The Weeknd has responded to a report from Rolling Stone claiming that his upcoming HBO series The Idol has “gone wildly, disgustingly off the rails.”
Posting a clip from the series to Instagram, the Canadian superstar tagged Rolling Stone and wrote, “Did we upset you?” In the scene, a character played by Dan Levy pitches Abel and Lily-Rose Depp’s pop star character Jocelyn to do a photo shoot for the cover of Rolling Stone. The Abel, who plays a modern-day cult leader named Tedros, responds saying, “Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a little irrelevant? … Rolling Stone has 6 million followers on Instagram, half of them probably bots. And Jocelyn has 78 million followers, all real I’d assume. So she does a photo shoot, she tags them, they get her followers. More money for Rolling Stone, nothing for Jocelyn.”
According to Rolling Stone’s sources, the show was meant to be a satire of the industry and follow Depp’s character as she gains her independence in a world that hinges on abuse. But it quickly turned into over sexualized narratives and Amy Seimetz, who was on board as the director, suddenly exited the project last year, when 80 percent of the six-episode season was reportedly complete.
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) March 1, 2023
Co-creator (and Euphoria runner) Sam Levinson suddenly took creative control and derailed the series’ message and hyper-sexualizing its characters, re-writing stories and re-shooting several scenes. “What I signed up for was a dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century,” one production member said. “The things that we subject our talent and stars to, the forces that put people in the spotlight and how that can be manipulated in the post-Trump world.” Instead “It went from satire to the thing it was satirizing.”
One crew member described the new direction as “sexual torture porn.”
Sources told Rolling Stone that in one “disturbing” scrapped scene from The Idol, “Tesfaye bashes in Depp’s face, and her character smiles and asks to be beaten more, giving Tesfaye an erection.” Per Rolling Stone, “Tesfaye’s character would refuse to ‘rape’ her — which sent Depp’s character into a spiral, begging him to ‘rape’ her because she believed he was the key to her success.”
Both HBO and Depp have also addressed the Rolling Stone report. “The creators and producers of The Idol have been working hard to create one of HBO’s most exciting and provocative original programs,” HBO said. “The initial approach on the show and production of the early episodes, unfortunately, did not meet HBO standards so we chose to make a change. Throughout the process, the creative team has been committed to creating a safe, collaborative, and mutually respectful working environment, and last year, the team made creative changes they felt were in the best interest of both the production and the cast and crew. We look forward to sharing The Idol with audiences soon.”