‘PEN15’: Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s Real Childhood Photos Were Used in the Credits

When it comes to coming-of-age shows, one of the latest to resonate with those who were middle school kids in the late nineties is the Hulu original television series PEN15. The series follows two middle school girls, Anna and Maya, through their adventures being best friends, but also being a couple of outsiders when it comes to their peers.

The two actors who play Anna and Maya, Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine, have drawn from their own real-life experiences to help create a world that is familiar to many who grew up around the same time. They are so intertwined with their characters’ experiences that they even use their real middle school photos in the opening credits.

‘PEN15’ is a semi-fictional account of personal experiences for the show’s creators

PEN15 isn’t just a show about the awkward years for those who grew up in the nineties. It is also a mashup of personal experiences of the show’s creators. Konkle and Erskine wanted to highlight the weird space between being a kid and being a teen by using a variety of their own experiences for their characters on the show.

Although the series is set in middle school, Erskine and Konkle did not meet each other until college, but that is where they became fast friends. They discovered that they had similar middle school experiences, and that is where they found the catalyst to create the show together.

What heightens the level of awkwardness in the show is that Erskine and Konkle are in their thirties playing thirteen, and most of their costars are much closer to the actual age that they play, except for when obvious body doubles are used in the more romantic scenes. It sets them apart from the crowd and highlights how important their friendship is when the rest of the world seems totally different.

Real Photos of Erskine and Konkle were used in the show’s opening                                                                                                             

A unique part of the show is that the stars, Erskine and Konkle, are adults playing roles of middle school kids. However, when it comes to the photos that flash across the screen during the opening credits, fans will notice that these photos are of Erskine and Konkle at the age they are playing on screen, around thirteen years old.

This was an important move for the creators of the show because they wanted to show the unglamorous side of growing up, and what better way to show that than letting the world see their awkward childhood photos?

Some ‘PEN15’ storylines were taken directly from real experiences

Maya and Anna sit awkwardly by the pool in season 2, episode 1 of 'Pen15.' Maya wears a light blue tankini swimsuit with pink flowers and Anna wears a navy blue tankini.
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in ‘Pen15’ | Erica Parise/Hulu

Erskine and Konkle wanted the show to be as authentic as possible, so they decided to take many of their real middle school experiences and put them directly into the show. Some of the stories that were included from real experiences include the episode where the girls want to imitate the Spice Girls, the episode that features Anna’s first kiss and her disappointment in the experience, and the episode that focused on the girls communicating through AIM, even down to the screennames that they used.

The show also uses people from Erskine and Konkle’s real life. The woman who plays Maya’s mom on the show is Erskine’s own mother. Erskine even had a role for her boyfriend Michael Angarano in season two where he plays the drama teacher, Greg Rosso.

In the future, Erskine and Konkle are interested in adding more real-life experiences to the show and also maybe taking it out of the middle school years to see how the friendship would work in other situations.

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