‘Did we upset you?’: The Weeknd reacts to claims of ‘torture porn’ storylines in new show The Idol

The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp in divisive ‘The Idol’ (HBO)

The Weeknd has fired back after an investigation suggested controversy behind the scenes of his forthcoming HBO series, The Idol.

The Canadian singer and actor co-created the show about an aspiring pop singer (Lily-Rose Depp) with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

However, a new report that speaks to sources close to the project has alleged that the series had gone “disgustingly off the rails”, citing a number of troubling claims about proposed storylines.

Titled “‘The Idol’: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Became Twisted ‘Torture Porn’” – the investigation by Rolling Stonecites 13 unnamed sources from the production, who describe chaotic set conditions and sex scenes that made them uncomfortable. One source called the production a “s*** show”.

The Weeknd – real name Abel Tesfaye – responded to the report late on Wednesday (1 March), sharing a clip from the show on Instagram in which his character bashes the long-running pop culture magazine.

“@rollingstone did we upset you?” Tesfaye captioned the post.

In the scene, a character played by Dan Levy attempts to convince Depp’s Jocelyn character to do a cover shoot for Rolling Stone.

Tesfaye’s character cuts in: “Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a little irrelevant?… Rolling Stone has six million followers on Instagram, half of them probably bots. And Jocelyn has 78 million followers, all real I’d assume. So she does a photo shoot, she tags them, they get her followers. More money for Rolling Stone, nothing for Jocelyn.”

“There’s a lot for Jocelyn,” Levy’s character says, to which Tesfaye’s character responds: “Not in Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman responded to Tesfaye’s “Did we upset you?” post on Twitter with two previous covers of the magazine featuring the artist alongside the caption: “Not at all!”

In a statement sent to The Independent, HBO wrote: “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.”

Director Amy Seimetz departed the project in April 2022 and was replaced by Levinson after several of the episodes had already been shot.

HBO’s statement 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.”

In a separate statement, Depp defended Levinson’s vision, saying: “Sam is, for so many reasons, the best director I have ever worked with. Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued.

“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.”

The Idol is slated for a 2023 release with no specific date at this time.