What would a show about teens be without at least one rager fueled by hormones and drugs?
In the season finale of HBO Max Generation (now available to stream, SPOILERS ahead!), a party at Riley’s house turned into a tornado of alcohol and emotion. Not only was there a breakup (Chester and Bo!) and a make-up (Riley and Greta !!), but the cliffhangers were plentiful, as Riley pulled up just before admitting her hotel connection with Greta, and later a mysterious suitor arrived to cheer her up. ‘a heartbroken Chester. (Do you have any idea who that might be? Drop your thoughts in the comments!)
Below, co-creators / executive producers Daniel and Zelda Barnz break down all the dramas, secrets, and heartaches that unfolded in the busy finale, and give us some clues as to what might be in store for the gang. in a potential Season 2.
TV LINE | Before we dive into the finale, can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Generation? What made you want to tell these specific stories?
ZELDA BARNZ | I went out when I was 15. Since then, I’ve started having all of these open and honest conversations about sexuality and identity with my family. It inspired this idea for a show that takes an honest and candid look at the identity of teens. It was something that was really important to me because I felt like by the time I was dating I saw a lot of media that described queer stories as very sad. There were stories of queer pain, suffering, and torture, and I wanted to see a show that celebrated queer joy. So, we started talking about these characters and this idea, and it turned into what it is now.
TV LINE | The way the finale is shot is a lot like the Richard Linklater movie Lazy, with the camera drifting throughout the party without a lot of cuts. How did you do it?
DANIEL BARNZ | It’s an incredibly nice reference, because I love this movie. We really wanted to end the season with a very immersive finale. We’ve thought a lot about how to build and film this to make you feel like you’re there at this party, and it feels as stressful and chaotic as it does for these characters. We realized that the way to do this was to not intersperse the scenes, so it felt like you were moving between them in real time. Zelda and I wrote it and I knew I was going to make it, so we were able to write knowing exactly how we wanted to shoot it.
When we shared the script with the cast, they were so excited. We took them all to Riley’s place on a Saturday and rehearsed the whole episode. We ran it like a play. Our phenomenal cinematographer Laura Goncalves recorded the rehearsal on her iPhone, so we have this 27 minute video of all of our characters in the house and of her running down the side alley, whipping between them and running after them. It was such an amazing and exhilarating exercise! The cast was so pumped up. And because we had this rehearsal, we were able to turn it in half very long weeks where we were shooting all night.
TV LINE | There’s so much going on in the finale party scene! Let’s start with the Bo and Chester breakup. Was it just Bo’s insecurity that separated them, or is there something else in there?
ZELDA | There are a lot of them there. His insecurity absolutely plays a huge role, as Chester is a very magnetic presence and Bo feels a little boring around him. He doesn’t like this dynamic. I don’t think he was lying to Chester, but I don’t think that’s the whole truth. We’ve talked a lot about getting into Bo’s head, because we’re in Chester’s perspective so often. It would be really hard to feel like you’re dating someone so incredibly confident and magnetic, [especially if] they just had this thing where they were pretending to date another person after expressing interest in you.
Nathan’s whole storyline contributes to his insecurity and makes him feel like Chester has so many options, which is very intimidating. It’s also hard for Bo to see how Chester treats Nathan. Nathan is clearly still in love with him, and Chester has started faking a date with him for what he thought was a favor, but in reality it hurts Nathan even more because Nathan wants to be with him. Bo sees it and has a little moral problem with it.
DANIEL | I think Bo takes over that natural chemistry that exists between Nathan and Chester. He’s seen it since episode 13 and even in 15 when Chester and Nathan literally talk about the fact that they have no chemistry in front of Bo. This seems to mean that they do have chemistry. The other part is that Bo might feel like Chester is secretly harboring feelings for Nathan and that’s why when Nathan tries to mend Bo and Chester’s relationship he says, “No I don’t. Do not think.”
TV LINE | Chester is an icon in the making. When you picked this role, what were you looking for and why was Judge Smith the right actor for the role?
DANIEL | He was a character inspired by this person who went to Zelda’s school, and I loved hearing stories about this guy. He was the head of the Rainbow Alliance, but he was also president of the student body and immensely popular, but he would wear high heels to school. It was so different from what popularity looked like when I was in high school. We wanted to create a refreshing character with so much. Who could be out and queer, and an incredible athlete accepted by his teammates, but who also wears his grandmother’s clothes, and could quote Kafka and RuPaul.
When we chose the role, it was a tall order. We did a lot of research. Justice originally came to audition for the adviser role and we asked him to come back for Chester. What I think is important to highlight: Justice is a phenomenal actor and it seems he is Chester, but when you look at his work, he’s never done anything like this before. It is the merit of his profession as an actor. He worked really hard to build that role, to get the right physicality, to get the right vocal inflections, and then to fill it with emotional depth. It is truly extraordinary.
TV LINE | Let’s move on to Riley and Greta, who finally having the conversation we’ve been waiting for, even if it’s cut short before Riley can admit his hotel connection with Luz. What could a potential season 2 look like for these two?
ZELDA | We want to explore this idea of a couple where one member is asexual. Greta is still learning to talk about being asexual and learning what it means to her, and she doesn’t quite know what she wants yet. We want to delve into how Greta will handle this awareness of her identity. As for Riley, she’s had a lot of mental health issues recently, and she’s going through them too. She needs to understand all of this and get to know herself.
DANIEL | These characters have finally professed their love for each other, and now they’ll have to navigate what happens when one of them identifies as asexual. It is a truly fascinating and modern problem. It’s an interesting obstacle to explore in a love story. Then the other element is: Will Greta forgive Riley?
TV LINE | Fans were dying for these two to get together, so the payout was very rewarding!
DANIEL | I’m so glad. The finale was written before we even realized the response this relationship was going to get. We’ve received some hilarious Twitter threats about what will happen if Riley and Greta don’t find some kind of connection at the end. So, we are super happy to have chosen this path! [Laughs]
TV LINE | I find Megan to be such a fascinating character. I would like to go back a bit to discuss his great karaoke scene. Why was Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” chosen and other songs considered?
DANIEL | We got hooked on this song very early on. Even before we shot the pilot, we knew we wanted there to be a streak in Hamburger Mary’s, and somehow that song made it into our writing room and it never did. faded away. The lyrics are about being with family, being brave and strong, and you see her watching her children and her husband, feeling the distance that is growing between her family. It is so heartbreaking. We knew it had to be this song, we knew Martha [Plimpton] had to do it, and obviously she killed. I think it’s one of the most amazing acting pieces I’ve ever seen on a TV screen. (Read what Martha Plimpton had to say.)
TV LINE | Do you call it a breakthrough for her?
DANIEL | One thing we’ve talked about in our writers’ room and with Martha is that people don’t change overnight. We wanted to preserve that with Megan. She is delicate. She says, believes, and does very hard things, and what we wanted to do was let her be that person, but also try to show her humanity and her feelings. It’s what Martha is capable of doing in her performance that is so compelling.
ZELDA | I think Megan has a long way to go. I really think she still has a lot to learn and work on. I don’t think it was necessarily a “breakthrough” for her, but it was something, right?
TV LINE | Chester receives a surprise visit from a mysterious person in the dying moments of the finale. I’m sure you don’t want to spill those beans, but what’s in store for our boy Chester?
DANIEL | Chester makes a lot of missteps and he’s definitely heartbroken. Deep down, he desperately wants love. I think we’d be remiss as storytellers if we didn’t try to give him that. I will say: nobody knows who shows up on this rooftop other than Zelda and me… not our cast, not our team. Some theories are really crazy, and it’s exciting that people debate them so passionately. I have the feeling that the fans too. That says a lot about what people want for Chester based on who they think should appear on that roof. Everyone is a fair game!