Few new TV shows in recent memory have generated more mystique than “The Idol.” The music industry drama from Sam Levinson and The Weeknd (working under his real name Abel Tesfaye) attracted plenty of attention for its expensive reshoots and reported creative clashes, but its creators have always stood by their vision and insisted that the extra work was worth it.
The series stars Lily Rose-Depp as the world’s biggest pop star whose relationship with a sleazy guru (Tesfaye) leads her down a dark, cult-like path. In a recent interview, Levinson and Tesfaye explained that the show was inspired by the dark side of celebrity that Tesfaye had experienced when he rose to prominence as The Weeknd.
“Abel came to us with a pitch,” Levinson said. “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.”
Tesfaye went on to say that he sees the show as an opportunity to put his pop star persona to rest and begin making more art under his real identity.
“I’m going through a cathartic path right now,” he said. “It’s getting to a place and a time where I’m getting ready to close the Weeknd chapter. I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn.”
The mysterious show has been surrounded by plenty of question marks, but Cannes attendees got some answers when first two episodes of “The Idol” screened out of competition at the festival on Monday night. While some of the sexual content was shocking (even by HBO standards), the premiere received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the crowd in the room. But the online reactions that began to flow in painted a much more divisive picture.
“The Idol” premieres Sunday, June 4 on HBO. Keep reading for a roundup of some of the (many) strong opinions that attendees have shared around the web.