Megan McLachlan chats IRL with Pen15 actor Dallas Liu about technology in 2000 versus 2019, auditioning for the Hulu series, and whether being a teenager has changed in 20 years.
On Hulu’s critically acclaimed series Pen15, the message is that your high school years never really leave you. Stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play 13-year-olds—even though the two are thirtysomethings in real life.
I got to catch up with one of the teenage stars of the show, Dallas Liu, who plays Maya’s brother Shuji Ishii-Peters on the series, and we chatted about being a teenager in 2019 versus 2000, playing opposite adults, and what he thinks of AOL Instant Messenger.
Awards Daily: Congratulations on the series. How has it been for you, with everyone getting to experience the show now since it dropped on Hulu (February 8)?
Dallas Liu: It’s been really exciting. All of my friends and family from everywhere have just been supporting me constantly, saying how much they love the show. It’s just been such a great experience overall to have such a great project to come out and for all my friends to see it.
AD: Have your friends said they could relate to it?
DL: Yeah. Absolutely. For example, the gel pens, my girlfriends would hit me up, saying that was totally something that happened to them during middle school.
AD: What was the audition process like?
DL: The audition process was actually pretty quick for me. I went in for an audition and I ended up getting a callback. Then I had a chemistry read with Maya and Anna which went super well. I was actually about to leave for France and I ended up getting a call the same day, as I was leaving for the airport, saying that I booked the role and I was super excited.
I guess Maya and Anna liked how I portrayed Shuji, which was really nice. It was a really good read. I could tell as soon as I left the callback, I felt like I had a really good chance of booking the role.
AD: So you’re 17, and you’re working opposite 30-year-olds, who are supposed to be younger than you. Was that weird?
DL: Honestly, I found it really funny watching 30-year-olds portraying these 13-year-olds. I think they did a great job with it. There were numerous takes where I couldn’t stop laughing because Maya and Anna were so hilarious. It almost felt normal, like they were 13-year-olds. It didn’t feel super awkward; it felt natural.
AD: That’s something I really love about the show, how natural it feels. Even your relationship with Maya, as her big brother. How would you describe it?
DL: I would say it’s like a love-hate relationship, because Shuji teases her and is always annoyed with her, but in the end, he’s protective of her and is always going to be there for her. I think that’s one of the great parts. That’s a side of Shuji you don’t see very often, protecting his sister, which is really cool.
AD: But I sense that some flirtation between Anna and Shuji. Do you think they like each other?
DL: This is actually a really good question. I could sense the flirting as well. I think if we get renewed for a second season, we’ll see a little bit more between them. Because we don’t know who Shuji likes, and I think there’s a little flame between them.
AD: How do you think being a teenager in 2000 compares to being a teenager today?
DL: I would say we’re all going through puberty, so we all have an attitude, but I wouldn’t say it’s changed too much. We’re all just teenagers and we model after what we want to be like, so we’re all kind of followers. As you can see today, a lot of kids are making their own names for themselves and brands. I think it’s really cool how it is now, but I wouldn’t say it’s changed a lot.
AD: Did any of the technology surprise you? Were you aware of Instant Messenger and chat rooms?
DL: I had no idea what that was to be honest. AOL Instant Messenger, what?
AD: Oh my gosh. I used it all the time.
DL: If I was around then, it would definitely be something I’d be on.
Pen15 is now streaming on Hulu.