A few seconds into HBO Max's first Genera+ion trailer and you may be thinking: the second season of Euphoria looks different. But your edgy teen drama-loving eyes deceive you, as this new half-hour series is a creation all its own. Despite sharing DNA with shows like Euphoria or Skins, Genera+tion was created by an actual teenager. The series hails from 19-year-old Zelda Barnz and her director father Daniel Barnz (Cake), with Lena Dunham executive producing.
Genera+tion also introduces the world to a "diverse group of high school students whose exploration of modern sexuality (devices and all) tests deeply entrenched beliefs about life, love, and the nature of family in their conservative community," according to a press release. Among those playing the adolescents are Justice Smith (Paper Towns), Nathanya Alexander (Ocean's Eight), Chloe East (Liv and Maddie), and Diego Josef (Goliath). Other recognizable faces include Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Misfits) as the school's guidance counselor.
Prior to the show's premiere, its creative team has already faced multiple scandals. Variety recently reported that real dead cats were used for a dissection scene, distressing some of the actors on set. A Twitter user with the handle @Lilith_Rosex wrote on Feb. 5, “Got word from a friend in the industry, HBO has a new show called Generation coming out. It’s produced by Lena Dunham and earlier this week they brought in real dead kittens for background to ‘dissect’ on set. No warning, people had trauma responses.” In a follow-up tweet, the user alleged that a camera operator had tested positive for COVID-19, tweeting, "This set needs to be permanently shut down."
An HBO Max spokesperson issued a statement to Variety that claimed:
"Everyone involved was informed in advance that this would be a sensitive scene involving a real dissection; the assistant directors checked in regularly with all participants on set, and two background actors who expressed discomfort were released with full pay. However, after subsequent discussion with the creative team, the scene is being reconceived and will not appear in the series. We deeply regret that this occurred."
Dunham, who said she didn't know real cats would be used for the scene, also told the outlet, "I fully support the scene being edited out of the show."
As for how Genera+ion will differentiate itself from other teen shows, the creators are confident in their approach. “These are all very different stories,” Daniel Barnz said during the Critics Television Association tour on Wednesday, according to Deadline. “We’re in a new zeitgeist now where we’re accurately depicting adolescence what life is like.” He later added, “Zelda wanted to reflect actual experience of teenagers, which sometimes is kind of random and weird. We wanted to reflect that in the storytelling as well.”
The first three episodes of Genera+ion premiere on HBO Max on Mar. 11. Two additional episodes drop on Mar. 18, two more on Mar. 25, and another on Apr. 1. Eight more episodes will debut later this year.