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The Featured Presentation

Molly Evensen

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Photo By: Robyn Von Swank

Originally An American Pickle was destined for a theatrical release, but 2020 had other plans. When theaters closed due to COVID-19, the film’s star Molly Evensen wondered if people would ever see her hard work play out on screen, but thankfully it found a home beyond the megaplexes and premiered on HBO Max. In the end An American Pickle not only ensured its summer release, but it gave people self-quarantining at home a much needed escape.

I’m honored to have it come out during this time and grateful that people can watch it from the comfort and safety of their own homes,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “Hopefully it brings some joy and escapism in a time where both of those things are greatly needed.”

We recently sat down with Evensen to discuss managing expectations, taking leaps of faith, and her favorite literary escapes of 2020.

TrunkSpace: New England raised here. DunkinDonuts (aka, Dunks or Dunkies) is like the air we breathe here. And thenwe read that you were once IN a Dunkiesad? Youre blowing our minds! Tell us you got some wicked awesomefree munchkins out of the deal!?
Evensen: New England is beautiful and Dunkin’ Donuts is great! They were such a treat to work with. But alas, there were no munchkins.” It was still a very fun and silly day so I suppose I’ll let it slide.

TrunkSpace: In all seriousness, the far more impressive project you are currently promoting is An American Pickle, which for us, arrived at the perfect time because we needed a mental escape from the realities of, well, reality. Did it feel kind of special to have this film come out at a time when there wasnt a lot of other new content circulating? In a way, it was just the check outpeople needed.
Evensen: It does feel very special to have it released during this strange time we’re living in. We shot the film almost two years ago and never did I ever think the world would look the way it does right now. The initial plan was for a theatrical release and when the theaters shut down and so many films were being pushed and rescheduled, I was a little worried that An American Pickle would be scrapped all together. I definitely sighed a huge sigh of relief when they made the HBO Max announcement. I’m honored to have it come out during this time and grateful that people can watch it from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Hopefully it brings some joy and escapism in a time where both of those things are greatly needed.

TrunkSpace: You worked alongside Seth Rogen in the project, which was the first HBO Max original release. Is it difficult to not assign expectations to a project of this size and how it could impact the rest of your career? How do you temper those what ifswith each project you take on?
Evensen: This is a great question. Id say yes and no. Is that a cop out to say both? Yes, because its such a huge and cool opportunity overall. But also no, because I learned pretty early on that nothing is a guarantee. I was edited out of my first big commercial after telling all of my friends and family to watch for itthat was a humbling experience. I also booked an episode on a new series last year and my character wound up being written out in script rewrites. Thats just business, its nothing personal. Having had those experiences, Id like to say Im cautiously optimistic about things, but also hesitant to assign too much expectation from the get go. I think its human nature to get excited and to daydream, but trying to approach it from a more businesslike mindset saves a lot of mental energy in the long run. I also find Im more productive when I focus on the present instead of daydreaming about the future.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine that a project of this size and scope would be just as much of a learning experience as it would be a job. What did you learn by observing or by osmosis on the An American Pickle set that youll apply to the rest of your career going forward?
Evensen: I think this is the first set where I really experienced what its like to have a scene partner who actually listens to you. And let me tell you, that is a game changer. So in that regard, I learned how to be an effective and giving scene partner.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with your on-screen performance as Clara?
Evensen: Without giving too much away, there’s a crowd scene where I mouth the words, “I’m sorry.” I improvised that and have received a lot of great feedback about it, which is cool.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in the project it must go much further than that. Whats the most memorable aspect of getting to work on An American Pickle that youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Evensen: I’d say the moment I answered the phone and found out I booked the job was quite memorable. The film came at a very transitional time in life for me. I had just taken a leap of faith and quit my serving job a week before I booked the film. Now, Im not saying go out and quit your job, but I think this is a great example of trusting your gut and taking a leap.

TrunkSpace: What has been an unexpected bonus or reward something you could have never anticipated when you first started your journey as an actress to a career in the arts? What is an aspect of your life that you wouldnt have now had you not taken this path, but at the same time, one that you cant imagine your life without now?
Evensen: I think as someone in the arts you have to have some degree of empathy in order to understand characters and to experience emotions. I think Ive always been fairly empathetic, but my empathy has grown over the years. And because of that I think my world view has grown and shifted so much by simply by being curious and listening to those around me. I love staring out at city lights and thinking about how there are millions of people living where those lights are who I will never meet, but they all have their own unique lives with people who love them and goals and dreams and things that are important to them. So Id say overall a deeper curiosity for othersexperiences and a desire to listen and to understand. I know this doesnt just apply to actors, but it has certainly been a bonus for me.\

TrunkSpace: There are ups and downs in any career, but certainly the entertainment industry is known for delivering peaks and valleys. Was there ever a moment where you considered walking away from acting, and if so, what kept you on your path and looking forward?
Evensen: I have never considered walking away from acting. Im a very stubborn person. The more I hear no, the harder I work to hear the word yes. No is not an option for me. I will say there have been some very discouraging times and times where my patience and determination have been greatly tested. Im fortunate to have a very large supportive immediate and extended family. They have pushed me forward on the days where Ive struggled.

TrunkSpace: We read that you enjoy reading. What good books have you dove into this year to escape?
Evensen: This list could go on for a while, so Ill keep it to the most recent. I just finished reading “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” Wow, it was a beautiful book. Before that, I read the new Hunger Games prequel. I enjoyed it, but it also made me mad and that’s all I will say about that. Currently I’m reading a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang called “Stories of Your Life.” I’m a big fan of the film Arrival and it’s based on a short story in this book.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Evensen: As tempting as it would be, I’d politely decline. I’ve had plans and ideas for how Id like things to go, but Im continuously surprised by how much better everything turns out when it just unfolds. Currently working on finding peace in going with the flow and allowing life to surprise me.

An American Pickle is available now on HBO Max.

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The Featured Presentation

McKenna Roberts

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Photography: Storm Santos/Styling: Lauren Taylor/Hair: Sienree for Celestine Agency/Makeup: Renee Loiz

Coming from the daily grind of network soap operas, McKenna Roberts learned what it takes to be a working actress at a very early age. Still only 11, she has since graduated from her “The Young and the Restless” roots to become Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “Skyscraper” and the 10-year-old version of Zendaya’s character Rue from the new HBO series “Euphoria.” Those are both big roles to fill, and she has gone on to do so with a level of confidence that reaches well beyond her physical age.

We recently sat down with Roberts to discuss on-set lessons, the challenges of taking on characters, and the type of reality show she would one day like to appear on.

TrunkSpace: From Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “Skyscraper” to the younger version of Zendaya’s Rue in the new HBO series “Euphoria,” you are certainly surrounding yourself with successful talent early in your career. Are you looking at each project you work on as just as much of an education as you are a job?
Roberts: Absolutely! It’s been a tremendous learning experience. Every job I’ve worked on, I’ve taken something from it and put it into other roles and auditions.

TrunkSpace: You spent a number of years working on “The Young and the Restless.” Soap operas are known for their breakneck production schedules, and in a way, that must be a great boot camp to learn from. What is a lesson that you took from your time on the series that you’ve carried with you through the rest of your career thus far?
Roberts: I learned that you need to be on your game – meaning, making sure you know your lines, paying attention to what camera is taping, and at the same time, you want your performance to be on point because they move very fast.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, “Euphoria” will air on HBO, which is a network that actors of all ages are vying to do work with. When you step away and look at your career from an outside perspective, do you feel like each opportunity has led to the next opportunity, and if so, where do you hope to go from here?
Roberts: Yes, I do think that each opportunity in my career has and probably will continue to lead me to something even greater! I loved that I can add HBO to my resume.

TrunkSpace: In “Euphoria” you play a young Rue. Did you work with Zendaya to pick up the little details of the character – the physical stuff – so that when the audience sees her at 10-years-old, the who of Rue lines up with the where she came from?
Roberts: No we didn’t do that, and I think it was because the beginning experiences Young Rue went through were on a much different level than the Older Rue. And as she got older, her life went into a much darker place.

TrunkSpace: As a performer, is there more pressure involved bringing a character to life when, within the same series, someone else is also breathing life into the same character? Does it become a bit of a collaboration in that regard?
Roberts: I really didn’t feel any pressure because that’s what I’m used to doing with every character I have played in my career. It was just more of a challenge if anything, but I was happy with my work and I wanted to make sure the director was too.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of about your time spent on the series?
Roberts: I felt like my role was challenging and I thought I did a good job with my character, and I was just super happy I got to play a younger character that Zendaya was playing.

TrunkSpace: Aside from your acting work, you’re also a model. Do you view both as two separate careers, or extensions of the same career?
Roberts: I do see them both as separate careers for me. But a lot has changed since I started modeling and there are a lot of opportunities that can be tied into what’s going on in my acting career if the timing is right.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you like to bake/cook in your spare time. What is a food-related show that you wouldn’t mind being a contestant on and why?
Roberts: Well, the funny thing is that a few years back, I actually auditioned to be on a food-related show called “Master Chef Junior.” I auditioned for it twice and got really close one of the times. So, being on a show like that, or maybe a celebrity baking challenge show, would be really cool.

Photography: Storm Santos/Styling: Lauren Taylor/Hair: Sienree for Celestine Agency/Makeup: Renee Loiz

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Roberts: The highlight of my career has definitely been working on “Skyscraper” with some incredible people in the industry like director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Neve Campbell, Dwayne Johnson and many others.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Roberts: Even though that sounds super cool, I wouldn’t want to time travel to see what my career looks like because I think it would ruin the fun and excitement of what’s to come for me – and I’m happy with how things are going for me now!

Euphoria” airs Sundays on HBO.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: The Worst Witch

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: The Worst Witch

Directed By: Robert Young

Starring: Diana Rigg, Charlotte Rae, Tim Curry, Fairuza Balk

We Watched On: VHS (Yes, we’re old school!) That said, you can also find it on YouTube.

Trunktober Approved Because: Anyone who was born after 1990 has probably never seen this, witch (pun) is understandable, but for those of us who spent the ‘80s, the era of MTV and Saturday morning cartoons, trick-or-treating in highly flammable store-bought costumes, this is a nostalgic gem worthy of your attention. No, it’s not scary, but if you were a kid when it was released on HBO in 1986, it sums up Halloween for you in more ways than one. (Also important to note, this was based on a series of popular books dating back to 1974, and for kids of today, a new television series premiered last year, which is available now on Netflix.)

Biggest Scare: Okay, it’s not a scare, but Tim Curry’s amazing arrival as The Grand Wizard, which immediately kicks into the best Halloween song of all time – “Anything Can Happen On Halloween” – is a green screen marvel that screams cable access gold! This is how we officially kick of the month of October every year, singing along to wondrous lines like, “There may be a toad in your bass guitar or your sister could turn into a bat.” YES!

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The Featured Presentation

Patrick Cage

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Photo By: The Riker Brothers/Grooming By: Andrea Pezzillo/Styling By: Laurie Delguidice

Imagine yourself pursuing a career as an actor, seeking out interesting characters and projects, and then landing a pivotal role on one of your favorite television shows. That’s exactly what happened to Patrick Cage who joined the cast of “Westworld” in Season 2 as Phil, a technician at the Sector 19 Remote Refurbishment Facility. Performing since he was a kid, the Los Angeles native describes the job as a dream come true, and it’s one he’ll never take for granted.

We recently sat down with Cage to discuss how being on the show doesn’t shed any additional insight on the plot, why that is important to him as a fan, and the reason he and his character Phil are both discovering the ongoing “Westworld” storyline at the same time.

 

TrunkSpace: How does one celebrate landing a gig on one of the hottest shows on TV?
Cage: I haven’t really celebrated, I guess. I mean, I celebrated that day that I found out. I had just moved into my apartment, and then I got the news that I booked the job as well. So I just kind of went on my roof, watched the sunset and cried. Tears of joy, you know? I think that was the best celebration I could have had.

TrunkSpace: What a crazy time to get the job, when you’re also in the middle of a transitional life moment like moving?
Cage: Yeah, it was actually just crazy timing as well. I was trying to move while planning a trip to Ibiza, and then it was just too much was happening. That call just kind of made everything slow down, which was great.

TrunkSpace: What kind of emotions have you been juggling with leading up to your run on the series?
Cage: I’m just hoping that the response to Phil is very positive. People can see themselves in Phil, and kind of attach themselves to him, and see themselves in the world with him a bit more. I feel like he’s kind of everybody else – he’s one of us. Westworld is made for the 1 percent elite, the people that have a ton of money, or $15,000 a day to spend at this park. Phil can’t afford to go to the park. He works in the park. I think his mindset is just someone that’s just more normal – just one of the average people in the world going through this experience.

TrunkSpace: You were a fan of the series before you landed the part. Does that make the gig all the more sweeter for you personally?
Cage: 100 percent. It’s one of those, kind of, pinch yourself moments, because it’s things you always dream up. You dream of those ideal situations where it’s like, “I’m going to be on my favorite show.” Then, when it happens, it’s like, “OK, don’t mess up, and add something great to this show. Add something, an element, that wasn’t here before, and really, just help serve the overall story.” Because the world and the intricacy that Lisa (Joy) and John (Nolan) have put into this show is so amazing, and it’s like I just want to help them tell their story.

TrunkSpace: We have to ask… being on the show, does it help it all make a bit more sense? (Laughter)
Cage: It’s actually, it’s so interesting, because… no. It really doesn’t. (Laughter) I think there’s a ton of secrecy within the show and on set, and so it was very need-to-know based. I never got a full script, I only got pages. So as I was filming, I was learning everything Phil learned, as he learned it. It was such an interesting way to go through it. It was almost better, in a way, because I’m realizing when you have the influence of knowing the plot points and where the story’s headed, it can tend to get in your head. And you can kind of put something in there, a bit of foreshadowing that shouldn’t be in there. When you’re confused, and on the same level as your character, if you don’t understand something as Patrick, Phil won’t understand it either. And that will show. They’re just very smart with the way that they play their own game on set.

TrunkSpace: Not knowing much about the future of your character, does it then make it more difficult to make those early choices with Phil?
Cage: Well, I think that was the fun about it. The introduction scene for Phil, they laid out his essence very well for me. So I got the sense of who Phil was, and so it was just about that person going through these experiences and how they would react, really. Just, what it would be like. It was really just a fun, true game of exploration with Phil.

Photo By: The Riker Brothers/Grooming By: Andrea Pezzillo/Styling By: Laurie Delguidice

TrunkSpace: Because the series is shrouded in spoiler alert secrecy, does it make it kind of nerve wracking talking about and making sure not to slip up and say something that you shouldn’t?
Cage: I don’t want to slip up, but more so, I don’t want to give anything away because I think it’s so fun when we all get to figure it out as a community. I think the “Westworld” community is so large, and even with the Reddit forums and all the Twitter pages that have been made, I think there’s such a great community, and such a great connected feeling when we all figure out these big puzzle pieces together. I don’t want to ruin that. Because I feel like they’ve created a lot of those throughout this season. There’s so many things I didn’t even know, so it’s fun to find things out. Episode 1 was a trip for me. I knew nothing. I knew nothing about what went on in that, so that was all crazy.

TrunkSpace: That’s what’s kind of cool about it from your perspective. You’re involved, but your viewer side isn’t having anything ruined. You still get to be the fan.
Cage: Yeah, and that’s really the best part. It’s like I do start to see, like with Episode 1, I’m like, “Oh! I see how that’s going to tie in!” I’m starting to connect my own dots. But I still don’t see the whole storyline, and I really love that because being a fan of Season 1, I get to continue to be a fan of the show.

Westworld” airs Sundays on HBO.

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The Featured Presentation

Jasmin Savoy Brown

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Photo By: Matt Darlington

Fans of HBO’s “The Leftovers” will instantly recognize Jasmin Savoy Brown. As Evie Murphy in the critically-acclaimed series, she served as the centerpiece for the puzzling drama that captivated viewers throughout season 2 before a shocking fate befell her at the start of the third (and final) season. Now the Oregon native is going from a catalyst of mystery to a mysterious character as she looks to represent the historical legacy of the enigmatic Emilia Bassano, Shakespeare’s muse, in the new TNT series “Will.”

We recently sat down with Brown to discuss how the series is bringing theater to the screen, why Shakespeare is so timeless, and how she will always be grateful to “The Leftovers” and the doors it has opened.

TrunkSpace: Your new series “Will” is due out in a few days. As you gear up for that reveal to the world, what emotions are you going through?
Brown: I’m excited. I get a little bit numb right before something comes out. Maybe that’s a defense mechanism. I kind of check out of it and forget that it’s happening, even though I know that it’s happening and I’m promoting it all of the time. So yeah, I’m excited, but I’m also kind of not feeling anything. (Laughter) When you work so hard on something and then you put it out there and everyone judges it and can bash it, that’s really vulnerable.

TrunkSpace: Everyone has an opinion in the social media age! (Laughter)
Brown: Exactly!

TrunkSpace: With the shorter season orders that a lot of TV shows are working with now, it must make it feel a bit more like a film in terms of roll out because you’re done shooting by the time that it airs.
Brown: That’s true. We wrapped in March, so it’s been a minute. It was nice because the premiere was just a couple of days ago and the whole cast, the producers, writers, and directors met up in New York to have the premiere party. It was nice to see everyone and that made it more real.

TrunkSpace: So much of the content that’s being produced these days is often based on something else and a lot of that stuff is starting to feel the same. On the other hand, “Will” is obviously based on something else, but it feels wholly original at the same time.
Brown: Yeah. It’s interesting. It is really cool.

TrunkSpace: You have an extensive theater background. Did the series have an extra layer of interest for you, doing Shakespeare in this way, having worked on the stage so much in the past?
Brown: Absolutely. I thought it was really interesting that they would mold those together. You’re going to get to see theater and pieces of theatrical productions on screen. You don’t mix those two very often. It’s not just a recorded play, which is a whole different experience than watching it in a theater, but it’s theater on screen and for TV, so it’s this whole other weird genre. It’s really interesting.

TrunkSpace: In terms of wardrobes and set pieces, from what we’ve seen, that certainly helps give it that theatrical feel as well.
Brown: 100 percent. And I was spoiled. I got to wear some of the best costumes. She has some beautiful pieces and I was pretty spoiled in that sense.

TrunkSpace: Your character Emilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s muse, but how does “Will” present her to viewers?
Brown: Well, you see their relationship develop on screen, which is very cool. Apart from Will, Emilia is pretty mysterious. People don’t necessarily know what she’s about or who she is because every time we see her, we’re seeing different sides of her. She’s very much a chameleon. She takes the role of whatever she needs to play for whoever she is around in that moment. She has to be a mistress to the Lord in order to survive. She actually very much liked him, but at the same time she wants to do her own creative stuff. She’s just constantly changing depending on who she is around and it’s really interesting to watch.

TrunkSpace: So often creative endeavors start to feel stale and sort of frozen in the time that they were created, but Shakespeare is timeless. Why do you think that is?
Brown: It’s forever. I think because all of the themes he uses are just so human. Love, lust, war, family, sex, betrayal… all of those things are human things. And not that there’s anything wrong with aliens or a lot of technology, but that’s not timeless and not human, so to just look at human emotions and how we relate to one another, that will never expire.

TrunkSpace: In terms of performance, over the course of the first season, where were you the most surprised that you got to go with Emilia?
Brown: That’s a great question. Something that we’re taught or at least that is talked about a lot in acting is how much you hold back in the character. There’s so much going on inside, so much going on in your eyes, but you’re not actively showing it. You’re showing it by not showing it. All of these contradictions. And I feel like the stuff that I have done so far has been a lot more of showing my cards and Emilia can’t or she will die. She’s a woman in that period of time… she can’t just go around being herself all of the time. So having to hold so much back and be this incredibly intelligent, outspoken, progressive woman who is totally herself, but at the same time isn’t always showing who she is, is a beautiful contradiction that was challenging and I hadn’t done that before. It did stretch me and it was really rewarding and really fun.

TrunkSpace: Prior to going to that place with Emilia, did you have reservations that you could?
Brown: You know, I didn’t know anything. (Laughter) When I first booked it, I just knew that she was a real person and I had three pages of sides and I knew that I’d get to go to the UK. It wasn’t until I was on the plane flying there after I booked it that I got to actually read the script. So I had no idea. There wasn’t really a way to be nervous. Everything happened so fast. I booked the job, got on a plane on a Friday, and then I was shooting that Monday. I didn’t really have time to think about it, which was a good exercise for me because I tend to overthink.

TrunkSpace: Is that where you’re hardest on yourself as an actress?
Brown: Oh, 100 percent! And just as a human. I overthink things and I will be incredibly hard on myself. I’m working on that… just letting go and moving on and not lingering on things that took place a week ago.

TrunkSpace: When you booked “Will” it was a new show that had yet to establish a tone on set and a family within that world. How different is it coming into a new series as opposed to jumping in and doing a guest spot or reoccurring on a series that already is established and how does either reflect on performance in terms of comfort level?
Brown: Oooh. They’re so different and I love them both in different ways. Selfishly, and I would imagine most actors are like this, I want to do what I want to do because I prefer it this way. (Laughter) No one can tell me I’m wrong when no one knows what we’re doing, so we’re all figuring it out together and creating it together. It’s not so much about, “You’re wrong!” It’s, “Oh, that was interesting, but let’s try it this way.” That’s how I should think about it all of the time, but specifically on a new show that’s how it feels. There’s this excited creative energy that is just different from an established show.

TrunkSpace: And you’re all discovering your characters together at the same time.
Brown: Yeah. And that was one of the great things about this particular production. We had rehearsal and a lot of them, especially the cast in the first few episodes because they had a lot more time before they started shooting. It was a lot of rehearsing to just discover and explore our characters and who they are and how they fit together. I’ve never had that before. It just made the environment so much more supportive and creative and safe knowing that we were all figuring this out and rehearsing and discovering together.

Brown in “The Leftovers”

TrunkSpace: “The Leftovers” has been praised for its final season. We’ve seen a number of outlets calling it one of the greatest series send offs of all time. How important was that show to you and your career?
Brown: Being a part of the show, in every single way… in my personal life, in my spiritual and emotional life, in my creative an artistic life, and my career trajectory, I will forever have nothing but praise and thanks to “The Leftovers.” I owe it so much because it gave me everything, including mentors in my life and great friends and different perspectives on acting. I really felt like it was a paid master class, like I was being paid to learn from the most brilliant people. That’s another scenario where I have to distance myself for awhile because in the midst of all of the buzz, I haven’t actually watched the final season. I watched the first episode at the premiere, but I haven’t watched any of the rest of it. I probably won’t for about six months because it’s just a little overwhelming. The reviews came out and everyone is praising it so much, and just knowing that that chapter’s over, I just can’t yet.

But I’ve heard that it’s really good! (Laughter)

Will” premieres July 10 on TNT.

Featured Image By: Matt Darlington

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