PEN15: 9 Things You Never Knew About The Series
2023/09/13

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Maya Erskine's Mom Plays Maya's Mom On PEN15

Generally considered one of the smartest characters on PEN15, Yuki Ishii-Peters is Maya's mom and was actually played by Maya Erskin's real-life, Mutsuko Erskine. Though PEN15 is the elder Erskine's only credit thus far, she gave a naturalistic performance that only helped to make her interactions with Maya all the more real. So much of the drama and intrigue of PEN15 was the coming-of-age struggles of Maya and Anna, and their connections with their parents reflected real-life and heartfelt moments that brought the over-the-top comedy back down to Earth.

PEN15 Season 2 Was Delayed

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PEN15 hit the ground running when season 1 dropped on Hulu in February 2019, and season 2 came quickly with the release of the first seven episodes in September 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the production of the series which resulted in the second half of season 2 coming over a year later in December 2021. To overcome the appropriately awkward pause, the creators produced an animated special called "Jacuzzi" which aired in August 2021, and gained high praise from publications such as The Guardian.

Body Doubles Were Used In PEN15

Shows like PEN15 often rely on running gags, and one of the funniest repeated punchlines in the series was the visual humor derived from Erskine and Konkle playing middle school students despite being in their thirties.

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Though quite hilarious, that presented production challenges that had to be overcome using clever cinematic tricks. Body doubles were used for romantic sequences between Erskine and Konkle's characters and the kids in the series, and camera tricks were also used. Cheat Sheet revealed that Erskine and the production team spent a lot of time making sure "every person in the scene would be comfortable" when shooting.

Anna Konkle And Maya Erskine Decided To End PEN15 After Season 2

Though COVID delays fractured the production of PEN15 season 2, the series remained a popular addition to Hulu's lineup. However, PEN15's creators decided to end the show after season 2 and it went out on its own terms while still riding high.

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Though the long break made it seem as if the show ran for three seasons, it was actually two halves of one season, and PEN15 season 3 never materialized as Erskine and Konkle went on to pursue other endeavors. Considering how personal the series was for both its creators/stars, the decision to end PEN15 after season 2 was a sound one, instead of forcing things to continue.

Things Got Emotional On The Set Of Pen15

Though the cringe moments of PEN15 were often hilarious and reminiscent of the pain of the middle school years, they could sometimes be quite emotional as well. One of the hardest scenes to watch in season 1 came when Maya and Anna make a Spice Girls video with their classmates and Maya is ostracized for looking different from her peers.

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 The New Yorker revealed that Erskine actually broke down in tears during the painful sequence, and Konkle followed with some of the younger cast also responding to the emotional moment. However, Erskine said that the experience was a "lightbulb moment" helping uncover what the show was all about.

Maya's Real-Life Dad Is Credited On The Wild Things Soundtrack

Pouring a heaping helping of herself into the story of PEN15, Maya Erskine's mother wasn't the only real-life figure from her personal life well-represented in the series. In the show, Fred Peters (Richard Karn) is an approximation of Erskine's actual father Peter Erskine who is no stranger to the spotlight as well.

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In PEN15, Maya's dad Fred is a drummer, which is exactly what Erskine's father also does professionally. In PEN15 season 1, episode 8 "Wild Things", Maya and Anna watch Wild Things with a group from school. In real life, Erskine's dad Peter is credited on the soundtrack to the movie.

Maya Erskine And Anna Konkle Met In College

One of the things that made PEN15 such a great comedy was the connection between stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, and many of the events were drawn directly from their personal lives. Erskine and Konkle play middle school friends on the show, but they didn't meet until they were both adults.

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According to Distractify, Konkle and Erskine met in Amsterdam during an NYU study-abroad trip, and they soon began spending time with each other, becoming fast best friends in real life. Despite meeting later in life, the connection comes through strong in the series.

PEN15's Opening Sequence Used Real Photos

Each episode of PEN15 started with a collage of pictures of Maya and Anna underscored by the seminal riot grrrl song "DemiRep" by Bikini Kill. Surprisingly, the photos used in the series opening are actual pictures of Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle from their younger days. Cheat Sheet revealed that Erskine and Konkle dug through their things for pictures of themselves at the age they play on the series, long before camera phones came to be an everyday reality.

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The addition of the pictures is not only a humorous tidbit but also makes it clear from the opening credits that the comedy of PEN15 is personal.

Maya And Anna's Appearances Are Based On Their Childhood Looks

Used deftly to help viewers forget that they are watching women in their thirties play middle schoolers, Maya and Anna's signature looks were a hilarious distraction from the obvious discrepancy between them and their co-stars. The New Yorker revealed that Konkle and Erskine based much of their styling on their real middle school looks. Konkle had braces put on twice, while Erskine donned a bowl cut like the one seen in  Pen15. Erskine noted she was "made fun of for being hairy", and added a faint mustache to Maya for the show.

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