Credit: Courtesy

For Lucy Hale, the holiday season is all about giving back, and this past weekend, she did just that. The 28-year-old Pretty Little Liars actress visited the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles to surprise one patient, a 17-year-old Laura being treated for cancer. Instead of stopping by her room to say say hello, though, Hale got creative. She engaged in a riveting round of Words With Friends 2 with Laura, a PLL megafan, who had no idea that Hale was her opponent until she revealed herself after the match.

The experience—which, in partnership with the mobile game, culminated in a $75,000 donation to the hospital—was unforgettable for Hale. “I feel very lucky and honored that I get to experience things like that,” she told InStyle yesterday. “It's always really impactful to see these situations, and it really puts things in perspective."

Hale, who happens to play a cancer patient herself in the upcoming CW series Life Sentence, says that researching her has inspired her to want to reach out to fans and their families struggling with cancer diagnoses, even though she can't truly imagine what they go through. "I’ve been told that these little moments really can make a difference to some of the patients,” she said. “It's honestly the least I could do, and it made me equally as happy to go there. I felt very grateful that I got to be a part of the experience.”

Lucy Hale - Children's Hospital - 1
Credit: Courtesy

Scroll down for our full chat with Hale, in which she opens up about her new show, her favorite holiday tradition, and what she misses most from the set of Pretty Little Liars.

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In your new show, Life Sentence, you play a cancer survivor. Has that inspired you to reach out to fans who are in similar situations?
Absolutely, because I've learned so much about what cancer patients go through, what the families go through, and how it heavily impacts everyone involved. Just doing the show and really stepping into [my character] Stella's shoes and understanding some of the things that she's gone through has definitely made me want to reach out to people who have gone through similar situations. Obviously, I could never imagine what it truly is like to go through that, but doing the show has opened my eyes up to it a lot more.

During the holiday season, do you find yourself more inspired to give back?
In general, I think everyone is a little more giving and loving around the holidays, which is great. It’s a reminder that we should be like that all the time. But I definitely think that the holidays brings out the best in everybody.

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?
My favorite holiday tradition is one that my mom started a while back. She started getting us matching pajamas, so everyone from my grandparents down to my little tiny nieces all have matching pajamas and we take a photo together. That's probably my favorite.

Clearly you're a fan of puzzles. Did you ever do them on the Pretty Little Liars set?
Oh, yeah. The thing about being on set is that there's a lot of work to be done, but there's also waiting around. So you have to find things to do to pass the time. I want to say that I used to play Words With Friends with Troian [Bellisario] and then with some of the hair and makeup people. We would have ongoing games.

Do you ever miss being on the set?
Yeah, I'll always miss certain things about it, but we wrapped over a year ago and we've all moved on to really wonderful things. The moment I wrapped on that show, I actually started a film and then jumped onto this new TV show, so I haven't really left the set vibe. But I definitely miss seeing all those familiar faces, for sure.

Do you miss Aria’s super-trendy wardrobe?
I love my wardrobe on Life Sentence, and they're kind of similar in a way. Aria definitely had a pretty particular sense of style, you could say. I'll always like that the most about her.

What are your costumes like on Life Sentence?
My character definitely stands out in the crowd. She will try anything, but she's got more of a vintage vibe. We go with a lot of retro looks, and she wears a lot of really bright colors and loud patterns. It’s very different from how I dress in real life, but totally works for the character. She's really optimistic and full of life and a very happy person, and I think that her clothes reflect that.

Who’s your current style crush in real life?
Probably Zoe Kravitz. I love her. I think she's just the coolest. I mean, the Olsen twins are always my ultimate, but Zoe Kravitz after that.