The Idol and Why Sam Levinson Needs to be Stopped


Lily Rose Depp, center, stars in Sam Levinson’s new show “The Idol,” premiering on HBO in June. (Photo courtesy HBO)

Trigger warning for mature content

Every few months there seems to be one show that the masses latch onto. In November/December 2022, it was the Netflix show Wednesday. Before that it was Stranger Things, and even before that was Euphoria.

Euphoria is a teen drama which follows the hardships of several high school aged main characters, most notably Rue Bennette (Zendaya), a drug addict who is trying to fight her addiction, and Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney), a lonely girl trying to deal with the trauma of an abandoned father. The show was a massive success due to the raw reality of it all and the boldness to step out and show things that most teen dramas would sugarcoat…also the makeup in the show was definitely a crowd pleaser.

The show was written and created by Sam Levinson, a man who only started his writing and directing career in 2010 with the action-comedy film Operation: Endgame. Euphoria was his big breakout hit— that show truly solidified his name among the great showrunners of the decade. Now, he directed and helped write HBO’s next big blockbuster show: The Idol. It seems that Levinson’s career is going to skyrocket even more, since Idol has big names attached and behind it—The Weeknd creating it and staring in it with the likes of Lily Rose Depp and Jennie Kim from Blackpink— but this show may also be his last, and most of the industry hopes that it is.

In addition to being executive producer, Levinson was never supposed to be a writer and director for this project. Levinson and the initial director, Amy Seimetz, had many arguments about the direction of the show. As a result, Levinson had Abel Taefye (The Weeknd) tell Seimetz that the two weren’t happy about the “female perspective” she was shooting the show through-immediately firing her. In a lurch, Levinson stepped up to the plate to direct the show, and when Sam Levinson directs, complications and cracks begin to show.

Levinson began adding scenes that even the higher ups at HBO deemed “too racy” for the public. He began adding details so disturbing that actress Lily Rose Depp almost dropped out due to the  strain on her mental health.  Additionally, Jennie Kim’s scenes began to get cut shorter, changing her credit from a main cast member to a minor role. According to a Rolling Stone interview with a production member from the show, “‘{Jennie} only has about 3 lines per episode. They didn’t let her talk that much. Her job was to sit there [and] look pretty, basically.’” And remember: her role was being used as a selling point for the show in all the marketing, which is now outraging fans.

But Jennie’s lines weren’t the only thing left on the cutting room floor when it came to Levinson, as it was reported that Levinson scrapped the $54-75 million finished project to make a new version of The Idol with more violence and NSFW content for the already explicit show. But this kind of behavior, regarding disrespecting actors and budget isn’t new for Levinson at all.

While filming season 2 of Euphoria, actress Barbie Ferrieria, who played Kat Hernadez, reportedly walked off set due to constant disagreements with Levinson about the direction of her character. These frequent arguments caused Ferreira to leave the show altogether, making Levinson reduce her role as he felt like she couldn’t “handle the heat in the kitchen” (ELLE). Actress Sydney Sweeney and Chloe Cherry have expressed their discomfort with filming more provocative scenes, causing Levinson and Cherry to have heated arguments.

With all of this combined, the sets of both shows always had high tensions and horrible working conditions, with Zendaya mentioning in an interview that episodes of Euphoria took 15-17 hours a day to shoot with minimum breaks.

So, the question remains: why is Sam Levinson still allowed in the industry? In short, he’s protected, and we viewers need to make sure he isn’t any more.

While I love watching shows with my favorite actors and actresses (I mean, the only reason I truly had any interest in The Idol was because of Jennie Kim and Dan Levy’s attachment to the project), when there are horrid names and stories attached to a project, we need to not support it. By watching and sending love and praise to a show, we are doing just that—we are allowing the actions from people like Sam Levinson to be supported within Hollywood.

Euphoria is an amazing show, and all the actors and crew surrounding that show are clearly talented, so sending praise to said crew and actors is a great thing—but with that praise, we need to voice that we as a society shouldn’t condone the horrible things showrunners and directors like Levinson do.

Good TV shows don’t need to have a 100 percent perfect life on set—with any great show things will go array and make for funny stories about production down the line—but the one thing a good show does not need?

Sam Levinson.

Zendaya and director/writer Sam Levinson. (Photo courtesy HBO)