Big Little Lies was a reminder of what TV could do when it debuted in 2017 at a time when Game of Thrones was still the biggest show on TV. It starred a bunch of really famous women and gave all of them a chance to shine. The show captivated audiences in part because it was so different from most of what TV had brought us to date. Big Little Lies was an event in the truest sense. It was also incredibly fun to watch.
Before the show debuted, though, there was plenty of work done to make it a reality. That first season didn't make itself, after all, and the show's cast had a bigger hand in the show's creation than most casts do. Part of what makes Big Little Lies so good is the relationships between the women who created it. Each one of them is fascinating in their own right, and when you put them together, it's even better. Here are 16 behind-the-scenes Big Little Lies secrets.
Given the number of projects they've done together, it probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise that, in real life, Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon are close friends. This is somewhat ironic given the way their characters relate to one another on the show.
Madeline and Renata hate each other, although they do come to a sort of mutual understanding by the end of the series. The first season of Big Little Lies is very much about what it means to be a woman in this community, and Renata and Madeline are very different people. Thankfully, their characters have more disagreements than the actors playing them.
Some choices were made in the adaptation process, but one of the biggest was to shift the show's location from Australia to Monterey, California. Ironically, Nicole Kidman is actually Australian, so she probably would have been fine with using her actual accent for once.
The rest of the cast may have struggled, though, and the American setting definitely resonates more with the show's audience. Luckily, the bones of the story work just as well in America as they did half a world away. Americans like staring at the ocean and solving murders just as much as everyone else does. We might like it more than most.
If Big Little Lies has a villain, it's almost definitely Perry, Celeste's abusive husband. Although Perry is far from a good guy, Alexander Skarsgård's performance in the role is incredible and utterly captivating. As it turns out, it also took quite a bit out of him.
"The [abusive] scenes were emotionally and physically so draining," Skarsgård told The Hollywood Reporter. "They're incredibly hard to shoot. We played the whole scene from beginning to end. We weren't restricted by any tape marks on the floor or any technical issues. It was very primal in a way and some of the toughest scenes I've ever had to shoot."
Nicole Kidman was very sure from pretty early on that she was right for Celeste, but Reese Witherspoon was less sure about which role she would take. Initially, she thought she might be a good fit for Renata, the role that ended up going to Laura Dern. When she voiced her uncertainty to the show's creative team, they immediately told her that she was a perfect Madeline.
Sometimes, the creative folks know what they're talking about. Reese's work as Madeline has been up there with the best acting in the series, and it's the kind of role that she was absolutely born to play.
It isn't always clear when a show is going to be an enormous sense. Most of the time, it's a gamble. For Big Little Lies, though, it seemed like studios knew it would be good before they had even seen it. This explains why HBO and Netflix wound up in a bidding war over the rights to adapt it.
Having that kind of interest in your project has to be a good feeling, especially considering how driven by women it was supposed to be. Eventually, the show wound up with HBO, and it's probably good that it did. Part of the reason the show built so much momentum through its first season was because it aired weekly. That wouldn't have happened on Netflix.
Reese Witherspoon has been famous for a really long time, but she hasn't spent much of that time on TV at all. Before Big Little Lies, her only TV credits of any kind were a Lifetime movie she did when she was 15, and a guest starring role on Friends as Rachel's sister.
Today, many of the best roles for women are on TV, and Reese and her co-stars seemed to recognize that reality. For years, TV was seen as a worse gig than the big screen blockbusters. Today, that's not necessarily the case. After all, the second season of Big Little Lies cast screen legend Meryl Streep.
Adam Scott's role as Ed on Big Little Lies initially seemed to be that of a sweet, supportive husband to Madeline. Eventually, we learn a bit more about Ed, and Adam manages to deliver a pretty fascinating performance in a relatively small role. When he was cast in the part, the actor insisted on growing a beard.
Because Adam grew up nearby the set of the show, he had a good sense of who Ed was. He works from home, has a beard, and wears lots of fleece vests. Of course, because the show took a while to shoot, Adam was stuck with the beard for longer than he thought he would be when he signed on. It also distances this role from his others — especially the one that made him a household name on Parks & Recreation.
Shailene Woodley is a naturally beautiful actress. To be fair, that's true of most actresses. For her work as Jane, though, the show's makeup artists went out of their way to make her look a little less drop-dead gorgeous than Shailene usually looks. This was intentional. Jane is supposed to feel like a mess. She's supposed to look tired and forget to put on makeup most of the time.
And so, instead of making Shailene look more beautiful than she did when she walked into the makeup trailer, the show's makeup artists took time to dress her down. As a result, Jane really stands out from the more put together women on the show.
Although Laura Dern is only 52 years old, she's actually played the mother of two of her co-stars at various points in her career. Although they're only nine years apart, Laura played Reese Witherspoon's mother in Wild, which was directed by season one's director Jean-Marc Vallée.
Although that mother/daughter pair doesn't make a ton of sense, Laura has also played Shailene Woodley's mother, which does make a bit more sense. Shailene is only 27, so Laura Dern could plausibly be her mother, as she was in The Fault in Our Stars. On Big Little Lies, they're enemies and then friends, that works well too.
Speaking of weird connections among the cast, Nicole Kidman was once engaged to Lenny Kravitz, Zoë Kravitz's father. In fact, Nicole was in Zoë's life quite a bit when she was a teenager. Nicole and Lenny were engaged in the early 2000s, and although their romance fizzled out, I'm sure Nicole and Zoë were glad to have a chance to reconnect on the set of the show.
It's strange to think about how different their relationship might be if Nicole had married Lenny. Instead, their work on Big Little Lies was a reunion of sorts, one that brought them together after a long time apart.
Big Little Lies' first season was only seven episodes, but it took five months to film it. This was in part because they chose to shoot each episode like it was a film, which meant they only shot four pages of script a day. This was a slower schedule than the typical TV production, but it gave each of the actors a chance to really dive into their characters.
The careful production shows in the finished product. No element of the show's first season feels rushed or slapdash. Everything feels like it's been carefully calibrated, which is part of what made the show so good.
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman were a part of spearheading Big Little Lies from the beginning, and they proved how committed they were by turning down other roles to commit to the show. For Reese, it was a role in Alexander Payne's Downsizing that she had to back out of. As it turns out, that wasn't the worst thing in the world.
Nicole passed up a chance to be in Wonder Woman. She's probably glad she stayed with Big Little Lies, but it would have been cool to see her as one of the Amazons on Diana's childhood island home.
After their success adapting Big Little Lies for the small screen, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman have decided to adapt another Liane Moriarty novel together. The two obtained the rights to Truly Madly Guilty. The novel is a family drama that takes place at an Australian barbeque when something goes haywire.
It seems like it's in a very similar vein to Big Little Lies, which is why it's the perfect project for Reese and Nicole to produce. Whether it ends up on TV or film is still an open question, but it's sure to be eagerly anticipated wherever it winds up.
Plenty of books get adapted into a feature film instead of a limited series. In the case of Big Little Lies, the show's creators originally envisioned it as a feature film. If it had been a film, it would likely have had to cut many of the things that make the series so enjoyable.
Because every bit of the story feels so essential, it makes sense that this story wound up as a TV series instead of a film. It also gave those in charge of the show the chance to extend the series if they wanted to, which it turns out they did.
Oftentimes on television, one location is used as a substitute for another for practical reasons. Maybe the folks in the actual location aren't interested in a film crew running around, or maybe filming there is just too expensive. In the case of Big Little Lies, though, the show actually films where it's set, in Monterey and the surrounding parts of California.
Monterey is such an important part of the show, in that it gives us an instant sense of the wealth all of these people have. They have problems, but they're rich people problems. That's part of the fun of watching the show.
Because they play best friends on the show, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman became quite close on set. If that wasn't apparent from their newfound desire to produce projects together, it should be clear based on the fact that Reese bought the house next to Nicole's in Nashville.
As it turns out, spending five months pretending to be best friends can lead to some actual friendships forming. Reese and Nicole have been famous for a long time, and they're often out in front of the fight for more equality in Hollywood. It's no surprise that they wound up becoming very close friends.