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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Daisy Jones & the Six.]
Since its March 3 premiere, Daisy Jones & the Six has been headline-making for many reasons — the fan anticipation of seeing one of the highest-selling books (one million and counting) of the past few years finally pivot to the small screen, the staggering amount of original music performed by the cast, the uncanny resemblance of lead Riley Keough to her late mother. For star Will Harrison, who plays Six member Graham Dunne, the Prime Video show is most notable because it was one of his very first auditions out of his BFA program.
“I actually heard about it because my friend was working for the casting office and thought I could be good for the show,” Harrison tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They were doing a worldwide search for Billy Dunne, so I was like 20 years old auditioning for the role that went to Sam Claflin, which was never going to work out.”
The producers — Daisy Jones streams on Amazon Prime but was put together by Lauren Neustadter and her team at Hello Sunshine — wound up putting the project on hold, but Harrison kept checking in with his managers, intrigued by the prospect of “that rock ‘n’ roll show.” Auditions started back up again shortly before the pandemic hit, and he did almost a dozen rounds of callbacks before landing the role as Graham, younger brother to Claflin and on-and-off love interest to the bandmember played by Suki Waterhouse.
Ahead of the series finale, Harrison spoke to THR from the streets of New York City — walking to Lincoln Center, where his play The Coast Starlight was in previews — about the job of a lifetime.
At what point did you know that Graham was going to be the right fit for you? Or was that matchup a surprise?
Well at one point I was doing an audition for the role of Eddie, which went to Josh Whitehouse, and I had a Zoom callback with the team and Riley Keough was in the room with [producer] Lauren Neustadter and after I finished Riley turned to her and was like, “he’s not Eddie, he’s Graham.” I think I may have rolled my eyes a bit when they came back to ask me to audition for yet another role, but as soon as I read the sides for the part of Graham I knew it was a no-brainer — that if I was gonna be in the band, that was the guy I had to play.
Do you remember which scene it was that convinced you Graham was the right role?
It was when Karen breaks the news to Graham that she had an abortion — it’s one of the climaxes of their storyline throughout the book and in the series. I remember working on that scene so much with a friend, who I was taping with, and she pushed me to do one more take and we got a really good one. We were both running late for places we had to be but it was worth it, and it was surreal to then finally shoot that scene once I was on set.
Were you nervous to film that scene?
I remember reading it in the book and being really moved by it, and hoping it would make the cut into the script. Something about being contained in the elevator for the conversation, the closeness of the space, was really interesting and challenging to me. I was looking forward to it; we filmed in New Orleans and pretty late into the shoot, so it felt like it was a way for my and Suki’s storyline to finally hit its stride.
What sort of conversations did you have around the tone you were trying to hit with that scene? How to convey Graham’s emotions without making Karen’s abortion about him…
It’s such a nuanced piece of scene writing in that way. As an outsider just reading the script, my feelings are that I’m incredibly proud of Karen’s character, and happy for her, that she took the initiative to do what she needs to do to live her life the way she wants to lead it. As the actor playing Graham, the character is devastated and so I had to toe that line. I just focused on the way Graham feels about it, and trust that in the writing, and mostly Suki playing the character, that the correct things come through and we find the balance.
So you find out you have this role on a huge TV show, basically right out of school, but then have to wait a year and a half to actually film it; were you ever tempted to jump ship?
There was no way that I was going to find a bigger project. There were of course conversations from the studio to make sure we’d all be able to stay on board, but it was a no-brainer for me. And it was a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I knew then when everyone could go back to work after, or during, the pandemic, that I’d have a job which was a really lucky thing. And that extra time allowed us to really learn the music. We had months to sit in our houses and practice. I don’t think the show would have been what it is without that extra practice. I was living with a good friend from college for a while so he certainly got a taste of me playing the guitar parts over and over. I played guitar growing up but learning the music written by Blake Mills was a real challenge because he’s such a nuanced guitarist.
What do you remember about the first time you and the other actors played together?
Well, we all showed up for what we called band camp at different times, and there was a moment after Josh and I had been sort of locked up in our own rooms learning the parts and he just walked into my practice room and plugged his bass in, turned his amp up from the other room, and we just started to play together. It was the first time I was like wow, we might be able to do this thing. It also helped that we filmed pretty chronologically, so we as a group went through the rise of the band — one of the first times we shot was as the Dunne Brothers playing at a frat party in Pittsburgh. Then the clubs got bigger so it was a natural progression and squashed any nerves I might have had by the time we got to that stadium scene. I think a really surreal thing has been listening to the album now that it’s out. I don’t have to rifle through a Dropbox folder anymore to find our songs, I can just go on Apple music.
Would you ever go on tour or play a live show?
Oh gosh, that sounds extremely daunting. When we filmed, those audiences were paid to watch and enjoy us. So having people have to pay to do it is certainly flipping the script a little bit. I will say that we’d need some time to get back into the groove, but everyone has the ability to do it and it would be a blast.
Did you take any mementos from set?
Oh, my house is full of Daisy Jones props. My biggest one is the Stratocaster guitar that I played all through band camp. We didn’t end up using it for filming, but I still have it and it’s one of my most prized possessions. There were also a couple of leather jackets that I wore toward the end of the show that I would have loved to take home. It was a funny journey with the costumes because we started off as these dorky kids in Pittsburgh, but then you’d look down the rack and see these awesome outfits that were waiting for them when they became rock stars in the later episodes. They unfortunately have to hold onto all of the clothes, but there was a great vintage Gucci leather jacket that I might just have to email and ask about.
There are a lot of eyeballs on this show, and a lot of fans on the book with high hopes for the adaptation; does it create pressure or does it feel reassuring to have a built-in audience?
Well, I think it’s certainly a tough thing for our writers and directors, because they had the challenge of adapting something that people love and trying to make it fresh. There are just things you have to change to make it work for the screen. As far as playing Graham, there’s a bit of added pressure around playing a character that has lived in people’s imaginations already. But I had to just set any nerves aside and trust that our casting department, who I think did a really wonderful job choosing all of these characters. And I think other people are going to feel the same.
Interview was edited for length and clarity.
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