Were ‘PEN15’ Stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle Really Friends in Real Life?

The show PEN15 is popular for many reasons – it’s certainly hilarious enough to attract plenty of fans. However, what really drives the show is the comedic chemistry of the two leads, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. The duo’s chemistry is so palpable that one would almost have to believe they’re actually friends in real life. So, are they? Read on to find out if Erskine and Konkle, who play best friend characters on the series, are actually friends outside the show. 

The dynamic duo of ‘PEN15’ 

Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine at a PEN15 press conference
Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine of PEN15 | Vera Anderson/WireImage

Konkle and Erskine are friends in real life. According to E! Online, the two star as middle school versions of themselves in the PEN15 series set in 2000. The show first debuted in 2019, and its second season was released during the pandemic in September 2020. 

While PEN15 is a dramatized comedy, both actors use real-life experiences from their younger years to inspire the storylines. Erskine said the experience of doing this got quite emotional, almost sending her back in time: 

“It’s another thing to be on set and then relive those moments because you’re actually trying to go back to that time in your brain, and so I was overwhelmed when those emotions came up so quickly.”

Erskine and Konkle being friends isn’t super surprising; they work on a hit show together, after all. However, you may be surprised to know just how long the two have been close. 

How long have Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle been friends in real life? 

When a show is based on two people being best friends, they had better either have dynamic chemistry or sell it convincingly through great acting chops. In the case of Erskine and Konkle, they don’t have to fake it. According to The Things, the pair have been friends for a long time, well before the show debuted. Despite playing a pair of 13-year-olds, both actors are in their 30s and first met when they were in college.

The fact that the two met during their formative years has no doubt helped the series. While they met a few years after they were in high school, they have a long and storied history together. There’s no question that has led to familiarity and comfort when the two interact behind the camera. So, how do the two feel about their longtime friendship? 

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s real-life interactions bleed into ‘PEN15’

Because Erskine and Konkle are so close, they have had plenty of opportunities to interact both off-camera and on camera. That indubitably helped them make their characters’ experiences feel more realistic as they interact. 

In an interview with Vulture, Erskine and Konkle touched on many topics, including interacting outside the show. Erskine referenced one moment on the show that felt like something they would say to each other in real life: 

“A great example is when we’re having a fight backstage and we’re talking to each other like, ‘I’m allowed to give you constructive criticism.’ It’s a little bit of a stretch for 13-year-olds to talk that way, but we just wanted to give a slight nod to when we have these conversations: ‘Okay, I’m really happy with the work you’re doing, but I just have to say you yell a lot, and it’s really upsetting me.'”

The years of knowing each other have helped this friendship blossom into a fruitful creative partnership. It’s possible that the show could be just as successful if they weren’t already friends, but fans of PEN15 likely wouldn’t want to change a thing about the two leads’ history together. 

RELATED: ‘PEN15’ Creators Tell Real, Sad, Hilarious Stories From Their Time in Middle School