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After a rocky start, Sam Claflin can’t let go of ‘Daisy Jones’

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Playing Billy Dunne in “Daisy Jones & the Six” was a notably therapeutic experience for Sam Claflin. The British actor was grappling with major life changes when he was cast in early 2020, right before the pandemic disrupted the show’s production schedule. Claflin had recently separated from his wife but hadn’t yet dealt with his emotions. It was only once he got inside Billy’s head, both during the lengthy preparation and on set in 2021 and 2022, that Claflin was able to come to terms with himself.

“In all honesty, had we shot this show in April 2020 as originally planned, I don’t think I would have processed a lot of the things I needed to process in my personal life,” Claflin says. “I was fortunate to have had time to do a lot of self-reflection and be in a place where those emotions were accessible and raw, but without being so raw that I was going to have a breakdown on set. There were definitely moments where I found it very, very difficult to hold it together. A lot of the feelings that Billy goes through and that you see in the show are just very authentic, real feelings pouring out of me.”

Claflin came into the Prime Video limited series, based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, after an audition process he describes as a “tornado of mayhem.” He initially met with Hello Sunshine about the second season of “The Morning Show,” but the production company quickly suggested he read the scripts for “Daisy Jones & the Six.” The series, about a fictional ‘70s rock band’s tumultuous rise to fame and subsequent breakup, was immediately compelling, as was the chance to play a rock musician. Claflin flew to Los Angeles in February of 2020, met with a music coach and performed a song from the series for the producers.

“It’s been said by [creator and writer] Scott Neustadter himself that it was a bit of a failure,” Claflin admits. “But they saw something in me. The first time I’d ever really picked up the guitar was in my audition, where they put one in my hands, told me where to put my fingers and said, ‘OK, go.’ It was a whirlwind, to say the least.”

Two weeks later, Claflin moved to L.A. Two weeks after that, he was on a plane back to England and in quarantine. Despite the challenges of the pandemic — and being on lockdown at home with his two kids — Claflin was ultimately grateful for the time to prepare more fully for the role. He took guitar and singing lessons, meeting almost daily with Ryan Hommel over Zoom and became intimately familiar with the songs written for the series. By the time he returned to L.A. in 2021, Claflin felt ready to become Billy.

“I look back at videos of me playing when I first started, and I was horrendous,” he recalls. “I’m one of those actors: I’m never proud of anything I’ve done. I’m very self critical. But watching ‘Daisy Jones’ is the first time that I’ve gone, ‘You know what, I’m very proud of how far I came.’ It would have been a very different show had COVID not happened. There would have been a lot of camera trickery and miming.”

Sam Claflin stars with Riley Keough in “Daisy Jones & the Six.”

(Lacey Terrell / AP)

The on-screen band of Daisy Jones & the Six, led by Billy and Daisy (Riley Keough), record and perform regularly during the series as part of the story, which meant that the musicians needed to be able to actually play together. They went through a three-month “band camp” involving lessons, rehearsals and actual recording. Although Claflin says it was very intense, it also resulted in the feeling that they were a real group. And, in fact, there have been some discussions of bringing the band back to life for live concerts.

“The first time we played together, after a year-and-a-half of being at home, and played through the songs without any trickery or magic, it was a really special moment,” Claflin remembers. “We sounded all right, which was really surprising. My understanding is they auditioned quite a lot of people for Billy. And they were looking at musicians and they were looking at actors who could sing a bit. I’m not sure where I fit into that spectrum, but I needed shaping. I went in wanting and willing to learn, and I had the best teachers and somehow it worked.”

To create a realistic yet nuanced version of a ‘70s rock star, Claflin also looked at footage of musicians of the time, including Bruce Springsteen. He had the reference point of Fleetwood Mac, on whom the novel was loosely based, and his cooler-than-you ensemble of double denim was drawn right from the book. But ultimately Claflin wanted to focus on Billy as a father, husband, friend and brother and not as a stereotypical musician. The character’s journey, which involves becoming sober, needed to feel real.

“I focused on the things I could relate to personally,” Claflin says. “I tried to bring a lot of myself into Billy and did everything I could to make that authentic and real. Each moment that he lives through and what he goes through is very unique to the time. And his pain is so much bigger than his addiction — his daddy issues and him struggling to become a father. I wanted to focus on those aspects of his personality rather than the idea of ‘I’m a rock star.’”

Claflin still feels deeply connected to Billy. He’s pitched the creators on his ideas for a second season (“Whether they listened or not it’s not up for me to decide, but the will is there,” he confirms) and doesn’t feel ready to hang up his guitar. He’s also aware, as he moves forward, that things feel different for him post-“Daisy Jones.”

“It’s hard to know whether it was Billy and this project that changed me, or whether I changed before doing this project,” Claflin says. “What I loved is having the opportunity of being able to lean on my own experiences. Playing someone closer to me is really quite fulfilling. I’ve spent my life trying to play roles that are different to me — hiding behind masks, if you will. Whereas with Billy I was playing someone who I could really, really relate to. It was therapeutic and great for me emotionally and mentally. That’s what I would like to pursue more in future, the opportunity to delve into roles a little closer to home. Because that’s where the truth lies, right?”


Playing Billy Dunne in “Daisy Jones & the Six” was a notably therapeutic experience for Sam Claflin. The British actor was grappling with major life changes when he was cast in early 2020, right before the pandemic disrupted the show’s production schedule. Claflin had recently separated from his wife but hadn’t yet dealt with his emotions. It was only once he got inside Billy’s head, both during the lengthy preparation and on set in 2021 and 2022, that Claflin was able to come to terms with himself.

“In all honesty, had we shot this show in April 2020 as originally planned, I don’t think I would have processed a lot of the things I needed to process in my personal life,” Claflin says. “I was fortunate to have had time to do a lot of self-reflection and be in a place where those emotions were accessible and raw, but without being so raw that I was going to have a breakdown on set. There were definitely moments where I found it very, very difficult to hold it together. A lot of the feelings that Billy goes through and that you see in the show are just very authentic, real feelings pouring out of me.”

Claflin came into the Prime Video limited series, based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, after an audition process he describes as a “tornado of mayhem.” He initially met with Hello Sunshine about the second season of “The Morning Show,” but the production company quickly suggested he read the scripts for “Daisy Jones & the Six.” The series, about a fictional ‘70s rock band’s tumultuous rise to fame and subsequent breakup, was immediately compelling, as was the chance to play a rock musician. Claflin flew to Los Angeles in February of 2020, met with a music coach and performed a song from the series for the producers.

“It’s been said by [creator and writer] Scott Neustadter himself that it was a bit of a failure,” Claflin admits. “But they saw something in me. The first time I’d ever really picked up the guitar was in my audition, where they put one in my hands, told me where to put my fingers and said, ‘OK, go.’ It was a whirlwind, to say the least.”

Two weeks later, Claflin moved to L.A. Two weeks after that, he was on a plane back to England and in quarantine. Despite the challenges of the pandemic — and being on lockdown at home with his two kids — Claflin was ultimately grateful for the time to prepare more fully for the role. He took guitar and singing lessons, meeting almost daily with Ryan Hommel over Zoom and became intimately familiar with the songs written for the series. By the time he returned to L.A. in 2021, Claflin felt ready to become Billy.

“I look back at videos of me playing when I first started, and I was horrendous,” he recalls. “I’m one of those actors: I’m never proud of anything I’ve done. I’m very self critical. But watching ‘Daisy Jones’ is the first time that I’ve gone, ‘You know what, I’m very proud of how far I came.’ It would have been a very different show had COVID not happened. There would have been a lot of camera trickery and miming.”

A man and woman sing into a microphone on stage in a scene from "Daisy Jones & the Six."

Sam Claflin stars with Riley Keough in “Daisy Jones & the Six.”

(Lacey Terrell / AP)

The on-screen band of Daisy Jones & the Six, led by Billy and Daisy (Riley Keough), record and perform regularly during the series as part of the story, which meant that the musicians needed to be able to actually play together. They went through a three-month “band camp” involving lessons, rehearsals and actual recording. Although Claflin says it was very intense, it also resulted in the feeling that they were a real group. And, in fact, there have been some discussions of bringing the band back to life for live concerts.

“The first time we played together, after a year-and-a-half of being at home, and played through the songs without any trickery or magic, it was a really special moment,” Claflin remembers. “We sounded all right, which was really surprising. My understanding is they auditioned quite a lot of people for Billy. And they were looking at musicians and they were looking at actors who could sing a bit. I’m not sure where I fit into that spectrum, but I needed shaping. I went in wanting and willing to learn, and I had the best teachers and somehow it worked.”

To create a realistic yet nuanced version of a ‘70s rock star, Claflin also looked at footage of musicians of the time, including Bruce Springsteen. He had the reference point of Fleetwood Mac, on whom the novel was loosely based, and his cooler-than-you ensemble of double denim was drawn right from the book. But ultimately Claflin wanted to focus on Billy as a father, husband, friend and brother and not as a stereotypical musician. The character’s journey, which involves becoming sober, needed to feel real.

“I focused on the things I could relate to personally,” Claflin says. “I tried to bring a lot of myself into Billy and did everything I could to make that authentic and real. Each moment that he lives through and what he goes through is very unique to the time. And his pain is so much bigger than his addiction — his daddy issues and him struggling to become a father. I wanted to focus on those aspects of his personality rather than the idea of ‘I’m a rock star.’”

Claflin still feels deeply connected to Billy. He’s pitched the creators on his ideas for a second season (“Whether they listened or not it’s not up for me to decide, but the will is there,” he confirms) and doesn’t feel ready to hang up his guitar. He’s also aware, as he moves forward, that things feel different for him post-“Daisy Jones.”

“It’s hard to know whether it was Billy and this project that changed me, or whether I changed before doing this project,” Claflin says. “What I loved is having the opportunity of being able to lean on my own experiences. Playing someone closer to me is really quite fulfilling. I’ve spent my life trying to play roles that are different to me — hiding behind masks, if you will. Whereas with Billy I was playing someone who I could really, really relate to. It was therapeutic and great for me emotionally and mentally. That’s what I would like to pursue more in future, the opportunity to delve into roles a little closer to home. Because that’s where the truth lies, right?”

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