‘Swarm’ getting a lot of buzz for creators, and Malia Obama
Everyone is buzzing about “Swarm.” In Amazon Prime Video’s horror comedy (all seven episodes now streaming), “Judas and the Black Messiah” breakout Dominique Fishback plays Dre, a crazed fan of a Beyoncé-like pop star named Ni’Jah (Nirine S. Brown) who takes her obsession to murderous extremes. The series was co-created by Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, making his return to TV after FX’s Emmywinning “Atlanta.”
The dark and surreal new show has received, well, swarms of attention for its characters’ similarities to Beyoncé and her fans, who call themselves “the Beyhive.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the series, which co-stars Billie Eilish and is cowritten by Malia Obama:
Each episode of “Swarm” begins with a title card that reads, “Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” The show is inspired in part by an urban legend that circulated online following the release of Beyoncé’s 2016 album “Lemonade,” which hints at husband Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity.
“In April 2016, when a certain visual album dropped, there was a rumor that a girl named Marissa Jackson killed herself because she realized that a certain pop star was being cheated on by her husband,”
Nabers said last week during a Q&A at South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, according to IndieWire. “I was on a text thread with some of my Houstonian friends, and for two days we thought this was a real event.”
The story was quickly debunked, but it stuck with Nabers.
“When Donald pitched this idea about a Black woman who’s obsessed with a pop star, I said, ‘I know what the pilot is’ and ran with it.”
Other online rumors and true crimes also made their way into “Swarm,” Nabers told Entertainment Tonight: “After you see the show and you go to the internet, you will see that a lot of it holds up.”
Along with Fishback, the series features a hot young cast of stars: Dre’s sister, Marissa, is played by Chloe Bailey, who is half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle with her sister, future “The Little Mermaid” star Halle Bailey. Singer/model Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson, portrays a stripper who befriends Dre. And seven-time Grammy winner Billie Eilish makes her acting debut as a hypnotic cult leader who interrogates Dre in a pair of teaser clips.
Eilish, who walked the red carpet at the “Swarm” premiere in Los Angeles, is a longtime fan of Glover. She called him one of her “all-time favorite creators” on her Apple Music podcast in 2020. She also brought out Glover, who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino, to perform at her concert in Inglewood, California, last December.
You may spot a notable name among the show’s creative team: Malia Obama, daughter of Barack and Michelle Obama. The former president’s daughter landed her first full-time writing gig on “Swarm” after interning for HBO’s “Girls” and working as a production assistant on CBS’ “Extant.”
“She’s an incredible writer and artist,” Nabers told People. “We really wanted to give her the opportunity to get her feet wet in TV and see if this is something she wants to continue doing.”
Speaking to Nerdist, Nabers called Obama “a little bit of a Wikipedia page when it comes to movies,” adding that she had some “really wild, incredible pitches.”
Glover echoed praise for Obama in an interview with Vanity Fair.
“She’s really focused, and she’s working really hard,” Glover said. “I feel like she’s just somebody who’s going to have really good things coming soon.”
“Swarm” in no way tries to hide its Beyoncé influences, with fictional pop star Ni’Jah re-creating almost exact images from Queen B’s “Renaissance” and “Everything is Love” eras. Ni’Jah also hails from Bey’s hometown of Houston. But Nabers has played coy about whether the superstar signed off on the series.
Asked at SXSW whether Beyoncé has seen the show, Nabers answered, “Of course,” but declined to elaborate. Reviews for “Swarm” have mostly been positive, and Glover told The Hollywood Reporter that he hopes Beyoncé’s fans are willing to go on the ride.
“Beyhive, don’t kill us,” Glover joked. “It’s not that bad, it’s actually pretty cool!”