The Weeknd says he could start his own cult if he wanted to, but instead used the idea for ‘The Idol’ pitch

The director of the highly-anticipated HBO series, Sam Levinson, has revealed the unusual story of how the show came to fruition.

It has been revealed that Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, first pitched the idea for the show The Idol by claiming he could start a cult if he wanted to. The director of the upcoming HBO series Sam Levinson said in an interview with W Magazine that “Abel came to us with a pitch. He said something that I’ll always remember: ‘If I wanted to start a cult, I could.’ What he meant is that his fans were so loyal and devoted that they would follow him anywhere. That was the germ of the idea for The Idol: what happens when a pop star falls for the wrong guy and no one speaks up.”

It was only two days later that Tesfaye and Levinson had the concept for the show and approached HBO with a script for the pilot episode – which the network picked it up immediately. Originally, Levinson was preoccupied with his direction on Euphoria, and director Amy Seimetz took on the project. 

However, The Idol was completely switched up in April 2022 and Seimetz left, with various changes to cast and crew taking place, including bringing Levinson back in. The series aims to follow pop star Jocelyn (played by Lily Rose-Depp) after she suffers a nervous breakdown and wants to rewrite her image. Club owner and cult leader Tedros (played by Tesfaye) takes her on in both a working and personal relationship. 

In a report by Rolling Stone earlier this year, there were various sources that stated Levinson’s rewrites added way more nudity and disturbing sexual content. Deadline then reported that Tesfaye was unhappy with the direction as it focused too much on “the female perspective” rather than his own. He stated it was “not as complex” as the initial idea, and so they would “pivot”.  Tesfaye said: “Film and TV is a new creative muscle for me. I don’t release my music until I think it is great. Why would this be any different?”

In response to the Rolling Stone article that alleged challenges in production, Tesfaye took to Instagram and tagged the publication saying “Did we upset you?” 

The Idol is set to premiere on the 4th of June 2023.

WriterElla Chadwick
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