“There’s more preparation today for stardom than in the 70s”: Sam Claflin and Camilla Morrone on Daisy Jones and the Six
“What a time to be alive if you love music”: this quote captures the sentiment that emanates from the brand-new ten-part Prime Video music drama series, Daisy Jones and the Six, based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s bestselling 2019 novel, about a fictional 1970s American band. Heavily infused with the music and exploits of the rock acts the writer grew up listening to (particularly Fleetwood Mac), there’s such authenticity given to proceedings that even the actors, when they first came to the script, had to Google the band it was about, assuming it was real.
And so viewers can look forward to a nostalgic, immersive dive back in time, seeing the rockers catapulted to stardom in LA from humble beginnings burgeoning with freedom, creativity and a golden age of sorts for music, while also exploring the uglier sides of the rock’n’roll lifestyle, in particular, pervasive drug abuse, exploitation of women and the pressures of fame. The fabulous cast is led by a magnetic Riley Keough as Daisy and Sam Claflin as The Six frontman Billy Dunne, who both deliver impressive vocals and stage performances, all the more impressive knowing Claflin learnt to sing and play guitar from scratch.
The Upcoming had the pleasure of speaking to the show’s stars ahead of it landing on the streaming platform. Claflin and Camila Morrone (who plays Billy’s wife and band photographer Camile Alvarez) shared how they prepared for their roles, how rock stars behave today in comparison to yesteryear and how they relate to their characters.
How did you come to these roles and what was the appeal?
Sam Claflin: I was auditioning for something else with Hello Sunshine and they were like, “Oh, can you come and audition for this thing?”. I went for The Morning Show and was sat there with the producers and they were like, “Actually, can you come and read this? Do you do musicals?” – I was like “No?”. But yeah, anyway, so I read the first two episodes, and then I went on Google and started searching the band, thinking they were real! And then read the book once I was cast. It was a whirlwind, a tornado of auditions and chemistry reads and stuff.
Back in the 70s, rock stars would pretty much get away with everything. What do you make of today’s rock stars and their role in pop culture and entertainment in general?
Camila Morrone: It’s a good question we haven’t been asked yet! I don’t know… I think, probably with “wokeness”, there are definitely some limitations as to how far one can go. But rock stardom is such a particular thing. I personally love myself a rock star and a rock star story. So yeah, I think if it’s within the means of being a good person, everyone has the liberty to do as they please, which they seem to do.
SC: I think we’re a lot more aware of fame, and its attractiveness… I think rock stars or pop stars, or people in the limelight definitely seem to… there are a lot more bells and whistles, if you know what I mean, that come with being that. So there’s the entourage and the seven-car convoy. And there’s their security. I know, obviously, there was Beatles mania, and there were, I’m sure, huge security risks across the board. But I think because of the nature of social media and press outlets, there’s always this need for more, and everything being easy access. It’s so much more difficult to live a private life is what I suppose I’m trying to say.
CM: There’s also more preparation today for stardom, I think, than in the 70s.
SC: Yeah, exactly. I think we’re kitted out for it now. But yeah, with Daisy Jones and the Six in the 70s, I think you have to remember that, as much as they are a big band, this is their first tour as a band. And so, in the sense of that I had to kind of keep reminding myself that they were meant to be very good but, at the same time, it’s not like they’d been doing this for 50 years – this is the first time they’d been on tour as a band, figuring things out, and I’m sure there were mistakes that would naturally happen on the first tour. So you have to put this into perspective.
James Ponsoldt really recreates the 70s atmosphere and mood on screen. What kind of guide was he on set?
SC: I mean, I think I speak on behalf of not only James Ponsoldt but also Nzingha Stewart, who came into the second half of the series as a director, and Will Graham who came in and did one of the episodes – episode seven, I think. And then we had Scott Neustadter, who not only wrote it but then sort of became the showrunner as well. So there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, in a wonderful way of being able to guide us through – Denise Wingate, who did the costume design… There were just so many people who are experts in their field. And there was Danny Rowe, who was the guitar specialist with the music. I remember Danny; he would be the one to hand me the guitars, and he taught me the history around every guitar that I played and how it was built. We were so fortunate to have such an incredible team of people on this. There was a network, a whole spider’s web of genius.
CM: I second what Sam said! Yeah, I mean to create this ambience in the setting that they did, which you feel so strongly in those first five episodes that James directed, where you’re introduced to this place in time, which Nzingha then does beautifully in kind of keeping up that flow… it really is just people that are so good at what they do, and so passionate. It’s just a collaboration: everyone has a little piece of the puzzle, and we’re just one little piece, but there are all these other pieces that have already been established and working for years and months to create what you see on screen. So we all just have a tiny little percentage of ownership of this – not legally, but in our hearts.
SC: I wish we did.
CM: I know.
The writer of the book said that she was heavily influenced by music she grew up listening to – bands like Fleetwood Mac. Did you go back and listen to music from that period? And, Sam, how did you prepare for being on-stage and the vocal performances as well?
SC: For me, my music knowledge was pretty poor. I have to say, I think I went into my audition and the music producers started playing Come Together and said “Do you know this song?”, “Yeah, Michael Jackson, right?” “I think he did a version of it. But no, it was the Beatles”, “Oh yes, I’ve heard of them…” [laughs]. So I think I had a huge journey that I needed to go on. And thankfully, again, we had a wonderful team of people, I had incredible singing teachers: Eric Vetro, who’s like… he works with everybody. I’ll never forget going into a singing lesson with him, following John Legend just before Rosalia, and then Sam Claflin, who can’t sing. I remember just being sat in the waiting room at his house and hearing Rosalia belting out opera, and I was like, “What on Earth? This is, I mean, this is madness”. And then I worked with another singing teacher called Rachel Price, who is in a band called Lake Street Dive, and I’m a huge fan of that band. So when she started singing the warm-up as part of the singing lesson, I was like, “You sound really familiar, are you in a band?”. “Yeah, a little band called Lake Street Dive”, “I’ve seen you live!”. We were recording these songs in Sound City Studios, which is where Fleetwood Mac, of course, were born.
CM: They were born inside of there?
SC: All of them, yeah…[laughs] No, but there’s a history surrounding that place. And I think the day of my audition, another song that I prepared was a song by Bob Dylan. And only a week later, Bob Dylan was in that studio, recording his album. And then Marcus Mumford, who collaborated on the writing of Look at Us Now, which has just come out… He was recording his album whilst I was singing – well, butchering – his song that he’d just written, and he was listening to it, like, “Maybe just try it a bit more like this is…”. But then it comes full circle: we were shooting out in New Orleans and Bob Dylan was then performing in New Orleans, so we all went as a cast to go and watch. I was guided to have many references, and many people that I was told to watch. Bruce Springsteen was the big inspiration for me; I looked especially at his earlier stuff, I listened to a lot of Bruce and The Doors as well. There’s a moment where Billy loses his head a little bit in the earlier episodes – I was channelling more of a Jim Morrison in that moment. There was a whole education for me during this, a lot of music listened to.
There is a lot of talk about success in the series. Did you see yourself in the characters, especially in the terms of how to deal with success?
CM: Well, it was much more prominent for Billy, obviously, because he’s the rock star!
SC: You’re a rock star!
CM: I was a rock star in my own way. But, I mean, I related to my character in a lot of ways; it was an interesting journey for me to follow her transition into womanhood. Although she’s not in the band, and famous per se, I think that there’s a real kind of strength that comes with being the supportive glue for this group of people, who have just reached this massive level of success and fame, what feels like overnight. And that’s kind of empowering and beautiful, in its own way, to be the foundation for these incredible artists, and that’s what I see Camilla as: the foundation.
SC: I have to say the one thing I definitely don’t connect with Billy on is I hate the sound of my own voice, where I think Billy is somewhat in love with himself a little bit. And you have to have an ego to be a musician, and I definitely don’t have that… [laughs] I don’t think. But, for me, there are so many aspects of his character and his life that I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve been at this crossroads before. I’ve seen this happen before, I felt this before, I’ve been there before”. Never addiction and never being on a stage in front of tens of thousands of people. But, in a way, whether with going on tour with filming or whatever it is, there are definitely the challenges and struggles of being a dad as well as being an artist of any sort of form that I could really relate to quite well. So I’d say this is probably the most sort of authentic I felt in playing a character. I think I really struggled not to cry in most of the scenes. I remember Lauren… there was a scene with me and Camila lying on the balcony, and Lauren was like, “Sam, shall we try one without you crying?” and I was like, “I’m really trying, I’m trying not to”. But I think it’s just it all very close to home and those emotions are so raw. It was a difficult – or like a therapeutic experience – working through this.
Daisy Jones and the Six is released on Amazon Prime Video on 3rd March 2023. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Daisy Jones and the Six here: