Awards Daily talks to Daisy Jones & the Six showrunner Scott Neustadter about the importance of music, his first foray into television, and why the show has a 20-year time jump instead of 40 years.
Daisy Jones & the Six co-showrunner Scott Neustadter knew adapting the best-selling novel for the small screen would be a huge challenge.
“If we can’t convince you that this band’s music deserves these accolades and this attention, the show’s dead,” said Neustadter. “We had 10 or 11 people in the writers’ room and we were never, ever going to write these hit songs.”
Luckily, he and the Daisy Jones team “fell in love” with musical collaborators Blake Mills and Tony Berg, who operated out of Sound City in Van Nuys—which just happened to be where Mick Fleetwood first heard Lindsey Buckingham play the guitar and where Buckingham Nicks recorded their first album.
“We said to them: Here’s the assignment. It’s not gonna be easy. And they were so excited about it, to not only write the Aurora record, but also the music Billy makes before Daisy and the music Daisy makes before Billy. Blake had a hand writing all the songs across the board, including the disco songs. It was an unbelievably advantageous thing for us to have someone so committed and so talented to deliver these songs for us.”
Since Neustadter had never done television before, as a screenwriter on hit films like The Fault in Our Stars and The Disaster Artist, he wanted to work with someone who could show him the ropes. Enter co-showrunner, Will Graham.
“Will had worked with Amazon before on Mozart in the Jungle, and he had experience that I did not have, working with writers’ rooms and the music component. The two of us set off to put a room together, and I had an idea of the entry and exit points of each episode. We started writing the show together, and it was really an awesome collaboration.”
The two of them set out to expand upon the stories from Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel without making them feel like tangents.
“We knew we were going to make the Simone (Nabiyah Be) character have a lot more time and bandwidth than Taylor did in her novel, to go in new directions with her, just by nature of having 10 hours to play with. Part of the fabric of the story of a singer of that moment would have been being completely taken advantage of and marginalized. Some of the Whitney Houston stuff was inspiring to us; Chaka Khan and Diana Ross were some touchstone people we were interested in. We were going to do a bit more with Simone and Teddy (Tom Wright), and that’s part of why we had to make room and get rid of the Pete character in the book.”
Another change that really makes the story soar off the page is the ending, where Billy isn’t confessing his sins to a stranger in a bar, but making a decision to save his marriage by fleeing the stage in the middle of a show.
“You definitely want to go out in the most cinematic way possible. We wanted to make it so everyone has to make a choice at the end. They’re all making the choice for themselves of what they want the rest of their life to look like. Usually, when I do adaptations, I only want to make changes that I have to, and this book I loved and did not want to make too many changes at all, but it did feel like the rhythms that we were building toward in a 10-episode series had to converge in a moment where all three of them had to make a choice like that. There are intentions behind all of those things. We had a big ensemble, and we wanted everyone to have a huge arc and trajectory.”
Throughout the 10-episode series, the audience gets glimpses of Daisy, Billy, and other bandmates 20 years on in the ’90s through documentary footage. Was there ever a version where we see them in the present day?
“I love the fact that they’re looking back on their lives, and the story is told through the prism of memory. When you’re in your 70s, there might not be a part of you that feels like you want to see what happens next musically. The second act had already been done. But if you move it up to the 40s, there’s a lot of time left. That could feel like a first act, and the question is, ‘What happens now?’ There’s a lot of runway to go. If we hit a grand slam and people wanted to see more, it would be easier to continue the story from the ’90s onward instead of now.”
Daisy Jones & The Six is streaming on Amazon.