot of songs that can evoke that feeling, but I really like “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

That’s my karaoke jam.
Is it really? [Laughs.] That’s so dope. Have you heard Ryan Adams’s cover of it?

Not yet. Should I?
Yeah! It’s slowed down. It’s just the acoustic guitar and his voice. He does that song justice, but the song itself is pretty romantic.

Do you play any instruments?
I’m learning guitar and I sing. I’m working on music, actually. I’m in the recording studio and my dad’s in the music business. I listen to music all the time. I just love it so much.

What were you like in high school?
I feel like I was kind of a floater; I got along with different types of people but I just was not cool, and definitely a late bloomer. The girls liked the older, more mature guys. To me they were always like, “Aw, you’re so cute!”

What is the most embarrassing thing that you’ve done to get a girl’s attention?
I don’t know if I really even had the balls to do anything. I mean, I always just tried to become friends with them first, and then they stayed in that friend territory.

Did you ever have a really bad date?
Just bad conversation. One of us would say something that was like oil and water, and then I’d realize that there wasn’t a connection. Then I think to myself, “How much longer until this is over?”

And you start looking around, trying to find something else to focus on.
[Laughs] Yeah. It’s like that scene in Pulp Fiction where they’re at the diner and Uma Thurman’s character says to John Travolta, “Don’t you just hate that? Uncomfortable silences…”

Then she orders a big-ass milkshake.
Yeah! Exactly.

Is it a turn-on when girls go for the burger and fries instead of the salad?
Not necessarily. Eat what you want. Be yourself. Sure, if you want a salad, have a salad; I’m not going to judge you. But I enjoy a certain amount of decadence in my life, so I want to be with someone who shares that. The finer things, you know? And if that finer thing happens to be fried, just put it in your mouth.  Just eat it and enjoy it.

You only live once.
Exactly. It’s good to have a balance. I think that’s really the theme of life: balance. I’m a Libra so I always strive for balance, but it’s hard to find that.

Do you like a girl with good hair? What other physical features do you look for?
I think hair’s great, but it’s not the only thing I look for. I like finding that one feature that sets a girl apart. Instead of thinking, “She has a nice ass, she has a nice ass, she has a nice ass,” I’m like, “Oh, she has nice lips, she has nice eyes, she has a nice…ass.” [Laughs] You know what I mean? It changes from person to person.

Who’s your celebrity crush?
I really like Jennifer Lawrence, and she’s not even my type.

She’s pretty athletic.
She’s tall and athletic. There’s something about her energy that’s amazing. She’s an amazing actress. Did you see Winter’s Bone?

Absolutely. She’s great.
There’s something cool about a woman who can kick ass. I think that’s what she showed in The Hunger Games and Winter’s Bone—the ability to be vulnerable but also rise to the occasion and kick some ass.