Vanity Fair has released an exclusive first look at Sam’s new show, Daisy Jones & the Six! The article comes with an interview with the producers and the cast of the show and how it came together, and some first official images from the show. Amazon Prime Video has also announced that its series premiere is set on March 03, 2023! Check out the images in our gallery and more of the interview under the cut.
VANITY FAIR – It’s that age-old answer we’ve heard from countless rock stars. They do what they do “for the fans.”
So you’ll just have to call the cast and crew of the upcoming TV series adaptation of Daisy Jones & the Six, premiering on Amazon Prime Video on March 3, rock stars. Based on the wildly popular Taylor Jenkins Reid novel of the same name, an oral history of a fictional band in the ’70s with a Fleetwood Mac–like sound (and the attendant backstage drama to match), the show’s team is studded with people who are just as obsessed with the source material as the bestseller’s many readers. That starts with husband-and-wife executive producers Scott Neustadter and Lauren Levy Neustadter. He’s the screenwriter and producer behind such successful adaptations as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and The Spectacular Now, and she’s head of film and TV at Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s hit parade of a production shingle, recently of Little Fires Everywhere, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Morning Show. Scott got a prepublication manuscript of the book in 2017, at the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency. “I flipped for it, and really just sort of fell in love with the whole thing,” he tells Vanity Fair. “Transporting to the 1970s Laurel Canyon music scene was, like, the greatest gift I could imagine.”
Lauren was equally enthused, and the duo signed on for their first project together, throwing work-life balance out the window to immerse themselves in the series. With Reid’s blessing, Scott set to work adapting the story with Michael H. Weber, with the goal of “figuring out how to make the experience of watching it the same as we had when we read it.” To that end, he retained the structure of the story, with the characters looking back on a long-passed era, but shortened that time span to about 20 years.
Just like the meteoric rise of the band at the center of Daisy Jones, nobody could have predicted the journey that the show would go on. Riley Keough plays Daisy, with Sam Claflin as tortured rock star Billy Dunne, who’s torn between his passion for his art and the man he wants to be for his wife (Camila Morrone) and children. The cast is rounded out by Suki Waterhouse as Karen, Sebastian Chacon as Warren, Josh Whitehouse as Eddie, and Will Harrison as Graham. Timothy Olyphant plays Rod Reyes, Tom Wright is Teddy Price, and Nabiyah Be plays Simone Jackson. The players also portray their aged-up characters in documentary-style shots set 20 years after the band’s heyday.
Shooting was set to begin in 2020, just before the COVID-19 epidemic shut down the world.
“We had all just got to LA and we all had our first sort of get-together,” Claflin says. The cast’s next in-person bonding session wouldn’t be for more than a year. “We went out to dinner and then we all went home and disappeared for like a year and a half. It was quite frustrating.”
Despite the time and the distance, the cast became a band through music lessons and weekly Zoom catch-ups, immersion into the music and fashion of the era, and a peculiar emotional connection that came from being part of something they all wanted very, very badly to happen, but couldn’t control. In hindsight, Claflin says, the extended production freeze was to their advantage: “By the time we got back out to Los Angeles June of last year, I think we were all so pumped and so excited to see one another—and we’d all improved so massively musically—that we then immediately just sort of gelled as a band,” he says.
There is no Daisy Jones & the Six without Daisy Jones. Riley Keough, who happens to be one of Elvis Presley’s grandchildren, remembers the jolt she got just hearing about the project for the first time.
“I had no idea what it was,” she says. “I didn’t Google it or anything. I didn’t know it was based off a book. I didn’t know if it was a real band or not. All I knew is she goes, ‘it’s called Daisy Jones & the Six, and it’s about a band in the ’70s.’ And in my head, I was like, I know I’m playing Daisy. I just knew it. I don’t even know if one script was written, I didn’t know if they liked me, I hadn’t even talked to them at that stage. The only other time I’ve experienced that is when I met my husband and I knew a week in that I’m gonna have kids with him and marry him.”
Scott Neustadter remembers seeing Keough’s first self-tape for the part, shot from above, her hair haloed around her on the ground. “She just so identified with not just the character, but the whole aura of the character.” Lauren Neustadter agrees: “She came in and was really passionate about everything and read the book and loved the book and was like, ‘I want to be Daisy, I am Daisy.’”
However, the casting wasn’t without its hurdles. All the cast members play their own instruments in the show, including when that instrument is the human voice. There would be no dubbing. “We talked about her singing and we talked about her grandfather and she sort of said, ‘You know, I know I have it in me, but I really don’t sing outside the shower,’” Lauren Neustadter says. “This is not a thing that I’ve done before, but I’m ready to do the work, and she really did.”
The little experience she had playing the piano when she was 10, Keough says, wasn’t going to cut it for musicality. She sent a video of herself quietly singing a Fleetwood Mac song, and was told she needed to learn to belt if she wanted the part.
“I was like, what does that even mean?” she says. “I didn’t even know how one gets to be able to sing loud. I went to a vocal coach and I was like, they need me to belt.” Her agent suggested she try ripping out something like Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” from A Star Is Born remake in her car to get in the mindset. “I was like, are you out of your mind, it’s not an easy song to sing. I sounded so bad that I started crying. I was like, I can’t do it, and when I can’t do something it lights a fire in me to be able to do it. I was like, I have to do it. I’m gonna go to this vocal coach, and he’s gonna teach me how to fucking belt, whatever I need to do to get this. It really became about pushing myself to do things I’ve never done before.”
She got there. After hard work with her vocal coach, Keough taped again, this time a spirited rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” She belted, and the show found its Daisy. “Seeing her come alive in that role is just, I mean, it’s mesmerizing, it’s magical,” her costar Claflin tells VF.
Casting Billy Dunne, the frontman who struggles with addiction and art, the tension between life at home and life on the road, was difficult. “We saw so many great people and everybody checked like three of the four boxes, but no one checked every box. And then we met Sam,” says Scott Neustadter. Claflin was perfect, and even said he had musicality—but perhaps didn’t realize quite how much the part would demand.
“I have to say, I’d never picked up a guitar before I got this part,” Claflin admits with a laugh. “And, you know, having read the book, it wasn’t overly clear that I was due to be playing because we took some creative freedom and slightly shifted the parts a little bit, meaning that I was going to be playing not lead guitar, thank God, but rhythm guitar. I had to learn how to hold the guitar, how to strum a guitar. I had the biggest journey to go with the singing as well.”
After impressing them as an actor in an early audition, Scott Neustadter says, “we found out he wasn’t as musical as he might have [said].”
He’d been asked to prepare a ’70s rock song for his audition. Having grown up with a metalhead father controlling the radio dial, leading to some gaps in Claflin’s classic-rock knowledge, he googled and somehow landed on Elton John’s “Your Song” as his sample. “It wasn’t long before the music producer came in like, ‘Right, okay. We’re gonna try a different thing because this isn’t quite rock and roll. Have you heard this song?’” Claflin says, before singing,”’Come together, right now.’ And I go, ‘oh, I know that song, that’s Michael Jackson!’”
“Yeah,” he says sheepishly. “So I had that much of a journey to go on. I knew nothing. But thankfully, they saw something in me and knew that I was sort of pliable and flexible and willing to learn and wanting to learn and willing to sacrifice myself for, like, three years.”
During the year-plus halt in production, Claflin worked with vocal coaches and guitar teachers over Zoom, inching closer to embodying rock God Billy Dunne. The difference between Claflin’s cringey Elton John–infused audition to the final performances was dramatic. “I get misty thinking about the transformation and the dedication,” says Lauren Levy Neustadter. “During COVID he was in England with his kids, and he was homeschooling them during the day, and he would take care of them, and then he would put them to sleep and he would get on a Zoom to [learn how to] play the guitar. And he also really changed. He transformed his body to really be like a ’70s rock star. He would get on the Zoom and get on the guitar and he would work with his vocal coach. It was nonstop. He was really transforming into Billy, and Riley did the same.”
While Claflin couldn’t identify with Billy’s self-aggrandizing, frontman ego, he found that he could easily slide into another aspect of the character’s life: fatherhood. “I was sort of surprised how unbelievably easy it was to access that kind of depth of character,” he says. “I found it very easy to cry. Usually on a film set I use tear stick or some sort of aid, but this time I’d be able to cry on cue, and then they’d say cut I’d continue sobbing—an emotional breakdown but I think it’s just because it’s so much of Billy in me, in a weird way.”
The actors portraying the Six were hard at work on honing their stage skills, of course, but they also had to have something to play.
“This is the most fun part for me,” Scott Neustadter says of creating the songs for the show, a mix of originals and those using lyrics supplied in Reid’s book. The team wanted songs that felt of the era, but not like an imitation of any specific group. They landed on Blake Mills and Tony Berg as collaborators and lead songwriters for the show, eventually building a playlist that numbers more than 25 tracks over the season.
Mills is a session musician who played on Bob Dylan’s records and toured with Joni Mitchell, which triggered a full geek-out from Scott Neustadter.
“Plus, they were at Sound City, which is where Fleetwood Mac made their first Lindsey and Stevie album and just all of it felt real and just great for us,” he says. The duo wrote songs in the voices of different characters, utilizing an impressive roster of musical collaborators with hits both past and present, like Phoebe Bridgers. Fans will be able to listen to the Six as well, with a soundtrack released by Atlantic Records. “‘Regret Me’ is there, ‘Aurora’ is there,” Scott says of some of the songs from the book.
There’s even a chance that the real-life Six will be able to reunite in present day—the cast has all been keeping their musical chops sharp, and before filming started even played a concert to a crowd to get into character and experience the real-time feedback.
“We would just watch them perform and we were the biggest fans,” Lauren says of finally, finally getting on set and hearing the cast play together.
“It sounds vibrant,” Scott says of the band’s sound. “It sounds kind of fresh, and doesn’t sound like play acting. [The songs] should feel like songs of that era, but they should kind of stand the test of time. And that was the challenge that we gave the songwriters and they were the best in the world.”
Keough says, “at the end of the day, it’s not like I’m the best singer in the world. You know? Like, we’re not phenomenal singers. But we were proud of how far we got.”
Even Claflin admits, “when I first got that guitar put in my hand, [I thought] this is not gonna feel right with this in my hand. But by the end of it, I just felt like Billy, Billy felt like me. It just pours out of me.”
And, of course, it wouldn’t be the ’70s without ’70s fashion and the distinct setting of Los Angeles. Lauren says that huge amounts of the show were shot on location, including a jaw-dropping makeover of the Sunset Strip. “We took the Sunset Strip and brought it back to the ’70s,” she says. “It was really a dream come true. That was a huge undertaking and pretty magnificent. We shot at the Whiskey. We shot at the Viper Room.”
The guiding light, from the fashion to the aged-up shots of the characters in the documentary pieces, was that “it shouldn’t ever feel like we went to a costume party on Halloween,” Scott says.
Wardrobe head Denise Wingate was essential in the process, shopping vintage all over the country for the look of the show. “She toured with the Bangles,” Lauren says. “She lived and breathed that era and then really brought it to life.”
The cast looks plucked from the era, as do the sets they’re cavorting on. And it’s all true to the characterizations of the book, much to Claflin’s chagrin. “In the book it clearly states that Billy lives in the Canadian tuxedo, the double denim,” he says. “So I remember everyone showing pictures of their costume fittings, and in this group chat, everyone was dressed. ‘Look at this fur coat, look at these flares!’ I went in and I took a picture…It was actually just all denim, it was all blue, and that was it. That was my costume: blue shirt, blue jeans, blue shirt, blue jeans. It’s like Homer Simpson opening his wardrobe and seeing the same outfit for every day.” In the second half of the series, the character has been on a journey, reflected in the costumes: “Billy stayed with the double denim but went black double denim instead of blue.”
To nail the other elements of Daisy’s look, Keough turned to those who know and love the character the best: the fans. “You read the book and she has red hair and there’s a lot of different colors of red,” she says. “So I actually went and found fan art. I was looking at fan art for Daisy Jones. All these images of the red that they imagined her hair to be. That was how we found the color.” Same with the bangs she sports throughout. “In a lot of the fan art she had her gold hoop earrings, and she had her bangles on—and she had bangs in almost all the photos.”
That’s what it comes back to: doing right by the fans who loved the story long before its screen debut. Scott Neustadter took some lessons from his experience adapting The Fault In Our Stars. “I said to John Green, like, what are the lines that are tattooed on people’s bodies that we must make sure are in this thing?” He feels sure, based on similar conversations with Reid, that he hit fans’ must-haves.
“I was a fan first,” he says. “And so for me, it was always like, I would be so mad if someone adapted a book that I loved and didn’t do the right thing. So I kind of always come at it from that perspective. Hopefully—hopefully—people will be pleased.”
After the long and winding road of preproduction and shooting, everybody on the show seems to have found an unexpected family in the midst of the pandemic, learning new skills together and creating a portal to the past.
“I think when you love each other the way that we do, it comes across onscreen, you know?” Keough says. “That’s what I’m excited for people to see because that is authentic, you know? It was a joyous experience. And it was something I really needed in my life at that time. I wanted to make something that made me feel joy.”