The five-episode HBO show, which airs on Sky Atlantic in the UK, follows a troubled young popstar called Jocelyn (Depp) who becomes entangled in a complicated relationship with a sleazy modern-day cult leader (The Weeknd aka Abel Tesfaye).
In March, Rolling Stone published an exposé featuring anonymous interviews with those working on the series, who alleged that its producers, Tesfaye and Levinson, had taken the show “disgustingly off the rails” to create a drama “about a man who gets to abuse this woman and she loves it”.
The show was then condemned as “shameful” and compared to pornography by critics after premiering at Cannes, with some highlighting the skimpy clothes that Depp, 24, wears to portray Jocelyn.
Veteran actor Jane Adams, who plays mean music executive Nikki in The Idol, argued that by focusing so much on Jocelyn’s sexuality, critics have been “missing a wonderful opportunity to praise an incredible woman that I had an incredible time working with”.
“I think a lot of people have their head right up their ass – honest to God, I really do,” she told The Guardian.
“Everything becomes about politics and it’s boring. Sam’s a storyteller. Certain stories are upsetting or challenging. But are we going to censor them? I think they should be more aware of what they’re actually calling for. Just say it – say: ‘We would like to censor people.’ See how that goes.”
Hari Nef, who plays a Vanity Fair reporter called Talia, said: “Lily-Rose has stated explicitly that she felt safe, and that this is her work as much as anybody else.
“If there’s an actress or actor who’s not comfortable with a role, don’t do it. Read the script, set your boundaries. Personally, I would act in a scene that was sexually abject or dangerous. I would do everything Lily-Rose did in this show.”
Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, has said multiple times that Levinson “is the best director I have ever worked with”.
She also recently revealed that she would sometimes “steer clear” of Tesfaye when he was “in the zone” on set.
The Idol is out on Sky Atlantic and NOW on Monday 5 June.