When fans were introduced to Nathanya Alexander’s character Arianna in Season 1, Episode 1 of Generation, it wasn’t the most flattering impression: “That girl, the one wearing way too much pink, she’s got weed,” Riley (Chase Sui Wonders) tells Chester (Justice Smith), gesturing to a girl vaping and laying upside-down on a chair. “She steals it from her parents, but she’ll charge you... while making low-key homophobic jokes. She thinks it’s OK cuz she has two dads.”
But, as fans soon learned, it was an accurate impression. The first half of Generation Season 1 — which premiered in March 2021 — solidified Arianna as the funniest, and most problematic, of the show’s ensemble cast of teenage characters. She indeed makes homophobic jokes (both about and to her parents, as well as others), has no filter about her controversial opinions — and oh, yeah, pretends to freak out during an active shooter lockdown in the name of “having fun.” As she puts it, her comedy is edgy, OK?
Alexander, 23, knows Arianna is messy, but she also knows there are layers to the character. Fans got peeks at the softer side of Arianna here and there in the first half of Season 1, specifically when she and Naomi (Chloe East) helped their friend Delilah (Lukita Maxwell) give birth in a mall bathroom and supported her as she put the baby up for adoption. But the second half of Season 1, which began releasing on June 17, shows even more of Arianna’s depth. Namely, Episodes 12 and 13 (which came out June 24) peel back the layers to reveal a much more vulnerable Arianna.
Coming off a pair of episodes in which Arianna gets into witchcraft, forms a coven with her besties, is left out by said besties as they join a throuple with their shared crush, and forges a new friendship, Alexander gets real about what’s next for her chaotic, complex character.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elite Daily: In Part 2 of Season 1, fans get to see more facets of Arianna. What was it like for you to explore that more sensitive side of her?
Nathanya Alexander: Oh, man. It was really, really great. I had a lot of fun diving deep into Arianna. Like you said, [in] Part 2, you take a closer look into Arianna's life; you get to see her more vulnerable side. And we get some more explosive DNA [Delilah-Naomi-Arianna] moments. So for me, playing a character who has zero filter, it was so fun to play her because she speaks her mind, even if it's outrageous, because she has such a clear point of view. But for me, as an actor, I always want to get to the heart of the character, so being able to see a different side to her was definitely great for me to explore.
ED: What was your first reaction to Arianna when you first read the script, and how has that impression changed?
NA: Arianna, and this world that she lives in, is totally different than mine. The first thing I thought was, Wow, she's definitely a riot. Her life is very complex, because she's adopted and has two gay dads, but she makes homophobic jokes. I thought, you know, she's probably a great, great actress, and extremely extra when she wants to be. I thought I was in for a ride with this character and I knew it would be fun to play her.
We see on the outside [that] she's bold, she has zero filter. But then you get underneath that hard exterior — the humor and outrageous behavior — underneath all of that, there's actually a sweetheart. We see her take care of her friends and we see her love hard. I think that's definitely important for her character development.
ED: And yet she still says some really insensitive stuff! Were there any Arianna jokes or lines that you worried went too far?
NA: I think it's every line! [Laughs] All of those outrageous lines, I was worried about. But as an actor, I try not to judge my characters. I wanted to humanize her, so that came with all the work I did on this character. I really wanted to make her come off not as harsh. And I think that was something I tried to do really hard because, oh my goodness, some of the things she says are so crazy.
ED: What kind of work did you put in to humanize her?
NA: I wrote down everything I knew from the script and basically created a life around that. I journaled a lot in-character. I did research on people who have been adopted and what that is like growing up. Arianna also grew up in a conservative neighborhood in California, so I sought out information on that as well. And then I created playlists that she has in the show to get me in character quickly. I think all of that work that I did really helped me to get to the heart of this character. But most importantly, when they yelled action, I tried to be in the moment [and] just work off of my partner.
ED: What kind of songs or artists are on Arianna’s playlists?
NA: One that really hit home for this character is Queen, because their music, it's like, five songs in one. Their music is perfect for Arianna, because she's all these different personalities in one and their music helps me tap into the life of this character.
ED: Sounds like you do your research! What kind of preparation did you do for Episode 12, when Arianna gets super into witchcraft?
NA: I know of the different levels of witchcraft, but I definitely did research to get a better understanding. Specifically for this character, I knew that it was more surface-level witchcraft, like something she probably saw online and was explained to her as [a way] to tap into her feminine power. I think this is something that she thought would be great to do with her friends. There's a lot of comedy in it, so I didn't get too deep for this character; I wanted to be light and fun.
ED: Earlier on in the season, Arianna had a short-lived fling with Nathan that didn't work out so well for her. And now, she’s feeling hurt by Delilah and Naomi after they ditched her for a guy. What’s next for her this season?
NA: I think she will gravitate to different characters, like maybe another character she’ll create a friendship with. Maybe DNA will patch things up in the future, but I think for now, she's, like, done with DNA and she's done with the coven. She's definitely going to seek out other relationships, other friendships. And she needs that. Oh my goodness, she got dumped by Nathan and now her friends are leaving her for a guy. She's been through it.
New episodes of Generation hit HBO Max on Thursdays.