Billie Eilish’s ‘Swarm’ Character is Based on a Real Cult Leader

Billie Eilish’s ‘Swarm’ Character is Based on a Real Cult Leader

Donald Glover and Janine Nabers’ new BeyHive-inspired true crime horror series is making the waves on Amazon Prime. With a star-studded cast and writing team, it also marks the acting debut of Billie Eilish. Her spine-chilling character may also be based on real-life celebrity cult leader Keith Rainere of NXIVM.

Set between 2016 and 2018, Swarm centers around an obsessed fan, Dre, played by Dominque Fishback who devotes her life to protecting the name of Ni’Jah (a mega-pop star based on Beyoncé), and takes the lives of anyone who disrespects her idol in the process.

So where does Billie Eilish come in? Around episode four (spoiler alert) Dre enters a “female empowerment” commune run by none other than the “Bad Guys” singer. In her acting debut, Eilish plays Eva, the group’s executive director who guides the group through a series of eerie training and healing sessions that feel all too familiar for those of us who pored over the HBO docuseries, The Vow, detailing the rise and fall of high-profile Hollywood cult, NXVIM.

Nabers told The Hollywood Reporter that the episode drew its true crime elements from “a cult that existed in the world that was very prominent during that time.” The time period coincides with NXIVM's timeline, but Naber didn’t specify. The role also alludes to the cult of celebrity in modern pop culture, as Nabers added: “I think 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. 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.”

The cult of Billie Eilish, also known as the Avocados, swarmed to social media to gush over Eilish’s entrancing acting debut.

Acting veteran Fishback also praised the singer for being “respectful of the craft,” saying Eilish “came in with ideas, wanting to talk about it, being game to rehearse.”

We won’t spoil how the episode ends, but it is followed by Malia Obama’s writing debut in episode five, which hints heavily at Trump’s presidency.

Photo courtesy of Matteo Prandoni/BFA