Hulu’s Pen15 is an opus to that era in middle school when all of us were just awkwardly navigating our raging hormones while feeling like an outcast. The “traumedy” returns for a second season September 18 and the show’s creators and stars Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine took to the virtual stage after premiering the season 2 trailer (watch above) during CTAM to tell us that the series will still retain its humor, but expect a tinge of darkness.
At the top of season 2, the series goes deeper into Anna’s (Konkle) parents’ divorce and how she handles it. That said, divorce can get a bit tragic for a 13-year-old and Konkle struggled with how dark they wanted to go for the sophomore season when it came to this particular storyline which is reflective of Konkle’s own experience.
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“In real life, my parents split the house up for about 2 years — 2 wonderful, wonderful years — after the divorce,” she said. “It was really confusing and there was an attachment to them and to us as a family of course. At the same time, it was very tense and I wanted to share the low feelings that come with that and I wanted to address mental health essentially.”
She continued, “Those darker feelings started introducing themselves at 13 years old and we felt that could be real, honest and dark and also funny and magical. The fact that Maya and I got to have that story integrate with the fantasy of being witches and trying to control things and fix it — it was a really exciting unity of dark and crazy.”
Erskine praised Konkle for telling such a personal story adding, “That is what our show is aiming to do — to push the truth of what happened to us and a way to put it into our world that elicit humor, pain and sadness.”
As Konkle and Erskine play versions of their 13-year-old selves, they talked about how revisiting this age has given them new perceptions of themselves while they were in middle school.
“I have a bunch of different perceptions of myself in middle school,” said Konkle. “The more we’ve been doing the show and writing somewhat autobiographically, the more confused I get with who I was at that age.” She said by middle school, she started to figure out how to blend in a little bit more. At the same time, she admitted that she was freaking out inside, saying that she hid her of feelings of rejection and whats going on in your family life.
Erksine added to that. “You can have a certain perception of yourself and a memory of how you were like,” she explained. “Any time I describe myself at that age, I’m a complete outcast, barely had any friends, in pain and miserable… and then I look at yearbooks and I see these comments that are postitive.” She said that many people saw her as happy which was not what she was feeling on the inside.
“It’s an interesting way to look back now — like Anna said, you’re hiding the inner freaky parts of yourself and these secrets that make you an outcast in your mind,” said Erskine. “That age is when everyone starts developing insecurities and realizes that they’re not who they should be so they start adopting identities to fit in with everyone.”
Towards the end of the panel, Konkle said, “One of the biggest things that is different about our show is that there isn’t a happy ending or a lesson — but hopefully there are things that are coming through that are motivating or hopeful.”
She continued, “At the end of the day, we’re really trying to hold a mirror to our experiences and show it back in a way that’s funny and honest to us.”