Mum's The Word For Penny

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On ALL MY CHILDREN, Sydney Penny's Julia had her fair share of trouble and angst as a young woman. Perhaps that experience will help the actress relate to her new role as Leona, the mother of tormented teen Mona Vanderwaal on ABC Family's PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. But how much does Leona really know about Mona's disturbing activities? "Leona is aware to the degree that mothers are aware of things," Penny chuckles. "I think that she sees her daughter in the way that parents see their children: in the very best light and in a protective way."

Continued after the jump

Yep, Mona could definitely use some direction, and when her mother is introduced in the mid-season finale, airing Tuesday, August 26, at 8 p.m. EST, we might understand why. "It's seriously top secret, so I'm picking things up as we go along," admitted Penny during taping. "I can tell you that theirs is a different relationship: It's a young woman and her single mother making their way together... there's a different flavor to it than it would be if there were a man in the household."

It Felt Like A Reunion
Penny was excited about working again with Janel Parrish (Mona), with whom she appeared last year on an episode of Hallmark's HOME & FAMILY. "I'm so flattered when people tell me that we look alike," Penny offers. "She's delightful, talented and funny... it's lovely for me to have her as one of my television children. I'm beginning to collect them now."

The actress was also happy to be sharing the set with Ashley Benson (ex-Abigail, DAYS OF OUR LIVES), who is the granddaughter of an old family friend, and to be working for showrunner Joseph Dougherty, with whom she'd worked on HYPERION BAY on that same Warner Bros. lot years before. "It's sort of like the way people might feel that their high school, you know?" she says of her fondness for the place. "It's really like going home for me, so I'm thrilled to be there."

Surf's Up!
It will be early 2015 before PRETTY LITTLE LIARS returns for the second half of season five. To see more of Penny before them, catch her in the UPtv original family film, The Perfect Summer, which was released this month on video. "Eric Roberts (ex-Vance, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS) plays a champion surfer who lost his way — along with his family — but has since turned his life around," Penny says. "I play his daughter and when my son and I arrive in his life, it gives him the opportunity to forge a new relationship with me and get to know his grandson by teaching him to surf."

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