Sam Levinson on How The Idol is Similar to Reality Television

Following the series premiere on Sunday, The Idol co-creator Sam Levinson has spoken out on the HBO series’ approach to celebrities and fame.

How is The Idol like reality television?

While speaking with Deadline, Levinson explained that the series is about “an artist who feels stuck, who also feels pressured by the expectations of the world at large, and is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to say,” and how the series is in some ways “derivative” of reality television.

“The cinematic approach is actually derivative of reality television, because that’s how we normally see celebrities,” Levinson stated. “Part of what this show is about is having a little bit more skepticism about celebrities who we ultimately idolize.”

The Idol is co-created by Levinson, The Weeknd, and Reza Fahim. This marks The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp’s TV acting debuts and first major scripted drama series. Joining them are Golden Globe nominee Troye Sivan, Hari Nef, Debby Ryan, Steve Zissis, Rachel Sennott and K-Pop global superstar Jennie Ruby Jane of BlackPink. Additional cast includes Anne Heche, Melanie Liburd, Tunde Adebimpe, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, Nico Hiraga, and more.

“After a nervous breakdown derailed Jocelyn’s last tour, she’s determined to claim her rightful status as the greatest and sexiest pop star in America,” reads the official logline. “Her passions are reignited by Tedros, a nightclub impresario with a sordid past. Will her romantic awakening take her to glorious new heights or the deepest and darkest depths of her soul?”

The Idol is written and executive produced by Levinson, Tesfaye, Fahim, and Joe Epstein. Kevin Turen, Ashley Levinson, Nick Hall, Sara E. White, and Aaron Gilbert are executive producing. It is an A24 production.