The first time Lukita Maxwell hopped on a New York City subway by herself, she was shocked. Her surprise, though, did not come as a result of taking the train for the first time—instead, it was a result of a phone call she received while riding it. “It’s a nerdy thing to admit, but I was sitting on the subway, grinning, thinking about my callback for this crazy cool show,” she said one afternoon over Zoom, referring to Genera+ion, HBO Max’s first series to be told from a Gen Z point of view.
Maxwell was living in Brooklyn at the time, starting her first semester studying architecture at Pratt University, when she received word that she would be joining the cast of fellow 19-year-old Zelda Barnz’s new series. While she was taken by surprise, she revealed that acting has always been a goal. “I’ve always been very creative and involved in fine arts like photography, and architecture was exciting,” she explained. “But then the universe kind of handed me a golden ticket, and was like, ‘Go after your dreams!’”
The actress, who was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and spent the majority of her adolescence growing up in a conservative area of Utah, found Genera+ion’s subject matter to be refreshing and relatable. “I was so in love with the pilot when I read it because it was so apparent that somebody young had written it,” she said. “It just felt so relevant to my life and my high school experience that I had just gotten out of, and what I was anticipating my college life to look like, what I thought my friend group could look like.”
Genera+ion’s pilot opens in an Anaheim shopping mall at Christmastime. Wailing is heard coming from inside a public restroom as a teen (Chloe East) consoles her friend (Maxwell) from outside the door. As it turns out, the girl on the inside is not suffering from your average period cramps—she’s nine months pregnant, didn’t even realize it, and is currently giving birth alone on the bathroom floor. This I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant scenario is used as a framing device to begin each episode of the series, and as the show goes on, it is revealed that the girl giving birth in the bathroom is Delilah, the (seemingly) goody-two-shoes social justice warrior of her Gen Z high school friend group.
When she first auditioned for the role of Delilah, Maxwell had no idea that the character would be the one to give birth. “In the original script, it just said ‘Girl’s voice in bathroom’ and I remember thinking, whoever gets to play this girl is going to have so much fun filming this first scene,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t know where it was going to go or how intense the scenes would get in the future.”
As the show progresses, it may surprise the viewer to discover that Delilah, a bit of a know-it-all, ends up not knowing exactly where her life might be headed. “I definitely had those kids in my high school. I was probably one of those kids a little bit,” she said. “They were sure of who they were and what they wanted to do. I’m 19, I’m also a Gen Z kid, but I feel like I am starting to navigate the world by being open to not knowing everything.”
Maxwell also cited Gen Z activists as an inspiration for the role. “Growing up on social media, there are a lot of Gen Z activists who are passionate about speaking up for what they believe in, fighting for change, and not taking ‘no change’ for an answer,” she explained.
That research extended to her personal life, too. “I want to pressure myself to make sure I am continually educating myself, having conversations, and educating others,” she said. “I’ve had so many uncomfortable conversations with family members, conservative friends, and a lot of people who didn’t see where I was coming from, but I’m in a very privileged position to be having conversations because being uncomfortable is not dangerous.”
Maxwell did not grow up in an environment similar to that of her character’s, but found Genera+ion’s decision to give nearly every one of its characters a degree of queerness to be authentic. “I related my queer experience to the queer experiences in the story,” she said. Almost everyone on the show is a little bit queer, or at least queer-adjacent, and their understanding of how they choose to identify themselves doesn’t always depend on labels.” This makes sense, Maxwell said, because “Generation Z statistically is the most racially diverse, most queer, and most politically conscious generation.”
The actress has also found that despite social media’s pitfalls, it’s cleared the path for self-acceptance. “It’s an easy way to spread information, and I’m inundated with amazing queer stories and artists. It played a huge part in becoming comfortable with my sexuality and how I identify, and that’s a huge part of the show as well,” she said, citing the ways in which Genera+ion’s editing depends a lot on showing its characters awkwardly communicating through social media to transition from scene to scene.
“The other day, my girlfriend asked me when was the first time I saw myself represented in media, and I don’t think I ever felt such strong representation of myself until I saw Genera+ion,” Maxwell admitted, referencing a moment in which two characters (played by Haley Sanchez and Chase Sui Wonders) move their relationship out of the friend zone and into a decidedly romantic one. “I sobbed. I didn’t think people felt like this, that it was a broader spectrum of people who went through that,” she explained.
In between filming episodes for the rest of the first season of Genera+ion, Maxwell works as a web designer for an intersectional Gen Z magazine called Sunstroke. “That's my way of facilitating space for voices,” she said. “I feel like I'm doing my part in that way and I get a creative outlet to supplement my acting education.”
Her acting debut will likely leave an indelible mark on her own memory, and she hopes its impact may be felt by other young people who may be watching. “I didn’t have that support to be able to talk to any of my friends about queerness or how I felt in my racial identity, or how I perceived the world growing up in Utah,” she said. “Genera+ion is for kids out there like me; I needed this show when I was that age, just to know that there were kids going through the same thing.”