*Based on Liane Moriarty’s bestselling book of the same name, HBO’s “Big Little Lies” is a darkly comedic limited drama series that tells the tale of three mothers of first-graders whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to the point of murder.
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper and Kathryn Newton, the series is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from a script by David E. Kelley.
“I think what was great about reading the novel for the first time, Liane Moriarity’s novel, is I saw myself in different stages of motherhood all through my life,” Reese said during the Television Association Winter Press Tour last month.
“I was a mom when I was 22, like Jane; and then I was a mom who was 40, like Madeline. I’ve been divorced, I’ve been remarried,” she continued. “There was just so many aspects of it that were so relatable to the lives of women, and the really amazing part was actually digging deep into the lives of women. It wasn’t about them being good or bad. It’s just that they showed every spectrum, every color of women’s lives. And I thought that was a really unique opportunity to have so many incredible parts for women in one piece of material.”
Kidman said she was lucky because “when I read the book, I really related to all of the women in the book, and I’ve met many women that feel the same way when they read the book.”
She continued, “There’s just such an array of emotions in this piece, and that’s what we were excited to show. We were excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way, and, yet, entertaining.”
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EUR/Electronic Urban Report was on hand for TCA where Reese told us that this piece was “a unique opportunity to have women of every age, every color talking about motherhood.”
“And that is sort of a common denominator. Motherhood is the great equalizer. Parenthood is a great equalizer, and socioeconomically, it sort of brings these five disparate women together in a way that they clash, but they also understand and discover each other you know, as similar spirits by the end of the series. And I think — that’s what I’m always looking for, something new, and something challenging,” she said.
Zoe Kravitz has explored an array of characters in films such as “The Divergent Series,” George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Brave One” and “X-Men: First Class” The daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet told us playing a mother for the first time was what intrigued her about the project.
“It felt like new and beautifully interesting territory to me,” Kravitz said.
Veteran writer David E. Kelley also shared the challenges he faced adapting the book for the small screen.
“It was both easy and challenging,” he said during TCA. “The easy part was I could stay faithful to the story. I love the book. I was really drawn to the characters. The architecture was there, the character development was there, the world was there. That made it easier.”
Kelley continued, “What was challenging was probably living up to the book, living up to the complications of some of those characters, and also having to make cuts because there are nuggets in the book that if we had more time, we could have explored more crevices. But it was a pretty smooth process and a fun process overall, and I give credit to Liane. She wrote a terrific piece.”
In terms of her character being self-aware, Kidman noted that “part of the arc of the performance, is discovering deep, deep truths, and having to confront them and place them.”
“It’s very, very difficult at times. And that was a real balance, an unraveling actually, because it was an unraveling of the relationship. I am not sure if everyone has seen all seven — the seven hours, because I do — I implore people to see the full seven hours, because you will see the strength of what he’s done, and also the camaraderie, because it’s an important part of it. As much as there is conflict between us, when you see the full seven hours, there’s pieces about women helping each other and supporting each other, which was very important to Reese and I.”
Witherspoon said her character is aware that “she is the most dynamic person in the room,” adding, “I think she’s hyperaware of a lot of things, and deeply upset.”
“I always — when I started playing this character, I was like, “I’m not sure I can play this character. And David and Jean-Marc and Nicole were like, “What are you talking about? You’re perfect for this character. “Really? I don’t know if I find that sort of offensive.” Bossy know-it-all, busybody. But then she becomes aware through the process, and as you get further into the series, you start to realize the reason that she is so controlling and so high-strung, and so tightly wound, is really because she’s concealing something very difficult for her to hold. And when she finally let’s it go in the end of this series, she can finally see her truth and become more of a — I don’t know — a little more mellow, I guess.”
Longtime friends Kidman and Witherspoon also dished on their very comfortable collaboration on “Big Little Lies.”
“We’re very, very close friends and we’re able to talk about anything. A lot of the conversation is personal and then we would do work. I love that it’s about women coming together and making something happen very quickly with friendship being the core of it. I mean, I’m speaking for, myself but — we’re both at a stage in our lives — I am — where I want to be with people I really like. I don’t want to be working on things with people that I’m not happy to be there. I want to be contributing and working with people that I like and love, and this is — this was the perfect combination.”
“It’s a unique opportunity, first of all, working with these two beautiful, amazing, incredibly talented young women as well. It was such — I couldn’t believe you both signed on,” said Reese of co-stars Zoe and Shailene. “I called Nicole — I can’t believe it. We just got Shailene Woodley…. Zoë Kravitz is really going to do it? Are you kidding me?”
“And we were like “I can’t believe they want us,” Zoe added.
Witherspoon also explained “the beautiful thing” about the way director Jean-Marc works.
“It’s not like you sit and rehearse and rehearse. He doesn’t like a lot of rehearsal. He more encourages us to have dinner and like drink wine and talk about our lives and become real friends and actually share each others’ experience so that when you get to the actual scene on the day, there’s an understanding of each other that’s so much deeper than character,” she said. “It’s like we see each other as humans, and whatever they’re going through. I follow them all the time. We connect all the time. But we are on this journey as women. And it’s so interesting too because Nicole and I were reflecting about this during the shooting. For 25 years, I have been the only woman on set, so I had no other women to talk to. They call it like the Smurfette Syndrome where she’s got 100 Smurfs around, but she’s the only girl.”
“We’re Smurfettes. But honestly, it’s so refreshing to get to spend time with women. And there would be times where I couldn’t break my character. I would call Nicole and go “What do you think I should do with this scene? I can’t play this.” Or I would sit with Laura Dern in a car and go “My character — I just can’t say those words. What would you say if you had to say this?” And honestly, we just like nurtured each other’s performance. We would send each other articles and say “Did you see this?” It was really a collective performance of all of us. I really feel more strongly than anything I’ve ever done that this is the greatest ensemble experience I’ve ever had.”
“Big Little Lies” premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9pm on HBO.