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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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Look: Wells Adams voices love for Sarah Hyland on her birthday

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Nov. 24 (UPI) — Wells Adams is celebrating his fiancée, Sarah Hyland, on her 30th birthday.

The 36-year-old television personality marked the occasion Tuesday by dedicating a sweet post to Hyland on Instagram.

Adams shared a slideshow of photos of Hyland and voiced his love for the actress in the caption.

“Happy 30th birthday @sarahhyland! Here’s a bunch of pictures that make me very excited about the next 30! Especially the last one,” he wrote. “I love you the moistest! Sorry, mostest! To Pluto and back!”

Hyland’s Modern Family co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and actresses Vanessa Hudgens and Katie Stevens also wished Hyland a happy birthday on social media.

“Happy Birthday @sarahhyland. I have so many good memories with you over the last 12 years. Here is one of them. (Walking down stairs like @thechristinequinn),” Ferguson captioned a video with Hyland.

“Happy birthday @sarahhyland you goddess warrior,” Hudgens wrote.

“Happy 30th to my Sagittarius sister for life @sarahhyland! Thank you for always being there for me, for supporting me, and for never judging me on my ‘Monica’ tendencies,” Stevens said.

Hyland and Adams got engaged in July 2019 after nearly two years of dating. The couple first connected on Twitter after Adams sent Hyland a direct message.

Hyland and Adams were to marry Aug. 8 but postponed their wedding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The couple spent their would-be wedding day at a vineyard.

“A couple, a pandemic, & a postponed wedding: A series. We were supposed to get married today. Instead… we took pictures and drank wine. I love you to Pluto & back @wellsadams,” Hyland said on Instagram.

Hyland played Haley Dunphy on the ABC series Modern Family, which ended in April after 11 seasons. Adams appeared in Joelle “JoJo” Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette and later served as a bartender on Bachelor in Paradise.



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Watch: Momoland shares ‘Ready or Not’ performance video

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Nov. 24 (UPI) — South Korean girl group Momoland has released a new performance video.

The K-pop stars shared a performance video Tuesday for the song “Ready or Not.”

The new video shows the members of Momoland performing a dance routine. The group wears colorful and playful coordinating outfits.

“Ready or Not” is the title track from Momoland’s new single album of the same name, released last week. The album also includes the song “Merry Go Round.”

Momoland previously released an official music video for “Ready or Not” that shows the group dancing and eating sweets.

Ready or Not is Momoland’s first release since the EP Starry Night, released in June. The group released its debut studio album, Chiri Chiri, in September 2019.

Momoland consists of Ahin, Jane, JooE, Hyebin, Nancy and Nayun. The group made its debut in 2016.



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‘The Flight Attendant’ star Kaley Cuoco: ‘I’ve loved being scared’

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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 23 (UPI) — Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco, known for her comedic roles, said she has enjoyed taking on a darker role in the new HBO Max thriller series The Flight Attendant, in which she stars and serves as executive producer.

“I’ve loved being scared,” Cuoco said on a recent Television Critics Association panel. “It’s been completely new and different.”

Cuoco portrays Cassie, an airline flight attendant who becomes caught up in a murder. She has a fling with one of her passengers, Alex (Michiel Huisman), on an overnight layover, and wakes up with his dead body.

She has little memory of her night with Alex, as she has a history of blackouts from drinking. She doesn’t think she killed Alex, but she’s trying to piece together the evening without incriminating herself.

In a panic, she leaves evidence that she tampered with the crime scene. Cassie then lives in fear of either being caught by police or pursued by the real killers.

The 34-year-old said The Flight Attendant has some humor mixed with its intense situations. For example, Alex continues to appear to Cassie as a figment of her imagination, helping her recall events of their night together.

“The tone has been a fascinating challenge,” Cuoco said. “We really have ridden a fine line because dark stuff happens, but there is levity.”

The character already had been on shaky footing before she became embroiled in a death — she drank heavily and often showed up late for work. Cuoco says she has been able to bring her comedic instincts to some of Cassie’s more bumbling moments.

“I just love the art of making someone laugh, and not taking yourself too seriously,” Cuoco said.

Creator and executive producer Steve Yockey adapted Chris Bohjalian’s 2018 book of the same name for television. Cuoco says Yockey and the writers got to know her sense of humor and added it to subsequent scripts.

“Our creative team, who really got to learn my voice, put those Kaley-isms in [the scripts].”

As an executive producer, Cuoco helped to obtain the rights to Bohjalian’s book.

Cuoco said she has been looking at books over the past few years to produce but nothing excited her. But, she said, The Flight Attendant‘s synopsis on Amazon sold her on the book before she read it. After she read it, she won the rights in a bidding war. She brought the property to Warner Bros., the studio that produced The Big Bang Theory and the animated Harley Quinn series for which Cuoco provides a voice.

Warner Bros. connected Cuoco with Yockey. The studio also added veteran Warner Bros. Television producers Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter to The Flight Attendant. Casting the supporting characters also helped balance the darkly comedic tone, Cuoco said.

“We have so many funny actors that can make those quirky moments be a little lighter,” Cuoco said

Cassie’s team of flight attendants includes Megan (Rosie Perez), Van (Nolan Gerard Funk) and Shane (Griffin Matthews). Cuoco said she begged Perez to play the role. Perez said she got along better with Cuoco in real life than their characters do.

“Megan just doesn’t have too much of a life outside of the plane,” Perez said. “So she tolerates Cassie because she clings onto her friendship. That sounds so pathetic and sad, but it’s true.”

Cuoco said once The Flight Attendant received a green light, she started to study flight attendants whenever she traveled. Viewers will see some of the subtle mannerisms Cuoco learned from observation.

“You start seeing what they’re doing when they’re making the drinks and how they talk to each other and how they react to passengers,” Cuoco said. “They take their heels off and they put their comfy shoes on.”

The first season of The Flight Attendant promises to resolve the mystery of Alex’s death. Yockey and Cuoco both have ideas for a next season should The Flight Attendant be renewed.

“Oh, we have plans for another season,” Cuoco assured.

The Flight Attendant premieres Thursday on HBO Max.



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