Rainbow Crew is an ongoing interview series that celebrates the best LGBTQ+ representation on screen. Each instalment showcases talent working on both sides of the camera, including queer creatives and allies to the community.
Next up, we're speaking to Generation star Lukita Maxwell.
It takes a lot for any kind of teen show to stand out these days, especially in this post-Euphoria world we live in now. But Generation isn't like those other shows. For one thing, this is mostly a family affair as the majority of episodes are written, produced and directed by Daniel and Ben Barnz along with Zelda, their teenage daughter.
And because of Zelda's involvement, there's an authenticity here that similar shows are sorely lacking. That doesn't mean Generation is just a documentary-style look at high school though. Far from it, in fact.
Each episode in the first half of season one opened with a surprise teen pregnancy arc set entirely in the confines of a public toilet. But what started out as shocking and more than just a little absurd quickly evolves into something far more heartfelt as Delilah, the teen mother, decides to give her child up for adoption.
Digital Spy caught up with Generation star Lukita Maxwell to discuss Delilah's teen pregnancy story and why she found it tough to recover from filming those birth scenes. Along the way, we also chatted about AAPI representation and why watching the show's queer themes made her "sob".
What was your initial reaction when you first read the script?
Oh my God. When I first got the script, I put it on a pedestal. It wasn't an attainable job that I would be getting. This was one of those dream auditions that you're not even going to be seen for – in my head.
But I was like, "You know what? I'm going to have a f**k-ton of fun with this. I really, really like the character. I really like the writing. It sounds like somebody my age is writing it, or somebody close to my age who gets the world that I'm living in."
So I was really hyped about it. I was just in shock. I mean, the writing was insane! Also, it was right after Euphoria had come out, and I was obsessed with Euphoria. It's a queer HBO teen show. A dream role. Never going to get it.
A lot of people have been making those comparisons between Generation and Euphoria. How do you feel about them personally?
On paper, I can see why it's easy to compare the two, and see how they look like they're in the same world. But when you watch Generation, and when you watch Euphoria, it's all about the lens it's being portrayed through. Generation has the very specific lens of Zelda Barnz and all of the other writers.
But this Gen Z POV that's also jumping back and forth between all the different characters... as they shuffle around, it's kind of like the Gen Z human experience. When you're living your life and you're so caught up in your adolescent experience, you sometimes don't even know what's happening with the person next to you. So I think Generation captures that.
One thing that really sets Generation apart is the framing device used at the start of each episode. Obviously, your character played a really big role in that, especially in part one. How did you prepare for those birthing scenes in the mall?
When I got the role, I didn't know that I was going to be the girl in the bathroom. That was news to me. I got a call from the Barnzs. They basically told me, "Hey, remember the girl in the bathroom that's scripted? That's Delilah. We're keeping it a secret."
I asked if I could tell my mum [laughs]. Other than that, I didn't tell a soul.
The cast didn't even explicitly know while we were shooting. The only person that knew was Chloe East, who plays Naomi. But getting into the season, when we shot those episodes, I worked a lot with Rachel Flesher, the intimacy coordinator, who helped me through breathing exercises, who helped me through decompression exercises after the fact – because it was really, really emotionally and physically intense.
I think that I have grown so much on the show, but also so much because of those scenes – being able to completely put my trust in these two other actors, having that support from them, learning to trust the situation, and learning to trust myself, and to just completely let go, was really, really beneficial to my acting.
When we revisit the mall in episode twelve, in block two, we had to dig all that stuff up, because it had been months since we'd shot the previous scenes.
The first time I walked back onto that set in 1.12, my heart started racing, because the last time I had been there, I had been in so much… like, physical exertion. I had to study PTSD symptoms, and stress symptoms, and all of these things. I could not have done it without Rachel. She was incredible.
Did you find it hard to switch off after filming such intense scenes?
I have never had a child, and I cannot imagine how people actually go through childbirth, because it was very difficult. It took me a couple of days after shooting. I think we shot on a Thursday or a Friday, the birth scene itself, and it took me almost a week to recover. I kind of just couldn't really get out of bed, and I couldn't put my finger on what this headspace was.
I had really, really immersed myself in the scene, getting into Delilah's head. And also feeling physical betrayal in the way that she was. This was just my body's natural instinct, which I found interesting. I wasn't planning on that. But it did take a bit for me to whip back into shape after.
How do you feel about the way Generation explores teen pregnancy and the impact of Delilah's journey?
When Zelda spoke to me about the original idea, and what it morphed into – they wanted to take that worst-case scenario – quote unquote "worst-case scenario" – and show how beautiful that process can be, and how this group of people came together as a family to support this girl through this crazy event in her life.
I think they also wanted to share a personal, little nugget about the adoption storyline. Zelda was adopted, and they wanted to put in their experience as well, how much it meant to them, and how much of a positive experience it was for them.
Generation is intrinsically queer, and that's a big part of why it's resonated so much with fans. How do you feel about the way this show handles queerness in comparison to the industry at large?
Generation was the first time that I saw myself and my queer experience represented in TV or in media – or represented in general. I felt like it's such a specific lens, the Gen Z adolescent having a crush on somebody but not knowing if they like you. Just the whole falling in love process that isn't even sometimes as deep as falling in love.
All of these little moments that you catch, like the close-ups of Riley's eyes and Greta's hands and all of these little moments that you're thinking of when you're in the room with this other person, and you're freaking the f**k out, all of these flashes are going through your mind. I think that it was just a very specific lens. I had just never seen it before.
How did it make you feel, seeing yourself represented like that?
I sobbed. The first time I saw – it was episode five. It was the Riley and Greta storyline. Yeah, that one really got me. I was watching five with most of the cast – I just walked out of the room, and was wiping away tears.
I was like, "I feel like I'm falling in love again." It's exactly the same feelings. It gave me all the same feelings. The music, the lighting, them just lying in bed and looking at each other's hands. All of this stuff.
HBO recently asked you to appear on a panel celebrating AAPI representation. What did that mean to you personally?
I am not a very emotional person, but I also cried when I got that email [laughs]. It's not seeming like I'm not an emotional person from this conversation.
Having a platform like HBO reach out to you and not only ask you to share your story and share your opinion, but also integrate your work, especially in this whole collective that you love every single person in, and have been working so hard for your whole adolescence?
It meant the world. I was so, so honoured. All of the speakers, all of the photographers – SuChin Pak, are you kidding me? I was so honoured to be among that company. They are all such beautiful artists.
Is there anything you've found particularly challenging about this role?
I found block two quite a bit more challenging than the first block. When I started with Delilah, she has this very clear idea of who she is, and who she wants to be, what she wants the world around her to look like, and how she wants to change it. After the pregnancy, she's immediately trying to find some sense of normalcy in adolescence, and what that means to her.
So I think she's just very lost, trying to find different things that look like what normal looks like to her, because she doesn't want to be known as the teen mum. She doesn't want to be known as all of these things she's afraid that everybody will stereotype her as, including her parents.
Jumping into block two, Delilah not really knowing who she is, I had a hard time stepping into Delilah sometimes. Delilah acts very differently when she's with Riley than she does when she's with Naomi and Arianna. And she acts differently when she's with Cooper. All of these faces that she's trying to put on to all of these other kids, I think it's just very telling of adolescence, because that's what teens do.
You're trying to figure out who you are, you're trying to figure out who you feel the most comfortable with, and what face you want to put on to this person, to try and find who you are.
Generation airs on HBO Max in the US. A UK air date is yet to be announced.
This month, Digital Spy Magazine counts down the 50 greatest LGBTQ+ TV characters since the Stonewall riots. Read every issue now with a 1-month free trial, only on Apple News+.
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