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‘PEN15’ Season 2 delves deeper into painful childhoods

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LOS ANGELES, Sept. 17 (UPI) — PEN15 co-creators and co-stars Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine had to decide just how deep into their childhoods they wanted to delve in Season 2 of the comedic series.

“I think we struggled with how dark to go,” Konkle said on a recent Television Critics Association panel.

Konkle used the unusual circumstances of her parents’ divorce as inspiration for a storyline. Her parents lived together in the same house after they divorced, and the show follows fictional Anna as she struggles with the same situation.

“It was really confusing,” Konkle said. “There was this attachment to them and to us as a family, of course. And then, at the same time, it was very tense.”

Konkle said PEN15 also will explore how that confusion adversely affected her mental health.

“For me, those darker feelings started introducing themselves around 13 years old,” Konkle said. “We felt that [PEN15] could be real, honest and dark, and also funny and magical.”

Erskine and Konkle are not the only ones to base storylines on events from their childhoods. All of the show’s writers encourage one another to include childhood incidents in the scripts.

“My mom slapped me on the butt or slapped me once across the face,” Erskine said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Well, let’s put it in!’ OK, you know, that was my childhood.”

In the show, 33-year-olds Konkle and Erskine portray teenagers in the year 2000. Season 1 introduced Anna and Maya, two best friends who are beginning seventh grade together. Both hoped that grade would bring them boyfriends and popularity, but each episode only confronted them with more awkward situations.

Erskine said that Anna and Maya explore new identities in Season 2 as a way of coping with their problems, but they remain an inseparable duo. In one episode, they try to become witches to cast spells to save Anna’s parents’ marriage.

“If they’re going to be witches, then they’re going to be witches together,” Erskine said. “They’re using this identity of being a witch to cover up or deal with their own separate pains, or separate journeys.”

The combination of absurdity with real pain is what Konkle feels PEN15 does best.

“It was just a fun episode to do, despite it being kind of devastating to do also,” Konkle said of the witch narrative.

Both characters struggle with their relationships with their mothers in Season 2, but for different reasons. Anna resents her mother for the separation of her family, while Maya feels her mother is smothering her.

“At that age, I find that with a lot of moms and daughters it’s such a complicated relationship,” Erskine said. “Anna and I both shared the same experience of wanting to be as far away from our moms [as possible].”

Anna lashes out at her mother by calling her a bitch. Konkle said that, too, was something she really said as a teenager.

“We wanted to play with the theme of anti-mom, pro-dad stuff that happens at that age,” Konkle said.

Konkle worried that the season could be too brutal on the characters’ mothers. Since the show is autobiographical, Konkle worried if it might hurt her mother’s feelings. However, she promised a benevolent resolution.

“We acknowledge our mothers in a certain way,” Konkle said. “As a woman, you’re told to be a certain way. When you’re not that way, it can really be a downer on yourself and your mom. “

While Konkle knew she was reliving her childhood trauma for PEN15, Erskine was more surprised to discover the hurt her memories brought. She shared personal stories she thought were funny, but the show forced her to admit they were painful, too.

“I would, as a defense mechanism, tell [stories] in a humorous way, as a way to cope with it,” Erskine said. “As we’re writing, you start to find that the hole opens up a little bit of that pain. Then when you’re on set, it cracks open even more.”

PEN15 returns Friday on Hulu.

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Reality TV stars Christina and Ant Anstead split up

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Sept. 19 (UPI) — Reality TV stars Christina and Ant Anstead have split up after nearly two years of marriage.

“Ant and I have made the difficult decision to separate. We are grateful for each other and as always, our children will remain our priority. We appreciate your support and ask for privacy for us and our family as we navigate the future,” the Christina on the Coast star wrote in an Instagram post Friday.

The message included a photo of the former couple walking along a beach at sunset.

They began dating in October 2017, married in December 2018 and welcomed their son Hudson in September 2019.

Christina also has a 5-year-old son named Brayden James and 9-year-old daughter, Taylor Reese, with her ex-husband and Flip or Flop co-star, Tarek El Moussa.

El Moussa has been engaged to reality television personality, Heather Rae Young, since July.

Ant Anstead is the host of Wheeler Dealers.

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Dwayne Johnson tears down faulty security gate to get to work

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Sept. 19 (UPI) — Film star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tore down the security gate at his home when it malfunctioned and prevented him from getting to work.

“Not my finest hour, but a man’s gotta go to work,” the Moana and Jungle Cruise star captioned Friday’s Instagram photo of the damaged gate he tossed on the lawn.

“We experienced a power outage due to severe storms, causing my front gate not to open,” he explained. “I tried to override the hydraulic system to open the gates, which usually works when power goes out — but this time it wouldn’t. Made some calls to see how fast I can get the gate tech on site, but I didn’t have 45 min to wait. By this time, I know I have hundreds of production crew members waiting for me to come to work so we can start our day. So I did what I had to do. I pushed, pulled and ripped the gate completely off myself. Tore it out of the brick wall, severed the steel hydraulics and threw it on the grass. My security team was able to meet the gate technician and welders about an hour later — and they were apparently, ‘in disbelief and equally scared;’ Not my finest hour, but I had to go to work. And I think I’m 100 [percent] ready to be #blackadam #ripgates.”

Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds was quick to comment on the post.

“The gate opened the OTHER way,” Reynolds quipped.

Johnson’s Jumanji co-star Karen Gillan responded with a string of faces with tears of joy emojis and remarked, “This is brilliant.”

Comedian Tony Baker joked, “The gate’s final words were ‘not like this…..’ beeeeeeeeeeeeep flatline.”

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Famous birthdays for Sept. 20: Phillip Phillips, Sophia Loren

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Sept. 20 (UPI) — Those born on this date are under the sign of Virgo.

They include:

— Novelist Upton Sinclair in 1878

— Sister Elizabeth Kenny, Australian nurse who pioneered the care of polio victims, in 1880

— NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in 1910

— Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach in 1917

— Actor Sophia Loren in 1934 (age 86)

File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

— Artist Dale Chihuly in 1941 (age 79)

— Writer George R.R. Martin in 1948 (age 72)

— Hockey Hall of Fame member Guy Lafleur in 1951 (age 69)

— Actor Gary Cole in 1956 (age 64)

— Actor Kristen Johnston in 1967 (age 53)

— Musician Gunnar Nelson in 1967 (age 53)

— Musician Matthew Nelson in 1967 (age 53)

— Actor Asia Argento in 1975 (age 45)

— Actor Jon Bernthal in 1976 (age 44)

— Musician Phillip Phillips in 1990 (age 30)

— Actor Jason Drucker in 2005 (age 15)

File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

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