A Pirates hat. A joke about naming an imaginary band “Immaculate Reception.” A “Pittsburgh on three” pump-up chant.
These are just some of the shoutouts to the Steel City featured in the first few episodes of the Amazon Prime Video limited series “Daisy Jones & The Six,” the television adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 novel of the same name. It premiered March 3 and has dropped eight of its 10 episodes.
The show is set in the 1970s and follows a band from Pittsburgh trying to live out its rock ‘n’ roll dreams. Though it wasn’t filmed locally, part of the series takes place in Western Pennsylvania, particularly the early episodes before Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) and his fellow bandmates relocate to Los Angeles and eventually hook up with the titular Daisy Jones (Riley Keough).
The Union Progress recently caught up with “Daisy Jones” executive producers and co-showrunners Scott Neustadter and Will Graham about why everyone involved devoted so much time and energy into ensuring the accuracy of the show’s Pittsburgh elements.
“I hope it shows that they do have an affinity for the place they came from,” Neustadter said. “They go on to celebrate [Pittsburgh] throughout the series.”
Neustadter had some previous experience with Pittsburgh going into “Daisy Jones & The Six.” He wrote the screenplay for the 2014 coming-of-age dramedy “The Fault in Our Stars,” which was shot throughout the Pittsburgh area. Neustadter recalled being here for a month or so during that film’s shoot and enjoying the city, its food and a rare streak of ideal weather.
Graham happened to be in Pittsburgh while developing “Daisy Jones” during production on the first season of his other Amazon show, “A League of Their Own.” Being here allowed him to get “the feel” of the place and its rich industrial history. He was constantly sending photos back to the “Daisy Jones” teams for reference and researching what Pittsburghers were wearing in the ’70s, which turned out to be “a lot of double denim.”
“I love Pittsburgh and love working in Pittsburgh so much,” Graham said. “My husband is constantly talking about whether we could move there. It was fun in an unpredictable way to get to celebrate Pittsburgh in both of these shows.”
Fun fact: “The Six” in “Daisy Jones & The Six” originally referred to Billy, his brother Graham (Will Harrison), his girlfriend Camila (Camila Morrone) and band members Eddie (Josh Whitehouse), Warren (Sebastian Chacon) and Karen (Suki Waterhouse). Daisy doesn’t enter their lives until a few episodes in, and when she shows up, it doesn’t take long for sparks of resentment and passion to start flying between her and Billy.
Not only is Neustadter a self-described “real big music nerd,” but his dream gig has always been to do something involving Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album. Reid’s novel was partially inspired by the tumultuous relationships among some of that band’s main figures, and when Neustadter discovered it, he loved its Fleetwood Mac connection and how he felt it “has so many other stories to tell.”
Pittsburgh served as “the beginning of the story of opposites” in “Daisy Jones,” as Graham put it. He and Neustadter wanted audiences to be as invested as possible in the band’s many highs and lows, and establishing where Billy and the original Six came from was a major way to help viewers gain that understanding. Neustadter said that Pittsburgh was also a perfect starting location for the band because of what a stark contrast it is to Daisy’s world on the West Coast.
“It feels very authentic to an experience of kids who want to get out of an industry town and chase their dreams, but it feels daunting,” he said. “They’re not running from their own circumstances but toward a thing that’s not necessarily available in Pittsburgh.”
Because of their commitment to the band’s roots, Neustadter, Graham and the “Daisy Jones” writers room all made extra efforts to get the show’s Pittsburgh Easter eggs right. Anyone can slap a Steelers decal on a tour bus, but not every show has the wherewithal to name-drop regional flavor as specific as the neighborhood Hazelwood and the restaurant Peppi’s.
“It was important to us that people from the area would recognize those references,” Neustadter said. “We peppered them in as much as we could.”
Added Graham: “We put a lot of work into getting some of the details of Pittsburgh into the depiction of the show just to add that layer of reality to the characters.”
Since last summer, Graham has been enjoying the excitement — “and so much chaos” — that “A League of Their Own” fans have been expressing on social media. He’s encountered the same levels of “passion and positivity” with those who are supporting “Daisy Jones,” which he chalks up to “a real hunger for people to immerse themselves in stories of people living joyfully.”
“Making a TV show now is like building a campfire,” he said. “You hope that people will come around it and have conversations across it. That has been true in a really unique, one-of-a-kind way with ‘A League of Their Own,’ and it’s also true with ‘Daisy.’”
He urged Pittsburghers to check out “Daisy Jones & The Six” to experience both “a really fun celebration of a band who’s from your city” and a “story that’s about living authentically and living for something bigger than yourself.” Neustadter hopes yinzers appreciate how the show’s dedication to their hometown informs “why it’s really impactful when Daisy and Billy finally meet.”
“Come for the Pittsburgh references,” Neustadter said, “and stay for the escapist joy of watching these guys make their dream come true.”
Joshua covers pop culture, media and more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Contact him at email@example.com.