The Idol: The whole lot We Know About The Weeknd and Sam Levinson’s HBO Series

After rising through the music industry to make platinum records and Super Bowl memes, Abel Tesfaye (higher referred to as The Weeknd) has set his sights on latest terrain: television. The singer is starring in, co-writing, and executive producing HBO’s The Idol, the buzzy, controversial music industry drama he co-created with Reza Fahim and Euphoria’s Sam Levinson. Lily-Rose Depp will star alongside Tesfaye.

Already touted as “the sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood”—and stirring up the investigative reporting to back that up—the story is claimed to follow “a female pop singer who starts a romance with an enigmatic L.A. club owner who’s the leader of a secret cult,” per Deadline. Depp and Tesfaye have been forged in those roles, respectively.

Behind the scenes, the premiere has shifted from its original planned date, with the newest news reporting that HBO is eyeing a Cannes Film Festival premiere in 2023. Within the meantime, The Idol has already captured headlines for happenings on and off set— from changes in direction to reportedly disgruntled crew members, especially following a report in Rolling Stone.

Here’s the whole lot we all know to date.

When will The Idol be released?

The precise date has not been announced yet. HBO has previously stated, within the series’ third teaser trailer released last fall, that the series is coming in 2023. Multiple sources have now informed Variety that the show is pursuing a Cannes debut in May.

Who’s within the forged of The Idol?

Beyond Depp and Tesfaye, quite a few big-name stars will make appearances. Jennie Kim, of the K-pop group Blackpink, will play an undisclosed role, as will Shiva Baby star Rachel Sennott and singer/actor Troye Sivan. Schitt’s Creek actor Dan Levy also appears in a scene released by Tesfaye in response to Rolling Stone’s investigation.

Other casting announcements include: Melanie Liburd (This Is Us), Tunde Adebimpe (Rachel Getting Married), Steve Zissis (Blissful Death Day 2 U), Elizabeth Berkley Lauren (Showgirls), Nico Hiraga (Booksmart), Anne Heche (Six Days Seven Nights), Juliebeth Gonzalez, Maya Eshet (Teen Wolf), Tyson Ritter (Preacher), Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards), Liz Sierra (God’s Time), and Finley Rose Slater (Playing With Fire).

Is there a sneak peek of the series?

Tesfaye premiered the primary teaser trailer on tour at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

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The Idol | Official Teaser | HBO

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On Saturday, Aug. 21, 2022, HBO released the second teaser trailer after it debuted at Tesfaye’s concert in Las Vegas the night before. The trailer emphasizes the sexy side of the industry, before a personality played by Jane Adams says, “That’s sex… That’s what we’re selling.”

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The Idol | Official Teaser 2 | HBO

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A 3rd teaser then arrived on October 6, 2022.

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The Idol | Official Teaser #3 | HBO

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Why was the show initially overhauled?

In late April 2022, HBO told Deadline that it was “adjusting” The Idol’s forged and crew mid-production, citing a “latest approach” to the show. A spokeswoman for the network said:

“The Idol’s creative team continues to construct, refine, and evolve their vision for the show and so they have aligned on a latest creative direction. The production will probably be adjusting its forged and crew accordingly to best serve this latest approach to the series. We sit up for sharing more information soon.”

Shortly after, news broke that director Amy Seimetz (The Girlfriend Experience), who was imagined to helm every episode of the series, had left the project. Solid member Susanna Son (Red Rocket), who was playing a cult member within the series, also reportedly exited.

Deadline reported that Tesfaye was unhappy with the show’s creative direction, with sources saying he felt it was “leaning an excessive amount of right into a ‘female perspective.’” Nonetheless, IndieWire reported that Depp’s character was all the time meant to be at the middle of the series from the beginning. The outlet added that the creative team “was effusive in its support of the script and rough assembly” but Tesfaye “later voiced his concerns and wanted reshoots.”

Seimetz also reportedly didn’t plan on directing the ultimate episode as a consequence of scheduling conflicts with the Netflix/DC series Sweet Tooth, which filmed in Latest Zealand.

What other drama took place behind the scenes?

On March 1, Rolling Stone reported that production on The Idol had gone “wildly, disgustingly off the rails,” citing 13 sources—including crew members and individuals with knowledge of the show. One source called the experience a “shitshow,” given the reported delays, reshoots, budget issues, and multiple last-minute script changes.

There was also, reportedly, a concerning change in direction when Levinson got here on to direct following Seimetz’s exit, including more explicit content and nudity. As one production member described it, “It was like every rape fantasy that any toxic man would have within the show—after which the lady comes back for more since it makes her music higher.”

Depp, nonetheless, told Rolling Stone that Levinson is the “best director” she’s ever worked with, and she or he’s never “felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued.”

And while Levinson and Tesfaye declined to comment on the story, Tesfaye later publicly responded on social media, saying, “Rolling Stone did we upset you?”

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HBO also responded, telling Variety in an announcement, “The initial approach on the show and production of the early episodes, unfortunately, didn’t meet HBO standards so we selected to make a change. Throughout the method, the creative team has been committed to making a protected, collaborative, and mutually respectful working environment, and last yr, the team made creative changes they felt were in the very best interest of each the production and the forged and crew.”

Sources also told Variety that the sources quoted in Rolling Stone hadn’t seen the finished product of The Idol, which supposedly maintains a “female perspective.” One insider told Variety that only the pilot was reshot, so claims about budget were “overblown.”

If the series does indeed land at Cannes, expect a frenzy of attention surrounding the large premiere.

Headshot of Erica Gonzales

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There’s a 75 percent likelihood she’s listening to Lorde immediately. 

Headshot of Lauren Puckett-Pope

Culture Author

Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture author at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television and books. She was previously an associate editor at ELLE. 

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