How a Letter Written by Janis Joplin Helped Riley Keough Hone Her ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ Character

The actress also tells TheWrap that yes, she listened to the audiobook

To portray the eponymous lead singer in Prime Video’s new series “Daisy Jones & the Six,” Riley Keough drew from both print and audio versions of Taylor Jenkins Reid book, as well as an unexpected source — a letter written by Janis Joplin to her family.

Adapted from Reid’s New York Times bestseller, the show mixes documentary-style footage and flashbacks to follow the rise and fall of a band first called The Dunne Brothers — lead singer Billy and guitarist Graham Dunne (Will Harrison), bassist Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse) and drummer Warren Rojas (Sebastian Chacon) — later named The Six after two women — keyboardist Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse) and Billy’s girlfriend Camila (Camila Morrone) join the team. 

Keough told TheWrap how she drew a sense of “childlike wonder” from a real-life letter that singer Janis Joplin wrote to her family. That correspondence helped Keough, the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, add greater depth to her on-screen character.

“Somebody sent me a letter that Janis Joplin had written her family. I think [music producer] Blake Mills or [consultant] Tony [Berg] sent it to me, and there was something so — it was filled with this childlike wonder — even though she was, [maybe] months away from dying and struggling in the way she was struggling,” Keough recalled. “That really impacted me and I wanted to bring that into [Daisy] this sort of — the way she looked at the world with beauty, despite all of the pain she felt.”

Daisy has her own go at writing music independently after drawing inspiration from hanging around the Sunset Strip listening to bands like The Byrds, The Who and more.

“I was trying to find my own version of her because in the audiobook, I got one version of her and then in the book book, I got another version, and then in the script, I got another version. So I was considering all of those things and all of those feelings I got when reading or listening to all these versions of material,” Keough said.

“Ultimately I was most interested in finding my version of her that felt human and relatable and figuring out where she sort of starts and who she is and the beginning of the story as opposed to the end. I think the end is sort of the more iconic Daisy from the book that she sort of becomes in the later episodes.”

Music producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) combines The Six with Daisy Jones, and the experiment takes the band from small, local LA fixtures like Sound City, the Whiskey A-Go-Go and The Troubador to stadiums like Soldier Field in Chicago, where their premature last concert takes place before things fall apart.

“There’s something very romantic about people at the beginning of a journey, who have only the future, who have the excitement, the hope of sort of leaving their homes, revealing themselves, making themselves vulnerable, trying to create something,” said executive producer and James Pondsoldt, who directed the first five episodes of the show.

“This is a love story,” Ponsoldt added. “We’re watching the beginning of a love story of a lot of people who are learning to both trust their own voice and to respect and listen to the sound of other people’s voices as they make music together.”

The first three episodes of “Daisy Jones & the Six are now streaming on Prime Video.