HBO's Big Little Lies brings the bestselling novel by Liane Moriarty to life this spring with A-list names like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman backing the project in front of and behind the camera.
The premium network is no stranger to having big names star in their programming, but Big Little Lies is unique in that its large ensemble is centered around women — five of them in fact, including Witherspoon Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz. Each actress is playing a mother at a different stage in her life and in raising her children, and being able to show that many shades of motherhood is what drew Witherspoon to the project in the first place.
"With this piece I feel like it was such a unique opportunity to have women of every age, of every color, talking about motherhood," the actress said during the Big Little Lies preview panel at the Television Critics Association winter previews on Saturday. "That's the common denominator. Motherhood is the great equalizer. Parenthood is a good equalizer, socioeconomically, and everything brings these five different women together in a way that they clash but they also understand and discover each other as similar spirits by the end of the series."
The important part of the equation is that having five different women doesn't automatically mean they are against each other. There is definitely conflict (it's still an HBO murder mystery after all), but the five central characters will inevitably find a way to come together.
"I implore people to see the full seven hours because you will see the strength of what [director Jean-Marc Vallee] has done, but also the camaraderie because it's an important part of it, as much as the conflict between us," Kidman explained. "When you see the full seven hours, you'll see it's about women helping each other and supporting each other."
Playing dynamic women is also important to Kidman, but she also wanted to collaborate with people she not only respects, but wants to be around. Teaming up with Witherspoon, who is a close personal friend in her real life, felt like a dream come true.
"We're very, very close friends. We're able to talk about anything. A lot of those conversations were personal, and then we were able to do work," Kidman said. "We're both at a stage in our lives, at least I am, where I want to work with people I really like."
For Witherspoon, who executive-produces the series along with Kidman, Big Little Lies is the next step in her career effort to improve the way that women are portrayed onscreen in general.
"I'm passionate because things have to change. We need to see women as they really are. ... We need to see these things because we as human beings learn from art. What can you do if you never see it related? It's a unique privilege to be able to come to other women with a piece of material I feel deeply proud of and get so excited to see their performance," she said. "This is the greatest ensemble experience I've ever had."
Big Little Lies premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9/8c on HBO.