Six years ago, in 2013, Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine made a 15-minute mini TV pilot doing their damndest to pitch a show called PEN15. The comedy series would chronicle two dorky seventh graders living in the year 2000—in all their butterfly clip, braces-clad, achingly honest awkwardness. Konkle and Erskine’s idea was to base the 13-year-old characters on their own middle school experiences; they’d play the tween leads themselves (and keep their real names) but cast actual children as the rest of their on-screen peers: their popular-girl nemeses, their first boyfriends and sloppy first kisses (with body doubles, of course).
Best friends on screen and IRL, Erskine and Konkle, now 31, had never written for TV before PEN15. They’re comic actors, who met in college at an experimental theater workshop and quickly developed a level of obsessed intimacy similar to that you have with your middle school bestie. “After we graduated, we finally started making things together,” Konkle recalls. “It took a couple years out of school and our dreams being crushed to make something, but thank god that happened.” Six years ago, when Erskine and Konkle made that first pilot, they were busy acting in projects that prevented them from going all in on PEN15 (supporting roles on various medical dramas, guest spots on New Girl—that sort of thing). Plus, it wasn’t exactly effortless convincing networks to hop on board with a show depicting pubescent girls masturbating and huffing computer cleaner. But in 2018, when narratives authentically depicting female adolescence, like Eighth Grade and Ladybird, were on the rise, Hulu went Fuck it, why not? and laid claim to 10 episodes of PEN15. The first season of the show premiered earlier this year on February 8.
Source: Who What Wear – Amanda Montell