HBO Max’s next buzzy series about Real Teens™ is already causing some controversy, as Variety reports that two background actors exited the set of Generation after production brought in actual cat corpses for a scene set in a high school science lab. Executive produced by Lena Dunham, the series—styled as Genera+ion—was created by 19-year-old Zelda Barnz and her father Daniel Barnz, and follows the lives of a diverse group of teenagers played by an ensemble mostly made up of young newcomers. In a pair of tweets posted late last week, Twitter user @Lilith_Rosex claimed that two extras exited the production because they weren’t comfortable filming with real dead cats (or kittens, apparently, which is definitely super fucking worse); furthermore, the extras had not been made aware of the dead cats prior to filming. Another tweet alleges that a camera person tested positive for COVID-19 and performers were not informed in a timely manner:
It is honestly kind of wild if high schools are still having kids dissect cats and fetal pigs in science class. And although that practice is or was relatively common, a cat (or KITTEN) corpse is not something you just spring on a person.
HBO Max has issued an official response to the allegations in which it claims that the cat corpses were “ethically sourced” (only the highest quality farm-to-table cadavers for this production) and that all performers were made aware that “this would be a sensitive scene involving a real dissection”—though it does not specify whether they were told what kind of dead animal they’d be dissecting:
‘Genera+ion’ depicts the unfiltered experiences of high school students and is drawn from many formative moments in the lives of the show’s writers. The production recently filmed scenes depicting a biology classroom assignment involving dissection of animal specimens. These were ethically sourced in consultation with American Humane via a biological supply company that works with schools. 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.
The statement concludes with a dark punchline: they scrapped the scene altogether. In a statement obtained by People magazine, Lena Dunham said she was not aware that animal cadavers were being used and she supports the removal of the scene in question:
I am committed in my life and work to the principled, humane and ethical treatment of animals. I don’t use animal cadavers in any of my work, ever, and I was not on set or aware that they were used in a recently shot scene depicting a biology classroom assignment. I fully support the scene being edited out of the show.
Meanwhile, sources confirmed to Variety that a crew member did test positive for COVID-19, but—contrary to the tweets—production was not made aware of the positive test result until the end of the day.