Swarm: The terrifying inspiration for Billie Eilish’s cult leader

Chris Tilly
Billie Eilish as Eva in Swarm.

Swarm is one of the most talked about shows of 2023, and we now know more about the terrifying inspiration for the character that Billie Eilish plays.

New thriller Swarm debuted on Prime Video on March 17, 2023, and has already received rave reviews. Created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, the official synopsis for the show is as follows…

Swarm follows Dre, a young woman whose obsession with a pop star takes a dark turn.

Dominique Fishback plays Dre, while pop sensation Billie Eilish also appears in the show, as a character harboring dark secrets. We now know more about the inspiration for that character, so BEWARE OF SWARM SPOILERS AHEAD

Who does Billie Eilish play in Swarm?

Billie Eilish plays a character called Eva in Swarm. It marks the singing superstar’s acting debut.

In the show, Dre is helped out by a young woman when she’s being harassed by a racist police officer. That woman takes her back to the compound where she lives, and which is run by Eva.

But while the women seem friendly – with Eva welcoming Dre to the commune with open arms – there’s something more sinister happening beneath the surface.

The terrifying inspiration for Billie Eilish’s cult leader

The character Billie Eilish plays – and the cult which she leads – is loosely based on the NXIVM cult, which hit the news when its leader Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison and fined $1.75 million in a sex-trafficking case.

“There is a cult that existed in the world that was very prominent during that time,” Janine Nabers told The Hollywood Reporter, in reference to NXIVM. “And that is the kind of true-crime element to that episode.

“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. What we were really interested in was just seeing someone who worships at the altar of ‘something,’ and this idea of what is the cult of the mind.”

You can read more about NXIVM – and Smallville star Allison Mack’s involvement in the cult – here. While we’re written about whether Swarm show is based on a true story here, and the chances of Season 2 happening here.

Swarm is now streaming on Prime Video, which which you can sign up for here. Please note that if you click on a product link on this page, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

About The Author

Chris Tilly is the TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Newspaper Journalism, and over the last 20 years, he's worked for the likes of Time Out, IGN, and Fandom. Chris loves Star Wars, Marvel, DC, sci-fi, and especially horror, while he knows maybe too much about Alan Partridge. You can email him here: chris.tilly@dexerto.com.