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HBO Addresses Lofty Allegations of a ‘Toxic’ Set Environment During Sam Levinson’s Production for The Idol

HBO finally breaks its silence following Rolling Stone’s investigative report that detailed disturbing allegations on The Idol’s production.

Sam Levinson’s latest venture The Idol with co-creator Abel Tesfaye — also known as musical performer The Weeknd — has had a dizzying road towards completion with no clear premiere date in sight after two years of production. Billed as the “sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood,” the six-episode HBO series has been plagued by a myriad of production troubles, according to a recent Rolling Stone investigative journalism piece that unveiled the not-so-glamourous underbelly of The Idol’s production from individuals close to the project. The report offered extensive detail of The Idol’s sordid set experience, which included shooting delays, exorbitant reshoots, eleventh-hour rewrites of unfinished scripts, and the abrupt exit of series director Amy Seimetz. In an official statement to The Wrap on Thursday, HBO addressed the scandalous allegations made from the report.


The network’s official statement is as follows:

“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. 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.”

HBO’s statement is a striking juxtaposition against the claims made in Rolling Stone’s investigative report into the developing series. Besides the aforementioned problems that took place during the initial production, many crew members grew concerned about The Idol’s sharp pivot towards a darker and lewd direction after Levinson took over following Seimetz’s untimely departure. The report mentions that Levinson scrapped the nearly-completed project to rewrite and reshoot the entire series since Seimetz’s version leaned too far into the “female perspective.” It goes on to detail how the lurid nature of the series ramped up under the Euphoria director to include more graphic displays of nudity and sexual/physical violence. And as a result, much of the series’ message was lost in the process, according to crew members.

“This was such a strong example of just how far [Levinson] can really push HBO,” stated one of thirteen production members from the article in reference to the network’s tolerance of Levinson’s unchecked behavior. “And they will continue to cover [him] because he brings in money. He’s able to walk away unscathed and everybody still wants to work with him…People ignore the red flags and follow him regardless.”

Related: The Idol: Meet the Cast of HBO’s New Series

The Weeknd Has Responded to the Rolling Stone’s Jarring Exposé on The Idol

The Weeknd The Idol

The scathing Rolling Stone article on The Idol has brought the twisted love story between a young pop sensation and a sleazy, modern cult leader back into headlines for all the wrong reasons. The explosive content from the report quickly spread like wildfire across social platforms on Wednesday with many condemning Sam Levinson in the process. As co-creators, Rolling Stone reached out to both Levinson and Abel Tesfaye for comments, but neither responded before the story’s publishing. However, Tesfaye decided to break his silence on the accusations through a grander avenue — social media.

The clapback made its way to both Twitter and Instagram hours after the article was published. His response features a never-before-seen clip from The Idol accompanied by the caption, “@rollingstone did we upset you?”

Within the clip, Tesfaye’s character takes multiple disparaging jabs at the publication, calling it “irrelevant” and stating people “don’t care about Rolling Stone.” Though the response was meant as a clear slight against the outlet, many users under the video believed Tesfaye’s response and the Rolling Stone’s article were part of an elaborate marketing stunt for the forthcoming series.

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