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‘The Idol’ stars The Weeknd, Lily-Rose Depp defend upcoming show after 'torture porn,' on-set toxicity claims
March 02 2023, 08:00

HBO and stars Lily-Rose Depp and Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye are defending upcoming music industry drama "The Idol" after an article alleged its production under director Sam Levinson has gone "wildly, disgustingly off the rails" and has turned into "torture porn." 

Director Amy Seimetz, of "The Girlfriend Experience," was originally hired to helm the drama before leaving after shooting 80% of the six-episode limited series, and Sam Levinson of "Euphoria" was brought in, according to Rolling Stone. The article claimed Tesfaye, who is a co-creator of the show, felt Seimetz was leaning too much into the "female perspective" of the story. 

However, sources told Variety that the outlet's insiders had not seen the finished product, which still reportedly represents a "female perspective."

Meanwhile, the streaming service told Fox News Digital in a statement, "The creators and producers of ‘The Idol have been working hard to create one of HBO’s most exciting and provocative original programs. 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."


HBO continued, "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."

Depp, who plays a rising pop star who gets trapped in the "seedy underbelly of the music industry," called Levinson the "best director" she has worked with in a statement shared with Fox News Digital. 

"Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued," Depp, 23, said. "Working with Sam is a true collaboration in every way - it matters to him, more than anything, not only what his actors think about the work, but how we feel performing it. He hires people whose work he esteems and has always created an environment in which I felt seen, heard, and appreciated." 

Tesfaye, 33, posted a never-before-seen clip from the show in which his and Depp’s characters call Rolling Stone "past its prime" and "irrelevant." He captioned it, "@rollingstone did we upset you ?"

The lengthy Rolling Stone piece gave a very different view of the production after speaking to 13 anonymous cast and crew members, some of whom claimed the show had been plagued by delays, budget issues and reshoots, and reeks of a "rape fantasy" and a "degrading love story with a hollow message."


In the show, Depp’s character reportedly falls for Tesfaye's character who plays a nightclub owner and leader of a "cult" that Rolling Stone compared to "NXIVM and Scientology."

Levinson weakened the "show’s overarching message [as a cautionary tale for young women], many sources say, by dialing up the disturbing sexual content and nudity to match — and even surpass — that of his most successful show, ‘Euphoria,’" according to Rolling Stone.

One called it "like any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show — and then the woman comes back for more because it makes her music better." 

Fox News Digital has reached out to reps for Levinson and Tesfaye.