Conversation with Taj Cross (HULU’s PEN 15)
At the young age of fourteen-years-old actor, Taj Cross is someone who can capture an audience through his personality and skills that surpass his age. Starring in the upcoming new Hulu original scripted series “PEN15” premiering Friday Feb. 8th Taj plays Sam, a young student going through all the awkward experiences of middle school. Casted as a male lead alongside Pen15’s show leads Maya Erskine (“Insecure”) and Ann Knonkle (“Rosewood”), Taj is sure to stand out in many ways than one!
Vulkan: Tell us about PEN15. What role do you play and what can we expect from the show?
Taj: Pen15 is a show about the two leads, Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine. In real life they’re adults and they play themselves as 13-year-olds, trying to find popularity and trying to fit in and be “cool”. My character is Sam, based off one of the writers, named Sam Zvibleman and he is a lovable, semi D-bag who has a “dork” posse that ends up making some questionable decisions.
Vulkan: Did you get the innuendo of the title when you first saw the script?
Taj: When I first saw it, I actually didn’t understand it. I finally understood it when I was going out for my last audition for it. I was studying my script and I took a look at the lines and peaked at the title and instead of the word PEN15 that I’ve been reading it this whole time, the “P” “E” “N” “1” “5” just formed into the word “penis”. So I’m super confused for five seconds…I was thinking “Did they send me the wrong audition, am I going out for something I don’t know about?” Then I just realized it was just a teenage joke that’s really funny.
Vulkan: Tell us about your favorite scene filming?
Taj: My favorite scene is probably my first day on set. My first day on set was a scene in a car and it was SO HOT outside. After every take, we had to roll down the windows because we were all sweating so much. That was my favorite scene because I got to improv with Maya and Anna and they were just so nice and loving.
Vulkan: Tell us about your worst experience filming?
Taj: I did. It was actually another car scene. We were driving around and the scene itself was so cool. I was holding back from laughing, improvising. The thing that was bad about it was I had to pee SO bad. I was holding it in. I was sitting there so uncomfortably, and I didn’t want to make a fuss to the director. I was hoping “OMG. Please tell me this is the last take, tell me this is the last take so we can turn around”.
Vulkan: What did you like most about being on set?
Taj: The best part about being on set was hanging out with actors and actresses especially Dylan Gage who plays Gabe on the show. He was such a cool person. He was like funny. After every scene, we would just go into our little waiting room and find something to entertain us and we would do that until we went back on.
Vulkan: This is essentially your first role. Did anyone on set give you any pointers.
Taj: I actually did not get any pointers or suggestions. There were just all super welcoming and super nice. I liked how they were very comfortable with me even though it was my first job.
Vulkan: How was it putting yourself in character.
Taj: It was actually really easy. What I did do to prepare for this role: all I had to do was step up my douchiness a little bit and step down my coolness and Sam is born.
Vulkan: Tell us something people may not know about you?
Taj: I recently started painting. I paint whatever comes to my mind. I’m thinking my next painting is going to be a question mark with drips on the side. So very random.
Vulkan: Do you think the show will go into season 2? Is there a cliffhanger or anything we should expect from the end of season 1 that we can look forward to?
Taj: Well I don’t think I can give you a direct spoiler or Hulu would get mad at me. I would get in trouble for that. It is based off of 13-year-olds, most of the people there are 7th graders / 13-year-olds and being once a 13-year-old myself, we usually make a lot of mistakes. A lot of things come up and will just have to see when the show comes out.