“The Idol” creator Sam Levinson is taking the criticism around his upcoming HBO show in stride after accusations of a troubled production environment surfaced in a recent report.
While on a panel Tuesday morning at Cannes Film Festival, Levinson addressed the scathing Rolling Stone article about his show, which detailed a “sense of chaos” on set and accused the series of having “disturbing sexual and physically violent scenes.”
“We know that we’re making a show that is provocative. It’s not lost on us,” Levinson said, in video which you can watch below. “When my wife read me the article, I looked at her and I just said, ‘I think we’re about to have the biggest show of the summer.’ And in terms of the specifics of what was in it, it just felt completely foreign to me.”
Levinson said that Rolling Stone was “free to write whatever they want.” He also criticized the publication, claiming it “intentionally omitted anything that didn’t fit their narrative.”
Series star Lily-Rose Depp echoed Levinson’s sentiments, saying that “it’s always a little sad and disheartening to see mean, false things” about people she cares about. “It wasn’t reflective at all of my experience shooting the show.”
Set to air June 4 on HBO, “The Idol” follows Levinson’s other big-name show, “Euphoria.” And judging by the amount of controversy already surrounding the series, the freshman drama is going to have no problem following in Zendaya’s footsteps. The series revolves around Jocelyn (Depp), an aspiring pop icon who has to cancel her tour due to a nervous breakdown. Desperate to be back on top and reclaim her title as the sexiest pop star in America, she begins a complicated relationship with a self-help guru and head of a modern cult, Tedros (Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye). The series will also star Suzanna Son, Troye Sivan, Moses Sumney, Jane Adams, Dan Levy, Jennie Ruby Jane and Eli Roth.
“The Idol” was always going to be a buzzy title for HBO considering its subject matter, Tesfaye’s involvement and who the parents of its leading actress are. But in recent months, the drama has been defined by scandal. There have reportedly been significantly costly reshoots, and one Rolling Stone source likened the series to “any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show.”
Both HBO and Tesfaye have refuted the Rolling Stone article. “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,” HBO told TheWrap. “We look forward to sharing ‘The Idol’ with audiences soon.”
For his part, Tesfaye dismissed the article as “ridiculous.” He also resented the story’s implication that “these are rapists trying to make a rape fantasy.”