For many, the thought of traveling back in time to middle school might conjure painful memories of getting braces, mean girls, and sloppy first kisses. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, however, reveled in reliving their formative years when they played themselves as 13-year-olds across the first season of their joint Hulu series PEN15. Now, following the streaming giant’s announcement Wednesday that the series — set in the year 2000 — will return for a second season, Erskine is revealing a potential direction for upcoming episodes.
“We always knew the first season would straddle between childhood innocence and experimenting into teendom. So, [next] season, I think we’re going to pick up where we left off,” Erskine tells EW during an interview for her new movie Plus One (out June 14), stressing that writing has yet to begin for season 2, but she’s “fantasizing” about where Maya and Anna’s journey might lead. “We’re hoping to keep the show [about] Anna and I in 7th grade, forever. That’s what the whole concept of the show is about: that purgatory. It’s not about these two characters going to high school.”
Still, just because their journey won’t extend past junior high doesn’t mean the girls won’t grow up as the show progresses.
“We might see them explore darker and more mature things next season,” Erskine continues, fondly recalling season 1’s delicate balance between lighthearted, comedic nostalgia for early-2000s pop culture and weightier subjects. By the end of season 1, for example, not only had the youngsters smoked their first cigarette and dabbled in the art of wearing a thong, they’d also grappled with hard-hitting subjects like divorce, familial envy, and bullying. And Erskine hopes to push that dynamic even further.
“We don’t want to lose some of the sillier, zanier moments that are reminiscent of that time, because your logic at that time is crazy,” she says, adding that her and Konkle — both in their thirties — playing themselves while surrounded by actual teenage actors softens the show’s emotional blow. “I mean darker like, maybe we’ll have the girls experiment more, sexually, and go into more R-rated things! Anna’s parents just got divorced, so, seeing how that plays out would be interesting. Maya still has a secret from Anna about [having her first] period. How will that be revealed?”
“We’ve been talking about [doing] this show for six years,” Erskine continues of the goldmine of inspiration waiting to be explored in future episodes. “There’s a bible of stuff — all these ideas and stories.”
For now, at least one thing’s certain: That bible is definitely written in gel pen.
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