Is The Idol Based on Britney Spears? Here’s Who Jocelyn Is Really Inspired From

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As we watch fame ravage a young, vulnerable, and exploit this fictional pop star, many viewers are asking if The Idol is based on Britney Spears, or who out there in the music industry this uncomfortable story draws inspiration from.

The series, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival in May 2023, stars Lily-Rose Depp as a pop star trying to make a comeback after a nervous breakdown and Abel Tesfaye (formerly known as The Weeknd) as a nightclub owner and self-help guru with questionable—if not downright sinister—motivations and methods for helping her achieve said comeback. The brains behind the series are Euphoria’s Sam Levinson, Tesfaye and Reza Fahim and they came under scrutiny when Rolling Stone published an exposé on an alleged toxic work environment.

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On April 25, 2022, director Amy Seimetz suddenly exited with roughly 80 percent of the six-episode series finished; with Levinson taking over as director, he scrapped the almost complete $54-75 million project to rewrite and reshoot. “What I signed up for was a dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century,” one production member explained to Rolling Stone. “The things that we subject our talent and stars to, the forces that put people in the spotlight and how that can be manipulated in the post-Trump world.” However, they add, “It went from satire to the thing it was satirizing.” Here’s if The Idol is based on Britney Spears.

Is The Idol based on Britney Spears?

Is The Idol based on Britney Spears? According to Levinson and Depp herself, Jocelyn isn’t based on Spears—even though the show’s debut episode references her directly—or any other real-life popstar including Selena Gomez. According to Deadline, the Britney reference in the series was essentially a publicist spinning how Depp’s pop star can manage a situation. But “we’re not telling anyone else’s story,” Depp told the publication, “I think something we wanted to do is make her feel simultaneously like a pop star of our time, but one that is in her own plane.”

The Idol
Lily-Rose Depp, Abel Tesfaye. Courtesy of WarnerMedia/HBOHBO

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Depp said during an interview with W that she drew on a few different pop icons to channel the vulnerability of Jocelyn. “Of course I’m a Britney fan!” Depp said. “Who doesn’t love Britney? But I was also thinking about Beyoncé, Mariah, and every huge pop star of our time. I wanted Jocelyn to be the kind of woman who can dominate a room, someone who doesn’t ever shy away from their sparkle.”

She expanded on this point in an interview alongside Tesfaye and Levinson published in The New York Times on June 3, 2023: “I was so nervous about the musical aspect,” she said. “It’s not what I do and this character has been doing this her entire life. I remember the first time that I had to sing in front of Abel, I was, like, I’m going to blow my brains out. Little by little, we got to know each other more and got comfortable with each other.”

Some fans are also drawing comparisons between Jocelyn and Selena Gomez.  “Bad Liar” was Selena’s first single after pulling out of her Revival tour for mental health reasons. In the original “Bad Liar” single art, Selena wears a hospital band—a photo that was taken after Selena had just received treatment for lupus. Given she was dating The Weeknd at the time, fans have speculated whether he used this experience as inspiration. One viewer tweeted: “also i love the weeknd but u can tell jocelyn’s character was inspired heavy by selena if i was her watching this i would sue bc wth [sic]”.

Does Lily-Rose Depp actually sing in The Idol?

Does, Lily-Rose Depp is actually singing in The Idol but in an interview with W Magazine, published in May 2023, she acknowledged that she “never thought” she’d get the part. “I knew there would be many lovely ladies who are more musical than me, but I thought, I’ll give it a go,” Depp said, reflecting on the audition. “I wanted to wear pop-star colors,” Depp explained. “And I wanted to channel a certain LA feeling. I grew up in LA, and I’m an LA girl, and so is Jocelyn. I wanted to capture the style mix of mischief and shine.”

For the audition, she had to sing a cappella. “I thought, ‘Here’s where I don’t get called back’.” And she sang a minute of “Fever,” a song written for Little Willie John but made famous by Peggy Lee. “I was going through the casting tapes, and Lily-Rose immediately stood out,” Ashley Levinson, Sam’s wife and an executive producer of The Idol, told W. “She had the kind of vulnerability and strength that was crucial for the character.”

Who is in The Idol cast?

The Idol cast
Courtesy of WarnerMedia/HBOHBO

Who is in The Idol cast? The Idol features an ensemble cast and stars creator and writer The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) and Lily-Rose Depp.

Lily-Rose Depp opened up about getting the role and meeting Tesfaye in a W Magazine cover story. “We had met socially, but I didn’t know him,” Depp recalled. “Abel is so warm and friendly, but I was very nervous about the chemistry read because I really wanted the part. Like all my favorite on-screen couples, Jocelyn and Tedros complemented each other in the most dangerous way. They had that push-and-pull connection.”

The show also marked BLACKPINK member Jennie’s first role in a TV show. She told WWD, “It definitely was a challenge, because I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It was like, breaking a wall for me,” she said. “She really helped me a lot. Telling me about scenes, and it was very comforting to have her there. She just taught me to express myself and be comfortable with myself, to not be scared.”

Here’s a list of the cast members in The Idol:

  • Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn

  • Abel Tesfaye as Tedros

  • Suzanna Son as Chloe

  • Troye Sivan as Xander

  • Jennie Ruby Jane as Dyanne

  • Moses Sumney as Izaak

  • Jane Adams as Nikki Katz

  • Dan Levy as Jocelyn’s publicist

  • Eli Roth as a Live Nation representative

  • Rachel Sennott as Leia

  • Hari Nef as Talia

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Destiny

  • Mike Dean as a music producer

  • Ramsey as herself

  • Hank Azaria as Chaim

  • Melanie Liburd as Jenna

When does The Idol air?

The Idol airs episodically starting on June 4, 2023, on Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and Max. The series has six episodes and here is the schedule for when each comes out.

Episode 1: “Pop Tarts & Rat Tales” — June 4, 2023
Episode 2: “Double Fantasy” — June 11, 2023
Episode 3: “Daybreak” June 18, 2023
Episode 4: June 25, 2023
Episode 5: July 2, 2023
Episode 6: July 9, 2023

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