Each episode takes viewers inside a different student’s unique perspective, sometimes even reliving the same beer-filled party or history class, and each character is more intriguing than the next. The series was created by Zelda Barnz, 19, and her father, Daniel Barnz. The Barnzes serve as writers and executive producers alongside Lena Dunham.
Zelda, who came out as bisexual at 15 in a letter to her parents from summer camp, drew from her own experiences to create Genera+ion. “I wanted to see myself and the people I know on screen represented in the most fresh, real and authentic ways possible,” she tells Glamour. “I find it very confusing and weird and joyful and painful to be a teenager, and that’s what I want to see reflected in this show.”
The series stars a few familiar faces like Justice Smith and Martha Plimpton, and introduces a cast of newcomers including Chase Sui Wonders, Chloe East, Haley Sanchez, Lukita Maxwell and Uly Schlesinger. Here, Zelda, who counts Genera+ion as her debut project, talks to Glamour about the making of what’s bound to be your new favorite series.
GLAMOUR: What inspired you to create Genera+ion?
Zelda Barnz: When I was fifteen, I sent my parents a letter from summer camp. I described my bunk and the horrors of kitchen duty and ended with, “By the way, I’m bisexual. Love Z.” My parents—gay men, happily married 20-plus years–responded with a detailed account of how they planned to disown me and kick me out of the house. Their letter was signed, “We’re so proud of you, and we love you madly, Your Dads.” My brother had come out just a few months before me, and with this declaration of my sexuality, we realized our household was entirely queer. But we also realized that we looked at the world very differently, and out of some pretty hilarious dinner table conversations came the idea for a show that explored this generational divide.
The series delves deep into sexuality, and you and your father created the show together. For many people, talking to parents about sex—especially as a teen—can be uncomfortable. What was it like to work with your father in this regard?
ZB: I admit, talking to my dad about hickeys and other sex stuff was pretty weird and uncomfortable at first. But one thing I realized was that the show wasn’t going to work unless I was really honest, since the whole point was to try to get at something authentic. In a way, it was actually kind of freeing. I realized that in the context of talking about the show, I could also talk about my real life—I hadn’t expected that to happen.
Do you consider the series to be semi-autobiographical?
ZB: I consider the show deeply autobiographical in spirit, but it’s also definitely fictional. There’s a part of me in all these characters, but I’d say I identify most with Riley and Delilah. Riley’s our angsty teen artist who’s a bit unsure of herself at times. She’s a very loyal friend and deals with some mental health stuff that I relate to a lot. Delilah is our sometimes abrasive social justice warrior, who’s in way too many clubs and is still searching for her people. Even though we do explore the parents’ lives, we’re mostly telling the show from the kids’ perspectives. Which a lot of times means the parents are out of focus and wah-wah-ing in the background. Sorry, Dad.
We’ll update this post as more information about Generation on HBO Max becomes avaialable.