‘PEN15’: Why Maya Erskine’s Real Mom Plays Her Mother On the Show

Middle school and teenage years are some of the most awkward times in a person’s life. No TV show has properly displayed the stark truth as Pen15 does. TV series have been airing teenage drama successfully and shows like Gossip Girl and iCarly highlight some of the best drama.

Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine smiling in a still from 'Pen15'
Anna Kone (Anna Konkle) and Maya Ishii-Peters (Maya Erskine) in Pen15 | Lara Solanki/Hulu

The first season is inspired by the actors’ real experiences during their most awkward years. Having one cast member that can comfort, tease, and understand the weirdness that is scripted helps, even if that one person you need is your mom.  

Pen15 shares the teenage dilemmas of the ’90s

Actors Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle created the series because of an awkward situation at a party, explains The Things. The actors are best friends and play the lead girls, who are best friends. The show accurately showcases what life as a teen was like in the ’90s. How teens obsessed over the music to the more intimate issues surrounding growing up.

Growing up is never easy and the next generation is not immune to the hormonally and socially driven obsessions. With comedy and without downplaying the actual difficulties that plague a teenager in middle school, Pen15 hits the nail on the head depicting the early teenage issues.

Season one hits hot button issues like changing bodies, attraction, and learning how to care for yourself. In episode three they hit a particularly intimate experience that consumes Erskine’s character and demonstrates how a changing body can distract a teen.

Even though awkward moments can be funny, they can also bring back haunting memories that hurt. It is no wonder Erskine wanted her own mom to be cast as her on-screen mother. Who better to share an awkward moment with than the mother who raised you?

Why did Maya Erskine want her mom cast?

As the two leading actors star as their character’s younger selves in Pen15, Erskine wanted the most accurate, and awkward performance possible. The best way to get her into the mindset of a 13-year-old? Cast her own mother to play her character’s mother. This move created the perfect mother since the characters are based on the actor’s experiences.

No matter the reason, the casting worked wonders bringing both Erskine and Konkle back to their teen years. Between the presence of mom, her actual teen best friend, and their combined memories, the show is an absolute success.

Both Konkle and Erskine pulled from their childhood memories to create the episodes. They included the moments they remember together at 13 as well as things Erskine’s mom taught them at that time. There were numerous embarrassing moments to select from, such as cooking, kissing practice, and shaving instruction.

Pen15 will have a future

The actors and creators have had a difficult time shooting the Pen15 show. Not only because of their own experiences but the age difference of the cast. Erskine and Konkle are at least two decades older than the rest of the teenage cast. The casting was intentionally aged this way to form an outcast and awkward feeling for the older stars. It led to some unintentional hardships with some scenes.

Intimate scenes required stunt doubles for the leading ladies so intimate scenes weren’t done with minors. Luckily, that saved Erskine from having to kiss younger actors in front of her own mother.

As season one streams on Hulu, there have been questions if the series will continue. The ’90s awkwardness and completely embarrassing moments will continue! Season two has been announced and will be coming to Hulu for all the ’90s teens to reminisce over the most awkward moments in their lives.

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