Remember all those horrible moments of junior high school that you repressed in order to get on with your life? Hulu's PEN15 is ready to give you nightmares by digging them up for all the world to see.
The series was written by, created by, and stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as Maya and Anna, middle school versions of themselves at the turn of the millennium who just want to survive their awkward, formative years. Season 2 is coming Friday, Sept. 18, and the trailer shows that life for Maya and Anna is as delightfully cringey as ever, with pool parties, boys, and hormones doing all they can to make their lives difficult.
Behind all the bumbling adventures in smoking, school dances, and getting to second base, PEN15 is also a heartwarming look at friendship, with the two besties' relationship surviving a rocky road toward the end of Season 1. The series also portrays difficult topics like divorce through the eyes of the kids who are pulled apart, something that will continue to eat away at Anna in Season 2.
But my favorite part of the show is the juxtaposition of Erskine and Konkle, both actress in their 30s, acting alongside performers who are middle-school aged, particularly when goofy tween romance is involved. Sam (Taj Cross) and Maya's burgeoning relationship is a shipper's dream, for example, but there are legal limits to how much they can show given the difference in age between actors. So how do they skirt it? Body doubles and distance.
"It was this fine line of obsession and following and trying to get close," Erskine said at a PEN15 digital panel Friday of Maya pursuing her new aloof crush, Brandt, in Season 2. "But I think what also saved us [was this] huge wall of rejection" that Brandt put up, allowing for a very real, relatable feeling we all had with our crushes growing up while also keeping things legal. Yet at the same time, Erskine and Konkle know how important it is to show the kisses when they happen, so they use body doubles in those situations, and hired adult actors to play high school kids for Season 2's more mature themes.
Maya and Anna hanging out with high school kids? Sounds like a disaster in the making that we can't wait to watch.
PEN15 returns for Season 2 on Friday, Sept. 18 on Hulu.