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The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp on making ‘The Idol’

On the final night of filming The Idol, an HBO show about a pop icon and her convoluted connection with a darkly charismatic club owner, Lily-Rose Depp was driving a golf cart past SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The Weeknd, Abel Tesfaye, performed to 70,000 fans at the arena.

Depp, who plays Jocelyn, the so-famous-she-needs-only-one-name music sensation in The Idol, was with Sam Levinson, the show’s cocreator and Euphoria’s award-winning writer and director.’

Tesfaye, one of the world’s biggest performers, changed personas tonight. For his devoted fans, he was The Weeknd, a character he established at the start of his career.

For the moment in The Idol they were filming as he played live, he needed to be Tedros, the ambitious Svengali Jocelyn would present to the crowd.

Depp rehearsed with Levinson as the The Idol trailer was shown on the SoFi screens. With her blonde hair up, she wore a sheer white dress. As Jocelyn, Depp wore heavy eye makeup and lip liner, giving her face a masklike appearance.

Tesfaye had a breakdown. Tedros has a rattail and wears glossy, half-unbuttoned shirts with aviator sunglasses, while The Weeknd wears elegant black suits. “I had to take off the Weeknd outfit, put on Tedros’s wig, shoot with Jocelyn, then go back to being The Weeknd,” he said later.

“Changing heads was hard. Post-concert, I lost my voice. Nobody spoke. Never before. Since Tedros can’t sing, I think I forgot how. It was terrifying. I never miss concerts as The Weeknd. Flu-ridden, I performed. I’ll die onstage. But my mind was incredibly complicated.”

Tesfaye’s identity dilemma went beyond playing two roles in one night. “I’m cathartic right now,” he remarked. “I’m closing the Weeknd chapter. Abel or The Weeknd, I’ll make songs. Still want to end The Weeknd. I will. Eventually. I want to be reborn.”

Depp auditioned for Jocelyn almost a year before the SoFi show. She called from Prague, where she was filming Nosferatu, where she portrays Dracula’s disciple. “I knew there would be many lovely ladies who are more musical than me, but I thought, I’ll try.”

Depp stole a tight pink satin skirt and a purple tank top from her mother, Vanessa Paradis, a famous French singer, model, and actor. Fans recognize her father, Johnny Depp. “I wanted pop-star colors,” Depp said. I wanted an L.A. vibe. Jocelyn and I are both L.A. natives. I tried to capture the mischief-shine style.”

Jocelyn is most like Britney Spears, but Depp also saw elements of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim. “I love Britney!” Depp stated. “Who doesn’t love Britney? I thought about Beyoncé, Mariah, and all the big pop stars. I wanted Jocelyn to be a room-dominating woman who doesn’t hide her sparkle.”

Depp auditioned a cappella. “Here’s where I don’t get called back.” She sung a minute of “Fever.” Ashley Levinson, Sam’s wife and The Idol executive producer, said, “I was going through the casting tapes, and Lily-Rose immediately stood out.”

The character needed vulnerability and strength. Sam Levinson demanded a chemistry test to ensure Depp and Tesfaye would click. “We met socially, but I didn’t know him,” Depp said. “Abel is so kind, but I was nervous about the chemistry read because I wanted the part. Jocelyn and Tedros, like all my favorite on-screen lovers, were deadly together. That push-and-pull connection.”

Depp dyed her hair when Levinson was hired to direct. Jocelyn, a blonde, might be good or evil. Never know. Older films, especially French ones, were my childhood. Brigitte Bardot has beauty and a “I don’t care” attitude. I wanted Jocelyn to feel that.”

Jocelyn wasn’t always blonde—the character changed. The June 4 episode is a complete reshoot and reimagining of the first season. Reza Fahim and Tesfaye created the show’s concept. “Abel pitched us,” Levinson said.

“He said, ‘If I wanted to start a cult, I could.’ His fans were so loyal they would follow him everywhere. The Idol was inspired by what happens when a music star falls for the wrong guy and no one speaks up.

Levinson was so excited after his encounter with Tesfaye that he could not sleep. Two days later, he had an outline of what the show could be, and one week later, he had written the pilot script. The network promptly agreed.

Due to Levinson’s commitment to the second season of Euphoria, he, Tesfaye, and Fahim selected a different team to direct and work on The Idol. However, after seeing what they had created, Tesfaye changed course. Reportedly, Tedros and Jocelyn’s emotional tango was not as complex as he and Levinson had envisioned. If this central relationship did not succeed, the show would fall short of its potential.

Are you excited to see The Idol? What do you look forward most from this series? Feel free to leave your comments. Bye for now!

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