Warning: The following article contains triggering language related to sexual assault, abuse, and rape.
The Weeknd has responded to Rolling Stone‘s recent report claiming that his upcoming HBO show, The Idol, has gone “disgustingly off the rails.” On Tuesday (Mar. 1), Abel Tesfaye took to social media to shoot back at the magazine, posting a clip from the series with a caption asking, “did we upset you?”
The scene includes characters played by Tesfaye, Lily Rose-Depp, and Dan Levy, as the latter asked the pair whether or not they were interested in having Lily’s character, a pop star named Jocelyn, partake in a photo shoot with RS.
Abel, who stars as a modernized cult leader named Tedros, snappily responds, “Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a little irrelevant? Rolling Stone has 6 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 remarks, to which Tedros asserts, “Not in Rolling Stone.”
However, Noah Shachtman, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, responded to the tweet with a quote tweet of his own, saying, “Not at all!” Shactman’s tweet included issues of RS which featured the Dawn FM singer as the cover star.
The Weeknd isn’t the only one responding to the allegations. HBO refuted claims that the show was “toxic” in a statement released on Wednesday (Mar. 1), Vanity Fair reports. The network’s statement also clarified that The Idol underwent a showrunner switch due to “early episodes not [meeting] HBO standards.”
“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,” the statement continues. “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.”
Rolling Stone’s report claimed that the show evolved into “torture porn” after previous showrunner Amy Semietz departed. The legacy zine reported that, in one scrapped scene, Tedros brutally beats Jocelyn’s face to a pulp. As the disturbing scene continues, Depp’s character smiles and “asks to be beaten more, giving Tesfaye an erection.” “Tesfaye’s character would refuse to ‘rape’ her — which sent Depp’s character into a spiral, begging him to ‘rape’ her because she believed he was the key to her success,” RS reports.
HBO previously released three teaser trailers for the drama. The show is set for a 2023 release but has yet to be given a specified date.