Carson Daly Recreates Photo of Dad Who Died When He Was 5: 'It's a Powerful Moment'

"It got me closer to him, and that's something that I feel like I really have been yearning for," said the Today show co-host

Carson Daly
Photo: The Today Show

In these times of uncertainty and isolation, Carson Daly has been feeling waves of nostalgia.

In a touching segment that aired Tuesday on the Today show, viewers saw the co-host, 47, enlist the help of his older sister Quinn to recreate a beloved family photo of their late father, James "J.D." Daly.

"You look at a picture of your family, and it just conjures up one million questions about your past," explained Carson, who was 5 when he lost his father to cancer. "Having to stay at home the last three or four months, everybody's gotten very nostalgic and is kind of holding on to their past."

"This particular photo that I have of Dad by my bar area is him pouring a Tanqueray and tonic," he continued. "That photo has been speaking to me over the past three months — I've got so many questions about it."

Seeking answers, he sat down with Quinn to discuss their childhood, then got behind a green screen to recreate the photo from the 1970s. (Quinn, 49, moved across the country to be closer to her brother after the loss of their mom and stepfather, who died just weeks apart in 2017.)

"So much has happened in the last two and a half years since we lost our parents," she said.

"You're all I have and I'm all you have, for the most part," Carson replied.

The two recalled growing up in a "party house" with their fun-loving parents, with Quinn filling in some of the memory gaps for Carson.

"This picture, this time, this representation — it's a lot of question marks for me," he admitted. "I have so few shared experiences with him that it's a powerful moment."

"It's a complex picture," Quinn acknowledged. "It's the home that you remember the most growing up in. It's a matter of months before our dad passes."

"He fought hard. Those first five years, he fought like hell to have those years with you," she continued. "He may have been afraid in that picture, but he wasn't living in fear."

"He was probably pouring that Tanqueray and tonic for Mom," she added. "He was like, 'We're here, we're going to celebrate,' like they did before they knew he was sick."

For Quinn, watching her brother "literally embodying" their father for the photo was powerful.

"It's really symbolic, because you embody him in a lot of those ways," she said. "You love your family, and maybe you don't remember it as much as I do, but he loved us. We were his life."

"I feel it. I feel like a product of love, for sure," said Carson, who has four kids with wife Siri. "So to be able to recreate that photo was really cool."

"I feel like I time-traveled back to 1978 for a second there and entered the personal space of my father. And I'm grateful for that," he added. "In a weird way, it's given me some sort of closure. It got me closer to him, and that's something that I feel like I really have been yearning for."

The siblings also recreated a cherished childhood photo of them in Las Vegas.

"That picture really makes me smile," Carson said. "There's just you and me, at the end of the day."

"We're lucky, because I'm obligated to love you because you're my brother, but I really love you because of who you are," Quinn added.

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