Billie Eilish made her acting debut over the weekend in Donald Glover’s new series Swarm, and apparently her character was based on a real-life cult leader.
Eilish’s character, Eva, crosses paths with Dre, played by Dominique Fishback, in episode 4, after helping the protagonist — who happens to be murderously obsessed with a Beyoncé-like pop star name Ni’Jah — out of a jam with a racist cop on her way to Bonnaroo 2018. From there, Eva invites Dre to her “female empowerment” group, which turns out to be more like a cult.
Janine Nabers, who co-created the series with the artist otherwise known as Childish Gambino, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday about why the “Happier Than Ever” singer’s pivot into acting feels eerily ripped from the headlines. “There is a cult that existed in the world that was very prominent during that time,” the co-executive producer said, speaking of NXIVM. “And that is the kind of true-crime element to that episode.”
Led by Keith Raniere, the NXIVM cult presented itself as a type of multilevel marketing company based on human development, but in reality, women were groomed by the likes of Smallville actress Allison Mack to be exploited by Raniere. In 2020, the disgraced guru was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sex trafficking, racketeering, wire fraud and more.
“I think that when people think of the idea of artists or celebrities, there is this idea of thinking about the cult of Taylor Swift, or the cult of The Beatles or whatever,” Nabers continued. “What we were really interested in was just seeing someone who worships at the altar of ‘something,’ and [exploring] this idea of what is the cult of the mind.”
Read Nabers’ complete chat with THR about all things Swarm here.