In Hulu’s coming-of-age comedy PEN15, creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle celebrity as versions of themselves reliving the trials, pleasures, and load shorts that defined the flip-of-the-century tween experience. For two comedians raised in the ’90s, who better to solid as a parent than one in every of that decade’s sitcom stars? Home Improvement’s Richard Karn, ingrained in millennial memories as the plaid-clad Al Borland, takes at the function of Maya’s father, who in PEN15 is the drummer for a Steely Dan cowl band that performs hotel swimming swimming pools. In real lifestyles, Erskine’s father Peter is a a hit jazz musician who’s played with the real Steely Dan, amongst others. We talked to Karn approximately taking over the position, selecting up drumming recommendations from the real Mr. Erskine, and the chance of a Home Improvement revival.
So, Maya Erskine forged her actual mother to play her mom inside the show, however, brought you in to play her father. Was it intimidating to take on such a non-public function? What became the casting process like?
Well, it turned into final summer time, and I didn’t know whatever about the display itself. I had visible Maya on a display that she had finished in Florida, she becomes pretty super on that. I’m blanking on the name of that show — it becomes approximately a health worker. I was given a name to play her dad, and it’s humorous, due to the fact until I met him, I wasn’t pretty sure why I, in particular, got this name. But I appearance a lot like her dad! Who’s a international-elegance drummer, using the manner. He turned into in [’70s jazz fusion band Weather Report] and the entirety. So he helped me appear like I recognize a way to drum.
What kind of guidelines did he provide you with?
He simply helped me with how he holds the sticks. There’s a group of various styles — you’ve got Ringo, who does the move-over, and you’ve got him, that is extra parallel. He gave me an aptitude for what he did. My character isn’t quite as well-known as him due to the fact Maya desired me to be in a Steely Dan cover band, so I’m in a band known as Stealing Dan. Which, you recognize, it required simple rock-and-roll drumming.
Do you have got a favorite drummer?
Well, let’s see. When you’re in excessive school, you learn how to drum in elegance for your notebook. There were some runs from “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” or “Wipeout,” or maybe Ringo Starr had one little drum solo on the end of Abbey Road. I guess the biggest component changed into looking Buddy Rich on Ed Sullivan, due to the fact he has become famous in an ordinary way for being a drummer.
Did you ever play a tool yourself?
I took saxophone in elementary faculty, and I were given to wherein I may want to rattle off a quite exact “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
It appears like you can relate to Maya’s situation within the display, wherein she’s a subpar instrumentalist in a school musical.
Oh God, that episode turned into a lot amusing to do. Working with Maya, the script is there, however, every now and again you go sideways a bit. It became a laugh filming it. It didn’t sense like Home Improvement, like a series in which you rehearsed and then did it in front of a target market. It changed into greater like doing an independent movie for a few months.
Was it odd to behave throughout from Maya’s actual-existence mom Mutsuko Erskine, in view that she is aware of your position better than you do?
Well, I recognize I loved it. And for no longer being a skilled actor, she becomes very adorable and herbal — and she or he knew that position internal and out due to the fact she became that function. She was Maya’s mom! She wasn’t trying to do more than what she becomes. And she never cited to me, “Oh, you ought to try this because it’s greater like my husband might have carried out.” We were given alongside nicely.
The display is about within the 12 months 2000, which obviously for the creators become a nostalgic time.
Yeah, which doesn’t resonate with me that a great deal. It’s not like going to the ’60s or ’70s, which for me would be nostalgic. But the only thing about the 12 months 2000, I guess, is the reality that there wasn’t as plenty social media. That’s a big issue. You needed to do stuff over a landline telephone.
What changed into that yr like for you?
The yr 2000 was very thrilling, as it changed into the yr after Home Improvement finished. I had eight superb years of doing a regular process, and then it turned into a kind of like leaving college, in a manner. All of a sudden, your time isn’t as dependent, you need to parent out what you want to do, what’s the following aspect to strive for and be part of. Plus, the year 2000 turned into all jumbled together with “Oh my God, we’re gonna go into a new century. Are the clocks gonna paintings?” There changed into all that bizarre hysteria.
How tons of the teenager experience depicted at the display is the same as it turned into when you came of age?
Gosh, I assume it’s quite similar. Even though you didn’t have the explosion of MySpace or Facebook or any of those early things, they had plenty of greater channels on tv. When I turned into growing up, you didn’t have at the back of-the-scenes stuff like VH1 or E! Entertainment. You knew the bands at face value, and in case you have been a real large fan, you will study their stories in magazines. For the kids growing up within the 12 months 2000, there were more records. So, you had extra of a transition from being oblivious to being state-of-the-art.
What type of kid had been you want while you had been thirteen?
Well, it was located out the way to address women for me. It’s nevertheless without a doubt hard because you’re trying to navigate a majority of these exceptional businesses. And who are you? Are you the cool child, are you the nerd, are you the athlete, are you the popular one, are you the shy one? Today, it’s still gonna be a whole lot of the same human reactions and traits.
Given Erskine and Konkle’s a while, they probable grew up watching Home Improvement, right? Did they ask you approximately the show?
Yeah, they grew up with it, and they watched it with their households. That’s the first-rate issue about being in a show like that — it changed into very famous with kids who then are grown-up, and they come up to me now and say that I became a large a part of their childhood. It’s now not sincerely approximately me anymore; it’s about how the show stimulated a technology of human beings.
In one scene, you can see a Jonathan Taylor Thomas poster on Anna’s bed room door. And since you’re at the display, that might mean someone else must have played Al Borland in the PEN15 universe. Any concept who it may’ve been?
Well, it can be my son now. Oh God, thank you for that concept! I would possibly pitch it to the writers.
Is your son vintage sufficient to play Al?
Oh, yeah. He’s younger than when I started but he seems to like me.
Keep it inside the family.
Speaking of, will there ever be a Home Improvement reboot or reunion?
Great strides are being made. Tim [Allen] desired to reboot Last Man Standing, so he’s taking a yr or some thing to accomplish that. After that, perhaps we’ll observe Home Improvement. We’ll see what the producers have in save. It’ll be thrilling to see wherein people become two decades later and if we can maintain something that’s exciting for humans to watch.
What stage of talks has there been?
They are talking to the actors who could be there. I assume they’re all in accord. The manufacturers that are Wind Dancer and Disney just must come to phrases. They had a little bit of a falling out they’re trying to rectify.
Any concept what the display would appear to be?
Yeah … we don’t have Wilson, manifestly. So Tim thought it would be an amazing concept to have all people meet at his funeral. That could be a tremendous jumping-off factor. What would Al have were given into? Maybe he might end up a contractor once more, or perhaps he might have every other little display like Yankee Workshop. I assume that might be quality.