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Maya Erskine Joins the RomCom Renaissance With her New Film Plus One

The PEN15 star discusses her new indie film with Jack Quaid.

Maya Erskine is having a pretty great 2019. Her hilarious teen comedy series PEN15 premiered to rave reviews. Erskine co-created and stars in the series with Anna Konkle, where the duo play versions of themselves at 13 years old. As if that weren’t enough, Erskine also appears in Amy Poehler’s Wine Country, and stars in the upcoming romantic comedy Plus One.

Plus One is a charming, wickedly funny film starring Erskine and Jack Quaid (The Boys) as college friends Alice and Ben, who make a pact to be each other’s plus ones in order to get through a long summer of weddings. While the pact starts out as a way for them to be each other’s wingman, feelings soon start to develop between the two. The film was written and directed by Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, who attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with Erskine, but didn’t know each other until all three moved to LA. Chan and Rhymer also worked on PEN15 with Erskine.

After a spate of formulaic retreads all but doomed the genre, romantic comedies are back in a big bad way. And honestly, it couldn’t come at a better time. As the news cycle continues to grind us all down, there’s nothing like the buoyant escapism of a romcom to lift our spirits. But this new breed of romcom isn’t your typical Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock fare (although we love those). Newer films like Always Be My Maybe, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and The Big Sick forgo shallow slickness for interesting characters, diverse casts, and original storytelling.

We sat down with Erskine to discuss Plus One, romantic comedies, and what season two has in store for the girls of PEN15.

THE MARY SUE: We’re in the midst of this romcom renaissance right now, which is really exciting. Why do you think so many people are craving this genre right now?

MAYA ERSKINE: Well, I grew up loving romantic comedies, I love the classics like When Harry Met Sally, and I even like some of the teen romcoms like 10 Things I Hate About You. I think we sort of went away from it because it started to become formulaic, I think a lot of the romcoms that came out, some of the authenticity and depth that made a movie like When Harry Met Sally so great, and it was so specific and relatable.

After that, there was this barrage of romantic comedies that just kind of seemed to emulate or copy the formula without really giving the good feelings, at least for me. So I think people got tired of it, and I think right now, for one, I think in movies things go in cycles, where things can go away and come back, and so for now, I think that’s where we’re at romcoms. Also, I think that right now people just want to feel good! It can be a really depressing atmosphere right now, so I think that’s part of it. I think people want to feel joy, and also be able to go to the movies and cry!

TMS: What made you excited to tell this story?

ME: I think what separates this movie from other romantic comedies is that it’s really easy to make a relationship seem perfect, and that’s what we think we want when we watch these movies. You know, you have the meet cute and it works out perfectly, and then they break up, but then he finds you at the bridge and you know, he professes his love for you and everything’s great, but in reality, there are problems in relationships.

It’s not always perfect and that’s okay! It’s okay to be flawed, and that’s what so beautiful about Plus One is you’re seeing two friends fall in love that have a very flawed relationship. They’re two flawed people with their own baggage but you still root for them and admire their relationship, so I think that’s something that is really special to me about this movie.

PEN15's Maya and Anna stare into the camera with pre-teen distain

(Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in PEN15. image: Hulu)

TMS: Can you tell us anything about what’s in store for season 2 of PEN15?

ME: We’re starting next week, but we’ve been brainstorming on our own, and we have some ideas from last season that we didn’t get to do. With our first season, we treated like our only season, like we only had one chance to tell this story, what was everything we wanted to fit in that we could. So we jammed a lot in there, but we definitely want to see Maya and Anna keep evolving, even if they stay in seventh grade, so we’ll probably explore some mature content and get into some darker themes. They’ve been exposed to more, so their innocence is waning a bit.

The series is such a love story to those two girls and to that friendship that is really the emotional cornerstone of the series.

ME: We didn’t realize going into it that that would be such a big part of the show, their friendship. We always knew it was there, but that really was the arc we told in the first season. It was the heart of the show. It’s a ride or die friendship … I can’t imagine not having a person like that when you’re going through all the trauma you go through in middle school, when everything feels like a matter of life and death.

Plus One will be released June 14 in theaters, VOD and Digital HD.

(image: RLJE Films)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.