Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Open Up About the Woes of Motherhood in 'Big Little Lies'
By Philiana Ng
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman team up for HBO's star-studded miniseries, Big Little Lies, and for the pair, the project was a dream.
Based on Liane Moriarty's best-selling 2014 novel of the same name, Big Little Lies centers on a group of women -- all in different stages of motherhood -- in Monterey, California, whose seemingly perfect lives begin to unravel to the point of murder.
Witherspoon and Kidman play two of the women, Madeline Mackenzie and Celeste Wright, respectively, and also serve as executive producers on the seven-part miniseries. Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard and Adam Scott also star.
"What was great about reading the novel for the first time was that I saw the different stages of motherhood all through my life. I was a mom when I was 22, like Jane [Woodley's character], and I was a mom when I was 40, like Maddie. I've been divorced. I've been remarried. There were so many aspects of it that were so relatable," Witherspoon, 40, told reporters during HBO's Television Critics Association press day on Saturday.
"I was lucky because when I read the book, I really related to all the women in the book and I've met many women who've felt the same way," added Kidman, 49. "When you see the series, I wouldn't call them helicopter mothers -- some of them are very attentive. There is such an array of emotions in the piece and that's what we excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way and yet entertaining."
An extended trailer for the limited series gave a glimpse into the gorgeous look of the world, much of which was enhanced by the enviable fashion inhabited by the characters and the direction of Jean-Marc Vallee.
"There was a way in which we wanted to present her because she has some barriers, which she has put up for protection because of things that are going on in her life yet she wants to be presentable," Kidman said of her character Celeste's unique style.
Witherspoon spoke about why she was specifically drawn to the complicated universe of Big Little Lies.
"The constant question for me is how am I discovering something about women on film that I haven't seen before and how am I creating something that hasn't been done before," she said. "I feel like it was such a unique opportunity to have women at every age, every color talking about motherhood. That is the common denominator. Parenthood is a great equalizer."
She also reflected on her perspective on playing a mother at 40, admitting that her outlook on parenting now has changed drastically since giving birth to her daughter, Ava, at 23 years old.
"When [you're a young mother], you're like, 'Oh, they're going to be fine!' As you get older, it's 'Am I taking them to the ballet?'" Witherspoon said. "When you get past survival, I think that's what's so interesting about the piece and motherhood. It's about what you think you're creating for your children, when it's really just an artifice."
"My daughter Sunday said to me this morning that I was overprotective," Kidman quipped.
Kidman spoke at length -- and glowingly -- about working behind the scenes with Witherspoon.
"We're very, very close friends. we're able to talk about everything. A lot of the conversation is personal and then it's about work," she shared. "I love that it's about women making something happen with friendship at the core of it. [I'm] at a stage in my career where I want to be with people that I really like. This was the perfect combination."
Witherspoon also opened up about why she was actively pursuing women's stories through her production company, Pacific Standard.
"We have to see them as they are. We have to see real women's experiences," Witherspoon said, adding that she was tired of seeing talented actresses play the role of wife and girlfriend. "I just had enough. These are the kinds of things that shift consciousness."
Big Little Lies premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.