Sam Zvibleman (‘PEN15’ director and co-creator) on diving into ‘deeper emotional’ moments with stars Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I think the performances are even better this year,” praises “PEN15” director Sam Zvibleman when discussing the accolades Season 2 of Hulu’s hit comedy has received. The series stars his co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as middle schoolers and awkward social outcasts in the year 2000. “Maya and Anna were obviously wonderful the first season. I think they got to dive into maybe some deeper emotional stuff. The world of middle school sort of pummels them a bit harder and they really got to show off their dramatic acting chops.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Zvibleman co-wrote the pilot episode, but stepped in to direct the last four episodes of Season 1 and the entirety of Season 2. “In the first season those episodes in the back half were getting to some of the potential of what the show could be,” he explains when describing his decision to direct. “I think we’re interested in evolving the show into making sure it’s about loving these characters and following them. Those episodes turned out and I was given the option to do as many as I want and I said, ‘Well I want to do all of them.'”

“To be totally honest, I think the three of us are still like that,” Zvibleman jokes when asked how he finds the words to script the overly dramatic and cringe-worthy world of a teenager. “Anna and Maya still behave like that. We’re still like that at parties. We’re still very awkward and obsessed with every little detail. So frankly, those things come from who we are now, for better or worse.”

Zvibleman pulls double duty as director and writer of two episodes in Season 2: “Pool” and “Opening Night.” He describes some of his favorite moments from each, including a scene in which Maya swims over to her schoolmate Brandt, only to be rejected by him and ultimately consoled by Anna. “I love that sequence,” he admits. “I sort of fell in love with Maya’s bowl haircut from the first season and I asked [our hairstylist] to make it a touch bigger this season because I liked it in camera. When I shot it I wanted it to be almost like this shark fin approaching this kid, Brandt, who wants nothing to do with her. So in his mind it’s like horror, but in Maya’s mind it’s like this big, sweeping romantic moment with the music.”

Zvibleman has been nominated for three Writer’s Guild Awards for scripting “Pen15.” He goes on to describe what ended his theater career, filming the popular dance montage in the season finale, the talented young cast and how the series addresses slut shaming, sexuality and changing bodies.

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