[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Daisy Jones & The Six.]Based on the best-selling novel of the same name from Taylor Jenkins Reid, the Amazon Studios/Hello Sunshine series Daisy Jones & The Six tells the story of the meteoric rise and crash-and-burn implosion of the iconic 1970s band, fronted by Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) and Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin). The two charismatic singers are brought together to explore their shared love of music, but while their combined artistry is magic, their personalities clash, becoming toxic for everyone around them and eventually tearing them apart. As their story is recounted directly by the band, through their personal truths and the songs that defined them, you’ll learn how desire and determination, and fame and success, can’t always overcome it all.
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Nabiyah Be (who plays disco singer Simone Jackson) and Tom Wright (who plays record producer Teddy Price) talked about how they prepared for this project, what it was like to watch their co-stars form a real band, adding so many layers to their characters, Simone’s journey of self-discovery, that Teddy sees a bit of himself in Billy Dunne, and what it was like to shoot the Soldier Field concert.
Collider: I love that both of your characters really get room to grow. In doing something like this, when you’re dealing with a book that people love and that has this built in fan base, do you refer to the book as something of a bible, along with the script, or do you turn more to things like bands, musicians, locations, and just this whole era, in general?
NABIYAH BE: In my case, I understood, pretty early, on that Simone was gonna be more expanded and a little bit different from the book, so I left it on the shelf for my audition process. A lot of Simone is really a big mesh of big disco names, like Donna Summer, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross, and then lesser known names and background vocalists, like Linda Clifford and Claudia Lennear. And then, a lot of it was from my personal experience, as well.
TOM WRIGHT: The book, for me, was the first extraordinary experience. I really wanted to understand that world, but you can’t act the book. You must act the scripts that you’re given. When I saw that Teddy’s role had been expanded and deepened, all of a sudden, I felt very, very grateful to be a part of it and to be able to play this character.
Tom, your character is the guy who’s helping sell this band to people and get them to want to care about them. As the actor playing him, what was it like to see these actors playing as this band, the first time? Was there a moment when you really saw it?
WRIGHT: The first time actually happened off camera. Prior to shooting, they decided to hold a concert for the crew and family members and the employees of Hello Sunshine. I went to it with very low expectations because they had never played instruments before. Some people weren’t trained singers. But the quality of the musicianship and the quality of the songs and the music was so spot on. I left amazed and recommitted to playing Teddy Price to the utmost of my ability. I was extremely impressed.
Nabiyah, Simone is such a great character. She’s someone who is very larger than life, in a lot of ways, but I love how we not only learn about her music evolution, we see her self-discovery and how she embraces who she really is and not what people want her to be. What did you most enjoy about adding so many different colors and shades to the character, and having her life inform her music while her music informs her life?
BE: When we first meet her, she starts out in Los Angeles, which was predominantly a very white folk music scene, and she’s intrinsically an innovator. Even though she’s respected as a vocalist, her music isn’t doing very well. So, when she moves to New York, she understands that she can be truthful to herself and feel at home while also having the praise that she looks for without compromising her values.
Simone’s journey is so interesting because when we meet her, it feels like she has a real sense of who she is, but then we learn that that’s not really the case, and she has a rediscovery of herself. What was it like to really find her, and did that help you connect with her more deeply to?
BE: Yes, absolutely. We worked a lot on Simone having a private persona and a public persona. We see that in her hair. She only wears her fro when she’s at home with Daisy. And then, the minute she steps out of the house, she puts on the wig. There was a lot of having to play the game and refusing to take the narrative of the victim, even if it meant having to take on abuse. When that gets to the point that it’s too much, she leaves, and we understand that she grows more into herself. We see her more with her natural hair, and she gets to be happy without having to compromise who she is.
Tom, what do you think it is about Teddy that makes him someone that really cares, in a way that many industry people don’t? He doesn’t just see this band as a product. He sees them as individual people who are as immensely talented as they are imperfect and flawed. What do you think that says about his humanity?
WRIGHT: I’m gonna let the audience decide what it says about his humanity. For me, it was important to understand that Teddy was at a point in his life where he needed to count more on the intrinsic quality and beauty of an individual than what they could possibly provide. So, when he meets Billy, Teddy sees a bit of himself in Billy, and he wants to nurture that. When he meets Daisy, he sees a bit of the artistic ability that he has in Daisy. She’s a popcorn kernel ready to explode with artistry. And so, Teddy feels very beholden to the two of them because he feels beholden to the talent. That’s the thing about really great record producers. They infuse themselves into the work, but they are beholden to the artistry of the artists and there’s a responsibility there. Teddy takes that very seriously. Sometimes you have to fix personal problems, in order to get to that artistry, and he knows that.
It’s so interesting to watch him and Billy because, aside from the band and his wife, Billy doesn’t really have any other friends or family in his life, except for Teddy. What did you enjoy about that dynamic and having Sam Claflin to explore that with? Do you have a favorite scene that you got to explore between the two of you?
WRIGHT: The scene in the car. The stuff in the car was where both characters are stripped a little bit raw. And the thing about working with Sam is that Sam is fearless. He is so willing to go into places that other actors might tread more carefully, and he does it with open arms. He doesn’t say, “Okay, this is my area, and you have yours.” He talks about the our. That’s the type of actor he is. So, it’s really pleasant to be able to portray those scenes.
Nabiyah, Simone does her own thing musically, throughout so much of this show. But then, we get to see the duet with Simone and Daisy on stage at the big Soldier Field concert. What was it like to shoot that performance and to sing with Riley Keough?
BE: Oh, that night was amazing. It was long, but I got to feel like I was part of the band. In between takes, we switched instruments. I got to go behind the drums, and Riley would play bass, or something like that. We shot at the big stadium in New Orleans, and it felt really special.
Daisy Jones & The Six is available to stream at Prime Video.