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Controversial series The Idol was sparked by a disturbing remark by The Weeknd

Sam Levinson, the creator of Euphoria, has claimed that his new showThe Idol was born out of a sinister remark made by The Weeknd.

The drama, which has undergone extensive reshoots, stars Lily-Rose Depp as a troubled popstar, Jocelyn, who falls prey to sordid cult leader Tedros (The Weeknd).

During a cover shoot for W magazine, Levinson reflected on how the show was conceived, telling the publication that The Weeknd – real name Abel Tesfaye – had come up with the original premise for the show with his producing partner, Reza Fahim.

“Abel came to us with a pitch,” he 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.”

The Independent has contacted representatives of Tesfaye for comment.

Tesfaye is among the world’s best-selling music artists with over 75 million records sold. His 2020 track “Blinding Lights” became the most-streamed song in Spotify history, and Tesfaye was listed by Time as one of the world’s most influential people that same year.

Elsewhere in the interview, Tesfaye, Levinson and Depp discussed the infamous reshoots on the show, with Tesfaye saying he “sacrificed” his “health” to make the series work.

“I need to know that I’ve made the best version of whatever I’m making,” he said. “It was a challenge to redo The Idol, and, in truth, I sacrificed my health and home to make it work. So, let’s say it comes out and it’s f***ing horrible. I still know I did my absolute best.

“From what I’ve seen, the show is great. Everything is a risk: when you’ve done the best you can, I would call that a happy ending.”

Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp in ‘The Idol’ (Sky)
Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp in ‘The Idol’ (Sky)

In March, Rolling Stone published a report in which sources close to the production had claimed that the show 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 cited 13 unnamed sources from the production, who described chaotic set conditions and sex scenes that made them uncomfortable. One source called the production a “s*** show”.

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 programmes. 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.”

The Idol is out on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in June.