‘Daisy Jones’ EP Lauren Neustadter Says Creators Were Aligned in Not Wanting to ‘Soften’ the Female Characters

“There was no trepidation when it came to telling these stories in a very raw and honest way,” the Hello Sunshine exec tells TheWrap of Emmy-nominated “Daisy Jones” and “Tiny Beautiful Things”

Prime Video

Over a month after securing a bevy of Emmy nominations for Prime Video’s “Daisy Jones & the Six” and Hulu’s “Tiny Beautiful Things,” Hello Sunshine president of film and TV was still “exploding with joy.”

Neustadter sat down with TheWrap over Zoom, fresh from the news of Stevie Nicks’ Instagram post praising the TV adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s best-selling book “Daisy Jones & the Six,” which took inspiration from the relationships between the members of Fleetwood Mac. The warts-and-all series chronicles the rise and fall of a ‘70s rock band and the legacy their music left behind, and received nine Emmy nominations including acting nods for Riley Keough and Camila Morrone in addition to a Best Limited Series nomination.

Highlighting women’s stories has long been a mission for the Reese Witherspoon-founded Hello Sunshine, and Neustadter reveled in the fact that both “Daisy Jones” and “Tiny Beautiful Things” feature uncompromisingly complex characters.

“Both for ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ and ‘Tiny Beautiful Things,’ we had really wonderful partners who encouraged us to tell the stories fearlessly and with fierce authenticity,” Neustadter said. “It was really wonderful because nobody was asking us to soften the edges of these female characters. If you look at both shows, there is real emotional complexity. There are very sophisticated adult themes, and there was no trepidation when it came to telling these stories in a very raw and honest way.”

As the Emmy nominations rolled in “one after another after another,” Neustadter invited anyone involved in the shows — whether a first-time nominee like Keough or Morrone and several craftspeople — to stop by her house (which she shares with husband Scott Neustadter, who adapted the script of “Daisy Jones & the Six” with Michael H. Weber) for a champagne toast in their backyard.

Neustader praised “Daisy Jones” casting directors Justine Arteta and Kim Davis Wagner for filling out the series’ ensemble.

“I thought Kim and Justine, who are first-time Emmy nominees, were pitch-perfect in their casting. We had the privilege of working with them for the first time on ‘Daisy.’ They had only worked on one other TV show which was much smaller in scope,” Neustadter said. “I think they got into this with us and then it was like, ‘This is a huge show.’ There was a music component to it. There was the acting component. There were also people who are related to each other. There was understanding that we were going to be jumping forward in time — so the actors were going to need to play younger versions of themselves and then slightly older versions of themselves. It was such an unbelievable checklist that we really had to hit for every single one of the actors that we cast.”

Riley Keough and Sam Claflin in "Daisy Jones & the Six"
Prime Video

Neustadter emphasized the importance of hiring actors first vs. musicians, and COVID gave the cast time to better learn their instruments so that hand doubles weren’t needed. Another key moment she pointed out was the use of burned eyeliner pencil in the finale by Daisy, an idea from the mind of nominated makeup artist Rebecca Wachtel.

“In the book, Daisy cuts her hair at the end. And so we were experimenting with Mary Ann Hennings, who was the head of the hair department — I wish she was nominated too — but she got this wig for us. And I remember being in the trailer and Riley tried it on and the conversation among all of us was ‘It’s going to be so distracting in the finale. If all of a sudden Daisy’s hair is so different all of a sudden,’” Neustadter recalled. “It’s all you’re paying attention to. So it was really this team conversation between Mary Ann, Rebecca and Scott and I and also Riley where it was like, ‘Can we do it with makeup?’”

Just as Neustadter highlighted the team effort in “Daisy Jones,” she also drew attention to the teamwork between “Tiny Beautiful Things” Emmy-nominated actresses Kathryn Hahn and Merritt Wever and the writers room, led by Liz Tigelaar. Hahn portrays Clare Pierce, who struggles to raise her daughter due to trauma from her own fraught relationship with her mother Frankie (Wever).

“One of the things that actually was very important that we would talk about is as we’re getting closer to Clare and Frankie being similar ages, we’re realizing that that’s part of Claire’s crisis,” Neustadter said. “She is grappling with her incomplete journey as a daughter, but also she’s grappling with her real emotional journey of figuring out how to be a great mother like her mother was. I think it’s no coincidence that their ages begin to feel very similar because she realizes how much she loved her mother. And she realizes the path that she’s on in her relationship with her daughter is not the same, and that only she has the opportunity to change the course of it.”

Both shows boast heavy author involvement, with Jenkins-Reid producing “Daisy” while Cheryl Strayed contributing to the writers’ room on “Tiny Beautiful Things.” Neustadter also spotlighted the foundation of the books as integral to their television adaptations.

“One of the things that we love when we are working on an adaptation is we can always go back to the book. We have the privilege of taking it from the page and bringing it to life on screen. It is just an honor and a gift to get to do it, but it’s always so much fun that no matter what we can always go back and forth. The connection to the book is constant. You know, and essential.”

The 75th Annual Emmy Awards have been pushed to January 14, 2024 amidst the double Hollywood strike. Check out the full list of nominees here.

All ten episodes of “Daisy Jones & the Six” are streaming on Prime Video, and all eight episodes of “Tiny Beautiful Things” are available to stream on Hulu.