John Lydon ditched the Sex Pistols at the close of their U.S. tour. For the Smiths, it was Johnny Marr who hung up his guitar. John Lennon left the Beatles. Zayn Malik deserted One Direction. And for the fictional 1970s megaband Daisy Jones & the Six, Eddie Roundtree was the first domino to fall. He was a bassist with rhythm-guitar dreams, a background player who fancied himself a front man. He was, most crucially, a perpetually aggrieved pissant who slept with the wife of his band’s lead singer, Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin). Even if Eddie hadn’t quit, he absolutely could not stay.
On the Amazon miniseries, Eddie is played by Josh Whitehouse, a British actor and musician who’s developing a professional reputation for stealing your girl. On Poldark, the steamy 18th-century drama about one man’s quest to save the family estate, Whitehouse plays Hugh Armitage, a prisoner of war who beds the wife of the man who rescued him. Or you might recognize him from the 2019 Netflix Christmas movie The Knight Before Christmas. Under all that chain mail, he played Sir Cole, a time-traveling gallant who steals Vanessa Hudgens’s heart not from just one man but the entire notion of 21st-century men. For Daisy Jones &, Whitehouse needed to unlock a guy whose resting face can best be described as “ambient scorn.” “People love a villain if they’re owning being the villain,” Whitehouse says. “Every story needs that, so in a way, you have to do everything that makes you dislikable in order to make you likable.”
The story only works if Eddie’s unlikable, but I got no impression that Eddie was dissatisfied with himself.
He is full of himself, but that’s something I like about him. And that’s very different from me. The character description I got when I started auditioning was “bass player with a chip on his shoulder.” I was like, You can’t just be a grumpy guy for no reason. I wanted to bring some reason and lovability to him. In the end, I settled on the supervillain story. It starts out with admiration of Billy, a desire to be loved, a desire to be seen as a peer. This was a dynamic me and Sam played with a lot: In every single scene, I get the short straw. By the end of the season, it’s just like, “Fuck you.”
In the finale, Billy introduces Eddie to the crowd at Soldier Field quite warmly. Eddie says, “I love you, bro,” and Billy tells him to go fuck himself. Despite all the bad blood between them, Eddie still craves Billy’s approval.
Even after the fistfight, even when it’s clearly over, Eddie says, “I love you.” He still wants it. If someone’s in an abusive relationship and it’s like, They’re nasty to me, but if they just show me a little bit of love, I’ll drop everything, it’s kind of a similar thing. Billy is always unkind to Eddie, and Eddie’s always clamoring for his attention. Then even when things were really bad, if he just showed him a little bit of warmth …
Eddie does not sleep with Camila in the book. When you saw that in the script, did you lose your mind?
That was a shocker. They edited a lot of it out, actually.
So what’s on the cutting-room floor?
Well, they sleep together, and they took out a kiss as well.
The affair does play out cryptically. The audience can’t be sure how far things went between Eddie and Camila for a while.
I was surprised when I was watching. I was like, Hold on, wait. That’s very much left to the imagination. But maybe that’s for the best. I don’t know.
There’s a scene in which Eddie dodges Billy’s eyeline, and that was the moment I decided they did it.
That was so much fun to play. When we did the table read, I was absolutely cracking up at the idea. It’s like every time he walks in the room, Eddie just bolts in the other direction. And Billy’s always like, “What’s up with Eddie?”
It did occur to me that this is familiar territory for you because of what happened between Demelza and Hugh on Poldark.
Yeah, someone showed me a meme yesterday. It was a picture of Hugh and Eddie, and it said, “Loving Josh Whitehouse’s ongoing arc of never quite getting the girl.” It’s sad, actually.
Was the casting process grueling?
Yeah! First, I went for Billy, and I did three auditions. Then I went in and played some songs, and it disappeared. I was like, Oh, well, that show’s gone.
Months later it came back around for Eddie. The casting department was so kind to me. I did four tapes just for them. They’d be like, “We really like you for this, but can you try it like this and like that, because we don’t want to show this to the producers until we’re sure you’re hitting everything you can hit.”
They encouraged me to be more chip-on-my-shoulder-ish. At the time, I hadn’t read the book, and they were helping me understand Eddie’s gripes. Once I’d done those four auditions, there was a series of Zoom auditions with producers and the director. Then I got flown out to L.A. and did chemistry reads in front of the whole cast.
Let’s talk about filming the big performance scenes. How realistic were they?
It’s very surreal. Sometimes we would have 100 extras, and they did this crazy thing where they had a camera that would repeat the exact same movement again and again. As they filmed the crowd, they’d do another take, and they would move the crowd over and over, so they could paste them all together. But sometimes, we were playing these gigantic shows, and it’s supposed to be thousands and thousands of people, and the only person we were playing to was our music supervisor, who was standing, screaming,, “Yeah, go the Six,” and doing cartwheels in the field in front of us.
We were also jumping back and forth between different concerts from different parts of the story. Now Eddie’s pissed off. Now he’s not. Now you guys are all best friends. Mow everybody’s angry. We’d have a week of night shoots, and all we were filming was the big performance stuff on that stage. It got very confusing.
At a point, I kind of stopped listening. I was like, “Just hit play.” So you’d hear the “one, two, three, four,” click sound, then the track would start. We’d all practiced it so much that we could snap in. You hear the first note, and it’s like, Oh, we’re doing “Look Me in the Eye,” or Oh, it’s “The River,” and you just start playing.
To my mind, Eddie evolves the least over time. How did you think about toggling between the mid-’70s timeline and the documentary footage?
When he’s older, I played with the idea that he’d spent his life trying to get over this stuff but he’s in denial. There’s a line where Eddie’s like, “Holding on to that stuff will be the death of you.” He knows he’s completely holding on to it, and it really pissed him off. I think that in rock and roll, there ends up being a lot of washed up, bitter musicians that didn’t make it. The main difference I was trying to project was that Eddie went from being quite excited about the band to downtrodden. By the time he’s older, he’s still bitter.
This interview has been edited and condensed.