“It was all about the most creatively fulfilling experiences I could imagine in my entire life and was like a recipe for fire,” says Konkle.
On November 29, it was announced that Huluaward-winning comedy”Pen15“Will end with the release of the remaining eight episodes of the second season on Friday, December 3. It’s horrifying news for fans of the series, which premiered in February 2019, It seems that the critically acclaimed latest film comes to an abrupt conclusion, another singular show that disappeared too soon.
But this isn’t Netflix canceling “GLOW” or Comedy Central axing “Detroiters,” Freeform’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay,” or even Hulu’s “High Fidelity.” Because the decision to conclude “Pen15” has nothing to do with Hulu and everything to do with the women calling the footage, a fact was made very clear during a recent FYC event for the series.
“Pen15” is the story of a 13-year-old best friend in 2000, Anna Kone (Anna Konkle) and Maya Ishii-Peters (Maya Erskine), as they try to navigate the pain and humiliation of middle school as kids who don’t quite fit. What’s puzzling is that real-life best friends Konkle and Erskine are both women in their 30s, portraying fictional versions of themselves, while being surrounded by a young cast.
Konkle and Erskine not only starred in the series, they were involved in almost every aspect. The women co-created the series with Sam Zvibleman (who departed the show before producing upcoming episodes) and took on the roles of executive producer, writer, and now director. And then the pandemic hit. With only seven days of filming left, production was halted until it was safe to resume work and in the meantime, both women gave birth and are currently promoting the final episodes of the series. while raising a child with your partner.
It’s exhausting just writing like that.
And yet, they both shined at the FYC event held at The London in West Hollywood, where two new episodes of the series, “Bat Mitzvah” and “Granny” were shown to a group of members of Screen Actors. The guild was warm and responsive. This was followed by a Q&A session with Erskine and Konkle, who discussed the factors involved in choosing to end the series now, as well as how their characters have evolved over time. audience for them and more.
Alex Lombardi / Hulu
“When we first talked about doing the show 10 years ago, we talked about it in three chapters. And even though [these episodes] called [Season] 2B, this is like a third season for us,” Konkle said. She goes on to explain that if the first season focuses on “firsts” and the second focuses on identity, the third covers adulthood and adult experiences, including death, drugs, sex, etc.
“It feels like we made it. And now,” said Konkle. “The other part of it was, we learned that performing, acting, producing, those are all the most creatively accomplished experiences I can imagine in my entire life and like a recipe to burn yourself out.”
Erskine added that because Maya and Anna never grow old, stuck in the endless hell of adolescence and seventh grade, running indefinitely would betray the show’s pretentiousness.
While painful, the choice to end the show was not forced on them by Hulu, but a carefully considered decision by the couple who felt it was the right thing to do.
Much like what Erskine and Konkle have done in previous seasons, the addition of director duties also gives them a new look at the series and new experiences that make the emotional pursuit even more intense.
For Erskine, that means taking the reins of an episode — titled “Yuki” for reasons that will immediately become apparent — that plays out entirely from the point of view of Yuki, Maya’s mother (Mutsuko Erskine). ) and delves into the life, past and present, of the woman who left Japan to raise her family in America. Complicating matters emotionally, Yuki is played by Erskine’s mother, whose own life story is close to what is depicted in the series.
“The premise for the episode is to take you away from the childish view of people and put Yuki first and center as a woman, not through [Maya’s] her lens, so she doesn’t [her] Mom, she’s just a woman,” Erskine said. “And while I was directing, I kept saying, ‘Mom, stop!’ and I will talk to her as a daughter but not as a director. At one point she asked me to stop calling her mother. She was like, ‘I’m Yuki. Call me Yuki. ‘ So she became this actress right in front of my eyes and it became this meta experience with this episode because I no longer see my mother as my mother, I see her as a strong woman, a smart woman, in addition to talent, it brought me to tears. ”
For Konkle, the fact that she wrote and directed the episode “Luminaria” also evoked deep emotions, but for much less interesting reasons. The episode featured Anna and Maya taking part in a cancer walk, which was planned long before she received the news that her father had been diagnosed with cancer. In fact, the very weekend she was due to write the episode, she visited her father and learned of his diagnosis.
“[My dad] played it as if he had a cold but when I saw him I knew it wasn’t true. I didn’t write the script until he passed away because every weekend was spent taking care of him and it was hard,” she said.
Konkle’s father passed away just two months after being diagnosed, while “Pen15” was filming the latest episodes.
“As it got closer, and had to actually write it and then actually film it, it felt like, did I give this to someone else? We can’t write a new episode because we don’t have time. This is happening. And then I chose, with [Erskine’s] support, to rely on. ”
“We wrote this storyline during the season where Anna and Maya first encountered death, and this episode was about dealing with death completely,” said Konkle. “It’s scary when all of that happens, but it’s a gift, and it’s so hard to get over it. But it was also invigorating and made me feel connected to my father. And it has continued to do that. ”
In many ways, “Pen15” has always been about family. Not only because family dynamics play a prominent role in how young people see themselves, and not even because Maya and Anna’s family serves as a familiar backdrop for many of their adventures, but because the core relationship of “Pen15,” the friendship between Erskine and Konkle, illustrates a found family that so many people create for themselves every day.
“I never thought this could be life. Konkle said. “And I think we went beyond the most beautiful friendship, which is definitely…”
“Family,” Erskine said.
“To write and work and manage a business together and a creative endeavor and all that, it’s challenging and fulfilling, complex and beautiful and all these things. And it was a whirlwind. Life hasn’t stopped yet, it’s been 15 hours a day for years,” said Konkle. “So there’s a part of me that’s scared to stop. And I still haven’t fully processed that it’s over.
“But I missed you,” she told Erskine.
“Don’t miss me because you still see me every day,” Erskine said. “It’s hanging out with your best friend every day…”
“As an adult,” Konkle added.
“As adults, and we can express our intense, unwavering love through our 13-year-old selves. Who will do that? We’re doing it every day and it’s a gift. And yes, it sucks,” Erskine said through tears, “It would be really sad. But I’m happy to think about us 10 years from now, where we’ll be and how we’ll look back on it. ”
It’s possible that Anna and Maya’s adventures will end here, but there’s much to comfort in the fact that Konkle and Erskine’s adventures will continue.
Season 2B of “Pen15” will be available to watch on Hulu starting Friday, December 3.
https://www.indiewire.com/2021/12/pen15-maya-erskine-anna-konkle-end-series-fyc-1234682826/ ‘Pen15’ Not Canceled, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle Explain at FYC