Showrunner Sam Levinson and leading actress Lily-Rose Depp have defended the controversial sex sequences and explicit content of The Idol.
The music industry drama, which Levinson co-wrote with vocalist Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye, will begin streaming on HBO Max the following month. Its trailers have hinted raunchy content, and its Cannes Film Festival premiere received a five-minute standing ovation.
In addition, scandalous sequences involving masturbation, choking, and a subplot involving a photo of Depp’s character Jocelyn with bodily secretions on her face raised many eyebrows.
In addition, Jocelyn spends a significant portion of The Idol wearing primarily string and lace-based apparel.
However, Levison has pointed out that the influence of erotica on America has already manifested itself in the music industry, with Jocelyn, a pop star recovering from a nervous collapse, making a comeback.
Responding to a question about the sexual material being called both ‘revolutionary’ and facing accusations of going ‘too far’, he sais at the show’s press conference on Tuesday: ‘I think that sometimes things that might be revolutionary are taken too far.
‘We live in a very sexualised world, especially in the States, where the influence of pornography is really strong in terms of the psyche of young people. And we see this in pop music and how it reflects the underbelly of the internet in some way.’
Addressing building the character of Jocelyn, he also revealed that he and Depp ‘had a lot of discussions about who Jocelyn is as a person and what she’s feeling, what she’s angling, who she’s playing to’.
He added: ‘There’s two things that happen when you have a character that has such a strong sense of self and such a strong sexual sense – you end up underestimating her because you’re not quite sure why she’s doing this, why she’s wearing his, why is she singing about this. And at the same time, it’s also what allures people, it’s what attracts an audience, it’s what attracts an imagination.’
‘I think it’s very true to what almost every popstar is doing these days,’ the Euphoria creator argued.
The 23-year-old Depp was also eager to emphasise that her nudity and performance in risqué content for The Idol “felt very important to the character.”
‘Jocelyn is a born and bred performer – and I think that extends to every aspect of her life, not just her professional life. The way that she dresses, for example, is her trying to tell you something all the time or say something to the people that she’s around or express herself in some kind of way.
‘I also think that the occasional bareness of the character physically mirrors the bareness that we get to see emotionally in her.’
Depp also verified that she had been conferred on the material and vision for Jocelyn, despite a damaging Rolling Stone report of a project ‘in turmoil’ behind the scenes, which Levinson, Tesfaye, and other cast members present, including Hank Azaria and Jane Adams, vehemently denied.
‘When it comes to all of that, I have never felt more involved in those kinds of conversations,’ she said.
‘I felt like I was given the privilege of being really involved in the creation of this character and the ins and outs of how she expresses herself from the inside out and also the outside in – and it says a lot about the character that’s important.’
The Idol available from June 5 on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.